[Originally published August 2019]
I do recommend Al Stohlman's book, Coloring Leather, (not How to Color Leather). It is still a very relevant book.
There are a few changes happening in the world of dyes - solvent (spirit based / alcohol based) dyes are being upstaged by the water based dyes. Some states have stopped the sale of solvent (alcohol) based dyes.
Fiebings Pro-dye is a higher quality version of alcohol / spirit based dye - it is simply alcohol based dye (no oil) with a bit of an improved recipe and a superior oil-based pigment - it gives better penetration into the leather and takes a bit longer to dry. The coverage is a bit more even. First choice if you can get it.
Eco-Flow water based dye - the new generation dyes - so far looks to be an equally good choice, mainly because they are proving to be a lot more color fast than the old regular spirit based dyes.
I know your leather craft store is stocked with hundreds of little bottles, so I will expand on this theme as much as I can, but here is the short version:
- The first liquid to hit your leather, is water if you want to tool and/or shape your leather ("casing").
- The next liquid to touch your leather, is dye, if you want to change the color of the leather or parts of the leather.
- The third possible liquid you use, is a resist (in order of preference: Neatlac / Eco-Flo Top Coat / SuperSheen), if you want to shield some parts of the leather by being colored by the next liquid. There is another article on this blog about resisting.
Fiebings Pro Resist only works with Fiebings Antique Paste.
- Now you can consider using an antique finish/stain on the leather, if you wish to have an antiquing effect, mostly on tooled leather (it leaves a dark residue in the tool impressions and makes them more pronounced).
- Lastly you add a finish / dressing / conditioner: for working leather I prefer Dubbin, Dr Jackson's, Neatlac or Aussie; for leather that was painted with acrylic paints, I prefer and acrylic finish like Supersheen or Satinsheen.
If you want a light stain and thereby enhance the tooling on the leather, one way you can try is to dye your project with a much diluted (with water) Eco-Flo dye, or spirit based dye diluted with rubbing alcohol. To further emphasize the tooling, you can use an antique finish/stain over the dye - the antique stain will add its own color to the project, unless you have the project fully or partially resisted. For a more subtle effect, the Eco-Flow Hi-lite Stain dilutes very successfully!
I hope this sheds some light! (... and color....)
(Updated 21 October 2019)