How to Paint Shoes? (Step by Step Guide)

Do you want to revitalize your old shoes? Are you looking for ways to change their appearance and make them unique?

Depending on the type of footwear, many paint options are available, such as acrylic paint, leather paint, spray paint, or paint markers.

While buying new shoes for painting, I choose white color ones. Some inexpensive options are also available in the market, which can be used for this purpose.

For best results, I hope you will read the instructions I gave in this article carefully and follow them accordingly. In this guide, I will tell you how to paint shoes by explaining each step in detail.

how to paint shoes

How to Paint Shoes?

  1. Examine the material of the shoes and choose paint accordingly.
  2. Create a design using paper and pencil and clean the footwear.
  3. Prepare their surface by sanding them.
  4. Apply tape on the areas you don’t want to paint and draw the design on the shoes with a pencil.
  5. Cover the workspace with newspapers.
  6. First, practice on old shoes.
  7. Now, start applying the paint on the footwear you want to paint.
  8. Once they are dried, remove the masking tape.
  9. To protect the paint from cracking, apply acrylic sealer spray.

Things You Will Need

  • Warm water
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soap
  • Shoes
  • Painting brushes
  • Acrylic paints
  • Spray paint
  • Sponges
  • Newspapers
  • Painter’s tape
  • Fabric paint
  • Paint markers
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Glitters
  • Acetone
  • Acrylic sealer spray
  • Mod podge (It is an all-in-one, glue, sealer, and finish.)

Steps Required to Paint Shoes

When I paint my shoes, I first plan out the design on paper to decide which color I’ll use, then clean the footwear with rubbing alcohol. After drying them, I wipe them again.

All shoe types are not painted the same way; however, remember that you have to paint them evenly and give them time to dry.

To get a polished look, I give another coat if required. In the end, you will see you have created wonderful art for your feet.

Before starting the process, keep some important points in your mind.

  • Choose leather or spray paint if your footwear is made of leather or vinyl. In the case of cloth shoes, opt for fabric shoes.
  • Cover the area where you will start the painting project with newspapers so that the paint doesn’t stick to anything. Cover the parts of the shoes that you don’t want to paint using tape.
  • Any of these tools can be used for this project, a painting brush or a sponge. You can also use spray paint directly on the footwear.
  • After completing the process, use acrylic sealant to create a protective layer on the paint.
  • Before starting the project, take out the laces of the shoes.

Step 1. Choose Paint According to The Shoes Stuff

This is the most important step because you will choose the right paint according to the material of the footwear. Picking the wrong paint will ruin all your efforts.

Painting Leather or Vinyl Shoes

Leather paints are designed in a way that they can stick to leather accessories and shoes. You can use a brush and get a smooth and long-lasting finish.

Spray paint also works on this stuff, easily available in any hardware store. While purchasing spray paint, consider one with the smallest possible nozzle so that over-spraying does not happen.

Unlike other paintings, spray painting is easy because it doesn’t require doing the job in detail. Also, it is useful when you want to give only one color to the entire shoe.

Painting Cloth Shoes

For cloth shoes, fabric paint is specifically used, which is a type of acrylic paint. A brush is used to apply it, giving a durable result.

It is available in various shades, and glitter options are available too. Furthermore, once fabric paint is dried, it doesn’t crack, which is another plus point.

To paint leather or vinyl shoes, fabric paint can also be used. But, before painting, the surface of this footwear needs sanding; otherwise, the paint will not stick to it.

Making Detailed Designs

If you like making detailed shoe designs, paint markers are a good option. You can find them in any arts and crafts store.

These markers come in various sizes of their tips; you can choose ultra-skinny or super thick, whichever you want. I recommend buying different markers of the same shade to check which ones look good.

The consistency of some markers is thick, so you must check the paint first.

Step 2. Creating the Design

If you want to paint your shoes in a single color, you only have to choose the shade you like. However, if you want to make a unique design on your footwear, first of all, you will take paper and pencil to sketch out your painting ideas and select the perfect one.

Many computer programs are also available to make 3-D designs for your shoes. So, you can also take help from Photoshop or any other application.

Making a Tie-Dye Design

Most people like the tie-dye canvas shoe design, which can be made using rubbing alcohol and permanent markers.

Draw the design using the markers and dab at the colors using the rubbing alcohol with the help of a cotton swab; this way, a softer appearance will be created.

After making the design, look at it from different angles and check how it will look. If you are learning to paint, please don’t make any design that includes multiple colors or shows tricky images.

Instead, choose designs that show large blocks, curved patterns, or geometrical images.

Step 3. Cleaning the Surface of the Shoes

The shoes you will paint must be perfectly cleaned and prepared. Rubbing alcohol or soapy water is used to clean old shoes. If the footwear material can’t withstand water, use a cloth dipped in the solution and wipe the shoe’s surface.

If you have bought new shoes for the painting project, you must use acetone to clean them.

Its reason is that there is a film on new footwear that must be removed before you start the process; otherwise, the paint layer will not stick to the shoes. I use acetone nail polish remover for this purpose.

Step 4. Preparing the Surface of the Shoes for Painting

You must prepare the surface of the shoes to start the painting job for the best result. Once this step is done, the paint will stick well to the shoe’s surface. Preparation is different for different surfaces.

Preparing Leather or Vinyl Shoes

Most people do not spend much time preparing leather or vinyl surfaces because it is tedious. Purchase a suitable product to prepare this surface properly to get better results.

This is a simple process, first, sand the surface thoroughly, then use the products to prepare them further.

For synthetic surfaces like vinyl, use a good quality primer which works best in creating an excellent bond between the surface and paint. Keep repeating the process until all the shoes’ sides are coated.

Preparing Canvas Shoes

The preparation of canvas shoes is not difficult. Use a sponge or cotton to clean the surface. Make sure it is completely clean. In case the shoes are too dirty, you can wash them.

Apply any good-quality primer to prepare it for the painting. Once this layer is completely dried, you can apply any color paint.

Before you start the project, protect the shoes’ soles with tape, so that paint drippings don’t come on them.

I have seen so many shoes with drippings of paint on its sole, which look so ugly. Therefore, I am suggesting covering it.

Preparing the Sole of the Shoes

The soles of the shoes are made from rubber or composite material, which can hold paint for a while but not permanently. After using the shoes a few times, the paint will peel off the soles. So it is better not to apply paint on this area and cover it using tape.

Step 5. Mask off the Unwanted Areas

If you don’t want to give paint to the entire shoe and want to cover some parts, apply tape on that areas to protect them.

Masking liquid can also be applied on small areas where we cannot put tape.

Step 6. Use a Pencil to Outline the Design on Shoe Surface

It’s a good idea to make the design on the shoe surface with a pencil before starting the paint because if any mistake occurs, it can be handled easily. Moreover, the pencil marks are so light that they are not visible even in the lightest shade of paint.

Most people highlight the outline with paint markers or fine brush also. But it would be best if you keep this in mind that before highlighting the design with color, the designs on both shoes must be similar.

Examine the toes, sides, and heels carefully to check that they are identical on both footwear.

Step 7. Use Newspapers to Cover the Workspace

This is an important step before starting the painting project because the area where you will be doing this must be protected from paint stains.

Grab a flat and fixed table and put newspapers on it. Make sure it is covered completely. You can also use craft papers instead of newspapers.

This way, the paint drips or spills will not fall on the workspace, and you will complete your job without spoiling everything. Brown paper grocery bags are also useful for this task; open them by cutting them with scissors.

Cover the area with them where you are working. Be careful when painting white or light-shade fabric shoes on newspapers because the black streaks may stick to your footwear.

Step 8. Practice on Old Shoes

This step is unnecessary, but if this is your first time painting on shoes, then you should get experience by painting on any old, cheap pair of shoes.

This way, you will get a chance to see that the paint will give you the exact texture that you want to achieve. For this purpose, you can also purchase old, used shoes, which are available at cheap prices.

Step 9. Applying the Paint

Using a brush, sponge, or spray, you can apply paint on your shoes. Every method gives a unique appearance to the footwear.

Painting with a Brush

When using leather or fabric paint, submerge the brush into the paint, and apply it with short strokes. Once the paint is finished in the brush, refill it and keep working until the area is complete and the original surface is not visible.

For the edges of the footwear, 6 & 8-number brushes are fine because they are flat. If you are working with detail while painting, 0 and 1 number brushes work well. Similarly, the flat sides of the shoes can be painted quickly with 1 & 2-number brushes.

It is a good idea to purchase various sizes of brushes to paint different areas of the shoes neatly and quickly.

Painting with a Sponge

Dipping a sponge in the leather or fabric paint is good to get a partially covered look. You can use any sponge used for bathing or scrubbing. Grab a small bowl and pour paint into it.

Submerge one side of the sponge into the paint and remove the excess paint by dabbing it on a piece of paper. Now, hold this sponge and dab it on the shoe surface by pressing it quickly until the area is painted.

This technique works well if you want to apply paint by layers of colors or if you want to make the original surface of the shoe visible.

Spray Paint

To paint the shoes with a single color, spray paint is the best idea. Keep the spray bottle at a distance of 4 – 6 inches from the shoes and press it firmly to get an even layer of paint on the shoes.

Examine thoroughly all the parts of the shoes that you have painted. Make sure all the parts have got colored.

Applying Glitter Coat

Pour half a cup of mod podge into a plastic cup. Now, put a small amount of glitter into the cup and blend. Use a paintbrush to apply this glitter mixture on the surface of the shoes.

You can apply this on the shoes you recently painted but let them dry thoroughly before applying the glitter.

Step 10. Air-Dry

Once you have completed the painting, leave them to dry fully and don’t touch them for one hour. When the drying process is done, you can apply the second layer of paint if required.

Please don’t wear them before 2 – 3 days; this way, every corner of the shoes will get a chance to dry completely. If the paint has seeped into the inside of the footwear, it will also dry.

Protect the sponges and brushes from drying with paint.

Step 11. Gently Remove the Protective Tape

Hold the tape pieces from one side and pull them out slowly. Carry on this step until all the pieces are removed. You can use metal tweezers to take out the remaining pieces.

Step 12. Applying the Protective Layer

Applying acrylic spray is the best way to protect the paint from water damage. In the case of cloth shoes, use acrylic sealer spray. Clear matte spray paint is used for leather shoes.

This way, you can walk without fear in the rain or anywhere where there is water but washing them in a washing machine will ruin them. When they get dirt, dampen a cloth in warm water and clean the spot.

Tips to Paint Shoes

  • Instead of a thick layer, try applying a thin paint coating. Applying two thin layers is the best approach because thick layers have more chances of cracking than thin coats when they are used.
  • Using small brushes is a good idea because if you use too big, you will not easily access the paint to the place where you want to apply them.
  • Try to do this project at a time when you are completely free because quickly working will lead to more mistakes. Give complete focus and do every step gently and carefully.
  • Leave the top of the shoes without painting to keep them looking nice for a long time because that area will get cracks soon and ruin your footwear’s overall look.
  • If you want to dry the painted shoes quickly, keep them in front of a fan or blow warm air for 5 – 10 minutes using a hair dryer.
  • Use the spray paint in an airy place where air easily circulates because their fumes are very dangerous to health. If you have to use it indoors, open all the doors and windows and turn on the exhaust fan too.
  • Good ventilation is also required when you are using acetone, or you can wear a mask.

Best Shoes Paints

It depends on the type of shoes that which paint is good for them. Acrylic or fabric paints are best when you have to paint canvas shoes.

If you have to paint vinyl footwear, you can use any paint, such as leather, acrylic, or fabric paint.

Leather paint is too costly, and buying them only to paint shoes will be a bigger expense, so it’s better to buy paint that can be used for other activities in the future.

So, I use only acrylic and fabric paint for my shoe painting projects.

1. Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is so easy to use and can hide the shoes’ original color by applying only two thin coats.

When I used this paint on my blue and purple shoes, after drying, the result was outstanding; the color was completely changed and looked so wonderful when I wore them.

2. Fabric Paint

I chose fabric paint with textile medium for my red and grey shoes. I mixed one part of fabric paint with two parts of textile medium.

When I applied the coat, it was very thin. So, I gave 4 – 5 coats to cover the original color of the shoes and make a smooth surface.

Once they were dried, the result was wonderful and gave a glossy finish.

I made this using textile medium, but if you purchase store-bought fabric color, it will not require so much coating, and only 1 – 2 coats will be enough.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Procedure for Painting Shoes without Cracking?

To paint the shoes without cracking, make sure you have cleaned them completely before applying the paint. Once you have cleaned the footwear, applying a layer of primer before painting is good.

Then, give two thin coatings of paint. When one layer is dried, then apply the next. After completing the project, give a protective layer to the paint.

Which Paint Type is Best for Shoes?

When you paint your leather shoes, acrylic paint gives a perfect result. However, test the paint on a small, unnoticeable area to check that it is sticking on the footwear surface.

When applying acrylic paint on leather shoes, clean and sand their surface properly.

Can You Give Permanent Paint to Shoes?

Acrylic paints can stick permanently on shoes, giving a perfect result on all leather products, including shoes. They are available in any hardware store, and you can purchase them easily.

You can easily apply them using a brush, providing an even and long-lasting result. Spray paint also sticks to the shoe surface permanently and gives good results.

How is a Sealer Applied to The Shoes when The Painting is Done?

Once the paint on the shoes is dried completely, applying a protective layer on its surface is necessary to protect it from water damage. Otherwise, it will break after wearing it while walking in water.

After painting, please give them a coat of acrylic sealer spray and keep them aside to dry them completely. This way, the paint will be strong enough to walk in the rain without fear. However, machine washing will damage them.

Before Painting, Is it Necessary to Sand the Shoes?

If the material of your shoes is shiny leather, then sanding is very important. Otherwise, the paint will not properly stick to the shoe surface.

Carry on sanding until the shiny surface becomes dull. You can find sandpaper in any hardware store.

Once you have done sanding, look at the shoes from different angles and ensure the surface is even. You will get an uneven painting layer if the surface is not smooth.

Final Words

If you have an old pair of shoes, you can refresh them with wonderful painting designs. However, your footwear will look good only if you know how to paint shoes because different paint options are available for different types of material.

Choose the right type of paint, brushes, and a decent color. Give them proper time to dry; otherwise, the paint will wear off after using them one or two times. I hope the instructions I have given in this article will help you in painting your shoes.

Daniel Robert is a shoe lover who enjoys writing about all kinds of footwear, including sneakers, Crocs, Vans, and more. He shares his vast knowledge on, a website dedicated to helping people find the perfect pair of shoes. With years of experience and a passion for all things shoe-related, Daniel's easy-to-understand advice has helped countless people make confident and stylish choices.

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