Cortina's expert sales reps can answer your questions like, "What is aniline leather," and help you understand which type of leather is best for your projects' upholstery applications.

In the current environment of fast furniture and rapidly changing design trends, understanding the different leather types, and the raw materials used, will help you choose the right leather for each project. All the upholstery leathers Cortina makes and sources are made on quality hides sourced only from responsible tanneries that meet Cortina's strict Environmental Stewardship and Social Responsibility standards. We only source hides from tanneries and areas where we can verify their sources, grades, and sustainability profiles, like the U.S., Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and certain areas of Central and South America. With proper care, all Cortina leather will last longer than any other upholstery textile currently available.

Choosing the best leather for your next project should not only take design aesthetic and budget into account, but also the specific usage, location, planned lifecycle of the furniture, and traffic levels. With 55+ collections and over 800 skus, we offer a wide variety of leather designs and price levels—many stocked for quick shipment. We also specialize in making custom leather: 20% of or sales are for custom requests. Cortina has something for every style and budget. Rely on our team to ensure your selections are fit for purpose. Find your local Cortina leather specialist here: Find a Rep.

What is pure aniline leather?

What is pure aniline leather? Utah is a pure aniline full grain and heavy weight leather made in Italy on bull hides

Sometimes called “naked” leather because it is the most natural and un-treated leather, pure aniline leather is one that has been dyed with only aniline dyes (no pigments have been added) and only minimal other treatments applied in the finishing process. Typically, full-grain, premium-quality (top 3-5%) bull hides are used. All original surface characteristics of the hide, including color variation, grain variation, and natural markings such as scars and bug-bites remain visible. For leather connoisseurs, pure aniline is the highest quality upholstery leather, however, it is not fit-for-purpose in many applications.

Wear Characteristics

Pure anilines may receive a light, clear treatment to make them slightly water resistant. However, they are the least-protected type of leather classification and remain susceptible to staining, scratching, color fading, and will definitely gain a lovely patina over time, which tells a story about the furniture.


True leather lovers consider pure anilines to be the most beautiful of all leathers since they are the most natural. However, due to the premium quality crust needed, pure aniline leathers are amongst the most expensive leathers available. They are most suited for applications free from excessive stains and spills and design applications where patina, color variation, and natural markings such as stretch marks, brands, and bug bites are desired and seen as part of the character and history of the piece.

Shown here is Utah, an exceptional quality full-grain pure aniline made in Italy that has a light protective finish.

Now that you know what pure aniline leather is you can find the perfect application sure to make your client happy.

What is aniline leather?

Cortina Leathers' Allora upholstery leather in Phantom Grey is a highly protected aniline leather suitable for high-traffic spaces.

Aniline leathers (sometimes called protected aniline or aniline plus) are similar to pure aniline, except the leather undergoes additional finishing processes where clear treatments such as oils, waxes or protective coats and/or transparent aniline dyes are applied to even the color, protect it from wear and stains, or to create different effects such as a distressing or pull-up. Leathers classified as aniline are not treated with pigments. Aniline leathers can be either full or top grain or lightly buffed (mezzo fiore), and may include a light embossing for grain consistency, but the natural grain and markings are not completely removed or covered. Because only aniline dyes are used in the finishing process, nearly all aniline leathers will patina over time and are subject to color fading. Natural markings and color variation remain visible, and may even be purposely highlighted by the finishing process.

Wear Characteristics

Performance varies considerably amongst aniline leathers, as this classification includes leather treatments in the finishing process ranging from a minimal application of waxes, oils or aniline dyes to leathers treated with a strong protective finish. Typically, however, abrasion and stain resistance for aniline leathers is greater than pure aniline leathers and less than semi-aniline leathers.


Depending on the wear characteristics, aniline leathers can be recommended for use in similar situations as pure anilines but also in higher-stain and medium-traffic applications. Cortina carries four aniline lines with Crypton protection which are suitable for higher-traffic locations including eating areas: Allora, Café, Como, and Florence.

Shown here is Cortina's Allora, an aniline with a modern smooth finish that is designed for minimal patina, has a unique designer color story, and is well protected by Crypton, suitable for all interiors. 

Now that your know what aniline leather is, specify one to truly elevate the luxury quotient of your next design.

What is semi-aniline leather?

What is semi-aniline leather? learn here. Cortina Leathers Cuyahoga Beach Glass is a semi-aniline made in Ohio USA and protected by Crypton.

Semi-aniline leather has been aniline dyed in the drum and finished with a process that includes a light surface coating of pigments for enhanced scratch and abrasion resistance as well as color consistency, but not so much pigment as to completely conceal the natural characteristics of the hide. Semi-aniline leathers will exhibit a more consistent color and fewer natural markings than aniline leathers, but will reveal more natural grain characteristic and more natural markings than pigmented leathers. Semi-aniline leathers include full and top grain and lightly buffed (mezzo fiore) leathers and the leather may be lightly embossed for grain consistency.

Wear Characteristics

While all semi-aniline leathers are scratch resistant, they will only patina minimally and are less subject to color fading. Abrasion performance and stain resistance can vary depending on the finishing process and the level of protection added in the top coat. Typically, however, abrasion and stain resistance for semi-aniline leathers is greater than aniline leathers and can in some instances approximate the performance of pigmented leathers.


Depending on the wear characteristics, semi-aniline leathers can be recommended for use in applications ranging from low-traffic to extreme wear and stain environments such as restaurants, office task seating, commercial airlines and automobiles.

Shown here is Cuyahoga, a top grain semi-aniline made in northern Ohio, USA with Crypton protection and offered at an amazing price.

Now that you know what semi-aniline leather is, which high-traffic project will you specify it for?

What is pigmented leather?

What is pigmented leather? Learn here. Cortina Caprone leathers in brown, gray, blue, charcoal and black

Many pigmented leathers are top-grain leathers which have been aniline dyed and then extensively finished to conceal natural markings and protect the leather from high-traffic usage. Pigmented leathers are finished with opaque pigments and protective top coats for color consistency, enhanced durability, stain and fade resistance, and are embossed with grain patterns (sometimes called “corrected grain”) to hide most of the natural markings and imperfections and improve yield. There are full-grain pigmented leathers as well, mostly used by the automotive and aviation inudstries and in high-traffic bar and casino settings where extreme durability and cleanability are essential. Full grain aniline leather use on an airplane seats, the most used and abused seating, lasts 4 times vinyl.

Wear Characteristics

Pigmented leathers typically have the strongest performance characteristics of all leathers, providing resistance to scratching, fading, staining, and abrasion.


Piigmented leathers are among the most affordable and are suitable for use in any environment. Nearly all mass produced, non-custom furniture sold upholstered with leather that has no color or grain variation has been upholstered with top grain pigmented leather. For extreme traffic and soil-prone seating (cars, airplanes, bars, boats, task chairs, and casinos) where color and grain consistency and durability are essential, full grain pigmented leathers are used for added strength and durability. With proper care these leathers often outlast the foam and frames.

Shown here is Caprone, a soft pigmented leather with good color consistency and a sophisticated, extremely natural looking "caprone" grain added. 

Now you know what pigmented leather is! Where wil you use it next?

Raw Material: What is the difference between top grain and full grain leather?

Cortina's Brandenburg is a full-grain semi-aniline made on the highest quality German bull hides and offered in over 40 colors. What's the difference between full and top grain leather? What's the difference between top and full grain leather? What is full grain leather?
Beautiful and natural stretch marks are showcased on seating at the Pierre Hotel in NYC.
Cortina Leathers custom Hair on Hide wall in Barrys Downtown Prime restaurant in the Circa, Las Vegas.

There is a misconception that full grain leather is better than top grain leather. The truth is much more nuanced and sometimes confusing, especially when fit-tor-purpose is considered. Each leather collection is designed with specific characteristics and goals. Finding the best leather for each situation can and should be fun! Cortina's expert sales and customer service teams are here to help: Find a Rep.

Technically, full grain leather is a top grain leather, as it is made from the "top" or outside layer of the hide (suede is made from the bottom or inside layer, the "split," after the hide is split into two layers). Here are general points on how Cortina Leathers classifies the raw materials we use to create our finished leathers:

Top Grain (often called corrected grain leather):

  • The topmost layers of the hide are buffed or sanded off to remove most of the natural markings. Because the markings are removed, the hides can be any grade, one of many contributing factors to the cost variation between leather lines.
  • A corrected grain is added back to the hide by embossing with extreme heat. The embossings can be highly natural, making it difficult, even for experts, to know if the leather has been "corrected" once it's on furniture!
  • The grain options are nearly endless: light and variable (like Caprone), deep and plump (like Cuyahoga ), a decorative pattern (like Traverso) to name a few.
  • Top grain leather is extremely easy to customize: color, grain (natural or pattern), protection level, firmness, sheen, cost, weight, size, hand, and more.
  • After the sanding or buffing, the hide accepts dyes, pigments, and finishes more consistently, which is preferred by most large furniture manufacturers. When you buy "genuine leather" furniture with consistent color and grain from big box stores, furniture chains, or large furniture manufacturers, you are most likely buying a medium or even lower-grade, corrected, top-grain, semi-aniline or pigmented leather. But, it's still genuine leather! And genuine leather made by expert manufacturers, such as Cortina Leathers, including corrected grain leather, is still the longest-lasting, most durable, and most beautiful and luxurious textile humans have ever produced! (We may have a slight bias on luxury—but not on durability—go ahead and try to name another textile that can last decades under repeated use, and gets more beautiful as it ages!)
  • Two main advantages: grain and color consistency across the hide and from hide to hide for higher yields, which is helpful when specifying for a 200-seat luxury event space, or furniture with large panels, like untufted banquettes, deep sofa cushions, or headboards.
  • Because top-grain crust starts out like a blank canvas, the finished leather can be designed with a wide range of characteristics, including being made extremely consistent, durable, and cleanable—characteristics designers and buyers often ask us for.

Full Grain (sometimes incorrectly called uncorrected grain leather):

  • Full grain leather is not buffed or is buffed only very slightly (mezze fiore) to leave the top layers intact, usually with the intent to purposely showcase all the unique and natural markings inherent in leather, like stretch marks, bug bites, scars, brands, and grain variability. Each hide truly is unique! People who know and love fine leather believe these markings are a significant sign of luxury because they understand the unique qualities of each hide and that making quality, natural, genuine leather is a highly labor-intensive and technical form of art. Designers who specify full grain pure aniline and aniline leathers are turning custom furniture into one-of-kind art pieces!
  • Full grain leather is generally made from higher grade crusts and can be more expensive, but not always! Cortina's Bellina is a stunning heavyweight, full grain, uncorrected, designer semi-aniline leather offered at a very reasonable price.
  • Tthe surface is sometimes buffed slightly to allow for better adhesion of protective finishes, dyes, and pigments to customize the look, feel, and cleanability, but this process doesn't actively try to remove the natural markings since these are what give the leather character and a touch of added durability.
  • Sometimes the leather is also lightly embossed with a grain pattern for consistency and to increase yield, but the natural markings remain along with the lightly embossed grain. This is where it gets confusing, because some people call full-grain leather "uncorrected" grain leather, yet the leather may actually be corrected on some level.
  • The cost of upholstering with uncorrected full-grain anilines and pure anilines can be more expensive. Just like patterned fabric, the variable grain, color, and natural markings should be artfully placed on the different elements of the furniture, which takes skill, thoughfulness, and time, and also can decrease yield if the upholsterer doesn't understand how to work with full grain leather. Here at Cortina, we go ga-ga when we see a banquette with beautiful full-grain leather that has huge stretchmarks showcased on the seatback! Click to see gorgeous stretchmarks artfully placed on seating at the Pierre Hotel in NYC as shown in the photo here.
  • Because full-grain leather keeps more of the outer, tougher fiber intact, it is often considered more durable, although not always—crust thickness, grade, and finishing process contribute to durability as well. This durability makes full grain leather desirable in high-traffic spaces in hotels, restaurants, and bars, and full grain leather is essential in highly repetitive-usage seating such as task chairs, casinos, airplanes, and cars.
  • Inder the right conditions, high-quality, full grain leather purchased from a responsible upholstery manufacturer such as Cortina Leathers can last for several generations which is a great investment for heirloom furniture meant to be passed down. So don’t be shy! Add full-grain leather to any design to increase the luxe and longevity of your designs. Click here to see Cortina's full grain Collina in all her glory.

3 photos shown here:;

1. Stacked - Cortina's Brandenburg, a full grain semi-aniline made on the highest-quality, cleanest German bull hides, offered in over 40 colors, and featuring consistent grain and color. Click here to explore Brandenburg.

2. Gorgeous stretchmarks artfully placed on seating at the Pierre Hotel in NYC.

3. Barry's Downtown Prime designed by Punch Architecture with several Cortina leathers.

Now you understand the difference between full and top grain leather!

Click to see visual representations of various hide sizes.

Can leather be cleaned? Yes! Click to read about care and cleaning of the various types of leather.

©Cortina Leathers 2024

What is pure aniline leather? What is aniline leather? What is semi-aniline leather? What is pigmented leather? What's the difference between full and top grain leather? What's the difference between top and full grain leather? What is full grain leather?