If you’re looking for ways to give your shoes an upgraded look or show your style, your mind may be on track to painting your kicks.
Many people want to know, can you use acrylic paint on shoes? Acrylic paint has multiple benefits that make it a suitable option to use on most types of shoes. In addition, you can get acrylic in various colors and paint types for shoes of all materials.
Join us to explore different acrylic paints, painting various kinds of shoes, and some application tips for keeping painted shoes from cracking or getting damaged.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Shoes?
Acrylic is one of the best types of paint to use for shoe designs. Not only does it dry fast - and water-resistant - but it also works on nearly any type of material.
And you can apply acrylic paint in different methods, giving you a wide range of options on how your painted shoes can look.
The material of your shoes can affect which type of acrylic paint application you should use. And the kind of shoe can also require specific types of prep work before applying paint.
Most people don’t have plans to paint leather shoes due to the material’s cost. Leather shoes are typically more expensive than other types of footwear, like sneakers.
While it’s usually not recommended to paint leather shoes, you must start with the proper prep work if you decide to do it. Acrylic paint will not properly stick to unprepped leather.
The first step to painting leather shoes is to wipe the entire surface with rubbing alcohol. This step
will remove any debris, dirt, and other substances that can interfere with your paint job.
Most leather shoes will also need coating with a leather deglaze, which will strip the leather of its silicone coating, which usually gives the material a shiny surface. Again, you’ll need to rub this deglaze completely over the entire surface before painting.
Acrylic is one of the best types of paint to use on leather shoes. And it’s easily found, available at most craft or hardware stores. Plus, there are different application methods and acrylic types.
Once painted, leather shoes can take two to three days to dry thoroughly. Acrylic paint will also need a sealant or waterproofing final layer to protect the paint from damage.
One method of applying acrylic paint to leather shoes is with a paintbrush. This option gives your shoes a smoother finish. Brush applications also allow you to create fine details and work with multiple colors.
You can also pick up acrylic spray from the hardware store, which is easier for applying a full coat in one color. But, you’ll need the smallest nozzle to prevent over-spraying. However, it isn’t ideal for doing detailed work.
Fabric acrylic paint is another potential application method. But it requires extensive prep work - heavy sanding down to the fabric base; fabric paint will not stick to the leather.
When painting cloth (fabric) shoes, the best choices are acrylic paint or fabric paint. Fabric paint is a thinner, glue-based paint that offers better adhesion to fabrics and similar textures.
Fabric paints come in four types:
- There’s liquid, which comes in jars or tubes useful for fine detail work.
- The spray, available in aerosol cans, is useful for stencils or for covering large areas.
- And fabric markers allow the easiest method for small details, writing, and lines.
- Dimensional, which are tubes with applicator tips that create raised Puffy Paints.
There is a huge range of color choices, including some types with heavy glitter bases. Fabric paints are easy to spread , and you have multiple application techniques, including brush, washed (watered down to resemble watercolors), stipple, poured, splattered, dabbed, palette knife, or detailing.
Or you can mix an acrylic polymer fabric medium - a pigment-free liquid blend - with any acrylic paint, so the paint is soft to the touch once applied. Mediums also make acrylic paints easier to use and spread while helping color penetrate the fabric to create better adhesion.
Acrylic paint is one of the best types of paint to use on vinyl shoes. Not only does acrylic bond better to vinyl surfaces, but it also has a higher resistance to cracks and chipping.
And best of all, unlike other materials, the color of the vinyl or the paint will matter. Any shade of paint will offer full coverage for the vinyl.
Before painting vinyl shoes, use a lacquer thinner and a cloth to wipe the surface free of grease, dirt, and oil debris. It’s smart to test a shoe sample with the thinner before applying it over the entire surface.
When applying paint to vinyl, do so in thin layers. The thicker the layers get, the more difficult it becomes to get the paint to dry thoroughly. Thicker layers also have a higher risk of cracking.
If you’re adding multiple layers, you need to wait for a minimum of fifteen minutes for the existing layer of paint to dry before adding the next coat.
Then, after the final coat of paint, let the shoes dry for 24 hours and then apply a plastic sealant that will preserve the colors, seal the design to prevent cracking when flexed, and give a finished look.
Spraying on paints can be suitable for the coverage of glossy vinyl, as applying paint with a brush can result in undesired streaks and lines.
Leather paint can also work for vinyl shoes, allowing you to apply details and paint with a brush without streaking.
Vans is a popular brand name of skateboarding shoes, widely beloved for its heavily gripped hard rubber soles and heavy-duty canvas deck shoes. You can also get Vans in slip-on, authentic retro sports, high top (Sk8-Hi), or Old Skool (more texture and depth).
The heavy-duty canvas, suede, leather, or mixed material uppers provide the signature design logo of Vans. There are also off-brand canvas shoes or Converse canvas shoes that can use this same process.
It’s also the perfect base for expressing your creativity with a custom paint job. But you will need to perform a few extra prep steps before you can start painting.
Make sure you have all of the materials ready before beginning your project. Stopping in the middle of a project can result in a poor final project.
You’ll start by priming the canvas upper to make the surface rough, which provides a better base for paint to stick. Acrylic primer is the best choice, but an all-purpose paint primer for walls works in a pinch - you’ll need to thin it out first. Gesso canvas primer is also suitable.
After cleaning and priming your shoes, use painter’s tape to protect the parts you don’t want to paint, including the rubber soles. You can also use this tape to create your design outline.
Then create a 50/50 mix of plain white acrylic paint and fabric medium (2-soft), which will be the base for the rest of the color. If you don’t have a fabric medium on hand, you can use 100% acetone nail polish remover instead.
The more coats of acrylic paint you use on canvas, the better coverage you’ll get. The reason is that the paint will soak down into the fibers to create a better bond. But remember to keep each layer thin and add two to four coats - depending on desired opacity.
Your completed paint job should get a coating of finisher sealant that will waterproof the shoes while preventing scratches, cracks, and scuffs.
How to Paint Shoes With Acrylic Paint
Painting shoes with acrylic paint typically follows many of the same steps. After figuring out your materials and specific paint process based on shoe material, follow these steps to create your custom design.
Step 1 - Plan Design
Painting your shoes can be a simple or elaborate task, depending on your preferences. There’s not much to plan out besides picking a color if you’re going with a single-color paint job. First, you’ll need to ensure you have all the materials, but then you can move to step two.
If you’re going with an elaborate design, such as color layering, patterns, symmetric mirror imaging, or artwork, it’s better to lay everything out on paper or using a computer program.
You can make a template out of the picture you sketch and cut up. Or you can use it as a visual instructional template for your design. While planning your pattern, also choose your color palette and acrylic paint type.
Step 2 - Prep Workspace
After you’ve got your design idea ready, step two starts with getting your workspace ready. You’ll need a flat, steady surface that offers enough room to spread out and work.
Cover this workspace with a protective material layer, like craft paper, brown paper bags, or old newspapers. But use caution with newspapers and light fabric shoes, as the black ink can bleed off the newspaper and soak into the fabric.
Then, you’ll need to clean the shoes and prep the surface. Wipe down natural leather shoes with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. Use 100% acetone (not mixed polish remover) to wipe off artificial leather shoes.
When preparing patent leather shoes for painting, you’ll need to rub fine-grit sandpaper in small circles over the surface to wear the shiny surface down to a dull, rough surface.
Before painting cloth, fabric, or canvas shoes, you’ll need to wipe the material to remove all dirt, debris, and oils. Soak a rag in warm, soapy water and dab, blot, or scrub the exterior, being careful not to drench the shoes. Wait until the shoes are completely dry before moving to step 3.
Step 3 - Lay Out Pattern on Shoes
After your shoes are clean and dry, use a pencil to sketch your pattern onto the shoe in light marks. If you prefer a darker outline, you can also use a fine tip marker or a paintbrush.
When working with a mirror image or symmetrical design, pay close attention to ensure that the design matches each shoe’s sides, toes, and heels.
Use painter’s tape on the sole, inside, and any areas you don’t want to paint or that you want to paint in different colors. It’s also helpful to stuff the insides of the shoes with newspapers, paper towels, or cotton batting to help the shoe hold its shape while the paint’s wet.
Step 4 - Apply Paint to Shoes
It’s time to add your painted design to your shoes. There are different ways that you can apply acrylic paint. Remember to keep your brushes and sponges wrapped in plastic wrap and your colors covered between applications to prevent drying out.
When painting shoes with a brush, use short, even strokes and the simple process of dipping the
bristles into the paint and transferring it directly onto the shoe’s surface.
Brushes in sizes #6 and #8 are suitable for painting on the edges, while size #1 or #2 fan spread brushes are better for quickly painting flat sides. And for fine brushes for detail work, you’ll want a #0 or #1 size.
You can also apply acrylic paints to leather or fabric shoes using a sponge. This method gives you partial coverage, which is excellent for letting original colors show through or layering colors.
Pour the paint into a bowl, and then dip the sponge in to coat the edge. Then, dab the excess paint onto scrap paper before pressing the sponge to the shoe.
When working with single-color applications, the easiest and fastest method is to use a spray form. You’ll need to choose a can with the smallest nozzle. During applications you’ll need to keep firm, consistent pressure to get an even coat, with the nozzle 4″ to 6″ from the shoe surface.
Add Some Glitter
If you want to give shoes a glittery finish, you’ll need a bottle of Mod Podge and a small amount of glitter. You’ll also need a cup for the mixture and a paintbrush.
Add four ounces – ½ cup – of Mod Podge to your cup. Then pour in the glitter and mix the two components. Next, dip your paintbrush into the mixture and paint it onto the shoe.
You can add glitter to a surface you’ve already painted or sparkle to unpainted shoes. Start with one coat and see the effect you get. It can take 15 to 60 minutes to dry. You can add another coat if you want more of a polished look.
Step 5 - Seal It
After you’ve applied acrylic paint to the shoes, you’ll need to apply a layer of sealant to protect the paint. Acrylic can crack, fade, and chip with use if it’s not sealed. The adhesive should also offer protection against water.
For leather shoes, a clear matte works best. But when working with cloth shoes, you’ll need an acrylic sealer or a waterproofing spray.
Once you’ve added the sealant, your shoes will need an additional two to three days to dry. The longer you let the painted, sealed shoes set, the less risk there will be of the shoes chipping, cracking, or experiencing other deformities.
Never put painted shoes in a washing machine. The washing process can cause damage to the paint job. Instead, wipe the surface of the shoes with a damp rag if they get dirty.
If your paint job starts to fade in color or experience defects, you can refresh the surface with new thin layers of acrylic paint – in the same colors or a darker shade for better coverage.
How to Prevent Acrylic Paint from Cracking on Shoes
The biggest issue that can occur with painted shoes is cracking and chipping of the acrylic. Try these tips for preventing acrylic paint from cracking on your shoes.
- Take your time when prepping and applying paint to the shoes.
- Keep each layer of paint thin, using short, even brushstrokes in slow movements.
- Make sure the existing coating is completely dry before applying the next layer
- Apply light colors first. Darker colors are best for touching up paint but not for doing original designs
- Paint side to side on the toe area – most likely place to experience signs of wear and tear and to crack – rather than up and down brush strokes
- Mixing paint brands leads to a higher risk of cracking
- Acrylic paint needs to dry thoroughly between layers, by air only. Trying to speed up the drying time of acrylic paint with heat – like using a hairdryer – can lead to paint that cracks and breaks
- Don’t forget to waterproof – acrylic sealers are best – as shoes will experience exposure to different types of weather, which can cause cracks
- When working with spray applications, keep the bursts small and consistent to prevent the paint from smearing
- Spray acrylics offer better solid coverage, but the thicker consistency of fluid acrylics apply better for detailing – both types require sealing and thin layers so they won’t crack
- There are two qualities of acrylics: artist – less risk of cracks due to pigments but more expensive – or student – higher chance of damages and fewer color choices but cheaper (okay for beginners)
Whether you’re trying to give new life to old, worn-out shoes or you want to give your kicks a unique, personalized look, you’ll want to use acrylic paints. With multiple applications and thicknesses, acrylics can work for providing all-over color or intricate design detailing.
You can use acrylic paint for almost any shoe material. We’ve given you the steps for prepping, painting, and protecting shoes with acrylic paints. Now, it’s time for you to give it a go. Who knows; you might turn it into a profitable business selling hand-painted custom shoes. Give us a shout-out if you do!