Leather Glossary

Leather Glossary

Altered Leather/Corrected Grain

Leather that has had the original surface of the skin removed (usually due to imperfections in the original surface) and a new grain embossed into the leather. Commonly referred to as top grain. Lacking an intact full grain surface. Usually pigmented. Most top grain leathers have altered or corrected grain surfaces.


A colorless oily liquid made from coal tar used in making dyes and resins in organic synthesis.

Aniline Dye

Any dye produced synthetically from coal tar products.

Aniline Dyed Or Aniline Leather

Leather that has been dyed in a dye bath with some level of dye penetration.

Antique Distressed Grain

Antique distressed leather, or leather grain, is any type of leather, which has been treated to age the appearance of the material to give it an antique or vintage look. This weathered look is often found to be appealing to some customers instead of the leather looking shiny and brand new.

Bark Tanned

Leather that has been vegetable-tanned mainly by means of tannins from the bark of trees.

Base Dyes

Common (usually lower grade) dye colors used in custom colored leathers that are quickly made. Hides are dyed in advance awaiting the spray application of custom colors.

Belly Grain

Belly grain refers to leather split from the part of the hide that covers the underside of the animal.

Belting Leather

Generally a heavy weight, full-grain leather, which was originally manufactured to create pulley belts during the industrial revolution. The unique tanning process makes belting leather one of the strongest and stiffest leathers around.

Blue Split

Blue split comes from the hide that has been split into several layers and treated with chromium during the tanning process, which gives it a bluish colour.

Boardy Leather

Boardy is a term used to describe leather, which is stiff or not pliable.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather, otherwise known as reconstituted leather, is made from leather fibres/scraps that have been glued together to create a leather sheet.


An animal belonging to the cattle or ox family.


An important characteristic of a full grain leather. Due to its intact grain and pore structure, full grain leather breathes. This means that the leather adjusts to temperature and wicks away moisture and body heat, making it very comfortable to sit on.

Brush Coloring

The process of applying dyestuff to the leather by means of a brush. In this cosmetic process dyes are not saturated into the hide.

Brushed Grain/Brushed Leather

Two different ways to describe a leather/grain that has been gently brushed to create a soft nap or fuzzy texture when making suede or nubuck leather

Buffed Leather/Buffed Grain

Leather that has been abraded; it is the process of buffing/sanding down the top grain to smooth off imperfections.

Bycast Leather

Bycast or "Bi-cast" leather is made with split leather backing and a surface layer of polyurethane (PU), which is then embossed.

Calfskin Leather

Taken from the skin of calves, calfskin leather has a fine grain and smooth surface; the leather is also generally more lightweight and thinner than cow's hide.

Cattle Hide

A hide is animal skin which is treated for human use, for example, to make leather. Cattle hide is the skin that comes from cattle/cows.

Centre Cut Suede

A suede split, which is trimmed and bent around the edges, leaving the best and most usable part, or the centre of the hide.

Chamois Leather

Made from sheep hides or lambskin, chamois leather is usually tanned with oils and is very soft and flexible.

Chrome Tannage/Chrome Tanned

Leather tanned with chromium salts and/or chromium sulphates resulting in soft, mellow hides receptive to excellent color variety.

Combination Tannage/Combination Tanned

Used to describe leathers that have had more than one tanning agent to treat them, for example, chromium and vegetable.


Leather made from the tight, firm shell portion of horse butts. It has very fine pores, it's durable, and has a characteristic finish.

Crock (Noun)

The colouring matter that rubs off poorly dyed leather.

Crock (Verb)

The rubbing off of colour on poorly dyed leather


Leather, suede or fabric that has been treated so that colour or dye doesn't rub off. Regarding suede, this term describes treatment to prevent shredding or the rubbing off of fibres.


Leather that has been tanned but hasn't been finished; such leathers are described as being "in the crust".

Degrained Leather

Leather that has had its grain removed after tanning (via sanding, splitting, abrasion, etc. ) is known as 'degrained leather'.

Double Butt Suede

Often used as another way of saying centre cut suede.

Drawn Grain

Describes the shrunken or shrivelled surface condition of leather due to the poor or improper handling of hides during the tanning process.

Drum Dyeing

The application of dyestuffs to leather by the immersion of the leather in a drum that is tumbled. This process allows full dye penetration into the fiber.

Embossed Leather

Usually corrected grain, in which a pattern is applied by extreme pressure in a press to give a unique design or imitation of full grain characteristics. Sometimes leathers are embossed to make them appear to be another leather, such as embossing an alligator pattern into cowhide.

Enhanced Full Grain

Full grain leather, which has received minor surface alteration to improve grain appearance.

Fat Wrinkle

Marks or wrinkles that form in the grain due to fat deposits in the animal's skin; they are sought after because they are not visible in imitation or corrected grain leather.


Generally defines a surface application on the leather to color, protect or mask imperfections. More specifically, it refers to all processes administered to leather after it has been tanned.

Full Grain

Leather in which the grain layer or dermis has not been altered. The grain layer gives each type of leather its distinctive appearance.

Full Hand

This defines leather that is full bodied and robust. Also called round hand or full round hand.

Glazed Finish

The leather surface is polished to a high lustre using glass on steel rollers under lots of pressure - similar to an aniline finish.

Glove Leather

Soft leather, usually lambskin, which is used to make leather gloves

Grain (Leather)

The outside of the hide or skin consisting of the pores, cells, wrinkles and other characteristics which constitute the natural texture of the leather.

Grain Character

The natural markings on the surface of the leather.

Grain Split

The outer layer of the hide that has been split into multiple layers

Grain Sueded/Nubuck

Also known as "snuffing", this is the process of abrading the grain side of the hide to achieve a buffed or suede texture. A buffing process to raise the fibers on the grain side of a hide or skin to produce a velvet-like effect. This is also known as ‘Nubuck’ leather.

Grain, Embossed

An artificial grain pressed into the surface of top grain leather from which the original grain has been removed.


A leather industry term used to describe the feel, i. e. suppleness or fullness of upholstery leather.

Hand Antiqued

Also known as "hand rubbing", this is the process in which craftsmen rub a contrasting colour on the surface of the leather, to emphasise the original grain or embossing, by hand


A young female bovine that has not birthed a calf


The pelt of a large animal.

In The Blues

The state of hides that have been tanned once using chromium salts. These hides are light blue in color.


The hide from a grass-fed, immature bovine.


A material made from the skins/hides of animals that has been preserved and dressed for use, most commonly cattle.

Leatherette/Imitation Leather

A manufactured product that imitates leather. Also known as "Fake", "Faux", "Vegan" or "Synthetic" leather, imitation leather is a material that may look or feel like leather but isn't - it is a false copy made to look like the real deal.


This process in which hides are soaked in an alkaline solution to remove the hair, preparing the hides for the tanning process.

Matte Finish

A flat or dull finish.


The process in which tanned hides are tumbled in large, rotating drums to soften the leather or enhance the grain using heat & misting water, that produces suppleness in hides.

Mineral Tanned

When mineral salts such as aluminium, chromium or zirconium are used in the tanning process of hides.


(1) Vegetable tanned goatskin that has a naturally developed grain character. The most common & most characteristic grain is hard grain. (2) Goatskin that has been vegetable tanned and hand boarded in a damp condition - it should be limited to goatskin tanned with sumac.

Naked Leather

Leather that has not been given a topical application, treatment or finish, which may change the natural state and appearance of the leather, other than dye


Made from unsplit sheepskin, lambskin or kidskin, Nappa leather is soft full grain clothing or gloving leather. It's most often tanned with aluminium and chromium salts and dyed throughout.

Natural Grain

A leather that retains the full, original grain.

Oak Tannage(Tanned)

Originally the tannage of leather was almost entirely with oak bark, later the term applied to tannage with a blend containing oak tannin. Now, it is loosely applied to any tannage of heavy leather with vegetable extracts.

Oil Tanned

Certain fish oils may be used to tan the leather, resulting in very soft, pliable leather, like chamois.


The upper portion of the hide that has been separated from the reticular or split layer.

Patent Leather

Leather with a glossy impermeable finish produced by successive coats of drying oils, varnish, or synthetic resins.


A natural characteristic that develops on full grain leather through normal use over a period of time. It is known to be a hallmark of quality leather and is highly sought after because it adds character to the product.

Pearlized Leather

Leather which has a sheen or pearl-like lustre, also known as "pearlescent leather"


In leather, this is the process of die-cutting small holes to form a pattern. The holes can vary in size, density and pattern.


Leather that has been sprayed with a solid pigment(opaque finish), to maintain consistency in colour and texture. Adding pigment can be used to add protection to the leather and also to hide imperfections.

Plating/Plated Leather

The process of using a hot metal plate to press leather under high pressure, this is another way imperfections can be covered

Printed Leather

Leather which has been given a pattern on its surface, often done by embossing but can also be done through other methods such as silk screen printing


A term used to describe the behaviour of leather that has been treated with oils, waxes and dyes to the point that when it is stretched, the finish becomes lighter in those stretched areas. This is considered a mark of good quality.


Untanned or partially tanned cattle hide.

Reconstructed Leather

Material composed of collagen fibers, obtained from macerated hide pieces, which have been reconstructed into a fibrous material.


A modifying secondary tannage applied after intermediate operations following the primary tannage to further enrich and enhance the quality of the leather.

Round Hand

A full-handed leather, usually slightly swelled through tannage and fat liquoring.

Saddle Leather

Leather used to make saddles and harnesses made from vegetable tanned cattle hide, usually a natural tan colour and fairly flexible


A most important aspect in producing high quality leathers. Full saturation of tanning, fat liquors and dyes are essential in the production of fine leathers.


Used to describe leather that has been aniline dyed and then slightly pigmented. This type of leather has colour consistency as well as stain and spill resistance.


Hides are shaved to a particular thickness after tannage by a large shaving machine. The excess is removed from the bottom of the hide.


Shearling is a hide from a recently sheared sheep or lamb, which is tanned with the wool intact.

Shoulder Leather

Leather taken from the shoulder area of the cow, this is a softer area of the hide and is often used in the manufacture of bags.

Shrunken Grain Leather

A full, natural grain leather that is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain character of the leather.

Side Leather

Hides that have been cut in half( cut along the backbone), forming two ‘sides’ in order to better accommodate small tannery equipment.


To slice or split into a thin layer, or to reduce leather to a specific thickness.


The grain surface is abraded with brushes, emery wheel or sandpaper. Leather is snuffed for the purpose of removing defective grain or sueding the surface of the leather.

Split Leather

Leather made from the bottom split, or reticular layer of the hide, which has an imitation grain embossed into a heavily finished pigmented surface to simulate papillary leather.


Cutting leather into two or more layers preparatory to tanning.


The size of a hide is known as the spread and is measured by a machine in square feet.

Steer Hide

Leather that has been made from the skin of steers, it has a tight grain structure.

Strap Leather

Heavyweight, vegetable-tanned leather used for industrial purposes or to support seats and backs on certain types of seating.

Suede/Suede Split

Similar to nubuck in the sense that it has a nappy texture, suede is brushed to achieve a fuzzy surface. However, suede is of a lower quality to nubuck because it comes from the inside or flesh split of the hide.


The process of raising fibers on the grain side of a hide to give a velvet nap effect. This is generally called ‘Nubuck’ or ‘grain sueded. ’

Table Dyeing

Dyeing leather by laying out the material on a table and applying the dye with a brush - also known as "brush colouring".

Table Run

Similar to "production run", these leathers are not graded.


Any various solvent, astringent substances of plant origin used in tanning leather.


The method of making putrescible, decomposable raw hides into leather

Top Coat

A clear, protective coating applied to the surface of the leather, which may give the leather a lustre or sheen

Top Grain

Top grain leather is made from the outer split of the hide but has had its surface layer buffed or sanded to reduce imperfections. An over-used term commonly used to refer to corrected grain leather.


The removal of the outer edges of the hide not suitable for making leather.

Unfinished Leather

Normally defines aniline dyed, naked leathers with no additional application intended to finish, color or treat in any way that would alter the natural characteristics of the leather.

Upholstery Leather

A broad term for leather that is processed for use in furniture, vehicles or aeroplanes

Vat Dyeing

Often confused with drum dyeing, vat dyeing is an older method of dying leather and is commonly carried out in a bucket or vat.

Vegetable Leather/Vegetable Tanning

Converting rawhide into leather using vegetable-based tanning agents along with small amounts of other agents to assist the process. Vegetable tanning offers greater body and firmness than chromium tanning


The weight of leather is measured in ounces per square foot.

Wet Blue Leather

Leather that after chrome tanning has not been further processed and is sold in the wet condition ("wet blue"). A colorless oily liquid made from coal tar used in making dyes and resins in organic synthesis.


The action of absorbing or dissipating moisture and heat through the fibre structure of the leather


The amount of usable leather produced from a hide.