Canvas Shoe Painting!

If you follow my Instagram or twitter you will probably already know that I have been painting shoes for a couple of years now and I recently finished my most complicated pair yet; Alice in Wonderland Wedding Shoes. These were a pair of Classic White Lace Up Vans for her to wear in the evening after her gorgeous light up Irregular Choice Cinderella Heels got a bit too uncomfortable.

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The process I use has changed each time, but even though I want to try some different materials, I feel like I have refined the general process. So far I have tried acrylic paints, but these cracked as the paint is too stiff, and Posca Paint Pens, but I am worried about how these will react if they get water on them (despite water protection).

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The types of shoes and areas I paint varies, depending on the type of shoe. The most interesting and surprisingly difficult was painting the underside behind a stiletto heel. This was difficult despite the simple silhouette design because my paint brush would catch on the heel, making it fiddly to get around. When painting the underside of a shoe like that, whether worn before or not, it is a good idea to prime the surface by cleaning it with cleaning alcohol.

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Another different type of shoe I tried was a pair of Pale Grey Suede Slip On Vans. I didn’t intend to buy Suede Vans but I ordered them from Amazon and the material wasn’t obvious, but I decided that for £15 it was worth trying something. The difference between these and painting canvas, is that paint sinks into canvas but sits on top of suede. To paint these, I gently sketched out the area I wanted to use and painted two coats of white acrylic paint until the area was opaque. This removed the texture from where I wanted to paint and the white let the colours pop better. As I used acrylic paints on a surface that they wouldn’t sink into, I was well aware that there was a high chance of the paint cracking and peeling off so I tried to do as few coats as possible to hopefully reduce this effect. The Star Wars theme that I painted on these has held up a lot better than I expected them to. With fairly regular (or at least regular for me juggling 50 pairs of shoes) use including in the rain and puddles, the cracks aren’t too obvious and no chunks have peeled. Although I wouldn’t actively buy suede to paint again, if it did happen by accident, I wouldn’t worry too much about doing it.

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My next shoe venture is certainly looming with 2 more pairs of Harry Potter shoes for November and a Unicorn pair at some point, I will definitely be busy, in the best way of course. I haven’t gone into too much detail about my process because at the moment I’m not fully happy with it, but if you do want to know more send me a message and I will happily explain or write another post about it. The biggest tip I can give is that it’s always worth buying a £3 pair of canvas shoes from Primark to practice on and get used to how the paint bleeds on the material.

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One day I hope to start an Etsy store for Custom Painted shoes but for the time being with my Masters year at university starting in September I just can’t commit to that. Keep an eye on my twitter and Instagram though, especially under the hashtag #customshoesbySJH, as this will be the first place I post about it!

Thanks for reading,


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