How to Identify Different Types of Leather

People have always seen leather as a symbol of comfort and durability. While many admire the beauty and elegance of leather products, few understand the properties of leather enough to be able to maintain its brilliance properly. Because of this, Clean & Pink is presenting this detailed guide to understanding leather with the hopes of helping you identify the types of leather you might encounter quickly and easily. 

Leather Furniture

The following article will teach you some tips that you can use to better understand the natural properties of different types of leather as well as teach you how to tell the difference between each type. 

Major Types of Leather:


Aniline leather is a type of leather that is dyed exclusively with soluble dyes. The dye colors the leather without producing the uniform surface of a topcoat paint or insoluble pigmented sealant. The resulting product retains the hide’s natural surface but is very prone to scratches and staining due to a lack of any topcoat paint or sealant.

 aniline leather

An example of aniline leather


Semianiline leather is leather which has only a slightly pigmented color layer which works as a surface coating that adds more durability to the leather than purely aniline leather. The natural leather grain and the hair pores are not concealed by the pigmentation so the hide maintains much of its natural texture.

Identify Different Types of Leather Chart pull up leather

an example of semi-aniline leather


Pigmented leather gets its name from the layer of colored pigment that is applied to the surface of the leather. This layer of colored polymer surface coating contains pigments that give the leather a vibrant, uniform appearance. A protective topcoat is applied over the pigment and for this reason, pigmented leather is sometimes called protected leather.

pink pigmented leather

an example of pigmented leather


Suede is a type of split leather which is leather which results from a process of splitting a leather hide. This type of leather comes from the underside of a split which gives it its textured, napped finish. Suede has no topcoat and therefore tends to stain very easily. Suede is often preferred nubuck because of its softness and pliability.


an example of suede


Nubuck is a grain leather that is very similar to suede being textured to have a similar nap finish, however, it tends to be much more durable than suede because it is processed from the outer layer of the hide. This type of leather also has shorter, visible fibers than suede and sometimes has a subtle sheen when buffed.

Identify Different Types of Leather Chart nubuck leather

an example of nubuck leather

Pull-Up leather is a type of nubuck leather that is sealed using natural oils and/or waxes instead of paints, pigments, and topcoats. Thus, pull-up leather has either a colored wax or oil finish as a topcoat. PullUp leather is therefore also called waxed leather or oiled leather.

Identify Different Types of Leather Chart semi aniline leather

an example of pull-up leather


Bi-cast leather is a material made with a split leather backing covered with an embossed layer of polyurethane or vinyl. This type of leather was originally made for the apparel industry for glossy shoes and was later adopted by the furniture industry. Technically, bi-cast leather is not considered genuine leather but a leather byproduct due to such a small percentage of actual leather being used.

Identify Different Types of Leather bible leather

an example of bicast leather


Tests to Identify Different Types of Leather:

Now let’s get into more detail about how to identify each of the major leather types. Below is a list of some simple tests that you can use to identify your leather products!

Identify Different Types of leather fabric
You can identify most types of leather through by using an assortment of the following tests:

  • The Magnifying Glass Test – used to analyze the hair follicles as well as the presence or absence of pigmented finish
  • The Absorption Test – used to observe if/how drops of water or leather cleaner are is absorbed into the leather
  • The Touch Test – used to show how the visible pattern of the leather is impacted by being touched by hand
  • The Visual Test – used to observe the color, uniformity of pigment, and other natural aesthetics of leather


Aniline Leather:

  • The Magnifying Glass Test – you will notice that hair follicles show up very clearly on aniline leather as small holes on the leather surface where the hairs were removed. With aniline leather, the hide is left without any pigmented finish.
  • The Absorption Test – you will see that a dark patch will be left where water or cleaner is rubbed into the leather. An aniline will completely absorb the liquid in about 30 seconds.
  • The Touch Test – Aniline leather feels very soft and natural and will lighten if scratched.
  • The Visual Test – The color of an aniline will not look very uniform the full-grain pattern is visible and natural scarring and bites will be visible on the surface if there are any.

Semi-Aniline Leather:

  • The Magnifying Glass Test – you will notice that hair follicle holes are slightly visible (as indentations) but you will notice a thin pigmented coating covering them.
  • The Absorption Test – liquids that are dropped on semi-aniline leather are absorbed very slowly sometimes taking between 3-4 minutes to be fully absorbed.
  • The Touch Test – semi-aniline leather feels soft to the touch and the finish is often smooth which makes the leather semi-slippery compared to an aniline.
  • The Visual Test – more uniformed coloring, yet natural finish due to the thin amount of pigment applied.

Pigmented Leather:

  • The Magnifying Glass Test – you will notice a uniform coating with no difference in shade or coloring.
  • The Absorption Test – no cleaner or water should be absorbed into pigmented leather because pigmented leather is non-absorbent
  • The Touch Test – coating can be felt upon touch and the surface should not scratch easily.
  • The Visual Test – color pigment should be 100% uniform with no alternations between color or shade.


  • The Magnifying Glass Test – has a distinctive, abraded nap with a tightly knit fiber structure
  • The Absorption Test – will very readily absorb water or leather cleaner because there is no topcoat layer applied. Stains very easily.
  • The Touch Test – very soft and smooth to the touch and leave lighter-colored trails when gently rubbed with fingers.
  • The Visual Test – tends to have uniform coloring.


  • The Magnifying Glass Test – has distinctive nap texture similar to suede
  • The Absorption Test – will readily absorb water or leather cleaner due to the lack of topcoat. Stains very easily.
  • The Touch Test – very similar to suede, small, soft fibers can be felt and leave faint lighter-colored trails when gently rubbed with fingers.
  • The Visual Test – tends to have uniform coloring and can give off a subtle sheen if buffed.

Pull Up Leather:

  • The Magnifying Glass Test – looks very cracked under magnifying glass and lighter colors show through creases and cracks
  • The Absorption Test – absorbs water and cleaning solution in about 15 seconds and water stains tend to show as a matt-looking area.
  • The Touch Test – pull-up leather tends to feel very soft and will lighten when stretched.
  • The Visual Test – color often starts out looking uniform, however, it tends to lighten as the leather ages leaving a very distressed look.

Bi-cast Leather:

  • The Magnifying Glass Test – is often imprinted to mimic the look of natural leathers. Hair follicles may or may not be visible.
  • The Absorption Test – leather cleaner will sit on the surface of bi-cast leather due to the plastic film on its surface.
  • The Touch Test – bi-cast leather does not scratch easily, feels like plastic, and is very slippery.
  • The Visual Test – color is completely uniform as well. The patterns on bi-cast leather are also uniform due to them being artificial.


The following flow chart can be used as a quick reference to help you begin identifying different types of leather.

Identify Different Types of Leather Chart

A Chart Used to Identify Types of Leather


Basics leather identification can be a lifesaver when it comes to knowing the best ways of maintaining your leather items. Test your leather identification skills on your own leather products and leave a comment below on what you find!


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