When working on leather craft projects, or even craft projects that involve leather, leather marking is a helpful way to indicate cut marks or add visual design.
Leather marking is functional or aesthetic action that results in temporary or permanent marks on or in leather materials. Some techniques involve applying color to the surface, such as with pens or markers. Others involve tools that pierce the leather, such as pricking wheels or stipplers.
How to know which tool will be most helpful, or worth having around? Let’s learn a little more about when to mark and what works best depending on the project.
What is Leather Marking?
Leather marking covers a wide array of techniques that result in marks on leather. Sometimes, it’s helpful to mark leather when it’s going to be cut. This can be when tracing patterns, or even straight lines when making straight cuts, and guides as we cut, trim, punch, and sew.
Other times, one might apply a decorative design onto the leather. These can be drawings, sketches, or outlines. One can be as creative as they like here, using pens, markers, and even paint.
Yet for other projects, more permanent markings might be helpful. In cases where the leather will be stitched, it’s helpful to make consistently-spaced markings the length of the stitch. This can be achieved with a pricking wheel. Later, pricking irons can use the marking made by the wheel as a guide.
And to keep it simple, there’s always the trusty pencil! 🙂 it’s an easy way make markings on leather, and in most cases easily erased. OK, let’s explore the different tools that can be used for great projects.
Types of Leather Marking Tools
Across the types of tools, we’ll see some that are for scratching, some for pricking, stippling, some for straight lines, some for curved lines and others for corners. Most any leather marking need you might have can benefit from use of the correct, or most helpful, marking tool.
Leather Overstitch Wheel
An overstitch wheel is a tool designed for marking stitch hole locations on leather. It is comprised of a wheel metal with sharp points that go all around it. When rolled onto the leather, the points leave a slight impression in the material. It serves as a perfect guide for pricking or stitching later on, especially in a straight line.
When you’re planning to hand-sew a piece, it’s helpful to know exactly where the stitch holes will be. While, one might use pricing irons to make these marks, each time the iron is moves it might not be perfectly aligned with the previous one. An overstitch wheel, if used aligned to a straight-edge, will provide a straight guide of hole marks in a very consistent pattern.
These tools come in various pattern sizes so you can find one that matches the stitch volume you need per inch. A range is certainly preferred as you might want larger spacing on thicker, larger leather pieces. And smaller, narrower spacing on smaller, more fine leather pieces.
Overstitch wheels can also be used after the stitching is complete, to go “over” the “stitches”. This gently presses them down, securing them more closely to the leather surface and leading to a more durable and aesthetically pleasing stitch.
Some overstitch wheels come with a “fence”. This is an additional metal piece that attaches to the tool, allowing for a variable distance to be set for the wheel to be from the edge of the leather. For example, if you want the stitch line to be 1/4” off the leather’s edge, the fence can be set to 1/4” and then wherever the tool is used the markings will be at a consistent distance from the edge. Here’s a video of an ovrstitch wheel in use:
Leather Pricking Wheel
A pricking wheel is a tool designed for marking stitch hole locations on leather. It is comprised of a wheel metal with very sharp points that go all around it. It is visually similar to an overstitch wheel, though the pricking wheel generally has sharper points that penetrate the leather more deeply.
This can be helpful when hand-stitching smaller items, or of benefit even when planning to use pricking irons to make all of the stitching holes (using the pricked markings as a guide).
Pricking wheels come in various sizes and point spacings so you can choose the one that will best work with the leather craft project’s needs.
Some pricking wheels come with a “fence”. The fence is an additional metal piece that attaches to the too, and allows for a variable edge distance to be set. For example, if you want the stitch line to be 1/8” away from the leather’s edge, the fence can be set to 1/8”. Wherever the tool is used, the wheel markings will be at a consistent distance in from the edge. Here’s a video example of one in use:
Leather Wing Divider and Leather Compass
A wing divider/compass is a tool used to mark the surface of leather, most commonly related to circular or curved lines. Very much like the compass used in mathematical studies, the wing divider has two arms with points on the bottom. They are joined at the top, and in the middle have an adjustable screw with allows for an increase or decrease in distance between the points.
Since it is joined at the top, one point can be placed in a fixed position and the other rotated. The rotated arm will always move around a 360-degree, circular arc, making this a great adjustable tool for marking circles, corners, and any kind of curve. As the distance between the arms can be changed, a wide array of circular sizes can be drawn.
Wing dividers/compasses usually have a sharp, metal tips. This allows for precise placement, and also the ability to scratch a line into the leather’s surface. For arcs, semi-circles, dividing lines, these are great. If desired and in a pinch, just one arm can be held/used as a scratch awl, for marking leather up.
Leather Corner Tool
A leather corner tool is a stencil guide used to mark off corners and small curves on leather material. Often made of plastic, though sometimes made of metal, they are helpful in marking off curved areas. If thick enough, they can even be used as a cutting guide right on top of the leather. The knife can carefully trace the curve, ensuring a geometrically accurate and clean, smooth, curved cut.
A leather stippler is a tool used mainly for leather carving. It usually has a wooden handle and a metal end with several pointed tips that generally form a circular pattern. When pressed into the leather, the tips leave a pointed pattern in the material. Pressing can be repeated, offering a way to add texture to background of leather carving work. If you are looking to add that stippled/pointed look and feel to a carved piece, the leather stippler can be a helpful and very easy-to-use leather working tool for the kit.
The classic pencil can surely be used for leather work. It can be used on the backside of leather where lines might not be visible in the finished piece. Also, some pencil marks might be easily erased, depending on the type of leather and surface. Some other marking tools might be better depending on need, though the pencil always works 🙂
Scratch awls have a sharp, rounded point and are used for piercing holes in leather. Coming in a range of sizes, they awls can also be used for scratching, or marking, leather. Sometimes when cutting leather or planning where holes will go, it’s helpful to leave a mark.
Where a pen or pencil might not be the best choice, the scratch awl can be used to leave point marks (for example where a hole might go), or lines (where a cut line might be). Just apply less pressure to the awl by hand and push or drag it across the leather.
Leather Marker and Pens
Markers and pens can be used to write on and make markings on leather. Most any common pens and markers work on leather, while there are some specialized types. Let’s explore them some more.
There are some leather-specific markers, such as the EZ-Flow marker, and Angelus leather paint markers. They have unique applicators and designs that help them function well on leather materials. Here’s a video example of the Angelus leather paint markers in action:
Leather Touch Up Pen
Leather touch up pens are used primarily to cover nicks and scratches and small areas on leather goods and furnitures so the scratches are less noticeable. They offer a quick solution to visually fix these wear marks. Often, they’ll be available in a range of colors, to help the user match the color of their leather goods as closely as possible.
Silver Marking Pen
Silver marking pens are a type of pen designed to leave silver, easy to see, marks on leather that can be wiped off. How easily they’re wiped off depends on the leather surface, though in general they can be a convenient way to mark cut lines on leather material that will no be visible once cleaned off. A silver leather marking pen could be very useful depending how often one marks and cuts leather pieces. Here’s a video example of how they work:
Leather Dye Pens
Leather dye pens are available in a multitude of colors, and are used to touch up areas of dyed leather. They might have been scratched, nicked, or had small repairs; dyeing the area to match the original leather color would make it look much better, so these pens make quick work of touching up leather pieces. Here’s a video demonstrating how the dye pens work:
How can I write on leather?
Writing on leather can be accomplished via a few different methods. Commonly, these include using pens, pencils, special leather pens that can be wiped away, with knives, etching, and embossing.
How do you mark leather for stitching?
To mark leather for stitching, it’s easiest to use a tool that will leave a series of equally spaced marks, such as an overstitch wheel, a pricking wheel, or pricking irons.. These marks can then be followed up with leather chisels, to make the larger holes for stitching.
For stitching with thinner threads, smaller holes, or fine/thing leather, the marks made with the pricking wheel or irons might be enough to make it easy to push the needle through.
What can you use to draw on leather?
Drawing on leather can be accomplished with many of the same tools used for writing on leather. Commonly, these include pens, pencils, special leather pens that can be wiped away, with knives, etching, and embossing.
How do you permanently mark leather?
Leather can be permanently marked, for writing or drawing, using special leather pens or markers. If you’d like to permanently mark it, say for sewing, pricking wheels or irons can work best. If one would like to mark a large area with color, or even try stylizing the surface, leather dye can help to permanently mark it.
Does Sharpie stay on leather?
Sharpie will stay on leather, in general. Though, if frequently exposed to outdoor elements such as rain, moisture, and sunlight, it can begin to fade and wear away. For basic crafts and items that will be kept indoors, sharpie marker can work. Here is a video of a sneaker artist freehand-drawing on leather with a sharpie marker:
While leather marker options are usually a part of the leather working process, it can be really important, and convenient, to use the right options. When done well, it can make projects much easier, and way more enjoyable, resulting in an excellent finished piece. If you’d like to see my overall leather tools list, click here.
Do paint pens work on leather?
In general, yes, paint pens work on leather, especially if they are acrylic paint. Angelus leather paint markers are a popular choice for painting on leather with a pen-shaped applicator. They are usually available in a variety of colors.
How do you mark leather?
Leather can be marked through a variety of ways. It could include temporary methods such as erasable pens (such a with a silver leather marking pen) and pencils; and more permanent methods such as pricking wheels, wing dividers, and scratch awls.
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