How to Dye Suede

A pair of wine colored high heeled shoes made from suede.
  • 3-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-50
What You'll Need
Old sheet or newspaper
Old rags
Rubber gloves
Suede brush
Suede cleaner
Suede restore spray
Suede item
Suede dye
Dye applicator
Suede protector

Suede is a soft leather material that is used on many fashion items including shoes, clothing, and purses. This material can be dyed to restore an existing color or to create a new one with a simple and easy dyeing process that should take no more than a few hours to complete. Keep in mind that it will be easier and yield a better result to apply a similar or darker color to the existing one. You should also always read the manufacturer’s instructions on all of your solutions to make sure you know how to apply them before you begin.

Step 1 – Prepare for the Dye Process

Create a space on a hard, flat surface to work on your dye project. Lay an old sheet or newspaper over the area for protection, and if you’re working with an item like shoes, stuff the inside with old rags. Place your dye tools and materials nearby as well so that they are easily accessible while you are working. Put on your rubber gloves before you begin to protect your skin from any irritants or staining.

Step 2 – Clean Your Suede

A thick-bristled brush

Brush the suede surface first to remove any loose dirt and debris and to raise the nap. Follow up with a suede cleaner to eliminate and contaminants that are left, keeping in mind that your cleaner should be specifically designed for suede, or you could ruin the material. Allow the suede enough time to dry completely when you finish.

Step 3 – Restore the Quality of the Leather

Before you begin to dye your suede material, you’ll need to renew the quality of the leather with a suede restorer spray so that it is in the best condition possible to receive the color application. This will also bring the fabric back to a more vibrant color that might eliminate the need for dyeing if it’s exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll want to apply the spray in a well-ventilated area. Open all of the windows in the room, and if possible, turn on a fan to circulate the air.

Step 4 – Apply the Dye

Specialized suede dye will come with an applicator of some sort, like a brush or a wool dauber. Take this tool and use it to apply an even coat of dye to the surface. Suede is a porous material so some spots may soak up more color than you intend. Blot the material to remove any excess dye from these places so you get a good, consistent coverage.

Some colors might need more than one coat to reach the proper shade. After you’ve applied the first coat, allow it to dry for one to two hours before you proceed to add another. Avoid doing too many coats, however, since this can dry out the leather very easily.

Step 5 – Brush and Protect the Finished Product

Suede protectant spray

Stretch the suede somewhat while it is in the drying process, as this will prevent the material from becoming stiff. Once it’s been given ample drying time, go back over it with your suede brush, using back and forth movements to raise the nap again. Finish the job by applying a suede protector spray to prevent later moisture and stain damage.