Sales of leather upholstery have increased in leaps and bounds over the last few years and manufacturers have responded to this demand with a wider range of leather types for the consumer to select from.
Leather is a wonderful upholstery material, both practical and luxurious but it is very important when considering leather upholstery that you properly look at leather & that you fully understand the pros and cons of leather and particularly the performance of the different types of leather now available.
It is important to remember that the more natural the leather the more likely that it may display colour variations and natural markings, however, these cannot be considered faults. You should take into account that the softer the leather, the more likely it is to stretch and crease over time, but once again this is not a fault.

Aniline Leather is the most natural looking leather, with the unique surface characteristics of the hide remaining visible. Aniline leather is usually coloured only with dye and not with a surface coating of polymer and pigment, although a light surface coating may be applied to enhance its appearance and offer slight protection against spillages and soiling. Aniline leathers may show scarring, natural markings and some inconsistency in colour.

Semi-Aniline Leather is more durable than Aniline, whilst still retaining a natural appearance. The increased durability is provided by the application of a light surface coating which contains a small amount of pigment. This ensures consistent colour and imparts some stain resistance to the leather.

Pigmented Leather is the most durable and is used in the majority of furniture upholstery and almost all car upholstery. The durability is provided by a polymer surface coating which contains pigments. The surface coating allows the manufacturer more control over the properties of the leather, e.g. resistance to scuffing or fading. The thickness of the surface coating can vary but if the mean thickness is more than 0.15mm then the product can’t be sold as leather in the United Kingdom due to consumer protection legislation.

The grain surface is abraded to remove imperfections before the surface coating is applied. A decorative grain pattern is then embossed into the surface.

The middle or lower section of a hide with polymer coating applied and embossed to mimic a grain
leather. Finished splits should only be used in low stress applications because they are weaker than grain leather.

Pull-Up Leather (aka waxy or oily pull-up)

A leather with a natural appearance which lightens in colour when stretched during wear, producing a worn-in effect with time.


Aniline dyed leather which has been lightly abraded on the grain surface to create a velvety finish or nap. In some cases the grain pattern is still visible. The nap is very fine because of the tight fibre structure in the grain layer.


A split which has been abraded to create a distinctive nap. The nap can vary in appearance, but is not as fine as the nap on Nubuck, because of the looser fibre structure.

All natural leathers have a low resistance to light and humidity. All natural marks that exist in leather such as wrinkles, flat grain due to abrasion, insect bites, closed scars, embossed brands (mostly used on the laterals and the backs of the sofas) will also be visible.