Can I change the color of leather or vinyl? Can I change from dark to light?

Dyes can be used to darken leather (but not synthetics like vinyl). Finishes (paints) are more versatile in that they can be used to darken or lighten the color of leather and vinyl. Click here for more about the differences between dyes and finishes.

Using a finish to change color may require periodic touch-up and result in more maintenance than simply matching and restoring the original color. Absorbent aniline or semi-aniline leather will wear better than non-absorbent leather and vinyl.

The following are not great candidates due to the potential maintenance:

  • worn, scaly or thinning leather;
  • loosely upholstered furniture with lots of wrinkles, folds, deep creases (and therefore stress);
  • pieces that receive a lot of contact with chemicals / liquids or critters (particularly dog claws);
  • seats in cars or boats (for these we suggest a heavier urethane coating);
  • bonded, faux or polyurethane (PU) ‘leather’ which resist all coatings (including their own);
  • or changing from dark or bright colors to pale or white shades.

In the latter case, consider a coat of Stone grey as a primer. White is the heaviest pigment and has the poorest coverage. This means you may use 2-3 times the normal quantity and will have a thicker, heavier and less flexible finish that will wear more easily and require more touch-up.

Thorough cleaning and prep are critical to get the best result!

Here’s what wear and discoloration look like:

Touch-up is easy and mitigated by:

  • choosing a color that complements the original;
  • choosing a color with a similar value (light vs. dark);
  • dabbing or stippling the color to create a marbled or distressed appearance so future wear will look natural and intended. 

Our products are water-based acrylic finishes (paints). Acrylics can be less durable than urethanes and require touch-up. However, acrylics don’t feel plasticky like urethanes. Acrylics also don’t crack or flake, so stripping and sanding are not needed prior to touching up. Still, if you’re wanting to change the color of a boat or auto interior, you might consider a heavier urethane or aerosol.

Click here for more information about the different types of materials and the differences between dyes and finishes.

Change Color Match Color
More product neededLess product needed
More labor requiredLess labor involved
Touch-up likely and variesLittle to no touch-up
Available nowWait until sample received; our turnover is swift
May be as expensive as matching, depending on scope of projectMatching fee; 8 oz. order minimum for Advanced Custom Color
Discouraged for auto, RV, boat interiorsRecommended for auto, RV, boat upholstery, primary or secondary colors

The video below demonstrates a change from a dark green to a solid, lighter tan color in five coats using Rub ‘n Restore®.

Video contents:

  • 0:08 – Cleaning and prep
  • 0:48 – First coat of color
  • 1:36 – Second coat
  • 2:10 – Third coat
  • 2:36 – Fourth coat
  • 2:54 – Fifth coat
  • 3:12 – Final result

Shop Our Colors

81 comments

    • 16 oz ($70) would be plenty to transform and maintain if using tan or taupe. White may take a 16 oz and additional 8 oz ($48). 8 oz Clear ($21) is optional for the former and a good idea on the latter.

      Reply
    • That’s an easy color change, and bed frames are not as high maintenance as couches or chairs. But as always, beware bonded, faux, polyurethane or polyester ‘leather’. They resist all coatings including their own.

      Reply
  1. I have a “saddle” color leather oversized chair that has a large worn splash of lighter color on the arm. How can I restore to saddle color?

    Reply
  2. I have a dark marron boat vinyl that I want to change to bright red. Can this be done and will it hold up with it always getting wet.

    Reply
  3. Hi,

    I have a camera bag with bright yellow vinyl panels on it (yuck!!). Can I dye them to a darker “earthy” tone? Will the colour withstand rubbing and sweating on the panels in contact with my back or will it transfer to my clothing over time?

    Reply
    • An earth tone with lots of mineral pigment should get good coverage, age well, and not transfer, but you will likely have to touch-up at some point. Impossible to say how often. The Satin Sealer as a topcoat may help improve durability. Be sure you’re applying it to real vinyl and not polyurethane.

      Reply
  4. I have a leather vinyl match set. Would I be successful changing the color from beige to Marine White? That color of yours really appeals to me! Thanks Lesandre!

    Reply
  5. i have maroon leather couches and i want to make them the marine white. is this doable if I have enough coats. Should I prime first? The couches are in good condition ( no peeling or cracks)

    Reply
  6. I have 2 couch i want to change color of…seems like genuine leather just not sure (fro previous house owners)
    One is black and the other on is a redish brown…i would like to change both to a slate gray color, maybe the brown one to a dark gray/black

    Would this work? Which should i get for supplies?

    Reply
  7. Hi There-I have an odd sized 2 person hot tub. The cover is a faded and slightly crackled light blue. There are no breaks in it however. I’d like to paint it terracotta or dark brown to match the stone on my patio or the dark brown on the outside of the hot tub. Is this possible? Thanks-Richard

    Reply
  8. Hi I have a 3 piece set. It’s an ivory color, like it’s a yellowy ivory, it seems like they are getting more Yellow and not matching my decor. Can I change it to a off white and how many coats etc. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Pale finished leathers do tend to get dingy or even oxidize over time or in the presence of certain chemicals, lotions, etc. It’ll be less labor, maintenance, and comparable or less expense to match the original color or areas that don’t appear as yellow. See here about color matching services. Original finish, quality, condition, and absorbency will all affect longevity and durability of a color change and how many coats will be needed.

      Reply
      • Are Ekones or Stressless recliners a good canditate ? I have one over 20 years and have fixed the holes in the arms with your filler. It is their standard Beige color and I would like something similer in clor, maybe ivory.
        It doesnt have to match.
        How much and what to buy ? Is there a sealer or final coat after the color that needs to be applied ?
        Also it has been a couple ofmonthe since I repaired the arms is the filler stillgood ? Looks fine
        Thanks

        Reply
        • Ekornes are fine quality chairs, though most I’ve seen are a finished, non-absorbent leather. Being 20 years old, I imagine the substrate foam may be a bit tired. Perhaps you are able to unzip the cushions and add more to plump up the leather? Even so, I would work with a similar color (our Beige or Ivory) to minimize maintenance. The filler is still good and can be refinished at any time.

          Reply
  9. I was wanting to change a set of red theater seats to the storm blue color. Is this something that sounds feasible and if so, would the 16oz bottle be enough to do this change on 3 seats?

    Reply
  10. I have a 3 piece bright daffodil/sunshine yellow leather sofa set which is in perfect condition but doesn’t match my decor. Is it realistic to change this to a tan brown colour?

    Reply
    • Absolutely, but heed the suggestions in this article. Absorbent leather will require less maintenance than non-absorbent leather. Style of upholstery, type of use are all factors. A mottling technique to let some of the original yellow influence in a few spots will mitigate touch-up.

      Reply
  11. I have a leather couch and love seat that is very comfortable and in good shape; however, over the years, sunlight has turned parts of its beautiful tan colour green. We also have a brown leather lazy boy chair, so we are thinking of dying the couch and love seat some sort of brown to match the chair. Or, do you see a way that we could restore the ugly green parts back to the original tan colour?

    Also, we are in Canada. There are next to no options here at all so I’m glad I found your website.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the good word! It’s always less maintenance to restore the original color rather than change the color. The only caveat is matching the original tan. Will our Camel, Honey, Cognac or Rust match? Maybe, maybe not. You can order swatches of these colors. A more direct solution is to mail us a swatch of the leather. We’ll let you know how our colors compare, and we can match your tan, if necessary, for an additional fee. More about these color matching services is here. Sorry that we don’t have a distributor in Canada yet. See here about shipping; there’s also a coupon code to discount the freight on larger bottles of color.

      Reply
  12. I have an old leather sofa and loveseat one great shape handed down to me that is very, very red. I’m not looking to make the color lighter or darker in any meaningful way, just less red. Looking at the colors available, the closest to what I want is honey. I know with other mediums, red will often show through, so I’m wondering if I’ll need lots of coats to keep the red from coming through? Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Hi, I have an old 1950s car and the seats are in a terrible condition with rips and holes in them.
    I have seen for sale a set of seats that fit my car, but they are red and ideally I would like to dye them cream, like the original seats in my car.
    The leather on the red seats is old but still in fairly good condition.
    Would it be possible to change them from red to cream using your products?

    Reply
    • Red is one of the hardest colors to cover, so you’d need light grey as a primer. As the article mentions, white is the heaviest pigment and has the poorest coverage. This means you may use 2-3 times the normal quantity and will have a thicker, heavier and less flexible finish that may wear more easily and require more touch-up. A heavier urethane or aerosol will be more durable than our acrylic initially, though they also eventually develop hairline cracks, peel or flake. If this vehicle is seldom driven, either an acrylic or urethane would work. If more durability is needed, you’re better off finding the correct color or reupholstering.

      Reply
      • Many thanks for you reply Lesandre, much appreciated. I guess I will have to look into the options you point out, but really good to know what they are:-)

        Reply
  14. I have a light tan replacement trunk cover on my 2002 Mercedes Sport Wagon. It needs to be light grey. Could this work with your product

    Reply
    • We’ve never changed the color of one of these. It’s worth a try, but the most durable, simplest solution would be to get one in the correct color. The grey will require a Custom Color, which entails sending a sample and paying an additional $90 fee. I’d recommend using a plastic primer on any plastic components. Have the cover completely extended and use a sponge to apply a thin base coat of color, and then use a spray or detail gun for subsequent coats to ensure a uniform appearance and avoid pooling of color in the recesses of the vinyl. You want the thinnest possible finish due to the movement and retraction that it will experience. Even then, you may have to periodically touch-up. I’d also give it plenty of cure time in a warm, sunny place, since the vinyl, when retracted will be coiled on top of itself.

      Reply
  15. Hi! I have a green sofa and loveseat that looks taupe/beige in our lighting. I would like to brighten it to an “avocado” or “lime” green so it’s clear it is actually green. Can this be done realistically? I also have an area of the arm that is peeling and was curious about repairing it… not sure if this is genuine leather like the cushions. Thanks for any advice!

    Reply

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