Types of Leather Finishes

Types of Leather Finishes

Trafalgar takes great pride in offering a wide range of genuine leather goods and accessories, each with a finish carefully chosen to best fit its intended purpose. Keep reading for a look at some of the quality finishes and items we carry!

Aniline Finish

This is the process of implementing water-soluble pigments, called aniline dyes, into leather. Staining the leather allows it to maintain specific characteristics such as natural coloring or patterns. Once the dyes have taken hold, the leather can be finalized with a pigment-free polish or glazing. The end result is leather that looks and feels much better than other finishes.

Qualities: Only the highest quality full-grain leather can receive an aniline finish. This finish can be identified when inspected under a magnifying lens and pores are visible. 

Benefits and Care: One benefit of aniline leather is the lack of coating which allows the leather to breathe and adjust to your body. This makes it great for clothing, shoes, and small accessories. It also ages well, developing an attractive polish that comes with wear. This type of high-quality leather requires proper care because it may fade in direct sunlight or be susceptible to staining and soiling.

The Product: If you seek a beautiful polish look and don’t mind the maintenance, aniline leather is the one for you. As one of the softest, most pliable finishes, it is well suited for most applications. It is best used as smaller accessories that are easier to maintain, such as belts, shoes, and wallets.

Semi-Aniline Finish

The semi-aniline finish is very similar to the aniline finish except that only a thin layer of pigment is added to the process to balance out the product’s final image. This finish can result in a slight sheen but still retains the high-quality look.

Qualities: This finish leaves the grain exposed similar to the aniline finish, but it also adds a small amount of pigment. The pigment adds a degree of durability and stain resistance to the product which allows it to take more wear than actual aniline leather.

Benefits: The possibility of hides having unavoidable imperfections such as blemishes in grain and color, scratches, insect bites, and other wear and tear is high. To rectify this, a light coat of finish is applied with enough opacity to mask these blemishes without hiding the natural grain of the leather. Unlike aniline leather, it is also resistant to sunlight and water damage.

The Product: Semi-aniline leather is perfect for those who want high-quality leather without the maintenance. It is suitable for most applications, including larger items like handbags and upholstery. It may not shimmer, but it is still soft and will hold up nicely to gentle use.

Pigmented Full Grain Leather

This finish uses high-quality, full-grain leather. However, it differs from other finishes by using a resin-based pigment (a heavier layer of material) to mask the blemishes of the leather while maintaining the look and feel of a quality product.

Qualities and Benefits: Unlike previous finishes, this finish covers the leather’s pores. The color and surface are evenly coated with pigment that hides the natural color of the leather. This layering allows for light and stain resistance but reduced breathability. This reduction is at times compensated with perforation.

The Product: This is one of the most common high-quality leather finishes. It’s preferable for most people because it requires little maintenance and is more durable than the non-pigmented leathers. It is not as soft as the aniline leathers, but its stiffness and thicker topcoat allow it to hold up to rougher use without as much upkeep. This sturdiness makes it ideal for everyday accessories and those that experience frequent wear.

types of finishes


This finish is unique because it uses the flesh side of grain split leather or any side of a flesh split. Through a process called buffing, the corium fibers are raised to produce an even and short fiber or “nap” finish. The raised nap is finished by buffing the flesh side, or inner layer, of the hide.

Qualities: Suede is not only attractive, but also tough. The elastic fibers are able to quickly rebound to the upright position. This means that there is no “fingermark” or “two-way rubs” that appear on the fabric.

The Product: Suede is highly durable yet maintains an appealing look and softness to the touch which makes it great for shoes, jackets, and gloves. At TrafalgarStore, you can find it lining handcrafted Italian leather belts such as the Montera 35mm Suede Belt for a luxurious and comfortable feel.




 Also referred to as “velvet suede,” nubuck is buffed on the grain surface of the leather more finely than with suede. This process is called snuffing. 

Qualities: The collagen fibers of the surface are more delicate than the corium, which makes for the finer nap. Nap is then brushed to produce a velvety, lustrous look and feel. Wax, grease, or oil are sometimes applied; hence these leathers being referred to as oil nubucks.

The Product: Nubucks have the “two-way rub” or “writing effect” that suede does not. Due to being made of more expensive, higher quality leather than suede, it is softer and more durable. While the two have similar applications, nubuck is for those willing to pay for extras such as the softness and durability that comes with using the grain side of the leather.

Pull-Up Leather

Pull-Up leather is similar to nubuck and suede in that it does not have a protective finish coating. It is leather that gains extra oil during the manufacturing process and is then finished with a layer of wax which gives the leather a dark, almost greasy look. This style perfectly imparts a rugged outdoor demeanor.

The Benefits: This type of leather is prone to color changes in areas of high wear. Another benefit is that it’s high quality and water resistant.

The Product: The finish is designed to lighten as it is stressed or stretched, resulting in a worn effect. Pull-up leather is an excellent option if you love the distressed look of well-worn leather.

Embossed Leather

Embossed leather is created by pressing leather against a hot metal plate. The surface fiber structure will retain an impression. This is a process of leather that has been used for hundreds of years and opens up many possibilities. 

The Benefits: Leathers can be embossed to mimic the look of crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and many other skins. The softer the leather, the easier it is to emboss, but the less permanent the embossing becomes. Vegetable-tanned leathers are usually found to be easier to emboss than others because they can keep a stronger impression than elastic chrome-tanned leathers. 

The Product: Embossed leathers can be an affordable alternative to rarer animal skins because they look exotic without requiring more complicated care. Check out this Gator Embossed 30mm Compression Belt Strap.

Gator Embossed 30mm Compression Belt Strap

Dry Milled Leather

To achieve this finish, leather is loaded into milling drums and rotated. The soft falling action intensifies the natural lines, adding a stunning pebbling effect. It also makes the leather considerably softer, especially so with vegetable-tanned leathers which makes this an excellent finish for clothing and upholstery.

Antiqued Grain (Two-Tone Leather)

Two-tone leather is achieved by either initially adding an uneven topcoat to the leather or partially removing some of the topcoat to show a contrasting underlying color coat. The leather may have had hollows or creases embossed before the application of two coats. The first coat, usually the darker one, settles into the depressions. This finish creates a classy, aged look without having to wait for a natural patina.

Patent Leather

Traditional patent leather is made when linseed oil-based products are applied to the leather to create a high gloss finish. However, modern patent leather has moved away from oil-based products. They now add either a liquid resin coating or a layer of plastic laminated to the surface to produce a beautiful, shiny surface with a high-end feeling.

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