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leather shapes leather shapes



Colouring Leather

Some people refer to the colouring of leather "pictures", whether carved, embossed or stamped into the leather, as paintings. Do not refer to them as such, for they are not painted. When colour is added it is with leather dye, which requires much more care in applying than does paint. Paint is a viscous mixture, whereas leather dye is very thin (like water), and spreads very quickly, which necessitates greater care being taken in the use of leather dye. The colouring of leather is in itself an art. Leather dyes have many formulations: e.g., dye for pigmented leather is essentially leather paint while dye for aniline leather is a leather stain.

Leathers vary in porosity and fibre structure, so no two leathers react to a particular dye with similar results. Basic tanning agents react differently to dyes. A dye applied to chrome-tanned leather may/will produce a completely different result when applied to vegetable-tanned leather.
Not all tanneries use the same tanning process, so individual chemical combinations in surface colours and finishes will vary.

However, in today's marketplace there are numerous brands of specially prepared dyes and finishes. You can use anything from acrylics, oil colours, lacquers, coloured waterproof inks to enamels and lots more besides. Water and spirit-based dyes vary in intensity and shades according to brand. Some of the more well-known are Cova dyes (available in twelve colours plus white), Spectra Shade dyes and Pro Dye. Cova dyes, being acrylic, are more viscous than the other two, and have little, if any, penetration of the leather surface. They are opaque, and unless thinned with water, cross-dyeing is not successful, indeed, when used full-strength will not produce secondary colours. However, spirit-based dyes, such as Pro Dye, can be applied over Cova White and the shades obtained will vary according to whether the white is undiluted, or if it is, by how much.


drawstring purse

wallet, oakleaves

drawstring purse

drawstring purse

After leather has received its basic surface and edge colour through one of the several dyeing methods, there remains a choice of finishes for various effects. The result of your efforts to achieve the finish you desire are directly related to your patience and care. All attractive finishes require strict attention to detail because they are usually very subtle when they're correct. When the dye has dried, excess surface dye should be removed by rubbing with a soft cloth. This will also brighten the colour. Black dyes may tend to rub off even after wiping. This can be prevented by the application of a protective wax or Saddle Lac coating.

Spectra Shade or other water-based dyes cannot be applied over Cova to give the same effect it will simply lift the white from the surface of the leather.

Some leather artists do not use dye on their carvings, for they believe it takes away from the natural beauty of the leather. A leather picture is a carving, and is done in almost the same way that a wood carver would carve a piece of wood to make a wooden picture. But where a wood carver removes some of the wood to get a three-dimensional picture, a leather carver works with a moist piece of leather, and has to depress or raise up the leather (emboss), to get the effect that he is trying to put on the leather.

A leather picture is done by first tracing a design on a moist piece of leather. Whereupon the leather which has previously been "cased" (that is, its surface has been moistened, or even, depending on the thickness, soaked in a bucket of water, then allowed to gradually, dry naturally, until it is judged by its colour to be ready to be worked upon) returns to its natural colour. The design is then cut into the leather with a swivel knife. The craftsman/artist then, using a combination of saddle stamps and modelling tools, works the design or picture into the leather until the desired effect has been achieved. This is a very slow process, requiring a lot of care and patience.

stamped belt

If you try to hurry and should make a mistake in working with leather, (which is not a forgiving material) then you must start all over again from the beginning, with a new piece of leather, for it is well-nigh impossible to correct a mistake on leather.


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leather shapes leather shapes