Current Shoe Painting Method

I haven’t posted much about my shoe painting recently, but the way I do it has changed a lot since I last did. I used a new method on the last two pairs which turned out very well and looks so, so good. I really think I get better with every pair, more adventurous with designs and choosing the colours better. I thought it was about time I shared my current process with you all…


Choosing the Shoe

This is an important consideration that may get overlooked. It’s important to remember that you can’t effectively paint on rubber, so I would avoid low-top converse as you can’t put much on the toe with the rubber toe cover and there isn’t much space to paint on the sides either. Laces can also make it difficult as they will cover parts of the design, but you can work with this. My favourite shoes to paint are either high-top converses or slip-on vans as these both have large sections for the main feature to be painted. You also want canvas for the best surface, I tried suede which worked but it did crack easily too.


Planning the Design

Some people plan their designs by drawing them on an outline of the shoe on paper, but I personally just write the shoe sections and what I want to include on them. If I start actually selling custom shoes (I really want to, probably from the end of July once I’ve graduated) I will plan them with pictures, so the customer can fully approve the designs before I actually start the shoe. Once I’ve decided what I would like on the shoes, I then hunt down inspiration/reference photos from google and save them on my computer, I always save them so if I am always using the same reference, it might cause squiffy results if I change halfway through!

Prime the Shoe

I hadn’t really primed the shoes I painted before, but when I brought my new paints, I also got a primer because it does create a better base to work with. I have been using the Liquitex Professional Clear Gesso which, as the name suggests, dries clear and adds a rough texture for the paint to adhere to. The instructions suggest a 1:1 ratio of the gesso to water, but I personally prefer to use a higher level of water as it keeps the shoe a little more flexible. I also only do 1 or 2 layers, again so the shoe isn’t too stiff before I even add the paint. If I’m painting a shoe which already has colour (as I will be for my next pair) I will either mix some white paint into the clear gesso, or I may order a white gesso. This will reduce the quantity of paint you need to cover any colour you don’t want, although the darker the base shoes is, the more difficult it will be to apply light colours on top.
I’d recommend using an old flat brush to prime as the particles in the gesso ruin the bristles.


Draw the Design on the Shoe

This is fairly self-explanatory, I draw on the shoes as light as possible with just basic outlines and very little detail, especially where I will be using light colour paints, to make sure the pencil marks won’t show through. This creates a decent guide for where to block out colours and I free hand the rest.


Mix the Paint & Paint the Base Colours

For painting shoes, a mixing medium is 100% necessary, otherwise the paint is too thick and it’ll crack, not what you want really! I have been using the Liquitex Professional Fabric Medium. This is also suggested 1:1 with the paint, however, I personally prefer to mix a higher volume of the medium so that it is definitely nice and flexible. For the paint, I have been using the Liquitex Basics Acrylics, I decided to start with this pack of 48 shades as it’s a very good base set and they are good size tubes. I mix my paint on a little metal mixing palette (specifically this one) as it’s easy to clean. The spatula that came with it is also brilliant. If I mix with this, I’m not clogging the bristles of a brush and a lot less paint is lost to washing the tool.
Again, painting block colours is exactly as it says on the tin: paint the bases for each area.

Add the Fine Detail

Fine details are basically everything else, I always let the base colours dry before I start on this so the colours can really pop. This includes all the shading and little details which really make the painting what it is. Have fun with this step!
If you make a mistake, gently dab it with a cotton bud as soon as possible to remove most of the colour, then repaint over it with the base colour, leave it to dry and try again.

Add some UV Paint?

UV paint really adds a special touch which dramatically stands out if you go somewhere with UV lights. I have the Neon Nights UV Fabric Paint Set which works so well. I used the white on the last two pairs which looks incredible, but I really want to create a pair of shoes which uses the coloured UV paints. I was thinking a Nightmare Before Christmas Pair with Oogie Bogie! I personally prefer to use these on top of colours similar to them to really make the colours invisible initially and the stand out under the lights. I also recommend getting a UV light, even just a torch, for while you paint so you know what you’re doing.


Protect your Handiwork!

Really, this is the most important step, you don’t want to spend all that time painting for it to then get washed away. I like to leave at least 24 hours from last painting, then I use the Liquiproof spray protectant however, I don’t rub it into the shoe as suggested, just in case it disturbs the paint. I haven’t had any issues with the protection from not doing this either which is good. Leave the shoe to dry for 24 hours and you’re ready to go!


So that’s my process! I’m really happy with it at the minute and I love the results I’m getting, I just wish I had more time and money to practice! I would love to know if any of you have ever tried this or something similar and if you try my method, please let me know how it goes!


Thanks for reading,




2 thoughts on “Current Shoe Painting Method

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