Leather Terms Glossary

Common leather terms glossary used within the leather industry. Intended to help beginner  leather crafters understand the wide range of terminologies used throughout leather’s long and colourful history.

With so many leather options available when beginning to buy leather for your next project , knowing some key leather terms will surely help.

Aniline dyed

Leather that’s dyed by immersion in a dye bath without been coated with any pigment finish. Because the finish is transparent and shows the natural markings of the leather, only the best quality hides can be used.

Armour leather

Heavy veg-tan leather used for shoe soles and for protective armour by historical re-enactors.


The part of the animal that covers the underside and the upper part of the legs .


Leather that has its top surface grain removed by an abrasive or bladed cylinder or, less often by hand.


A young bovine animal not exceeding a certain weight.

Chrome tanned

This process uses soluble chromium salts, primarily chromium sulphate, to tan leather. Most commonly used for garments, footwear and upholstery.

Combination tanned

Leather tanned with two or more tanning agents.

Corrected grain

Leather that has its grain layer partially removed by buffing and then has a new surface embossed on it.


Leather made from the hide of a cow.


Transferring of colour or finish from leather caused by abrasion or rubbing.


Leather that’s tanned but not coloured or otherwise finished.

Distressed leather

Leather that is aniline dyed with one colour over another (usually darker over lighter) so as to create rich highlights and an artificial aged appearance. This finishing process is intended to emphasize the characteristics of the hide such as scars, scratches and wrinkles. Also called “antiqued leather”.

Drum dyed

The process of colouring leather by tumbling it in a rotating drum immersed in dye to allow maximum dye penetration.

Flesh side

The underside of the animal’s hide. When looking at a piece of veg-tanned tooling leather, this will be the rough side.

Full grain

Leather which has not been altered beyond hair removal. It is the most genuine of leathers, retaining all of the hide’s original texture and markings. The hide’s best, strongest and most durable layer.


The last process or processes in the manufacture of leather.

Good hand

A soft supple leather that feels good to the hand.


The pattern, characterised by the pores of the animal and visible on the outer surface of a hide or skin after we remove the hair.

Hand antiquated

The process where skilled craftsmen hand rub a contrasting colour to give an attractive, one-of-a-kind appearance to the surface of the leather.


Term that describes the leather’s softness and feel.


The cured skin of a mature or fully grown animal of the rather larger kind.t

Hair cell grain

Noticeable appearance of where the hair pores where on the leather.


Soft leather made from the skin of a young goat.


Cowhide leather tanned for outdoor use.


Leather is a durable and flexible material created by tanning animal raw-hides, mostly cattle hide.


Tumbling process in which tanned hides rotate in drums combining heat and a misting of water to soften the hand or enhance the grain.

Natural grain

Leather whose grain has not been altered in any way, so the natural appearance of the grain is showing.


Leather that’s sanded or buffed on the grain side, or outside, to give a slight nap of short protein fibbers, producing a velvet-like surface.

Oil tanned

Leather that is tanned using oils to create a very soft, pliable finish.


A lustrous coating naturally created over time on surfaces of pure aniline and nubuck leather. The natural process occurs when oils come into contact with the surface and change its appearance.

Pigment finish

Leather to whose surface we apply a finish containing fine pigment particles in suspension.

Pebble grain

A cosmetic character resembling small pebbles on the leather’s top side.


Leather bearing a surface pattern produced usually by embossing, but sometimes by other methods e.g. silkscreen printing.


Leather bearing a surface pattern produced usually by embossing, but sometimes by other methods e.g. silkscreen printing.


Refers to leather that derives colour from dyes, waxes, and/or oils. Pulling this leather during upholstering, the oils/waxes dissipate and become lighter in those areas.

Pure aniline

Hides which receive their only colour from dyes and show natural markings and characteristics.


A hide which has only been treated to preserve it before tanning.


Leather that’s subjected to additional tannage with similar or other tanning materials.

Semi aniline

Finished Leather which has been aniline dyed or stained, incorporating a small quantity of pigment, as to avoid concealing its natural appearance.

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Shrunk (en) grain

Leather specially tanned to shrink the grain layer and having a grain surface of uneven folds and valleys.


Half of a whole hide with offal (head, shoulder, and belly) attached, obtained by dividing it along the line of the backbone.


The under part of a hide or skin that has been split into two or more thicknesses.

Suede split

Leather made from the flesh split of hide or skin and finished with a velvet-like nap.


Velvet-like nap finish produced on leather with abrasive action.


The processing of perishable raw hides and skins by the use of tanning materials into the permanent and not putrescible form of leather.

Top finish

A final coating of a finish given to leather to bring about special properties such as gloss, water resistance and so forth.

Top grain

The top layer of a hide after the splitting process in which we remove the hair and epidermis. The grain can be either natural or embossed.


A characteristic of leathers defined by pliability/softness

Vegetable tanned

Vegetable tanned leather refers to the tannage, or method of tanning hides or skins into leather with natural extracts derived exclusively from vegetable sources.

Water-resistant (repellent leather)

Heavily greased chrome tanned, or combination tanned leather is resistant (repellent) to water. Sometimes it is possible that other water-resisting (repelling) agents are applied.

Wax(ed) (waxy) Leather

Upper Leather finished on the flesh side and dyed; vegetable tanned with a high content of hard grease, though not necessarily wax.

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