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The Leather Buying Guide: What Type of Leather Do I Need?


Not all leathers are created equal! Once you know how to distinguish between the types available, you’ll be able to quickly decide which materials are worth your while so you can make the most informed choices for yourself, your company, or a client. This short guide will give you an overview of the most common forms of leather available and what to expect from each of them.


Types of Leather Grain

Natural leather is generally divided into four categories based on texture:

  1. full grain,
  2. top grain,
  3. corrected grain
  4. split leathers

#1: Full Grain

When an animal hide is processed, it can be cut to separate the surface layers from other layers. Full grain leather is the only type of leather on this list that leaves the hide intact with no surface alterations or splitting. This means not only will the leather will be stronger, but it will also showcase the hide’s natural texture and pattern.

It’s worth noting full grain leather will develop a patina over time as the material absorbs body oils and adapts to its surroundings. This gives it a high appeal among homeowners installing tiles or upholstery and is a normal sign of its natural origins.

#2: Top Grain

The top grain refers to the outer layer of skin which is separated from the other layers, or, the split hides. Since the top grain is not strong or dense enough to comprise a finished product on its own, its surface is sanded, an artificial grain texture is pressed into the hide, and the surface is pigmented or stained.

Top grain leather is used to produce suede and nubuck. It is generally softer and more flexible than full grain leather, however, it will permanently stretch out over time.

#3: Corrected Grain

Corrected grain leather is made from the upper layer of the hide. As with top grain leather, corrected grain is sanded to remove imperfections to its surface and then embossed with an artificial grain texture. This added finish diminishes the leather’s inherent breathability and rich patterned texture and color.

#4: Split

Split leather is created from the fibrous part of the hide leftover once the upper portion of the rawhide has been separated. Like top grain and corrected leather, split leather can be sanded down and embossed, and though more cost-effective is not considered durable enough for upholstery.


So Which Type is Best?

Among real leathers, full grain leather is by far the best in terms of quality. Unlike the other grains, full grain has not been separated from the top grain or split layers, and is therefore the strongest and most dependable type of leather. At the same time, full grain is also free of heavy applications of finish, which makes it more breathable. Leather’s breathability allows it to maintain proper pH balance through changing temperatures as well as adjust to your body temperature.

In addition to being the most long lasting and resilient leather, full grain is also the most luxurious. When a leather hide’s natural texture and rich depth of colors are respected, no two products are identical. Plus, full grain leather has a higher yield per hide, producing the least amount of waste of any animal-derived leather. When it comes to comfort, natural beauty, and long-term sustainability, full grain leather is the obvious choice.

Blackstock’s leather tiles are made from full grain leather and are superior in both durability and flexibility to other types of leather. The Silk Road floor tiles use the traditional vegetable tanning process and feature fire retardancy and acoustic qualities. The Tapestry line for wall installations uses a natural full grain upholstery leather, which is water-based dyed and free of chrome and minerals.


Still Not Sure? Consider Faux Leather.

Faux leather has the advantage of looking and feeling like natural leather, while being much more affordable. Many people prefer this 100% man-made material because no animals are harmed in its production. Others will find its fade-resistance, consistent texture and color, and antimicrobial properties best suit their purposes.

Contact us at Blackstock Leather Inc. to explore the various leather options available to you.


Steve Manchee
Steve is the Founder, President and Owner of Blackstock Leather Inc. Blackstock is well known for their high quality leather solutions for architectural and interior designs. Blackstock specializes in leather FLOOR and WALL tiles, and have solid partnerships with high quality tanneries. Steve has 50+ years experience working with leather & delights in sharing his knowledge freely with Interior Designers and Architects, making their life easier and less complicated when it comes to leather designs and architectural concepts. Steve is also the inventor and creator of the "Magnetic Leather Floor" and "Magnetic Wall Tiles".