The Art Of Hand Patina – Creating Unique Looks With Colours, Binders And Dyes

The World Is A Canvas And Every One Of Us, An Artist.


Thursday 15th April 2021
By I L L Y K


When you invest in a pair of genuine, top grain leather shoes, you get to create this beautiful art called Patina.

Patina develops naturally on leather shoes over time through the regular wear and tear.

While you can wait for Patina to develop naturally, you can also go for hand crafted Patina shoes by skilled Patina artists.

Hand Patina

The Patina art by hand involves a leather dyeing process to create a unique patina with an antique, aged effect.

The technique for this artwork is also known as ‘Anticatura’, which refers to ‘antique finishing’ in Italian.

Origin of Hand Patina Art

The art of Hand Patina originated in France in the 80’s. It is designed for shoes by Olga Berluti, a member of the French brand Berluti.. Olga designed a technique to hand dye the leather shoes to create an antique effect. Even then, the hand colouring of shoes was new in the world of luxury leather shoes. But this technique revolutionised the way shoes were being painted and changed the entire game.

Hand Patina Artists

Patina art is still considerably very young and the techniques are still evolving. That is why there are not many artists in this field. And the ones that specialise in this art are highly skilled and talented. This rare availability of Hand Patina Artists makes this artwork even more valuable.

The Patina artists are constantly discovering new colouring techniques, secret recipes and materials. A true Patina artist is recognised by his capability to reproduce the exact demanded colour on leather.

What is a Leather Finish?

Leather Finishes refer to the topcoat or the last thing applied on the leather mainly to preserve the dyes. The finish determines the texture and final appearance of the leather. Some other benefits of applying leather finishes are:

  • Protecting the leather surface
  • Giving a glossy look
  • Preventing the dyes from rubbing off on wearers
  • Enriching the colours

Types of Leather Finishes

There are many types of Leather finishes that give different effects. Some of the widely popular finishes are:

Aniline Finish

Aniline finishing is achieved by using aniline dyes, which are water-soluble pigments. This creates a light staining like effect. This finish reveals the natural colours, textures and patterns on leather.

Semi-Aniline Finish

Semi-Aniline finishes are applied on full grain leathers. To give it a more natural look, only a very thin coating is applied. This makes the leather durable than others. To get this finish, only a tiny amount of dye or pigment is used. This final outcome is a leather of uniform texture and consistent color, which gives the look of a high-quality product.

Pigmented Full Grain Leather Finish

This leather finish is achieved by using a heavy layer to mask the details. A pigmentwhich is composed of resin is used to cover any defects on the surface so that the leather maintains a uniform look. This makes the leather be resistant to any stains. People who are always on-the-go prefer this leather finish as it requires low maintenance.

Suede Finish

Suede is achieved by an abrasive action or movement, usually called Buffing. This helps in making the corium fibers raise and produce short fibers, or the “nap”. A finish is then added to the nap when the layer inside the hide is buffed. This fnish is attractive yet durable, and doesn’t get any finger marks.

Nubuck Finish

Also known asvelvet suede, aNubuck finish leather has a finer buff than suede. To achieve a nubuck finish, the dyed leather is abraded which is how it gets that velvety look. The nap produced is finer (as the fibre is very tight).

Embossed Leather Finish

This finish involves the leather being pressed against a hot, raised-patterned metal plate to get an impression. Leathers are generally embossed to mimic crocodile or snake skin like looks.

Now, talking about the finish that gives the beautiful Patina.

Antique Finish

The term “antique” is used for things that are over 100 years old. However, when it comes to leather, it may not necessarily mean that the leather is old. This term can also be applied to the leather that has been given an antique look. This kind of look can be achieved by using contrasting colours on the leather.

Antique finish is a kind of leather dye that is in a form of soft cream. It is usually available in a range of browns and tan shades. It is mainly done to make the leather shoes look more aesthetically antique and to give an aged effect. The process of antique finishing involves less dyeingbut more making the original colour of the leather a tone lighter.

Antique Finishing Technique for Leather

The Hand Patina technique is a hand dyeing process of leather done to create a unique patina look with an antique and aged effect. The process is done on undyed and unfinished crust leather, which has been tanned and handled. The dyes are applied manually by the artist using white cloth and brushes or sponges. This creates a unique look on every pair of shoes.

Leather Hand Dyeing

Leather dyeing is nothing like dyeing on any other material. Unlike painting on a canvas, leather is a living material which makes it unpredictable. Each piece of leather can be different even if it comes from the same hide.

This dyeing is less science and more art. Of course, that is why the professionals in the field are called artists. The variations in materials, dyes and the skills of the artist make the Patina art on leather, unique.

The Leather Hand Dyeing Process

The Patina Artist aims to achieve a look on the shoes that makes them appear aged. The outcome is a look much similar to the natural Patina look. The artist fades the colours and highlights the some parts using contrasting colours to achieve an antique look.

The parts that go through most friction, like the shoes seams, front of the toe and heel counter are dyed with darker shades. This makes the final result appear more natural.

Patina Artists mainly use basic colours and create the effect by mixing different colours as per the demands.

The step wise work of a good Patina Artist

A good Patina Artist definitely knows how to get the most effective results. But he also understands how delicately and carefully the leather needs to be handled. The artist takes all the precautions to get the results without damaging the leather or the finish in any way.

The leather is cleaned beforehand to make the process easier

It is important to have a perfectly clean canvas before starting the process. The leather needs to be wiped carefully with a damp cloth. Any traces of dust or dirt can adhere to the leather in the process, creating uneven patches.  This step is important to avoid highlighting the unwanted imperfections.

Base colour is applied to give a smoother canvas to begin with

When the leather is cleaned, it gets more exposed. Before starting with the dyeing process, a base colour needs to be applied. This colour is similar to the original colour of the leather and creates a smoother base to work with.

The right colour of dye is carefully chosen

Being sure of the colours before dyeing the leather is of utmost importance. Getting the wrong or bad results is a waste of resources and efforts. And reapplying various colours due to unsatisfactory results can be harmful and destroy the leather. Various dye colours need to be tested before deciding on the right one and applying it on the leather.

Good quality, high-grade dye are used to get better results

Low quality dyes can damage the leather. Some may not even adhere to the leather and give a cheap effect. Choosing a good quality leather dye is important to make sure the finished result looks exquisite doesn’t compromise the leather in the long run.

Thin coats are applied to speed up the drying process

The leather dyeing process requires patience and focus. It is important to not go overboard with the dye. Dyes should be applied in thin layers and each layer must be completely dry before applying the next one. This process should be continued until the desired vibrancy and evenness is achieved. But usually, two to four thin applications are enough to provide satisfactory results.

The shoe is left untouched for a few days after dyeing to avoid blotchiness 

All the hard work goes to waste if the shoe acquires any blotchy patches or fingerprints after dying. Letting the leather sit for a few days after the process is important. This ensures that the dye has adhered to the leather and has dried completely.

True value of Leather Patina shoes

Apart from the skills, it takes constant motivation, passion and consistency to master the art of Hand Patina. It can take years of practice and patience which only the true artists can survive. The artist works to create antique finish on the leather shoes that may be similar, but never identical. Patina artists put their personal interpretation on the desired effect, making them unique. This is what makes both the leather Patina shoes and the Patina Artist much more valuable.

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