Aniline and Other Finishes [What You Need to Know]

Leather types, leather beast

This might be the worst blog post title ever. And you might be thinking, "ugh, boooring" but if you want to be informed and confident when picking out and purchasing leather hides then these are a few terms that you're going to want to be familiar with.

Now we know that full grain leather and top grain leather, are the highest quality leathers that you can buy, right?

(If you're not sure what the difference between the grades of leather are, click here and have a quick read.)

Full and top grain leather are the highest quality leathers, mainly because..

  • They have the least amount of processing or "correcting"

  • They keep their natural characteristics like grain markings and imperfections

  • They're the strongest leather because they have not had layers split or buffed away

These 2 types or grades of leather can further be broken out into 3 categories that refer to the leather’s finish or surface treatment.

These categories are aniline, semi-aniline and pigmented or protected.

Maybe you’ve heard of them and been like, "huh?"

I certainly was when I first started learning about traditional leatherwork!

Below is a breakdown of the main characteristics and is not an exhaustive list but more of a basic and introduction to these 3 categories.


1| Aniline Finish

This type of leather is processed using soluble translucent dyes. These water based dyes penetrate all the way all the way through the leather.

There is no coating or pigments involved in this finish.

An aniline finish allows the leather to maintain the natural markings of the hide instead of covering it with pigments or a coating.

The lack of coating makes this type of leather finish less resistant to wear, dirt, and stains. You will be able to easily scratch the leather with your fingernail.

However the patina potential with this type of leather is very high!


2| Semi-analine

Semi-analine finish is kind of what it sounds like. Semi, meaning partly, and aniline meaning, that up there.

So this type of leather treatment gives it a light surface protective coating which also contains a small amount of pigment. This coating protects the leather from scratching.

One downside to a semi-aniline finish some leatherworkers say, is that the added pigment uniforms the coloring, taking away some of the natural elements to the leather. Also the protective coat will protect the leather but will also make it harder to breath and patina over time.


3| Pigmented or protected

Leathers with pigmented or protective finishes have a heavier coating and polymers that are applied to the leather in order to protect the surface from scratches and wear.

This type of leather is also usually embossed with a grain to mimic the natural grain in leather.

Pigmented or protected leather holds up against stains and wear but is the least natural in appearance of the 3 types of leather finishes.


So you have survived this post. Congratulations. Hopefully you feel like you have a better sense of full and top grain leather and the 3 categories of finishes that can be applied to these types of leather.


Which type of leather will you work with?