How to change the color of leather or vinyl, even dark to light, with leather paint?

Leather paints are the best approach for changing the color of leather or vinyl, because they will completely cover the original color and can even be used to lighten. With leather dyes, the original color will influence the final result, and they cannot be used to lighten. Dyes may still sunfade or backstain clothing and require an additional sealer. Dyes only work on leather and not on vinyl. Balms are pigmented creams and cannot be used to change color.

Using a paint / coating 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 that repel water.

This video shows how to change color of an absorbent semi-aniline leather chaise using Rub ‘n Restore® leather paint:

  • 0:14 – Cleaning and prep
  • 0:36 – The Tape Test
  • 1:10 – Priming
  • 1:45 – Mixing a glaze
  • 3:02 – Testing color adhesion
  • 4:30 – 1st coat glaze
  • 5:59 – Discussion of quantity
  • 7:00 – 2nd coat color
  • 7:28 – Burnishing with a different color
  • 8:36 – Buffing or sealing
  • 9:53 – Before and after

This old video shows how to change a non-absorbent vinyl loveseat from dark green to a lighter tan with five coats of Rub ‘n Restore®:

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 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

For the best results:

The following are not good candidates for a color change due to the potential maintenance:

  • changing from red / dark to white / pale;
  • worn, cracking, scaly or thinning leather;
  • furniture with lots of wrinkles, folds, deep creases (and therefore stress);
  • pieces that are heavily used or harshly cleaned (kids, dogs, chemicals);
  • car or boat upholstery (for these we suggest a heavier urethane coating);
  • bonded, faux or polyurethane (PU) ‘leather’ which repel all finishes (including their own).

Why is changing to white or off-white discouraged?

White (titanium) is a heavy mineral pigment. It doesn’t cover as well as medium tones like Clay, Taupe or Stone. This means you may use 2-3 times the normal quantity. The result will be a thicker, heavier and less flexible finish that may wear more easily and require more touch-up.

If you’re hell-bent on it, do a mix of equal parts Clay, special order Satin Sealer, and the desired color as a primer coat. The Clay will help cover, and the Satin Sealer will improve durability. Then work with a 2:1 up to 4:1 ratio of desired color and Satin Sealer for subsequent coats until coverage is achieved. Less is always more.

Here’s what wear and discoloration look like:

Touch-up is easy and mitigated by:

  • choosing a color that is analogous to the original color (i.e. nearby on the color wheel);
  • choosing a color with a similar value (light, medium or 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 may be less durable than urethanes, but they also don’t feel plasticky, 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

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    • 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.

    • 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.

  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?

  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.

  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?

    • 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.

  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!

  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)

  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?

  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

  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.

    • 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.

    • Have you tried colouring the lounge, mine is same as well. Just want to know how much colour needed to change the lounge from red to black colour. It’s a l shaped lounge 5 seater.


      • 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

        • 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.

  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?

  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?

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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!

  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?

    • 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.

      • 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:-)

  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

    • 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.

  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!


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