Types of Leather Finishes

CrookhornDavis offers a wide assortment of genuine leather accessories in a variety of finishes, with each finish carefully chosen to best fit its application. Below is a look at some of the quality finishes we carry.

Aniline Finish

Only the highest quality Full Grain Leather can receive an Aniline Finish. This is because the grain remains exposed, and must have as few blemishes as possible. As only the finest hides can be made into aniline, only around 5% of them are adequate.

The result is a leather that looks and feels much better than other finishes.

Aniline finishing involves using aniline dyes, which are water-soluble pigments. This creates an effect closer to staining, as opposed to the heavy opaque coating left by other finishes. The purpose of this is to reveal more of the natural colorings and patterns of the leather, such as fat lines and wrinkles. This is sometimes followed by a pigment-free polish or glazing. When inspected under a magnifying lens, pores should be clearly visible.

There are many benefits to Aniline Leather. The lack of finish allows the leather to breathe and adjust to body temperature quickly. This makes it great for clothing, shoes, and small accessories. It also ages incredibly well, developing a much sought-after patina that comes with wear.

This type of high-quality leather requires proper care, as it may fade in direct sunlight or be susceptible to staining and soiling. To reduce this, micro pigments may be applied to offer some protection. This is referred to as “protected aniline” or “aniline plus.”

If you’re gentle with your accessories, seeking the look of a beautiful patina, and don’t mind the required maintenance, Aniline Leather can be a great option for you. As one of the softest, most pliable finishes, it is well suited for most applications, but is best for smaller accessories that are easier to maintain, such as belts, shoes, and wallets.

Comparison chart of aniline, semi-aniline, and pigmented full grain pores

Semi-Aniline Finish

Semi-Aniline leather leaves the grain exposed, but has a thin protective/corrective layer.

Between variations in grain and color, scratches, insect bites, and other wear and tear, it is very common for hides to have at least a few unsightly blemishes. To rectify this, a light coat of finish can be applied with enough opacity to mask variations, without hiding the natural grain of the leather. 

Semi-Aniline finishes are applied to full grain leathers, with only a small amount of pigment being used. The pigment provides a degree of durability and stain resistance that can take more wear than true aniline leather.

This finish can result in a slight sheen, but still retains the high-quality look. Unlike aniline leather, it is resistant to sunlight and water damage. 

Semi Aniline leather is a good fit for those who want high quality leather without the frequent maintenance. Like Aniline leather, it is suitable for most applications, including larger items like handbags and upholstery. It may not patina, but it is still soft and will hold up nicely to gentle use.

Pigmented Full Grain Leather

While this type of leather finish requires a heavier layer of material to mask details than semi-aniline finishes, it is still made of high-quality Full Grain leather. A resin-based pigment is applied to hide defects, but it still maintains the look and feel of a quality product. 

Unlike the aforementioned finishes, this finish does not leave the pores visible, and hides the natural color variations in the leather. Instead, the color and surface are uniform and evenly coated with pigment, giving it great light fastness and stain resistance. It does have reduced breathability, which is at times compensated with perforation.

This is one of the most common high-quality leather finishes. It’s also suitable for most people, needing little maintenance, and being more durable that non-pigmented leathers. It is not as soft as aniline and semi-aniline leathers, but its stiffness and thicker top coat allow it to hold up to rougher use without as much upkeep. Pigmented Full Grain leather is great for most applications, especially those that experience frequent wear. This finish is ideal for “everyday” accessories.


A process of abrasive action, called buffing, raises the corium fibers 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.  

Finished Suede being cut

Suede can be made from the flesh side of grain split leather or any side of a flesh split. Suedes are attractive and tough, with springy fibers that rebound quickly to the upright position. This means that there is no “finger mark” or “two-way rubs” that appear.

Suede is highly durable, yet maintains an appealing look and softness to the touch. It’s great for shoes, jackets, and gloves. At CrookhornDavis, you can find it lining handcrafted Italian leather belts, for a luxurious and comfortable feel.


Also referred to as velvet suede, Nubuck has a finer buff than suede and is buffed on the grain surface of leather. This is also referred to as “snuffing.” The collagen fibers of the surface are finer than the corium, which makes for the finer nap. Nap is then brushed or plush wheel padded to produce velvety, lustrous looks and feel. Wax, grease, or oil are sometimes applied. These leathers are referred to as oil nubucks.

Nubucks have the “two-way rub” or “writing effect” that suede does not. Nubuck is made of more expensive, higher quality leather than suede. As a result, it is softer and more durable. While the two have similar applications, nubuck is for those willing to pay for the extra softness and durability that comes with using the grain side of leather.

Pull-Up Leather

Leather which has extra oil added during the manufacturing process and is finished with a spray coating of wax is called Pull-Up leather. This gives the leather a dark, almost greasy, look and feel that imparts a rugged, outdoor look. 

Pull-Up leather is similar to nubuck and suede in that it does not have a protective finish coating applied. This type of leather is prone to color changes in areas of high wear and is associated with water resistance and high quality. 

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 a well-worn leather accessory.

Embossed Leather

When leather is pressed against a hot, raised-patterned 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. 

Leathers can be embossed to mimic the look of crocodile, lizard, snake, 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 easier to emboss as they retain the impression better than the more elastic chrome-tanned leathers. 

The resulting leathers tend to be firm and stiff, with compromised breathability. However, embossed leathers can be an affordable alternative to rarer animal skins that are difficult to work with. They have the added benefit of looking exotic without requiring additional, more complicated care.

Dry Milled Leather

To achieve this finish, leather is loaded into milling drums and rotated. The soft falling action intensifies the natural lines in the leather to give it an attractive pebbling effect. It also makes the leather considerably softer and is one of the techniques used to soften vegetable-tanned leathers. This is a great finish for clothing and upholstery.

Antiqued Grain (Two-Tone Leather)

To achieve a two-tone leather, a top coat is applied unevenly, or partially removed to show a contrasting underlying color coat. The leather may have had hollows or creases embossed before application of two pigmented coats, so that 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

Traditionally, patent leather is made when linseed oil-based products are applied to the leather to produce a high gloss finish. Modern patent leather has either a liquid resin coating or a layer of plastic laminated to the surface. This produces a beautiful, shiny surface with a high-end feeling.