Leather Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W


In leather, properties perceived by touch and sight, such as hand, color, luster, drape and texture of the leather on furniture.

Altered Leather
Leather that has had the original surface of the skin or hide removed, (usually due to imperfections in the original grain surface), and a new grain embossed into the leather. This is also called corrected grain. Most top-grain leathers have altered or corrected grain.

Aniline Leather
Leather that has been dyed through with aniline dyes. Pure aniline leathers represent approximately 5% of all upholstery leathers produced worldwide. Sometimes topped with a protective coating; can also be waxed. Aniline leather will allow all natural characteristics of a hide to show through.

Leather that is dyed with one color over another (usually darker over lighter) so as to create rich highlights and an artificial aged appearance. Also called


A cow, ox, or closely related animal.

Brahma is one of the most popular breeds of cattle raised around the world. Due to its greater ability to withstand heat, parasites and insects, it is a preferable breed to be raised in warmer climates. As a result, Brahma hides are typically in good supply and provide a raw material source for entry-level leather hides. The Brahma has a distinct large hump over the top of its shoulder and neck. This hump leaves a narrow gap in the leather hide made from Brahma, but can be worked around, as long as one plans use of materials properly.

An imperfection, characterized by a ridge or mark running in the crosswise or lengthwise directions of the fabric. The movement of water or water vapor from one side of the leather to the other, caused by capillary action, wicking, chemical, or electrostatic action. Also known as moisture transport.

Leather which has been abrased or sueded. This can also be referred to as snuffed, nubuck leather, or grain-sueded leather.

Back To Top


Skin from a young bovine, male or female.

General term for hides before tanning from a bovine of any breed or sex, but usually mature; includes bullhide, steerhide, cowhide and sometimes kipskins.

The natural hide of a pony. Smaller and usually softer than that of cow hides.

Center Cut Suede
Also called a "true split". A suede split that has had the edges trimmed to leave the bends and the shoulder, leaving the best and most usable part, or the center of the material.

Corrected Grain
Leather that has been buffed to remove blemishes, then covered with a new, artificial grain created using pigments and other finishes. The outside skin is sanded or abraded to minimize faults. It is then pigmented to cover the sanding and printed with an artificial grain. A spray sealer topcoat is then applied. Corrected grain material is usually called top grain leather.

Hide from a mature cow that has produced a calf.

Leather which has been tanned (treated to become nonperishable) but not colored or otherwise finished.

Cut Length
Cut length is the length of leather after allowances have been made for headings and hems.

Cut Width
Cut width is the width of leather after allowances have been made for headings and hems.

Back To Top


Distressed Leather
Leather that has been treated to look vintage or old like a "bomber jacket" or an old briefcase or piece of luggage.

Drum Dying
The process of coloring leather by tumbling it in a rotating drum immersed in dye. A very effective method allowing maximum dye penetration.

The ability of a leather to resist wear through continual use. May refer to abrasion resistance, tear strength, lightfastness or seam strength, among other characteristics.

Back To Top


Embossed Grain
An artificial grain pressed into the surface of leather from which the original grain has been removed. This provides a consistent appearance throughout the hide, covering any natural defects.

A calendering process in which fabrics, vinyls or leathers are engraved with the use of heated rollers under pressure to produce a raised design on the fabric surface.

Embossed Leather
Leather that has been "stamped" with a design or artificial texture under very high pressure. Used, for example, to create imitation alligator hide.


A surface application on the leather to color, protect, or mask imperfections. Any enhancing effect applied to leather after it has been tanned. Examples are dyeing, embossing, buffing, antiquing, waxing, waterproofing, and so on.

A performance criteria & a test method for the flammability of all trim material including leather used inside auto passenger compartment sold in the USA.

Full Grain
The term used for the finest, strongest grade of leather. Leather made from the outside original skin or hide which has had the hair removed, but otherwise has not been corrected or altered. Full-grain leather possesses the genuine original grain of the animal.

Back To Top


Glazed Finish
Similar to an aniline finish except that the leather surface is polished to a high luster by the action of glass on steel rollers under tremendous pressure.

The outside of the hide or skin consisting of the pores, wrinkles, markings and other characteristics which constitute the natural texture of the leather. May vary from smooth to heavily pebbled.

Glazed Leather
Aniline-dyed leather which has been polished to a high luster by passing through glass or steel rollers under great pressure.

Glove Leather
Lambskin or other very soft leather typically used for gloves.


Hair-on Hide
The whole pelt from large animals (cattle, horses, etc.) with the natural hair still remaining. This hide may have its original coloring & pattern or have another color or design, often that of exotic animals (zebra, jaguar, etc.) stenciled onto it.

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

The whole pelt from large animals such as cattle & horses, etc.

Back To Top


Kid Skin
Skin from a lamb, or young sheep.

Knife Edge
A knife edge is a seam without a decorative finish.


Skin from a lamb or young sheep.

An animal skin which has been preserved and dressed for use. Leather may be made from nearly any animal, including cattle, reptiles and even fish.

A manufactured product which imitates leather.

Back To Top


Matte Finish
A flat or dull finish.

This specification is for the flammability of all trim material including upholstery leather used inside the passenger compartment of passenger vehicles sold in the United States.


Describes the soft, "fuzzy" effect achieved in leather by buffing or brushing. A fuzzy, fur-like feel created when fiber ends extend from the basic fabric structure to the fabric surface. The fabric can be napped on either one or both sides. Fabrics typical of having "nap" are suede cloth and velvet.

Natural Grain
A leather which retains its full original grain, without any changes made in order to correct and even the surface appearance. See "Corrected Grain".

A leather whose surface has been buffed and brushed to create a soft, velvety effect. Differs from suede in that while suede is created from the flesh (inner) side of a hide, nubuc is created using the grain (outer) side, giving it added strength and durability.

Back To Top


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


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

A surface appearance of something grown beautiful, especially with age or use; an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character.

Leather in which a pattern of small holes is stamped using a die.

Leather that has been sprayed with a pigmented, opaque finish. A process of coloring and coating in the leather surface with colored pigments to produce surfaces that are highly resistant to wear, fading, etc. This is usually done to cover imperfections in leather, but also is frequently used to provide additional performance characteristics.

The process of pressing leather under a heated plate. Often used in upholstery leather to mask imperfections.

Describes the behavior of leather that has been treated with oils, waxes, and dyes in such a way that when the leather is pulled or stretched (i.e. on upholstery), the finish becomes lighter in the stretched areas. Considered a mark of high quality.

Back To Top


Untanned skins or hide.

A second finish added over an underlying tannage.


Saddle Leather
Vegetable-tanned cattlehide leather for harnesses and saddles, usually of a natural tan shade and rather flexible.

When similar colors are blended in a stippled effect for a tone-on-tone appearance. This adds depth and character to the leather.

Leather made from the rough hide of a ray or shark. Characterized by its irregularly pebbled surface.

Wooled sheep and lambskins, tanned with the wool intact.

Skin from a mature sheep.

Shrunken Grain Leather
A full, natural-grain leather which is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain of the leather.

Side Leather
Leather made from one half, or "side", of a full hide. Typically refers to leather whose top grain (outermost layer) has been left intact.

The pelt from small animals (calf, sheep, goat, etc.).

Split Leather
Skin sliced in layers to give uniform thickness to the piece (grain side). Split leather (inside) is trimmed and finished as suede. Cheap leathers are sometimes pigmented splits with embossed imitation grain.

Cutting leather into two or more layers, or cutting leather into two sides preparatory to tanning.

Hide from a mature male bovine that was neutered and raised for beef.

Leathers that are finished by buffing the flesh side (opposite the grain side) to produce a nap. This term refers to the napping process, and is unrelated to the type of skin used. Suede may come from any number of hides. This term also refers to fabrics made to simulate the look of suede leather.

The process of raising fibers on the grain side of a hide or skin to give a velvet nap effect. Also referred to as "brushing". This is generally called "nubuck" or "grain suede".

Back To Top


Leather that has had a coloring, glaze or other finish applied to the uppermost surface of its grain, affecting only the "peak" but not the "valleys". This can create an interesting dual-tone or high-low effect, enhancing the natural grain.

Top Coat
A transparent protective coating applied to the leather surface. See also "Finish".

Top Grain
The term intended to define genuine grain leather, as opposed to split leather which has been pigmented and embossed with a new grain. In reality, top-grain leather usually has had the original grain removed and an imitation grain embossed into the surface.

Back To Top


Unfinished Leather
(Also "Naked") Normally defines aniline-dyed, naked leathers with no additional application intended to finish, color or treat in a way that would alter the natural characteristics of the leather.


Vegetable Tanning
The conversion of rawhide into leather with a greater body and firmness than the more general method of chromium tanning.


Leather which has had a dye applied by hand to give a mottled, random or high-low effect to the coloration.

Back To Top