How to Mark Leather

Item # X-HT-300568

Whether patterning, stitching or simply looking to add a decorative touch, there are several options for making permanent and nonpermanent marks on leather. In this blog, we’ll explain when and how to use four tools to mark up your leather projects as you work. 

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With a Scratch Awl

Awls are great for patterning and marking cut lines because they leave visible scratches on the leather’s surface without removing any leather. You can also use an awl to mark stitch lines, as the scratch left in the leather will be covered by the stitches. A straightedge will help keep your scratch awl from wandering when patterning or marking stitch lines. A scratch awl can also be used in place of a leather roughing tool to scuff leather and promote better glue adhesion. 

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With a Stitch Groover

This tool removes a line of leather to mark stitch lines for either machine or hand sewing; either way, the stitches will sink below the surface of the leather to prevent abrasion. To use a stitch groover, set the cutting blade to the desired distance. Using the straight edge of your leather as a guide, run the blade along the surface to cut a groove into the leather. 

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With Marking Tools

Traditional marking tools can be used on leather under certain circumstances. Chalk pens, for example, can mark the flesh side of leather with no damage to the grain, though the marks can be difficult to remove, so opt for this option if the flesh side won’t be exposed. Specially designed pens that are meant for leather make easily erasable, nonpermanent marks on the grain for cutting and patterning. 

Leather pens and paints can also be used to write or draw on leather for decorative purposes. If marking leather for decoration, first apply a leather deglazer; this removes any finish or protective coating to ensure your paint will stick to the surface. Follow up with acrylic paints formulated for leather to make your design. Leather paints are designed to dry flexible and won’t flake or crack as the leather is used. Finish with a leather sealant to protect the painted surface. 

With a Creaser or Wing Divider

Creasers and wing dividers make indentations in leather rather than removing leather (like a stitch groover) or interrupting the grain (like a scratch awl). Wing dividers are especially helpful for marking stitch or patterning lines, as they are adjustable and use the edge of the leather as a consistent guide. Creasers are generally used to add a decorative border along leather edges or to mark a line where a leather project will be folded. When used for decoration, the crease line falls between the edge of the leather and the stitch line. Heating a creaser provides a sharper, more consistent crease. Creasers are also available in electronic versions with attachments for different leatherworking processes.

What's your favorite tool for marking leather? Do you have any tips or tricks about leatherworking you'd like to share with readers? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.