8 Easy Hacks To Identify Full-Grain Leather Without Mistakes

how to identify full grain leather

If you are in the market for leather goods, it is important to know what type of leather you are buying. Full-grain leather is one of many types of leather that exist and knowing how to identify this type will help you make an informed decision about your purchase. Below I have compiled a list of tips and tricks that will help you identify full-grain leather with ease!

So how do you identify full-grain leather? Here are 8 ways to identify full-grain leather.

  • Full Grain leather Will Have Imperfections On Them
  • Grain Patterns For Full-Grain Leather Will Differ From Leather To Leather
  • Full Grain Leather Will Be Rough And Tough-Feeling
  • Full Grain Leather Will Have A Unique Smell
  • Full-Grained Leather Will Usually Be Labelled So
  • Full-Grained Leather Will Have Very Clear Tiny Holes On Its Surface
  • Full-Grained Leather Is Pricey
  • Full-Grain Leather Will Have Premium Quality Accessories

To get the full details on how to identify full-grain leather, keep reading this article.

1. Full Grain leather Will Have Imperfections On Them

One of the easiest ways of identifying full-grain leather from other types of leather is by looking at the surface of the leather. Full-grain leather will have a less uniform look while other types of leather are more refined looking.

To properly identify full-grain, it is important to note that this type of leather has natural imperfections such as scarring, lines, or marks. This means items made from full grain will not be perfect.

This may oftentimes lead people into thinking they are fake when in reality they’re just made with real materials!

The imperfections or blemishes you will often see on the surface of any full-grain leather will be a result of the animal’s life.

While these imperfections and blemishes will appear on all full-grain leather, how severe the imperfections or blemishes are going to be will, however, depend on which part of the world the animal was sourced from.

Generally, animals sourced from first-world countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will have a more uniform finish.

Animals sourced from third-world countries like India or Indonesia may show severe signs of scars on the hide due to open sores the animal had while alive as well as burns from being in contact with smoldering fires at some point during their life.

This is to say that while the blemishes and imperfections on the surface of full-grain leather is a common indication of the leather actually being a full-grained leather, you should also know that within those blemishes are key differences between where the full-grain leather is actually sourced: the first world vs developing countries.

All in all, if you find an item labeled as being made from full-grain that has no imperfections and it looks too perfect, there is a good chance it isn’t real.

If you’re looking for a full-grain lookout for the imperfections and the blemishes over its surface.

As said before, some full-grained leather, depending on which part of the world they are sourced from, will come with varying degrees of blemishes. So be aware and know which to go for that suits your need.

“Full-Grain leather will have visible natural markings such as scars and wrinkles, so it can be easy to identify them by these small details.”

2. Grain Patterns For Full-Grain Leather Will Differ

Another common telling factor if a leather item is made of full-grain leather or not is the grain patterns. No one full-grain leather item will have the same grain patterns as others.

Most people often confuse the grain patterns with the blemishes the leather comes with. One simple way of differentiating between these two surface impressions is that the grain patterns are the natural markings on the surface of the leather while the blemishes as the name implies are the markings that occur throughout the lifespan of the animal.

So to be clear, the grain patterns are the natural markings on the skin of the animal. The grain pattern on full-grain will also differ slightly from one item to another just like the way our fingerprints are significantly different even among siblings.

The grain patterns you will find on full-grain leather are going to be more visible and pronounced than on the ones made of split-grain leather and other types of leather.

So if you’re looking for a full-grain look, be mindful that there will always be variations in how it looks from one to another.

So if you’re shopping for leather items and you would want the leather item you pick out to be full-grained leather, take a closer look at the grain patterns on the surface of the leather.

If all of the leather items being sold have the same grain patterns then what you might be looking at or holding in your hand is not full-grained leather.

3. Full Grain Leather Will Be Rough And Tough-Feeling

One way that you can identify full-grain leather is by touching it. If the piece of leather feels rough and tough, then chances are good that it really is made from true full-grain leather.

This type of leather has a natural surface texture, which makes for a very different feeling than other textured materials such as canvas or suede.

This is because unlike top grain leather and genuine leather, full-grained leather has not been split thus the surface of the leather is not buffed and instead retains a very rough, uneven texture. The benefit of this sort of texture is that it is highly durable.

The downside to true full-grain leather is that it often has some inconsistencies in color and texture which can lead to issues of consistency when being cut into pieces for crafting or sewing projects.

However, this is usually not an issue as most people who are into full-grain leather goods often appreciate the natural look of their project or items rather than the imperfection of the leather.

4. Full Grain Leather Will Have A Unique Smell

Full-grain leather also has a specific smell, which can be used as another identifier for true full-grain leather. Many people describe this scent as being earthy with an oily quality that may make you think of new shoes or wet dogs.

But in reality, there are no certain smells associated with full-grain leather. This is because what might remind one person of black licorice could make someone else think about their grandfather’s old chair!

But if the item smells like any other type of material, such as plastic or polyurethane-based faux suede or vinyl upholstery then odds are good that it isn’t made from 100% real full-grained leather.

“When the hide gets tanned all parts of the grain remain intact so there’s no breaking up into layers like in split skinned hides where some pieces were left unskinned on purpose and others weren’t at all.”

5. Full-Grained Leather Will Usually Be Labelled So

Full-grain leather is often labeled so you can identify it easily. A lot of manufacturers why use full-grained leather for their goods always pride themselves on it.

You’ll often see “100% genuine leather” or “genuine full-grain cowhide.” Some brands will even state that their goods are made with a specific percentage of the grain, such as 60%.

But if an item is labeled as 100% real leather without any qualifying statement about it being only partially genuine then odds are good that it isn’t made from 100% full-grained.

This is not to say you can fully trust the manufacturer’s label as truth. There is an initiative to stamp all leather goods with a logo that says “Genuine Leather” so there are other labels you can look for as well.

You’ll also want to make sure the item’s label isn’t from another part of the world, such as China or India where they don’t presently have laws about what constitutes 100% full-grain cowhide at this time.

If it’s not labeled then there should be some good clues in this article to help you identify if it really is made from real leather and more importantly, it will tell you how much of the grain has been used in its production process.

6. Full-Grained Leather Will Have Very Clear Tiny Holes On Its Surface

When looking for full-grain leather, you’ll want to inspect the surface of an item closely. You’ll be able to see very clear tiny holes on its surface, giving away any impurities in the leather used during production.

These very tiny but visible holes are a result of hair follicles that have been removed during the tanning process of the leather. If there are no holes on the surface of a leather item, it is most likely not made from full-grain leather.

This is why most full-grained leather will be more porous and softer than any other type of leather. These tiny holes also allow for the surface to breathe, which is important in preventing mold or mildew growth.

7. Full-Grained Leather Is Pricey

Another way to determine if a piece of leather material is full-grain leather is by simply looking at the price. If the price is too good to be true, then it probably isn’t full-grain leather. Full-grain leather will cost more than other types of material because there are very few raw materials that can compare in quality or durability.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $800 for a quality pair of full-grain leather shoes, depending on the type of leather and the brand of shoe. This is not to say the heavy price tags should be so as some brands are simply overdoing themselves when it comes to the pricing for full-grain leather goods.

But generally, I will say given how full-grain leather is sourced and treated, you can expect to pay a premium price for a top-quality product.

8. Full-Grain Leather Will Have Premium Quality Accessories

Another way to determine if a leather item is made of full-grain leather is to take a look at the non-leather parts such as the quality of the fitting and fasteners used.

This will generally include the quality of zippers, grommets, eyelets, press studs, etc.

Since full-grain leather is of good quality, no manufacturer will accessorize it with inferior fittings and fasteners that may not last as long as the leather item itself would.

You can tell if an item is made out of good-quality full-grain leather by also looking for other subtle details in the design of the product itself such as careful stitching patterns against high-quality hardware materials.

These aren’t always deal-breakers when considering whether you should buy a certain accessory, however, they are important factors to consider because these items do tend to last much longer than other lower quality products without showing any signs of wear.

Buying items with less expensive materials may seem like savings now, but this purchase would most likely need replacing sooner than later which means spending more in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Don’t Fall Victim To Imitation!

As already explained in this article, full-grain leathers have a distinctive look and feel unlike any other type of animal hide. They also come with natural oils which give them an incredible sleekness and soft touch.

It’s important not to fall victim to imitation products made from cheaper substances like bonded leather (fake) or vinyl (plastic).

These imitations may offer temporary satisfaction but they’re generally so poorly constructed that they’ll need replacing soon anyway!

A sure way to tell if you’re dealing with full-grain leather is to examine the surface. It will naturally be uneven, worn, and have markings from the animal’s life that show its history.

Also, it is important to add that this by no means means that other types of leather such as top-grain leather are not good. They have their own qualities and they’re still high-quality products.


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

Recent Posts