Marking up leather is one of the first things you’re going to master in leather work and knowing which tools help to make markings easy is almost half the job done.
So in this article, I researched a variety of tools you can use to mark leather. I present a wide array of leather marking tools so you will be able to find one that you’re going to enjoy working with, enjoy getting used to, and works great for your kind of craft.
So, what are the best tools you can use to mark leather? The best tools you can use to mark leather include:
- Marking pens
- Silver Marking Pen
- Chalk Pencils
- Chalk Wheels
- Edge Creaser
- Stitching Groover
- Over stitching Tool
- Scratch Awl
Marking out your leather before cutting, stitching, or decorating is one simple activity that contributes greatly to the overall finishing and quality of leather work you will be making.
Keep reading to find all the details on getting the best tools you can use to mark your leather, what kinds of markings they are great for, and the types of leather to use them on.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Leather Marking Tools
The main factors to consider when choosing leather marking tools are the type of leather you use or most likely to use if you’re just starting out in leather work and the kind of markings you would like to make on the leather.
Type Of Leather
Figuring out the type of leather you’re going to be marking is going to help you determine which marking tool is going to work best. When it really comes down to it, there are 2 general types of leather — from the perspective of the surface quality. These are Unfinished Leather and Finished Leather.
The term finished leather is used to describe leather that has a specially finished layer. These types of leather are coated with a layer that is purposely placed to protect the leather from wear and tear.
The finish applied on leather makes it waterproof and because of this, they often have a shiny surface on them. With this surface treatment, it’s a no brainer you need a peculiar leather marking tools that will be easy to use on and will be visible enough.
Due to the glossy surface finished leather has, the markings you make on them are very easy to rub off.
The unfinished leather on the other hand is what we call naked leather or natural leather. Unlike the finished leather, the unfinished leather has no treatment on its surface. It’s raw and retains all the rich natural colors and soft textures that the leather comes with.
Due to the absence of a protective coating on its surface, unfinished leather tends to be more absorbent making and so if the wrong kind of marking tool is used it’s going seep deep into the leather and may be extremely difficult to remove. An example is an unfinished vegetable tanned leather.
Kind of Markings You Will Make
When it comes to leather work, there are different kinds of markings you will be making. Some the markings you’re going to be making on your leather includes:
- Edge Markings for stitches, creases, thonging, etc.
- Design and Pattern Transfers
- Mark out Decoration Points etc.
While all of the leather marking tools highlighted in this article will do a great job of helping you to draw, transfer patterns, mark out areas to be decorated on the leather, etc, you will need special tools to help you make accurate markings on areas like the edges of leather for various purposes. For example stitch markings.
All in all, you will be able to find a tool that’s going to be suitable for your markings no matter the type of leather you work with, however, the results and effects will differ slightly.
“While some leather marking tools are going to glide on the leather surface smoothly and render a perfect mark, others will be affected by the natural textured grains of leather!”
Now let’s take a look at the various tools you can use to make markings on your leather. I will put some of these tools into categories such as pens, chalks, margin markers, and all others will be titled miscellaneous leather marking tools.
Marking pens are awesome for tracing and drawing from the most basic to the more intricate designs on leather and are easy to erase using a damp cloth. Marking pens are great but not entirely good for tooled leather.
This is because, when marking pens are used on tooled leather, they don’t stand out or come out quite clearly. But if you must use marker pens on tooled leather just make sure the areas marked are parts of outlines you will be cutting through.
Although not that great on tooled leather, marker pens are awesome when it comes to finished leathers (which is very common) and are very easy to clean. Marking pens like this one on Amazon is what most professional leather work marking pen used to plan, transfer, and make their leather works have the best finishes we all love.
When marker pens are used on unfinished leather, something interesting happens. The marker pen will mark your leather visibly and will also clean very easily.
But, here’s the interesting part, whenever the leather gets wet, the markings you made earlier will reappear like using ultraviolet light at a crime scene. But no worries! It will subsequently dry clear.
Silver Marking Pens
Silver marking pens are special pens designed for leather. Silver marking pens look like your standard ballpoint pens and are very easy to use. The silver pen often comes with its own eraser and its own refills.
You can use the silver marking pens to make really nice smooth lines and drawings without it dragging or the grains of the leather affecting how it glides on the leather surface.
The great thing about the silver marking pen is that they leave a very visible impression on either dark or light-colored leather and they do not smudge on unfinished.
So you will be able to comfortably rest your hand on your drawings or lines you have made while working on other parts of the same design without thinking of rubbing off the other parts you have already drawn or marked.
And if you need to rub off your markings, the eraser the silver marking pen comes with will do a decent cleaning job especially from finished leather.
The only caveat is that you might want to be careful when making your markings on unfinished leather (such as vegetable tanned leather) especially if you mark out on areas you intend to clean off.
The rubbing action of the silver marker pen eraser uses some kind of moisture. As you may or may not know, if a small section of unfinished leather like the vegetable tanned leather becomes wet, it’s going to leave an indelible watermark.
Chalks are probably one of the most popular marking tools for a lot of crafts work. Its popularity is justifiable as it’s indeed a practical and efficient tool for marking leather too. They come in various forms and are tailored for use on all kinds of leather due to how chalks stand out when used to mark and how easy it rubs off.
One kind of chalk I find pretty awesome for leather are the chalk pencils. They are particularly great for doing markings on really small areas but are also applicable for all kinds of leather markings. The only thing is for you to get the best markings on your leather, your chalk pencils must be very sharp. Also, the chalk pencil you get will have to be wax-free for the best results.
Chalk wheels are pretty fascinating with how they are designed. The chalk wheel has a toothed tracing wheel that will help you make fine chalk lines while reducing fatigue on your hands. The chalk wheels are pretty awesome leather marking tools, however, they are not too great for marking out intricate designs.
There a couple of leather work tools that are dedicated to making markings on the edges of leather. These are what I will call margin markers. These tools help to make guidelines for hand and machine stitches or help to give the edge of the leather a nice finished look.
An edge creaser is one of the tools you can use to mark the edges of your leather belts, bags, wallets, etc. Leather edge creasers can be used to make fine and thick lines on your leather goods. You can check out a guide I wrote earlier which I dedicated to leather edge creaser. I went into details on what the are, and some types of edge creasers. You really want to check it out.
A stitching groover is also a great margin marker for leather work. I like stitching groovers because they are comfortable to use. Whether left-handed or right-handed, you will be able to easily use a stitching groover. The main characteristic of the kind of marks a stitch groover will make is it creates channel markings on the edges of the leather in which the stitching you’re going to be placing on the edge of the leather is going to sit in.
Over stitching Tool
The over stitching tool has a handle and a small toothed revolving head that you can use to mark the edges of your leather for stitching or decoration purposes. You can use an over stitching tool to evenly make markings of where your stitching holes will go. Depending on the brand whose over stitching tool you get, they may come with different size revolving heads for different size stitches.
Miscellaneous Leather Marking Tools
The scratch awl usually has a wooden handle and a blunt pointed edge. The scratch awl is a pretty simple leather work tool that’s great for marking leather. It’s one of the tools you will have consistently with you because of how versatile it is.
It has a lot of uses and one of its chiefs uses is making markings on the surface of the grain surface of leather when making patterns or marking out leather for cutting. You can use it with a ruler or as a free-hand tool.
The downside to using a scratch awl is visibility as you won’t be able to in all instances clearly see the markings you make on your leather. But all in all its a great leather marking tool that will be exceptionally useful for your leathercraft.
When I first started leather work, the regular soft granite pencils were my go-to marking tool. I used pencils for a really long time before discovering other types of leather marking tool that became an absolute game changers for my leather work.
There are a lot of pencils out there that will do a fairly good job on for your leather markings but the pencils I find pretty useful for marking leather are the chalk pencils and the fabric pencils.
I must admit there are so many out there but these two are the ones I have personally tried and found to be pretty cool and does a great job of marking leather. Whether finished or unfinished leather, you will be able to make clearly visible markings for cutting, design work, quilting, etc and you will be able to easily wipe it off once its purpose is served.
A stylus is a hand-held tool you can comfortably use to mark out designs, drawings, trimming lines, transfer patterns, and so much more. A stylus is simply a blunt tool so if you want clear visible lines you can follow along for cutting, sewing, or stitching, it’s important you use the stylus with a chalk paper.
It’s indeed a great leather marking tool that’s very comfortable to use. Depending on the brand you get, styluses may come with two ends, a really pointy end on one side and another end with a ballpoint tip.
In leather work, you will often find stylus included in leather modeling tools kit. You will be able to make nice smooth lines and patterns without causing any fatigue to your hands.