These tips show how to paint shoes and add unique hand-painted designs to your canvas shoes or sneakers with acrylic paint. We’ve tested a bunch of art supplies and recommend our top picks.
This is part of the complete ebook, How to Paint Shoes: Beginners Guide to Painting Canvas Shoes with Acrylic Paint, available for instant download.
Create Your Own Hand-Painted Shoes
A few years ago my teenage daughter started customizing canvas shoes (which is now a business venture) and hasn’t turned back since. These are her tips and recommended supplies for best results.
We also have this ebook which provides more information than we can fit in a blog post. It downloads instantly and is written for beginners. If you’re already experienced with acrylic paints on canvas, you probably just need a few ideas for specific materials to use (see below).
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- Canvas shoes. You can use any colour you like. Black backgrounds make the images stand out nicely when you leave portions unpainted (see image above). [see Canvas shoes]
- Acrylic primer. All purpose wall painting primer works great! You can also use Gesso (artist’s canvas primer). [See Primer]
- Acrylic paints. Golden (brand) is top notch quality – goes on beautifully. You can also use any acrylic paints sold at craft shops such as Decoart, Martha Steward, Folk Art, artist’s acrylics, or acrylic wall paint. [See Acrylic paints]
- Painter’s tape. [See Painter’s tape]
- Markers for outlining: Recommended brands include Faber-Castel Pitt artist pens, Prisma colour fine-tip markers, and Sharpies (make sure you get nice fine tips).
Note: Metallic markers are not recommended because they run when Scotch Guard is applied.
- Synthetic paint brushes (suitable for acrylic paint). [See Paint brushes]
- Paint tray, water cup for rinsing brushes, rag.
- Scotch Guard. [See Scotch Guard for outdoor fabrics] or polyurethane, Mod Podge Outdoor, and any other durable sealant.
Planning Your Design
- If you can paint it on a flat canvas, you can probably paint it on canvas shoes.
- Unless you’re an artistic daredevil, start simple. Pick basic designs you can fill with solid colours and outline with marking pen. From a distance, these simpler designs really look great.
- Go DaVinci on your second pair when you’ve had some practice.
Before You Start
- Try your design on paper first (to be sure you like it), then draw it on the shoes using an HB pencil. Heavy lines will show through the paint, so press lightly.
- Remove shoe laces.
- Apply painter’s tape to any areas you do not want the paint to cover (such as the edge of the soles).
- Prime the canvas areas you will be painting. Allow to dry completely (usually takes an hour). You want the canvas covered in primer, but not so thickly that you loose the texture. The texture helps the acrylic paints “grab” the surface.
- Draw your design(s) on the shoes using an HB pencil. Go lightly or the pencil will show through the paint.
- Fill in your designs with acrylic paint. Allow to dry completely.
- Use marking pens to outline your designs and add details. Allow to dry.
- Protect with Scotch Guard. There are several types: we use the one made for protecting outdoor patio fabric. Follow the product instructions. Alternately, you could use polyurethane, Mod Podge Outdoor, and some other durable outdoor sealant suitable for painted surfaces.
There’s a few options for covering up mistakes or removing paint:
Cover Up Paint Mistakes on Canvas
You can simply paint over the area again, or reapply primer (allow it to dry), and then draw and paint your design again.
How to Remove Paint from Sole of Shoe
If you get acrylic paint on the sole of the shoe, it may be removed with one of these. I tested all of them on different shoes and each one worked.
Before trying it, tape over the good areas you want to protect.
You can find all of these products at home improvement stores:
Outlining With Art Pen
- You want to be really careful when outlining the designs with marking pen. Find a comfortable position to support your hand and work slowly.
- You can also use the marking pens to add text on top of the paint. Pick quotes, poetry, or graffiti! Anything goes. It’s your art—do what you love.
And remember to live long and prosper.