A Guide on How To Dye Vegetable Tanned Leather – Stonestreet Leather

How To Dye Vegetable Tanned Leather A Complete Guide

How To Dye Vegetable Tanned Leather: A Complete Guide


Steps on How To Dye Vegetable Tanned Leather

Dyeing natural vegetable-tanned leather involves several steps. It takes a lot of practice to master the procedures required to produce an evenly-dyed, excellent leather product. However, with time and patience, you can create bright and beautiful leather goods that will be enjoyed for years to come.

Here's a detailed guide on how to dye veg-tanned leathers from the pros here at Stonestreet Leather.


Good preparation is at the heart of any successful leather dyeing. For example, you need leather-making tools like gloves, a nose mask, and sponges to protect you from the chemicals and prepare all necessary products you need along the process, such as leather conditioner, dye reducer, neatsfoot oil, and rubbing alcohol. 

Every step you take in the dyeing process must be well thought out. Adequate preparation must also be made to guarantee the success of the dyeing project.

At this stage, you need to:

  • Prepare the tools.
  • Process the leather to get it ready for dyeing.
  • Put the workplace in order.

Diluting the dye

Some experts may argue that this is also part of the preparation phase. And they will be right. This is because you may need to dilute the leather dye before you can use it.

Before you begin this phase, you need to know the shades and coats of color you are aiming for. Also, it is better to have more than one coat of dye, as this will give you more options.

The best way to dilute your leather dyes is to use a liquid substance that has the same base as the dye. Note that you should always dilute oil-based dye with oil, alcohol-based dye with alcohol, and water-based dye with water.

Applying the dye

Before you apply the leather dye, make sure you have a clean, grain-free leather surface. Dirt, water, oil, and particles easily accumulate on leather surfaces which is one of the most common reasons for badly finished leathers. If you do not wipe the leather surface, the dirt and other particles will mix with the dye and result in a bad finish. To avoid getting an uneven color, apply the dye in several thin coats until you get the desired color. You can use a dry piece of clean cloth to rub or apply more dye evenly into the leather.


Finishing is the final process of leather dyeing. To achieve durability, you can apply a thin layer of finishers like a wax-based conditioner, oils (i.e., olive oil, mink oil, jojoba oil), and polish to the leather. Remember to buff the finished leather with a soft rag. Don't scrub with a hard sponge.

A conditioner will not only seal the leather but will hydrate and prevent it from drying out. Finishing products will seal your veg tanned leather, making it resistant to scrapes and scratches. Finishers can give your veg tan leather an excellent coating.


How To Dye Veg Tan Leather in a Suitable Environment

The environment of the work area where you are dyeing the leather is as important as the quality of the materials and tools to be used throughout the process.

Your working environment must have a good surface area, proper ventilation, and the right temperature. Enumerated below are tips for making the environment conducive.

A Good Surface Area

The type of surface area you choose will depend on your preferences. 

While some prefer a high work area, others want their work area to be lower or on the floor.

No matter what you choose, all work areas must be protected against accidents. Your work area should have a stable surface and be on a level, steady floor. This will prevent accidents caused by slips and spills in many workplaces.

It is also important to choose a work area that is free from the risk of falling objects. If you are working outside, it is important to stay under a cover for protection from water and debris.

A Well-Ventilated Area

There are many good reasons to work in a well-ventilated area. Dyes are chemicals and can react with the environment and affect you and your working materials.

A well-ventilated environment will protect you from the health hazards of breathing in the chemicals in concentrated amounts.

The Right Temperature

Apart from affecting your breathing and health, the temperature can also affect the dyes you are using. To get the best result at the end of your drying process, the temperature needs to be just right. An environment that is too hot or too cold will adversely affect how the dye works on the leather.


How To Darken Vegetable Tanned Leather

Depending on your color preferences, you can use any kind of dye to color your leather goods. But colors with great finish results in the economic range are most popular among leather craftspeople. There are several types of great dyes, such as

1- Water-based Dyes

Water-based dyes are popular among experts. They are made up of a complex structure and need careful handling to have desirable results. Although it takes longer to dry, water-based dyes are popular because of their great color bonding properties without affecting the original softness of the leather.

2- Oil-based Dyes

For an evenly saturated and well-penetrated leather surface, oil-based dyes are a great choice. The rub-off is very less as compared to those of alcohol-based or water-based dyes.

3- Alcohol-Based Dyes

Leather craftspeople who prefer simple yet affordable dye love using alcohol-based leather. These dyes easily penetrate leather, and the dye stays within the leather fibers - giving it a classy appearance. Moreover, it dries rapidly because of alcohol evaporation which is faster than water. One of the most common examples of it is Fiebing's dye.

Less Permanent Leather Dies

If you are looking for less permanent kinds of leather dyes, you can consider shoe polish or even painting the surface of the leather. Applying shoe polish on leather shoes, for example, can help quickly change the surface color of leather for a while.

On the other hand, paint covers the surface of the leather with pigment. As opposed to dyed leather, where the color of the leather fibers is changed throughout the leather material, paint only changes the visual color and doesn’t penetrate throughout the fibers.


How To Color Vegetable Tanned Leather

Depending on your preferences, it is possible to darken your vegetable tanned leathers to the exact coat of the color you want.

A common way to dye leather is to condition it. There are many products in the market that you can use for conditioning.

Using a conditioner will allow you to apply the product and leave it to completely dry all night. Remember to apply light coats to the leather to avoid mold and yeast growth.

After drying, you can buff the leather with a clean piece of cloth, rag, sponge, or brush. You have the option of conditioning your leather as many times as possible until you achieve the right shade you desire.


Studies suggest that vegetable leather tanning is one of the oldest recorded trades in the world. Vegetable-tanned leather comes as unfinished, leaving the surface exposed to the elements. Coloring and conditioning your leather will prevent moisture in it from drying out. You can also use color to cover any scrap on your leather.

When you add color to your leather, you enhance its quality and appearance. You have a choice to either select water-based dyes or an oil-based leather dye. As for the color, you can turn your leather into several colored vegetable-tanned products.

Veg tan leather changes color when exposed to water and sun. If you're into eco-friendly and natural production, you may have your leather dyed by sunning it.


Many lovers of coffee love the color of this beverage and often wonder if they can dye their veg tan leather the same brown shade. Fortunately, the answer is yes. It is possible to completely dye your leather with a coat of coffee grounds.

The best way to dye your leather with coffee is to boil the grounds, add a piece of iron and let it simmer for a few hours.

After the brew has cooled down, wear gloves and immerse your leather and allow it to soak for at least a day. The longer you soak it, the darker it will become. You can soak it until you get the desired shade.

The next step in the process is to bring out the leather, and dry it naturally or mechanically, after which you can wax it. Waxing is a good way to put oil back into the leather to make it more durable.


Don’t forget that different tools can be of great assistance in your dyeing leather process. For example, soft cotton rags can be perfect for applying dye, while sponges can add texture.

The color of the dye in the bottle may not exactly match the shade of your dyed leather. Make sure you try out the die on a small area to see how the color will look like on your material.

Natural vegetable-tanned leather can be one of the best options for customizing since natural, unfinished leathers take dye the easiest. Learning how to dye leather properly can result in amazing pieces that will look great for years.



Nothing is as embarrassing as having the color on your leather products rubbing off and staining your clothes and other materials.

Unfortunately, some leather products have the problem of bleeding. Many people, therefore, want to know how they can stop their veg tanned leather from bleeding.

Here are some of the best ways to stop your veg tan leather from bleeding:

  • Protect it in a quality sealant: Applying a sealant after dyeing leather will keep it in good condition and prevent it from staining your clothes.
  • Coat it with leather creams: Another good way to stop your vegetable tanned leather from bleeding is to utilize leather creams. Not only do they prevent the leather from bleeding, but they also enhance the color of the dye.
  • Wash off the excess dye: Leather bleeding is mostly caused by excess dye used in the leather-making process. To prevent this, wash off every excess layer of dye from your leather.

If you are looking for high-quality products for your next leatherworking project, we encourage you to browse our selection of vegetable-tanned leather materials. For more information on how to dye and care for your veg tan leather, contact Stonestreet Leather today.