One of my favorite parts of leather craft is picking out leather for a project, but sometimes this can be challenging. Finding vegetable tanned leather in the perfect color can sometimes be near impossible. Recently I’ve stepped away from buying pre-dyed leather and started using Fiebing’s Leather Dye to create my own hides.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye is a brand of dye used to color natural leather. It comes in many colors, allowing for leather to be customized. Dyes can be applied or mixed in various ways to alter the final look of leather. Fiebing’s sells water, oil, and alcohol-based dyes, each with unique properties.
Dyeing leather yourself can offer various benefits and further customize a leather project. Let’s explore Fiebing’s Leather Dye and how it can be used to create unique leather projects.
What Is Fiebing’s Leather Dye?
Fiebing’s is a popular leather supply brand offering various products to help when working with leather. One of those products is their leather dye. Leather dye is a way to color untreated or natural, vegetable tanned leather, allowing crafters to create their own hide patterns or shades.
Dyes come in alcohol, water, or oil-based, each providing unique penetration and drying conditions. Fiebing’s leather dyes can be mixed to create a new color or diluted with their respective base to help achieve the perfect tone.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- When You Might Use Fiebing’s Leather Dye
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Quick Reference Table
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Types and Variations
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Characteristics
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Pros
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Cons
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Costs
- Alternative Options to Fiebing’s Leather Dye
- Experienced Tips for Working with Fiebing’s Leather Dye
- My Personal Research with Fiebing’s Leather Dye
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye Care and Maintenance
- Helpful Fiebing’s Leather Dye Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
When opening up a bottle of Fiebing’s Leather Dye, you’ll notice a wool dauber is included. Typically crafters will see this dauber and think it is the best way to dye leather. However, this is not the case.
Daubers will leave streaks on the leather and can be challenging to blend with the small surface. If the piece of leather being dyed is small, they can work, but often it is best to use other methods. Dip dyeing is a method that uses a container filled with dye to dunk the leather into.
While it can be messy, it produces an extremely even coating with no streaking. Alternatively, a sponge can also create a finish with less streaking than the dauber. Try these other methods first to avoid frustration when attempting to leather dye.
When You Might Use Fiebing’s Leather Dye
Fiebing’s Leather Dye will always be used to color leather, but the application method can become creative. The most obvious is simply applying dye to evenly apply a color to the leather surface. This can quickly be expanded by adding multiple colors to create a pattern or a different application method.
Marbling, cross-hatching, and blotting are just a few examples of what is possible with leather dyes. Tools like spray guns can add a gradient effect, further changing how the leather looks. Leather dyes are also an excellent choice for those looking to use different colored leather without purchasing each color.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Quick Reference Table
|Tool||Fiebing’s Leather Dye|
|Component Materials||Oil, water, or alcohol; pigment, resin|
|Common Sizes||4oz, 32oz, 128oz|
|Cost Range ($)||$7–$150|
|Recommended Maintenance||Keep dye free of contamination, clean bottle surface, and use new applicators|
|Recommended Storage||Completely sealed, away from heat, on a disposable matt|
|Common Uses||Coloring leather, adding patterns to leather’s surface|
|How Long It Lasts (on average)||About one year after being opened|
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Types and Variations
The three types of leather dyes are water, oil, and alcohol-based.
- Alcohol-based dye – Alcohol-based dyes use powdered colors with alcohol to dye the leather. It is quick-drying but does not penetrate deeply. The alcohol base can also cause the leather to dry, requiring conditioning afterward.
- Oil-based dye – Oil-based dyes also contain alcohol, but much less. Instead, they use a combination of colored oil. This slower-drying dye will provide more penetration and not dry out the leather as much.
- Water-based dye – These are the slowest drying of the bunch and dry the leather slightly, but they shine in their ability to reduce or eliminate rub-off.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Characteristics
Fiebing’s products contain similar materials, adding their colors in two ways; a pigment or a color oil base. These are combined with a solvent, typically alcohol. Fiebing’s offers water-based dye, though it has different characteristics.
Alcohol dries fast and can get deep into the leather, providing color retention if scratched. Water has a slower drying time, but reduces or eliminates any excess color on the surface, creating a cleaner final finish.
Fiebing’s leather dye is sold in three standard sizes, 4oz, 32oz, and 128oz. The 4oz is the most common size sold, as it is a perfect amount of dye for home crafters. With 4oz you can easily expect to dye multiple projects, as a little dye goes a long way.
The next size up, 32oz is aimed toward small-scale production. The dye of this size would be used often or for large projects. The largest size is 128oz and should be considered for manufacturing. Dye would need to be used often or on entire hides if purchased in this amount.
Variations in Fiebing’s Leather Dye are based on how they work on coloring the leather. They have water, alcohol, and oil-based dye, each with strengths and weaknesses. Water-based dries slowly but has little excess color. Alcohol dries fast but can make leather stiff.
Oil-based dye, also called pro dye, attempts to mix the best of both, but has a slight rub-off. In addition, all of these dyes will come in different colors. With differences in saturation, the water-based often has a softer tone than the others.
In this helpful video by Weaver Leather Supply, Chuck Dorsett compares the three types of Fiebing’s Leather Dye, covering the pros and cons of each and showcasing similar colors.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Pros
Dyeing your own leather offers plenty of unique advantages, mainly in customization. It provides complete control of the final look of the leather, making hard-to-find colors or patterns possible. This can go further as a single piece of leather can be dyed with multiple colors, stretching the possibilities.
Economically, using Fiebing’s leather dyes can help reduce the cost of leather since every color can be achieved with controlled sizes. A single hide of natural vegetable tanned leather can easily become dozens of colored leather projects. A leather dye can also be used on leather edges to add contrast or an interesting flair.
Fiebing’s leather dyes can be mixed to create a new color or diluted with their respective base to help achieve the perfect tone.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Cons
While Fiebing’s leather dyes can be a great option for some crafters, there are a few considerations. Dyeing can be an extremely messy process, possibly staining surfaces and tools. It often requires additional supplies to manage, including backing paper, rub off cloths, dyeing bins, and various applicators.
The process itself can also be time-consuming. Each step prolongs the process from setup to dry time compared to pre-dyed leather. Lastly, Fiebing’s Leather Dye will require a finishing coat. Once dried, the leather may still bleed color and must be sealed using a top coat to prevent this and protect the leather.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
When a dye is made, it is first determined what the base will be — water, alcohol, or a mix of oil and alcohol. This determines what coloring method will be used. Both water and alcohol use pigment, a grounded powder of color. In comparison, oil-based uses a colored oil to provide the pigment, with the benefit being additional saturation.
The coloring agent will be mixed with the base and a small amount of resin. The resin helps lock in the color and provides a light protective coating. Once these materials have been mixed, the dye can be packaged for retail.
Shazia Pervaiz, Tahira Aziz Mughal, and Filza Zafar Khan, from the Department of Environmental Science, Lahore College for Women University, in Lahore, Pakistan, discuss the possibility of plant-based leather dyes in the future. They found that they not only produce great colors but can be used to be more environmentally friendly than the current dyes available.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Costs
The cost of Fiebing’s Leather Dye depends on the bottle’s size and the type of dye, with pro dye being the most expensive. The smallest bottle sold is 4oz, costing between $4–$7, and the 32oz bottle size costs $25–$50.
At the largest size, 128oz, Fiebing’s no longer offers water-based dyes, leaving the two dyes at $80–$150, with the pro dye nearly double the cost of the other two dyes at every price point.
Alternative Options to Fiebing’s Leather Dye
The most similar option to Fiebing’s Leather Dye is purchasing a different brand of leather dye. Eco-flo and Angelus are popular options, with many others available. Further alternatives for coloring leather are paints.
Paints coat the surface and are best suited for smaller areas, but they can add color when necessary. Another potential option is to use colored leather cream. Typically used for restoration, creams will contain pigment mixed with leather conditioner, lightly coloring it while keeping it hydrated.
Experienced Tips for Working With Fiebing’s Leather Dye
- Work on a disposable matt to prevent surfaces from being stained with dye.
- Apply light coats to build up to a darker color to ensure the right shade.
- Wipe off any excess dye after application to prevent darker spots throughout the piece.
My Personal Research with Fiebing’s Leather Dye
To research Fiebing’s Leather Dye, I wanted to determine the differences in the application methods. I tested various materials for applying the dye and dip dyeing. My goal was to see which application method produced the best results with the least excess dye.
Daubers are a standard dye application method, as they come in the package when purchased. They soak up plenty of dye, making it easy to quickly cover large pieces of leather.
However, they can be challenging to control as the dye quickly transfers onto the leather. Using a dauber left a lot of excess dye on the surface and had visible lines from each pass that I had made. When dried, the leather had rub off, and the streaks were more pronounced.
A popular option is to use a cotton rag. The rag did not soak up as much dye as the dauber, but the larger item did help it hold plenty of dye. When applying, the dye was slower to transfer, allowing me to build up the dye instead of using too much.
There was minimal excess, and it had no streaking before it dried. Once dried, the leather had some rub-off, but much less. It did have some visible streaks, but not enough to stand out.
A sponge can be a messy way to dye as it soaks up a lot very quickly, and moves upward toward your fingers. During application, there was plenty of control since I could press down hard if I wanted more dye or use a less soaked side to add less color.
The sponge texture made producing an even coating slightly more complicated and had some darker areas. It had slightly more excess dye than the cotton rag and no visible streaking when wet. When dried, the sponge produced a slight rub-off and had no visible streaking, but darker areas potentially hid what would have been streak marks.
The quickest and most efficient way to dye leather is by dipping it in the dye. A container can be filled with dye so the leather piece can be placed in and colored. Dip dying occurs within seconds and colors the backside of the leather as well.
It did, however, have a lot of excess dye when pulled out, requiring it to be wiped down. When dried, dip dying had quite a lot of rub-off but was the most even color of any of the dyeing methods.
When choosing a method for dyeing leather, it is important to consider the goals of your project. If it is to produce an even coating quickly, dip dyeing is unmatched. However, if the goal is to reduce rub-off, a cotton rag helps reduce excess dyes. If the idea is to make patterns on leather, the sponge’s texture helps create a marbled look, while the dauber can create cross-hatching streaks.
Fiebing’s Leather Dye Care and Maintenance
How to Clean Fiebing’s Leather Dye
Cleaning a bottle of leather dry can be difficult. Any dust or debris that falls in may easily get lost. At best, the dye can be poured through a sifter to attempt to remove anything that has fallen in. Cleaning leather dye that has been applied is no different than any other leather. Fiebing’s Saddle Soap or other leather cleaning products can be used on the dye without issues.
How to Maintain Fiebing’s Leather Dye
To keep Fiebing’s Leather Dye accurate, it should always remain closed when not in use to prevent contaminants from falling into the bottle. Additionally, a clean applicator is required whenever the dye is to be used. This prevents color mixing or diluting by having unwanted transfers occur. Lastly, Fiebing’s should be used within its lifespan to ensure the dye is coloring correctly.
How to Store Fiebing’s Leather Dye
Leather dye should be stored in its original bottle, completely closed shut. This will prevent the dye from becoming contaminated and drying out. It is also a good idea to store the dye on a disposable surface. Leather dye can be messy, and a leaky bottle can easily ruin surfaces. All Fiebing’s Leather Dye should be stored away from heat sources, especially dyes that contain alcohol, as they are flammable.
Helpful Fiebing’s Leather Dye Insights
How do you seal Fiebing’s Leather Dye?
To seal leather colored with Fiebing’s Leather Dye, it must first be completely dried. It is recommended to leave it overnight. Afterward, a finishing product like resolene, atomic wax, or others can be applied using the same method as the dye. It is key to cover the entire area to protect the finished leather.
Does Fiebing’s Leather Dye rub off?
Yes, Fiebing’s Leather Dye will rub off in various amounts. Once the leather has dried, it can be rubbed with a cloth to remove most of the excess dye rubbing off. This process can be repeated until no coloring is picked up. Then it should be sealed using a leather finishing product to prevent further rub-off.
What is the difference between Fiebing’s dye and pro dye?
The difference between Fiebing’s Leather Dye and pro dye is how it obtains its color. Regular Fiebing’s Leather Dye is made with grounded pigment, while the pro dye is an oil color. The main advantage of this is a more saturated color, offering more vibrant tones. This can also lessen the amount required during application.
How do you use Fiebing’s Leather Dye?
To use Fiebing’s Leather Dye, simply saturate an applicator in dye and run it across the surface of the leather. This can be done with a dauber, sponge, cloth, or any absorbent material. Alternatively, leather can be dip dyed by pouring the dye into a tray deep enough to cover the leather. The leather can then be quickly dipped into the dye, providing a fast and even coating.
How long does it take for Fiebing’s leather dye to dry?
While fiebing’s leather dye can dry in minutes, it is best to wait overnight to ensure the best results. This will reduce the rub-off and provide a surface ready to continue working on. However, if time is of the essence, the leather can be used after a half hour with the risk of the dye staining surfaces or tools.
- Fiebing’s Leather Dye works best on natural vegetable tanned leather.
- Application methods can be experimented with to find new ways to color or pattern the leather.
- After the leather is completely dried, a finishing product is required to seal the leather and prevent rub-off.
Using Fiebing’s Leather Dye is a fun way to achieve the perfect color when working with leather. By choosing the right dye and application method for each project, the customization possibilities are endless. Leather dye is ideal for turning plain vegetable tanned leather into a multicolored workpiece.