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

Changing the color of leather or vinyl can be more maintenance than restoring the original color.

Absorbent full-grain aniline or semi-aniline leather will get the best long-term wear. Do not change the color of polyurethane coated bonded or faux leather.

Touch-up is easy and mitigated by:

  • choosing a color that complements the original or has 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. 

The following are not great candidates due to the greater potential for touch-up:

  • worn, scaly or thinning leather;
  • loosely upholstered furniture with lots of wrinkles and folds (and therefore stress);
  • pieces that receive a lot of contact with chemicals / liquids or rough kids and critters (particularly dog claws);
  • seats in cars or boats (for these we suggest finding 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 white or off-white.

In the latter case, consider Ash or Stone grey as a primer. White and off-whites are the heaviest pigment and have 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.

Our products are water-based acrylic finishes (paints) that look and feel natural. Consider a heavier urethane or aerosol for color changing boat or auto upholstery.

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

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

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Dan Nguyen says

    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?

  2. Anna says

    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)

  3. Kathleen Karppinen says

    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!

    • lesandre says

      That is not too dramatic of a change and should be fine, so long as the substrate and upholstery are in good condition.

  4. Rob says

    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?

    • lesandre says

      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.

  5. Randy Rash says

    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.

  6. Eileen Wiggins says

    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?

    • lesandre says

      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.

  7. Jackie Konrad says

    I would like to paint a black leather couch to off white, taupe or tan, About how much would this project cost?

    • lesandre says

      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.

  8. Helen Moore says

    I am hoping to restore a natural hide lounge. I have ordered the product. The lounges are very old. Will go directly onto the Hide?
    I am trying to change it to your grey.
    Thank you

  9. Kim says

    I have a red leather ottoman that I want to change to a teal color. Is this feasible? If so can you give me some advice please?

  10. Lisa says

    I have a dark brown leather couch in a beach house. I would love to lighten it and distress it. Do you have a product that would work for this? It looks so out of place being so dark but it is a great quality leather couch in great condition

    • lesandre says

      Consider distressing with Stone, Taupe, or Camel diluted with 1/4 or 1/2 the volume of Clear Prep+Finish. This is called a glaze and makes distressing easier.

  11. DCarly says

    Hi, I have an olive green Italian leather sofa and love seat and brown chair that I want to change to bright white. It’s in good condition, the pillows are attached and it’s very smooth. Can this be done? What products and how much will I have to buy? suggestions?

  12. Caroline Carello says

    I just purchased a new “white” leather couch. The white is definietly not white- has more cream in it. I would like to turn it to bright white. It is a large sectional and will be used daily by 2 kids. Will the white be able to withstand 2 kids and daily use?

    • lesandre says

      Make sure it’s real leather and not polyurethane. If you change to a brighter white, definitely use a mottling technique to create a marbled look to mitigate the need for touch-up.

  13. Mairead Reddin says

    I have a red leather recliner loveseat that is extremely comfortable and I hate to part with it. The problem is that I’m not in love with the RED anymore and would love to change the color. Can you advise as to what colors I could use to kill the red? Any advice and input will be most welcome.

    Thanks.

  14. Vicki jones says

    I have a gold (saddle color) sofa. It has been in a room rarely used and always has the seat area covered. Can I change to Stone Gray and start living on this comfortably without loosing gray color?

    • lesandre says

      It’s going to require touch-up eventually. With so many variables, hard to know how long that’ll be. It’s always less maintenance to restore to original or something complementary.

  15. Mary Ann says

    I bought the most amazing beige curved, leather sofa, covered in mostly superficial cat scratches. I spent hours deglazing, then buffing out the cat scratches. I then dyed the sofa with your brilliant white, three coats and finished off with two coats of your clear prep +finish. It is the wow factor in my great room. People think I paid thousands for the couch, little do they know. Now trying to find a leather recliner chair for my husband , that I can refinish, to match the couch. A very happy customer.

  16. Michaela S. says

    I would like to take my leather sectional from red to tan… your “Cognac” seems to be the color I’m looking for. Would you recommend putting Cognac over red?

    • 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.

  17. 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.