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Leather Terminology

The world of leather comes with its own unique terminology and is an art form all its own. If you are a consumer of fine leather, it is always a good idea to learn a few basics. Here are some of the most commonly used leather terms you will want to know as a fan of this timeless material.

Altered Leather

Also called corrected grain leather, this is leather that has had the original skin surface removed and replaced with a new grain embossed on the surface. This is usually due to imperfections in the original.

Bark Tanned

Leather that has been vegetable-tanned primarily by the use of tannins from tree bark.


A cow or ox animal used for leather hides.

Brush Coloring

In colored leather, this is the process of brushing on dyes to the surface.

Buffed Leather

Used in altered or corrected grain leather, this is a method where the grain is removed using an abrasive or bladed tool.

Combination Tannage

Leather that is tanned using both chrome and vegetable tannage in an attempt to produce suppleness and body.

Degrained Leather

Typically done by abrading or splitting, this is leather where the grain is removed after the tanning process.

Embossed Leather

Common in a corrected grain leather, this is when a pattern is applied using a press to create a desired look or grain. It can commonly be used to create alligator or ostrich texture in leather.

Enhanced Full Grain

This is any full grain leather which has undergone minor surface alterations to improve the overall grain appearance.

Fat Wrinkle

Fat wrinkles are lines found in the grain of leather as a result of fatty deposits in the animal. These lines are not possible in imitation grain leather so it is often a sign of real grain.


This term refers to the applications on leather surfaces to protect, treat, or mask minor imperfections. It also refers to any and all processes that occur to the surface of leather once it has been tanned.

Full Grain

Leather in which the surface grain layer or dermis has not been changed or altered in any way. This layer of grain gives each type of leather a distinguishing look.

Full Hand

This term applies to leather that is full bodied or robust.


This is a common term that is often confused. The grain is the outside surface of the hide which is the skin of the animal. It has all the wrinkles, pores, and other characteristics that make up the natural texture of the surface.

Grain Character

The name for the natural markings occurring on the surface of leather.

Grain Suede

Also known as "nubuck" leather, this is a velvet-like result on the surface created by a buffing processing where the fibers of the grain side are raised.

Hand Staining

This is a meticulous process where leather is stained by hand by trained craftsmen rather than a machine.


The term for the pelt or skin of a large animal such as a bovine.


The term used for the hide of a grass-fed, young bovine.


Animal hide that has been preserved, tanned, and dressed for use in garments and accessories.


The removal of the hair in preparation for the tanning process of the hide.

Naked Leather

This is dyed leather that has received no other applications to mask or alter the natural appearance of the leather.

Natural Grain

The name for leather retaining the original grain without alteration.

Patent Leather

The name for leather featuring a glossy finish which is created by consecutive coats of varnish, or resins.


The name for a naturally occurring characteristic developed on full grain leather which is created over time through the continued use of the leather.


The process of putting die-cut holes in leather to form a pattern.


This is leather sprayed with a pigmented, opaque finish to create a different look on the surface.


The name for untanned or even partially tanned hides of cattle.


The act of applying secondary tannage after intermediate operations following the primary tannage. This is done to further enrich or enhance the quality/appearance of the leather.


A crucial aspect in creating high quality leather, this is the use of tanning, fat liquors, and even dyes to create the end result of saturated leather.

Shrunken Grain Leather

This is any leather where the grain has been shrunken to enhance the character of the grain.


This is when the grain surface is abraded to remove flawed grain or when creating a suede surface. It is done with tools such as brushes, sandpaper, or an emery wheel.


The term for cutting the leather hide into two or more layers in preparation for the tanning process.

Table Dyeing

Also called brush coloring, the application of dye using a brush to leather when it is flat on a table.


A tannin is any solvent or astringent substances of plant origin which is used in tanning leather.

Top Grain

An over-used term, people use it commonly and interchangeably to refer to any type of corrected grain leather.

Vegetable Tanning

The process of turning of bovine or oxen rawhide into leather with the use of vegetable tannins to produce a fuller body and improved firmness over options such as chromium tanning.