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

Yes, you can color change leather or vinyl with Rub ‘n Restore®, but it’s not for everyone!

The following are not great candidates due to the greater likelihood of touch-up:

  • very worn or thin upholstery;
  • loosely upholstered furniture with lots of wrinkles and folds (and therefore movement);
  • pieces that receive a lot of contact with chemicals/liquids, kids, or critters;
  • or changing from medium, dark, or bold colors to very pale colors;
  • bonded, faux or polyurethane (PU) ‘leather’ which resist all coatings (including their own).

This video demonstrates a dramatic color change from a dark green to a lighter camel color in five coats.

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

Choosing a color that complements the original or has a similar value (light vs. dark) will minimize maintenance. Dabbing or stippling the color to create a mottled appearance, rather than a solid color, will allow future wear to look natural and intended. Click here to browse our colors and order swatches.

If you go color change from dark to light, use Stone grey as a primer. You may also need to apply a coat of Clear Prep+Finish™ in between every 3-4 coats of the pale color to seal your work and get better coverage.

Our products are water-based acrylic pigments (paints). While urethanes tend to be more durable, acrylics feel and look more natural. Touch-up is par for the course with color changes and varies with the quality and condition of the material and the type of use. Touch-up is easy.

Preview the instructional brochure here.

Learn about the different types of materials and the differences between dyes and finishes.

Reader Interactions


    • lesandre says

      We generally don’t recommend it. Whites get the poorest coverage (requiring double or triple the coats) and are also the heaviest pigment, which will add more weight to the surface. A good quality leather will take it well but will still require touch-up, and that varies with condition, stressors, etc. Lesser quality materials will be more challenging.

  1. Janet says

    I notice that in your video that you say water or other liquids may activate the dye. Is this case immediately following application, or is this for the life of the furniture? Do I have to worry that every time someone drips water or liquid onto the sofa that the dye is going to come off on them? Thank you!

    • lesandre says

      As per the article, touch-up varies with the quality and condition of the material and the type of use. Some folks go years with only minor touch-up on one cushion. Some notice they have to touch-up within the first month. Best you can do is test the color on a small high-traffic or worn area, let it dry, do a few coats, pinch and twist and stress the area, and see how it performs. Strip it off with alcohol immediately if it doesn’t perform well and return it.

    • lesandre says

      Let me guess, the original paint is peeling, revealing a black plastic beneath? This was a problem in that generation of GM dashes. Firstly, you’ve got to even out any disparity between the peeling coating and the original whether by sanding or stripping with a solvent like paint thinner. This might turn it into a real nightmare. Then I’d use a plastic primer followed by our black finish. It’s going to be much easier if you pull the windshield to color change the dash.

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The Knowledge Hub is a library of articles and videos complied to help our customers complete their DIY leather and vinyl restoration projects.