Editor’s Note: Since The Dreamstress wrote this tutorial, the TRG product has been improved – there is no longer a need for a separate preparer solution so it is easier to use! We have edited the words to reflect the new process but at times the photos may be a little different.
One of the (many) fabulous products at Made Marion Craft is TRG the One Colour Dye, which allows you to dye leather goods an almost infinite variety of shades: you can change the colour, create a custom shade, and refresh goods with this product. New Zealanders outside of Wellington can order their TRG dyes from our online shop by clicking here
Technically you aren’t dyeing leather: you are staining it, and this is infinitely more awesome than dyeing, because it means that you can colour almost any colour leather to almost any other colour. A black shoe can become pale blue, a green shoe can become pink, etc.
You can also use this tutorial to dye leather handbags, and to refresh leather goods that have become a bit worn with time.
What you’ll need:
- TRG the One Colour Dye & Preparer (NOTE: Since we wrote this, the Dye & Preparer have been combined -there is only one bottle now, even easier!)
- Leather (but NOT suede or patent leather), synthetic leather or canvas shoes or handbag.
- Newspaper to protect your work surface
- A small paint brush (optional)
- A soft, clean cloth
- Gloves (optional, but a good idea)
Today, to show you how to do it, I’ll be dyeing/staining a pair of chestnut brown leather shoes red, with black heels, and refreshing a worn red handbag.
These are my shoes before dyeing:
Since I really like fashion history, I’ve used a pair of late 18th century shoes as inspiration for my colour scheme. I just love the red bodies with the crisp black heels.
You can colour your shoes any shade you want, and use anything you want as inspiration. TRG Colour Dye comes in a huge range of colours, and can be mixed to create exact shades.
To dye your own shoes, have newspaper spread over your work area, and all your items ready.
First, open your Colour Dye kit. Inside you’ll find a jar of dye, a jar of preparer (not any more), a sponge applicator, and a mystifying direction sheet. Don’t worry about that last bit, that’s what I’m here for!
You’ll be starting with your preparing the surface. This cleans your leather, and strips off any coatings which would keep it from absorbing the Colour Dye. With the abrasive side of the sponge, and working in circles, gently scrub the entire surface of your shoe/bag.
Give them a good wipe down with the soft cloth to remove any dust from the scuffing, then you can start painting them. First use a brush with just a little bit of paint on it to paint the edges where the shoe meets the sole, and at the top of the foot, and any seams:
If your original shoe/leather colour is fairly close to the colour you are painting the shoe/leather item, it won’t show up much at first.
Once you have painted the seams and edges, put a little paint on the applicator sponge:
With long, smooth strokes, use the sponge to smooth a light, thin layer of dye colour over the surface of the entire shoe:
It’s a very light, thin layer, so may not show up much. Once you have both shoes, the first one should be dry enough for you to use the brush to put more paint on your sponge, and you can rub another light layer on.
Keep smoothing on thin layers, allowing just a minute or two to dry between. Once you’ve put three or four layers on you should really see the colour change. At four layers, you can really see the difference between the body of the shoe and my as-yet-undyed heel:
Most items will need no more than six layers. If you aren’t sure if you have done enough, you can always let your item dry completely (for at least 48 hours), and then add more layers if needed. The colour will deepen and even out slightly as the stain dries.
DO NOT attempt to continue decorating or mask off portions of your shoe for further dyeing until they have dried for at least 48 hours. If you do, this happens:
Don’t worry though! If you accidentally pull off or scuff the finish before it has dried fully, you can always just touch up that area, and your new coat will just blend right in. Whew!
Since I did a two-colour dye job, I waited for my first colour to dry slightly (just half an hour) before adding the second:
I’d left the heels un-painted, but already I’d already prepared them along with the rest of the shoe, so I could just start painting on black. Here they are with three layers of black on the heels. You can see how there is still some streakiness and chestnut brown showing through the black:
And here they are completely done: Lovely smooth glossy red shoes with crisp black heels!
You can also use the Colour Dye to refresh worn out leather goods. I have a vintage red leather bag that I love, but that had gotten extremely shabby, with cracked leather:
To restore the bag, first I gently scuffed it, just as I did with the shoes.
Then I painted the worst areas of damage, the seams and the details with the brush.
Then I used the sponge to smooth on three coats of Colour Dye. It didn’t need nearly as many coats of dye as the shoes, because the bag was already red.
And here is the refreshes and restored bag:
So much better!
Here are the bag and shoe together, so you can compare the colour:
The shoes are just a tiny bit darker, more oxblood than cherry, because the dye went over the darker chestnut colour, rather than red, but the difference is pretty subtle.
After dyeing my shoes and the medium sized handbag, I still have more than half a bottle of shoe dye, so every kit will do at least 3 pairs of shoes: very economical indeed!
And there you go! Easy, peasy and fun! Now you can refresh all your shoes & bags, and have them in the perfect colour, no matter what shade they were sold in.
- If you don’t have a brush to do the edges and seams, see if you have any small sponge applicators that come with eyeshadow. If you’re like me and never use them, they are ideal for this!
- To prevent getting paint onto the sole, use masking tape. Just cut it off to the shape of the edge of the sole so any flappy bits don’t accidentally stick to your new paintwork
- Likewise a line of masking tape around the inside will prevent accidental brush marks on the inside.
- If you are painting strappy shoes, stuff them with newspaper, making sure the straps are all facing up and exposed as you go.
- Keep any leftover shoe dye and the cleaned sponge, just in case you get a scuff or scrape in future.