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Leather Glossary

Aniline Finish

Also known as pure aniline leather, aniline finish leather is full grain leather which has been soaked in aniline dye, but does not have any subsequent pigmented or clear coat finishes applied. This dye can either completely or partially penetrate the hide with colour, allowing the natural grain to show through. Only the best hides which are relatively free from gross imperfections can be made into aniline finish leather. It’s soft, pliable, expensive.

Antiqued Finish

Leather finish accomplished by hand rubbing with a dark dye after a lighter base coat has dried, creating dramatic highlights in the finished product.


A simple easily recognized pattern made by burning the cattle’s skin with a hot iron. Used for identification purposes, brands are normally cut out of the hides and do not appear on the finished product.


Hides are often buffed with an abrasive wheel to minimize the appearance of gross surface imperfections such as wrinkles, parasitic damage or healed scratches in the finished product.. This process makes the leather more uniform, but also obliterates the natural grain and markings that makes each hide unique and naturally beautiful.

Chrome Tanned

Leather tanned with chromium sales resulting in a soft, mellow upholstery leather.

Coated Split

The lower layers which are ‘split off’ the top grain layer of a hide can be dyed, finished and embossed to create coated split leather. This products can be thicker and stiffer than top grain leather. Since it is also less expensive, it is often used to cover upholstered sides and backs which do not need to flex and stretch much.

Corrected Grain

Top grain leather that has been buffed and sanded to minimize surface marks, then covered with pigment finish layers and embossed.


The physical transfer by rubbing of unfixed dye or loose fibers (especially in suede leather)

Drum Dyed

A dying process accomplished by tumbling leather in a rotating drum to encourage the dye to penetrate fully

Dyed To Shade (Mill Dyed)

A finishing system which produces essentially the same color on the suede side as the side on which the pigmented finish is applied.


Mechanically imprint unique grain effects under heat or high pressure in order to smooth the grain or give a unique patterned effect (ostrich, alligator, lizard, etc.). Top grain leather that has surface imperfections is often buffed smooth and then embossed to restore natural looking grain patterns. These are normally less expensive than full grain leathers that retain their natural markings.

False Aniline Finish

Fully coated leather with layers of pigment finish that provide antique or tonal effects meant to simulate true aniline finished leathers.


To make leather more durable, clear or pigmented substances are applied to the dyed hide. These provide abrasion and stain resistance as well as color enhancement. The finishing process usually involves three or four coating operations. Generally, the more finish a leather has, the stiffer (boardier) it becomes. Semi aniline leathers tend to be softer than heavily finished leathers, although this can largely be overcome by milling. Other factors affecting softness include the tanning formula and hide quality.

Full Grain

Top grain leather which because it has not been grain corrected, has natural markings and characteristics. Animal hides are normally split into a top layer (which had hair on it) one or more leather layers that are “split off” from the ‘top grain’. The top grain layer can either be processed into ‘full grain’ leather, which is not buffed and sanded; into ‘corrected grain’ leather that has had the surface markings altered by buffing and sanding.


Smooth finish

Glazed Finish

A finished leather surface is polished to a high luster by glass or steel rollers under tremendous pressure.

Glove Leather

Sheepskins tanned to be soft, pliable and supple.

Glove Side Leather

This side leather that has a garment finish which approaches that of actual glove, but generally has the same durability as upholstery leather. It is soft, pliable and light- weight.


Markings or patterns on the leather surface. Naturally occurring grain is caused by wrinkles, markings and pores in the hide. Grain can also be simulated through embossing and finishing processes.


The softness or ‘feel’ of a leather.


A raw or tanned pelt taken from a large, adult animal. Cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pig hides have been used to make upholstery leather, but cattle hides are by far the most common. Leather – A hide that has been tanned to render in resistant to decay, as well as relatively soft and pliable.


Dull Finish


A natural softening process in which leather is tumbled in a drum.

Mineral Tanned

Leathers, which have been tanned with any of several mineral substances, notably the salts of chromium, aluminum and zirconium.

Mottled Finish

The result of blending closely related colors to achieve a spotty or splotchy appearance.

Natural Markings

The subtle markings on leather are analogous to fingerprints. They distinguish genuine leather from man- made materials. Other marks which can appear on the surface of leather are healed scratches, barbed wire marks, wrinkles, brands and insect holes. Gross imperfections are normally cut out of the finished product. Lower price leathers tend to have many more markings than premium leather.

Nu-Buk Leather

A pure aniline leather, which has a slight nap, but is not a suede. Nu-Buks are top grain that are more durable that suede. They are aniline dyed but since they have no pigmented top coat they may be treated with a chemical that promotes water and stain resistance. Nu-Buk leather should be maintained by occasionally fluffing the fibers vigorously with a suede brush. A damp white cloth can be used to clean spills, which can then be bottled dry. Soaps should be avoided.

Nude Finish

A leather that is usually vat dyed but has little or no protective top coat to prevent crocking, cracking or staining.


A luster that naturally occurs when uncoated leathers age.

Pigment Finish

The coloring of a hide using a coating containing opaque pigments. The use of a pigment finishes insure uniformity of shade and resistance to fading as well as enhanced stain and soil resistance.


The process which smoothes the finished surface of the leather or produces embossed surface effects.

Protected Aniline

Protected aniline leather is less expensive and more common than pure aniline or semi- aniline leather. Its coloration is more consistent and because it has been coated with protected pigments, the leather’s natural markings are less noticeable. These protected leathers are more heavily pigmented than semi- aniline leather and are actually easier to clean that pure aniline leather because surface pigments repel water and stains… standing up well to heavy use.

Pull- Up

When leather’s pulled tight during upholstering process it may develop areas that become lighter as they’re stretched. This is known as pull-up.

Pure Aniline

Leather that is aniline dyed but has not been coated with pigment finishes. It shows the entire natural character and markings.


A two-tone effect which adds depth to the leather.

Semi- Aniline Dyed

Term use to describe dyed leather that contains only a small amount of clear or pigmented coating (finish). It is a premium product that allows the natural character of the leather to show through.

Side Leather

Grain leather which has been cut in half forming two “sides” in order to better accommodate tannery equipment and maximize the use of hides with flaws.


Grain leather, which, in addition to hair removal, has had the outer surface lightly, removed by buffing.


One step in the processing of rawhides. Soaking restores moisture to newly received cured hides. This process involves soaking the hide in water, wetting agents and disinfectants.


The term ‘split’ refers to the underneath layer of the hide, which has been split off from the top grain. Splits are usually given a suede or pigment finish, embossed and used for shoes or garments. Split hides are generally thicker and stiffer than top grain leather and may be also used in less expensive upholstered furniture applications on backs and side panels.

Splitting & Shaving

After hides are tanned and excess moisture removed, they are fed through a machine which cuts the hide into the valuable top grain portion and a split layer. After splitting, the hide is put through another machine, which shaves it into a uniform thickness.


A chemical process which converts the raw hide into a stable product. This process if often accomplished in large vats or drums.

Tanning Agents

Today’s upholstery leathers are tanned with soluble chromium sulfate. Synthetic tanning and vegetable materials derived from plants and wood (bark tanning) may also be used in combination.

Top Coat

Synthetic transparent polyurethane resins applied as a protective coating.

Top Grain

Leather which contains the top portion of the hide….the part that has hair on it. The top grain portion can be processed into full grain or corrected grain leather. The top grain portion of the hide is approximately 3/64″ or about the thickness of a penny.

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