For this project we took a plain pair of shoes and transformed them into wearable art with a simple hand-painted floral design. You can also use these paints to turn worn-out shoes into quirky garden art planters.
For all the basics on shoe painting including recommended supplies for a variety of different materials see How to Paint Shoes.
Dressing Up Shoes With Paint
It doesn’t take much to turn a plain pair of shoes into art!
If your shoes are in good condition, use the paints recommended here to turn them into wearable art.
If they have holes—also known as “good drainage”—dress them up with paint and use them as garden planters. This has examples of all sorts of creative planters including boots planted with succulents.
If you are new to shoe painting, How To Paint Shoes goes over all the basics including how to prepare, paint, and finish shoes made of various materials (vinyl, canvas, leather).
We’ve been painting shoes (for fun and profit) for years and it’s just in recent years that the art supplies (paint and markers) have become top-notch, making it much easier to get good results.
We can’t test every combination of materials, but we have provided our best tips based on our own experience.
If you’re working with $2 thrift shop shoes, it may not be an issue, but, if you’re transforming those $400 Nikes, be sure to do your homework first to be sure you’re using the right materials for the job.
We also have an ebook with our best tips for shoe painting.
Shoe Painting Instructions
This is what we used for the leather shoes you see here. You can buy these supplies separately or look for Angelus leather painting kits at a local art supply shop.
- Leather Preparer and Deglazer (to prepare the surface)
- Vinyl tape (to protect the soles from paint)
- Liquitex Basics Acrylic Gesso (as primer for the paint)
- Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint (various colors)
- Artist brushes
- Micron and Posca Paint Pens (various size tips)
- Angelus Matte Acrylic Finisher (to protect the design)
Watch The Video Overview
For these leather shoes we prepared the surface with Leather Preparer and Deglazer.
The edge of the soles are protected with vinyl tape. This type of tape adheres really nicely, preventing any paint from getting where you don’t want it.
And we removed the laces before painting.
2Plan Your Design
If you want to plan your shoe design first, there are a few ways to go about it.
We like to photograph the shoes from several viewpoints, import the images in to a drawing program, and test out designs.
Your computer or tablet may already have Paint or a similar program. Photoshop, PicMonkey, Canva and others could also be used.
And, good old-fashioned paper and markers or pencil crayons are always an option.
- How To Paint Daisies With Acrylic Paint
- Botanical Embroidery Designs | Helpful for simple ways to draw flowers
- Read your product instructions and always allow the required amount of time for everything to dry.
- You can also use a hair dryer to help speed up the drying process.
For these shoes we decided to use the black leather as a background.
The outline of the design was sketched onto the shoes with pencil and filled in with gesso which acts a primer to really help the paint stick.
With the gesso completely dry, it’s time to fill in with paint colors.
4Fill In Your Design With Paint
- Use a rolled towel to support your hand while doing fine details.
- Paint background colors first. Foreground is done last.
Fill in your design with color using Angelus Acrylic Leather Paints. If something doesn’t look right, you can re-apply gesso and repaint the area.
Also see the Fixing Mistakes section in this article for other ways to remove the paint.
5Add Fine Details
We used various paint pens to add more definition to the design after the paints had dried.
6Protect Your Design
When your work of art is complete, the last step is to apply a protective agent. We use Angelus Matte Acrylic Finisher.
While the Angelus leather paints work really nicely on leather (and some other) surfaces, if you’re going to be wearing the shoes, it’s worthwhile to give them this extra level of protection.
How to Paint Shoes
A beginner’s guide for hand-painting shoes
by Melissa J. Will
Our best tips for creating hand-painted shoes on canvas, leather, and vinyl surfaces.
This ebook is a digital file you save to your device (PDF format). It is not a physical product.
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Available for Canada & United States only.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛