I had been working on gourds for 6 months before anyone really told me about leather dyes. I had tried fabric and basket dyes, however, neither of them penetrated the surface of the gourd without a lengthy soaking............... Leather dyes, on the otherhand, penetrate instantly. What I like most about them is their transparent quality!
Water or Oil Based...
There are several brands and types of leather dyes currently on the market. I have used water-soluble and oil based. They both produce vibrant colors. I prefer the water-soluble. From what I understand, the water-soluble was developed for use in schools and prisons. I find it easier to manipulate and clean up!!!!! With the oil based, you have to use solvent to thin it and if you spill it.......whoops, what a mess!!!!!!!
I will add a link to the site where I purchase mine at the bottom of this page. They carry all of the necessary solvents and dyes that you could possibly want.
Is it Expensive...
When you consider the cost of acrylic paints, leather dye is quite inexpensive!!!!! A 4 oz. bottle costs around $ 3.59. I crafted over 60 gourds last year using a small set which consisted of 10 different colors in 1/2 oz. bottles!!!!!!! They really go a long way!!!!!!
How Do I apply it...
I use many different techniques depending on the effect I am trying to achieve.
For a solid color - just dip an applicator (dauber, rag, cotton, q-tip, etc.) into the dye and apply. Once it's dry (unlike paints, these only takes a few minutes ), just buff with a soft cloth.
For a marbled look - color the whole gourd a solid color then dab the areas you want with the contrasting color or you can start by just dabbing the different colors so that they run together, without making the gourd a solid color first. You can also use a spray bottle to apply the second layer of color for a different effect.(DO NOT BUFF THE GOURD UNTIL YOU ARE FINISHED COLORING) Then, before the gourd is dry, buff it well and this will blend all the colors perfectly.
For coloring pyroengravings, leather dyes work extremely well. Unlike paints, they do not cover any of your hard work and they can be thinned for a very subtle effect, or used full strength for vibrant color! I use a paintbrush or q-tip depending on the size of the area I am working on.
You can give an interesting look to a carved gourd by applying leather dye to the entire gourd after carving and then buffing it well.
Another interesting look can be achieved by sanding a gourd with fine sandpaper after it is dyed.
Also, try buffing with a (barely) moist cloth.........................
To correct small mistakes, twist a white piece of paper to make a point and dip it in water, alcohol, or solvent. (Fingernail polish remover works great for the oil based dyes!) Bleach works well too. Infact, a quick bleach rinse will even remove the dys from your hands instantly!
Every time I use my dyes I get more ideas.......You are only limited by your own creativeness!!!!!
You can use any finish you prefer, as long as it is compatible with the type of dye used. (i.e. water or oil based) High gloss tends to look best over dyes. It makes them look very deep and brings out the color nicely! A matte finish lends to a leather look.
You can find leather dyes on-line at: