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.
Using a paint 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 and other liquids.
Thorough cleaning and prep are critical to get the best result! For non-absorbent materials, use our pink cleaner and step up to a more aggressive solvent like lacquer thinner or paint thinner.
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.
Here’s what wear and discoloration look like:
Touch-up is easy and mitigated by:
- choosing a color that is an 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 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 needed||Less product needed|
|More labor required||Less labor involved|
|Touch-up likely and varies||Little to no touch-up|
|Available now||Wait until sample received; our turnover is swift|
|May be as expensive as matching, depending on scope of project||Matching fee; 8 oz. order minimum for Advanced Custom Color|
|Discouraged for auto, RV, boat interiors||Recommended 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®.
- 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
I would like to paint a black leather couch to off white, taupe or tan, About how much would this project cost?
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.
Can I go from a brown leather bed frame to black? I’m scared lol
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.
What would you recommend for the process of turning a light grey suede couch to black?
Real suede is raw unfinished leather. Dyes will backstain and require a sealer. Adding a sealer or finish like ours will change the texture (imagine applying paint to carpet). Some folks have painted microfiber (synthetic suede) fabrics and then coated them with a clear wax to create a leather like surface. But in the end, it’s easier to want what you have.
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?
See here about matching color.
Can I change a leather sofa from chocolate brown to cognac brown? It would be going darker to lighter.
If not cognac, then black or grey would be my next choices
Yes, sticking with a more complementary color will age better. Again, a mottling or distressing technique will mitigate the need for touch-up.
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.
I’d suggest a heavier duty coating to change high-traffic areas on marine vinyl. SEM Vinyl Coat is probably the simplest to acquire.
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.
Thanks for the reply. What are the issues around recolouring polyurethane? Vinyl paint won’t bond to the PU?
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!
That is not too dramatic of a change and should be fine, so long as the substrate and upholstery are in good condition.
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)
Use Stone grey as a primer. Less is more in terms of coats, and whites are the heaviest pigments and get poorer coverage. Hard to say how low maintenance of a piece it will be. Choosing a less dramatic change would ensure this. Please submit an evaluation if you’d like our professional assessment.
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?
Yes, a medium darker grey will cover well, but be positive yours is a good candidate for changing color as discussed in this article. If you want help with this project, please upload photos and submit an evaluation.
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
Yes! See this article specific to hot tub covers and how to estimate quantity needed. Check out reviews of our individual colors to get a better sense of their appearance. You can also order swatches. A mix of Rust and Cognac would come closest to terra cotta. Our Walnut, Espresso, and Mahogany are darker browns.
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.
Can you direct me in best steps and what to order to change red leather sofa to black please
Videos and answers to all your questions can be found in our free how-to and FAQ. Or submit photos to our evaluation service if you want a professional assessment and tailored instructions. This costs $15 which is redeemed via coupon code on any order of product.
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.
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?
Yes, but as this article mentions, absorbent leathers are the best candidates. Non-absorbent seats may pose more maintenance. Be sure yours is not a faux leather fabric or one with a polyurethane coating. A 16 oz. bottle should be plenty. See here about estimating quantity. If you want our professional assessment, please submit an evaluation.
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.
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.
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!
Camel, Taupe, or Stone, are the lightest colors that will still cover a red color quickly, and Honey is a step down from Camel. I’d also consider our Cognac and Rust (or a mix of the two). Screens are misleading, so we suggest ordering swatches here.
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:-)
Does your product work on ultra leather?
Ultraleather and other faux leathers resist coatings and are known to crack and delaminate. See here.
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.
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!
See here about peeling leather. We do not recommend repairing or recoloring peeling faux leather. If it’s real leather that just needs refinishing, then changing to green is possible. We do not currently have a lime or avocado color. We may introduce one in the future, but at present such a green would require customization.