The Art of Patina

Note Benedict: we already presented Jacques & Demeter through an interview , just a few years. The brand has evolved a lot since then, both in terms of broadening range that style.

The purpose of Valentine and Maxime (brand designers) has remained the same: to benefit from French expertise known in the manufacture of the shoe.

We will return soon on Jacques & Demeter through a test article.

Maxime, big fan of the patina, wanted to send us its expertise through this article. He explains everything!

You have often read here: the advantage of investing in quality clothes is that they will live and better with time. Called the patina is the change of hues and colors that your jeans, shoes, etc.are older.

But in recent years, for the shoes (and by extension leather goods) some people are having fun practicing an artificial patina.

The phenomenon has become so widespread that it has become an art in itself with its followers, its experts and of course his critics.

That is, with a special technique and that requires a lot of practice to play on contrasts and dyes ; to give a unique look to your shoes.

Note: the article is focused on the patina of shoes, but you can do the same on your belts, bags and other leather items!

The artificial patina that comes from where?

It attributes the invention of the artificial patina Olga Squeri (more known as Olga Berluti). While in the 80 men’s shoes are black, brown or burgundy for the most original, she had the idea to develop the art of patina to offer unique shoes, which look like the man who wears the.

According to legend, in “noting the influence of the moon on the depigmentation of leather’, she had the idea to develop (in close collaboration with a tannery) gross leather tanning mixed, mineral and vegetable: the Venezia leather; which is exclusive to Berluti. This leather is known for its ability to absorb dyes beautifully and so give color transparency characteristic shoes of this House.

Although most adept of the natural patina, this subject has always interested me and I even amused to try the experiment of artificial patina. It allows to give a second life to a pair of shoes at the end of life or simply customize a pair you are tired . Some have mastered the art of skating, can work wonders on an old pair of shoes.

I will now explain how to achieve a patina, AZ, describing with the greatest possible precision all the steps and the products used.

Before that, here are a few precautions:

  • The art of patina is not easy to achieve . So I advise you not to get you started for your first time on a pair of shoes that you like. Train on a pair that has already had its day and that does not make you cry when it is good to throw away, as your first patina unlikely to be a work of art.
  • Small amounts: it is much easier to add than to retire; so go easy on the doses.
  • A shoe with leather is naturally clear will be easier to skate. I’ll explain that later you can skate black leather but it’s much more complicated.
  • Arm yourself with patience! A patina is a long time. For example it may take several hours to simply stripping the leather well. Let your shoes dry between each step. Do not expect to achieve complete patina in 30 minutes, it is simply impossible!
  • Obviously if your shoes are leather “bookbindé” (poor quality leather often covered with plastic) or faux leather, it is useless to try to spin them. It takes a leather with a nonexistent protective layer (leather) or as thin as possible (pure aniline leather).
  • Before making the entire shoe, do a small test on a not too visible (interior camber for example) to see how the leather reacts. Each patina is unique as each reacts differently leather; so check before you start. Caution is the mother of safety as they say.

How to achieve a patina on a pair of shoes?

Basic precautions were detailed and you’re willing to sacrifice on the altar of artistic experience one of your pairs of shoes.

So now entering the thick of it!

The possible variations are limited by your imagination, I’ll try to give you as many tracks as possible, but of course you can find others. What I’m describing here is a thread; but I invite you to depart to allow to express your artistic soul!

Moreover, the patina, such as maintenance of leather shoes, has almost as many chapels as practitioners.

The necessary equipment for a patina

To achieve a patina you will need to:

  • A pair of shoe trees,
  • A cloth,
  • A remover (acetone remover or Sapphire)
  • Alcohol 90 ° (who plays the role of gum on error)
  • Various dyes (I recommend the French flag in the dyes Avel)
  • Creams and pastes polishing (classical Saphir and / or gold)
  • Tools for the realization of the design: fine brush, wide, with hard and soft hair, cloth, sponge, spray, cotton wick, etc. It all depends on what you want to do.

How skate shoe leather?

First of all, you have protected your course work plan, put a beautiful apron and gloves.Remember that you use products that are permanent and you would normally use them only on your shoes: do not ignore these protections.

In addition some products can be very harmful, especially bleach: safety glasses will not be too much, like a well-ventilated room.

You can protect your soles, inside the guarantors and the bottom of the shoe with painter’s tape. I personally do not do it. This forces you to concentrate and keep the precision in your movements.

Also think about what you want to do upstream. Brand dyes Sapphire (most commonly used) are not available in such a wide color variation than creams. You can choose from nine colors, three primary colors and a lightening base. It must then play color magician to get what you want.

Besides, when I said earlier that “the only limit is your imagination” I lied. Common sense in other sets. For example, do not expect to turn your black shoes light brown.

Stripping her shoes

Even if your shoes are made with natural leather, this step is mandatory, long and tedious! This will allow to remove all the old wax layers, creams and leather finishing primer that would prevent the dye to penetrate well.

Before applying paint stripper, have a brush to remove coarse dust, then a damp cloth to get a clean surface.

This step is probably the simplest but also the most risky. Indeed, products used may have disastrous consequences on the leather of your shoes. Take the time and go in layers to see how the leather reacts, leaving it dry 15-20 minutes between each application.

First, I recommend using cleaner Sapphire or, failing that, acetone and … elbow grease! Pickling is physical and, with a cloth, he’ll have to rub vigorously.

In the case of black leather shoes, these products will not be sufficient enough to discolor the leather, so you will not be able to re-dyeing them. So we have to use, as a last resort in exceptional cases, of bleach (you can also go to the bleach very dark shades that do not you think was pretty pickled).

Hydrogen peroxide is a good alternative to bleach at first: less effective but less dangerous

Note that bleach is not good for leather, it burns. So we have to act cautiously :

  • Prepare yourself psychologically to put bleach on your shoes,
  • Décapez your shoes before  ! Use of bleach does not relieve you of (good) before pickling. The bleach is the last resort! Even on black, stripping will attack the color.Especially, if the shoe is not completely stripped, the bleach will not (or little) effect,
  • Apply the bleach with a small paint brush to put small amounts on the leather. You can repeat as many times as necessary rather than putting too suddenly and burn the flower leather. You should also know that rubbing with a cloth is useless, and that the use of a brush also allows you to better target the areas where you want to accentuate fading,
  • For the first pass, use diluted bleach: 50% water and 50% bleach,
  • If you believe that the discoloration is not enough for what you want to do, use the bleach less diluted. Warning: this means that it is becoming more aggressive with leather,
  • Leave bleach between each pass. The effect may not be immediate (from minutes to hours depending on the leather), so watch your shoes like milk on the fire,
  • RINSE again and again by rubbing them gently . If you do not do enough, bleach continues to act and will cause irreparable damage to the leather,
  • Finally, let it dry a good night minimum .

This is the only solution to bleach stained black leather in the mass. However, it is not without consequence: bleach leather abyss; which will affect the life of your pair of shoes. This is why it is important to define upstream the desired result, because it will probably not need to completely discolor the leather.

For uniform discoloration on a pair of black leather, there’s a good chance that you have to make several bleach baths, with particular emphasis on certain areas. Remember to rinse each time.

Dry your shoes on shoe trees so that they retain a good shape.

Apply base color

We are talking about the color that will serve as a clear reference to your patina . It must be uniformly applied by brush, spray, sponge, etc. Everything depends on the desired result. One example brush will leave “streaks visible” when a gun will give a more uniform appearance.

The base color should not be too dark to not limit the nuances that you can bring it then. Let dry 15-20 minutes minimum.

Once again, go easy on the amount of product: If after the first coat you think that the base color is too light, you can always apply a second coat. You can also apply a second layer of a slightly different hue to bring more depth to the patina.

The first layer will be absorbed by heterogeneously leather, which can give a contrasting effect. If, however, you want something more homogeneous, then it will go several layers.

Realization of drawing of the patina

We are now entering the heart of the matter, I will not be able to describe a specific process, given that here the purpose is to give free rein to your desires. The possibilities are endless and the only limit is your imagination … and good taste!

All you need to know is that you superimpose layers of dye from the lightest to the darkest .This is called tones: a patina 2 tone, 3 tone … even 7 tons for the most skilled (not necessarily the best)! However, I will give some examples / ideas:

  • You apply several layers of different hues and dim in some places for more reliefs and contrasts,
  • You can also make a beautiful marbled effect on the tip or the whole of the shoe to provide an air museum calf (indeed you can see above) in leather, using a sponge / buffer to be stripped partially darker dye layer to bring back the base color by bit,
  • Achieving degraded, it is more difficult to master. For example, for the hard end, a technical drawing is to wipe with an absorbent cloth, from the tip to the rest of the upper. For this you can use a brush.

You’ll understand you have to play with colors and different tools to create the effects you want. This step is akin almost to paint on leather.

Hint: if you want to still wear the shoes after they skated, do not try to do too much on the same pair. The patina must remain discreet otherwise it will snap up the look of your contacts.

Working shades, revelation and finishing

Given what you just make him suffer, leather should be maintained. Once your hair dye, we have to nourish and moisturize. In addition, you’ll quickly realize that the dye alone lack of flamboyance, brilliance and depth.

To nourish and moisturize the leather, start by applying the Universal Cream. Then, to continue to feed the leather while revealing and sublimating the work that you come to realize there is a product perfectly suited: cream (super or gold in Sapphire).

Personally, I do not recommend the use of a colorless cream, which will eat the color and will tend to mitigate the dye job.

Prefer a cream to a shade slightly lighter than the applied dye.

You can use another cream to a darker shade to enhance the appearance of the hard tip and the guarantors.

After drying cream (15-20 minutes minimum) remember to polish the leather. Depending on the result, you can decide to apply a second layer of cream.

To complete your masterpiece, I advise you to apply the polish that will still bring some more depth to your patina. Apply the same reasoning as for the cream: a brighter shine for all of the shoe, and a darker value for the hard tip and the guarantors.

The application of wax can then be accompanied-and this is even recommended-icing tip; to give it more shine and especially bring out the depth of the patina.

Maintenance of the patina in time

Your shoes converse as usual. Prefer creams and color polishes, which will allow to live the patina that you have just made. I recommend the use of colorless products because they tend (long-term) to “eat” the color and especially to become embedded in the microcracks of pleats, which are so white.

I’m far from an expert of the patina but not need that to know the procedure. Next, as for the rest, it is no secret: you have to train, to try to improve his technique and skill.

Keep in mind that artificial patina will never be exactly as you imagined . It is a matter of experimentation and corrections to arrive at a result that pleases you.

You must have a pair of shoes lying around in a closet right? Then start blogging! In the worst case you will have earned a place in your closet for a new pair.

That’s great but I have two left hands. How can I do?

I understand you perfectly. This is also precisely why I did not use pictures of my “masterpiece” to illustrate this article.

You want to take a chance on one of your pairs but you do not want to risk ruining them? No problem: there are several craftsmen to whom you can entrust your pair of shoes. Best to learn because, as artists, each in its style, its specificities and specialties .

See for yourself that which the universe is the closest to what you want to do. Expect generally 60 to 120 €, and delays of varying length according to the artisan.

Here are some places that I recommend. The list provides only addresses in Paris because I have not had time to do a Tour de France of the patina. Moreover, it is far from exhaustive, but I’d advise you address that I know or are lot about me:

  • Seventh Width ( and TumblR ): 59 rue Saint Lazare – 75009 Paris
  • JM Legazel: Palais des Congrès de Paris, 2 Place de la Porte Maillot-75017 Paris
  • Red Heel: 10 rue du Laos-75015 Paris
  • Workshop Paulus Bolten: 28 rue Le Sueur-75016 Paris
  • Laurent di Mascio: 20 rue St Ferdinand-75017 Paris
  • Emilie Patina: Avenue des Champs Elysees-75008 Paris

It’s your turn!


Feel free to have a look at the website of Jacques & Demeter  or on  their blog , you learn a lot about the construction of the particular shoe.

And thank you to Maxime for his beautiful article.