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Semi Aniline Leather – When to Use This Colored Leather

In searching for leather for my handbags that offers both durability and consistency, I would like to share what I learned about semi aniline leather and why it may be the best option.

Semi aniline leather is a full, or top, grain leather with a lightly pigmented dye applied to the surface. This coating offers a more uniform color while providing wear-resistant qualities. Semi aniline leather costs between $8-$20 per sq ft and is used in quality furniture, jackets, and bags.

So what makes semi aniline leather so unique? Let’s look at the qualities it offers and when it becomes the best choice.

History of Semi Aniline Leather

Semi anilline leather is the successor to aniline leather, created in 1826, and is considered one of the most natural and high-quality ways to dye leather. The aniline used when dying the leather allows for the natural leather to shine through. Semi aniline leather focuses on removing imperfections with it’s coating, removing scars and bug bites.

However, it still leaves the pores of the leather keeping the sought-after natural appearance. While it is called “semi” aniline, the name itself can be misleading. Semi ainiline leather is aniline leather that is further treated with a pigmented coating, giving it unique properties. 

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Semi Aniline Leather

Characteristics of Semi Aniline Leather

Surface Texture

The coating added on semi aniline leather makes it smooth to the touch, with a slight waxy feeling. This coating can even cover the texture of leather scars, bug bites, branding marks, and any other imperfections.  

Flexibility

Many semi aniline leathers are used in the fashion or furniture industry, requiring supple, flexible leather. As a result, most hides offer extreme flexibility with little rigidity. Though some semi aniline leathers can be made to be firmer, as seen in the shoe industry.

Softness

One of the most attractive qualities about semi aniline leather is its softness. Semi aniline leather is typically produced in a drum, a tanning process in which a leather hide is dyed in a tumbling fashion. This motion softens the fibers of the leather.

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Sewability

The coating added to semi aniline leathers does not change any workflow characteristics. However, since semi aniline leather is made soft, sewing will be easier as there is less resistance when pulling the threads. Cutting and punching will remain the same as other leathers. 

Durability

Semi aniline leather is extremely durable. Its protective pigmented coating makes it wear-resistant, water-resistant, and light-resistant.  Sevgi Nalbat, Ersin Onem, Bahri Basaran, Ali Yorgancioglu, and Onur Yilmaz of the EGE University in Bornova, Turkey, discuss the added benefits of an added finishing coat. They determined the coat added to semi aniline leather increased its tensile strength.   

Ease of Maintenance

Another great benefit to the protective coating is the ease of maintenance. Hydration is locked inside, and wear and debris is kept out with the coating. In practice, semi aniline leather will not need nearly as much care as its counterparts. 

Colors

The purpose of adding the pigmented aniline coating is to help uniform the leather’s colors. This results in a large variety of colors with little to no variance throughout the hide, allowing for consistency. There is no limit to what color aniline leather can be, as there are both vegetable tanned and chromium tanned semi aniline leathers. 

Waterproofness

While semi aniline leather does have added water resistance; it is not waterproof. A spill will bead off the leather, but if left too long, it could soak down underneath the protective coating and cause damage. When addressing any liquid, dab the area, as a wiping motion could further push the fluid into the leather. 

Cost

Semi aniline leather is usually made from high-quality leather hides, and with the additional benefits of the added coating, the price of the leather reflects its quality. These leathers can be found at prices ranging from $8–$20 per sq ft.

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Pros and Cons of Semi Aniline Leather

Pros of Semi Aniline Leather

Semi aniline leathers offer many luxurious characteristics most people associate with leather. It is supple and soft, making it comfortable to use or wear. Semi aniline leather is low maintenance and durable, allowing it to be used in tougher conditions without needing additional care. Lastly, it is colorful and uniform, making projects and products look flawless.

A. Gulbinienė, V. Jankauskaitė, and R. Arcišauskaite of the Kaunas University of Technology describe the water-resistant benefits of a pigmented coating. In high moisture environments, water vapor does not penetrate the leather as easily. 

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Cons of Semi Aniline Leather

The downsides to semi aniline leather are mainly preferences, as this leather is high quality. The leather’s pigmented coating is usually the issue. It can potentially lose natural markings, scars, and bug bites found in leather which some enjoy the look of.

Semi aniline leather can also be too flexible for some craft projects, needing reinforcement materials to create the desired rigidity. Lastly, the cost of the leather can be higher than others because of its quality, which may put off some people on a budget.

Production Statistics of Semi Aniline Leather

1. Volume Per Year

25,000 Million sq. ft of leather is produced worldwide annually. With Semi aniline leather being less than 10% overall. 

2. Key Country or Countries Where it is Produced

Semi aniline leather is produced in places like Italy and China. Although goat and sheepskin leathers tend to be produced in Brazil or Russia. 

3 Biggest Exporting Country

Italy is the biggest exporter of semi aniline leather due to their ties in high fashion.

4. Biggest Importing Country

Italy is also the biggest importing country of semi aniline leather, with many manufacturing brands producing high-quality leather goods there. 

How Semi Aniline Leather is Made

Before semi aniline leather is made, aniline leather must be created. This process starts by selecting high-quality full or top grain leather and using aniline dyes in a drum to tan the leather. Pigment and a protective wax or oil mix are added to this leather. When finished, this will produce the uniform protected coating that semi aniline leather is known for.

Semi aniline leather is aniline leather that is further treated with a pigmented coating, giving it its unique properties.

Cost of Semi Aniline Leather

Square Foot

Semi aniline leather costs $8–$20 per sq ft.

Half Hide

Semi aniline leather can be made from difficult types of leather, including cow, calf, goat, and sheep. Small hides like sheep and goats will be $15–$30 for half a hide. While larger hides, such as cows and calves, will be $25–$100 for half a hide. 

Full Hide

A full hide of smaller animals will range from $25–$60 as these hides tend not to be larger than $8 sq ft. The larger animals can cost $80 up to $350 for larger upholstery purposed hides. 

Cost Breakdown by Hide Type and Size

Hide TypeAverage SizeCost Per sq ftCost Per ½ HideCost Per Full Hide
Sheep/Goat4–6 sq ft$5–$8 $25$35
Calf11–16 sq ft$10–$20$60$100
Cow20–35 sq st$10–$20$120$350
The Price of Semi Aniline Leather

Popular Uses for Semi Aniline Leather 

  1. Bags
  2. Shoes
  3. Clothing

Tips For Working With Semi Aniline Leather

  1. Add stiffeners or other materials to create a more firm leather
  2. Avoid adding products to the surface before knowing their effect on the leather 
  3. The natural gloss of semi aniline leather can be buffed to a higher shine using a soft cloth
  4. Quickly address spilled liquids on its surface 

Examples of Items Made From Semi Aniline Leather

Semi aniline leather is chosen for its flexibility, durability, and uniform color. This makes it the perfect leather for outdoor, heavy-use items such as a handbag or jackets. The pigmented coating creates a spill-resistant barrier, making the care easy. Items such as furniture and shoes take advantage of these qualities.

In this video, Chris Roberts talks about the differences between full vs. semi aniline leather and how the benefits can be a deciding factor when choosing a product.

Expert Advice About Semi Aniline Leather Selection and Use 

I emailed BuyLeatherOnline, a wholesaler from Italy with a large selection of semi aniline leather. My initial question was about the price difference between semi and full aniline leathers, as semi aniline is noticeably cheaper.

Immediately their spokesperson assured me these hides were both “high quality,” but the price difference comes from scarcity and initial markings. They thoroughly explained how a semi aniline leather could start with unwanted marks before adding the pigmented coat because it would cover the imperfections. On the other hand, full aniline leather needed to be as flawless as possible. 

I then asked where it was best used and if there were any characteristics I needed to be aware of. They responded that this leather could be “used anywhere” but was best for soft outside goods such as “purses and shoes.”

The only characteristic they wanted me to be aware of is the potential lack of patina. While they suggested some specific hides in lighter colors if I wanted a more natural development over time, my biggest takeaway was that if I wanted a more natural-looking leather, that semi aniline leather may not be the best choice. 

Semi Aniline Leather Care and Maintenance

How to Clean Semi Aniline Leather

Semi aniline leather has unique properties when it comes to cleaning. Its topcoat allows the use of traditional water-based cleaners. Apply your chosen cleaner, water-based or specialized leather specific, and wipe down the leather. It is important to test the cleaner before applying it in larger amounts, and once cleaned the leather should be wiped free from any leftover moisture. 

Semi aniline leather is low maintenance and durable, allowing it to be used in tougher conditions without needing additional care.

How to Condition Semi Aniline Leather

Any leather conditioner or cream can be used with semi aniline leather. However, the added coating may take more time for the conditioner to penetrate the leather. A soft cloth should be used to apply it, rubbing the conditioner in small circles to hydrate the leather evenly.

How to Store Semi Aniline Leather

While durable, semi aniline leather should be stored in a moisture-free environment and away from direct sunlight to prevent unwanted damage. 

Related Insights

Is semi aniline leather real leather?

Yes, in its name, the “semi aniline” part describes the coating added to the real leather. The leather chosen for this type is typically some of the highest quality leather.

Is Semi aniline good leather?

Yes, because semi aniline leather uses full or top grain leather, it is some of the best leather for its uses. 

Does semi aniline leather peel?

No, this leather will not peel. The coating is merely a layer added on top of quality leather; therefore, there is nothing to peel.

Is semi aniline leather hard wearing?

Yes, it is very hard-wearing. This leather can withstand spills, scratches, rain, grime, and sun without needing much maintenance.

Does semi aniline leather scratch easily?

No, the coating added to semi aniline leather keeps it more protected from scratching, although damage is possible. 

Is semi aniline leather shiny?

Yes, the leather coating adds a bit of gloss to the final look of the leather. A soft cloth can be used to buff the leather further for a more pronounced shine. 

Does semi aniline leather patina?

Yes, despite the pigmented coating added to semi aniline leather, it can patina. Although the patina it creates will be less pronounced than other leathers.

Does semi aniline leather crack?

Yes, while this leather is more durable and has less maintenance, continued neglect could still cause damage to the leather, including cracking.

Final Thoughts 

Choosing the right leather good for yourself can be a challenge, but consider semi aniline leather for products you want to last a long time. The initial cost may be higher, but these items can last a lifetime if treated well. 

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