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Step 1: Step 1 :Preparing a Sneaker/Shoe for Paint
Take off laces and clean shoe with cotton balls dipped in nail polish remover. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT step in customizing. As you rub the doused cotton balls over the shoe, you will notice that there is a clear build up that comes off the shoe-thats the idea. Essentially, this step is to remove the "clear coat" that most manufacturers spray on their shoes to protect them. It's a must to remove this so that the paint will bond directly to the leather as opposed to the clear coat.
If the clear coat is left , chances are that the paint will crack after some wear.
I like to go over the shoe at least 3 good times. If you want to go that extra step, use doused q-tips to get into the hard edges and sections.
Let dry/evaporate for at least 30 minutes before painting.
NOTE: If you are painting on colored leather, be careful and rub lighly, as you may go too far and discolor some parts of leather, you may not be planning on painting over.
Step 2: Step 2: Masking of Sneakers for Paint
We prefer to airbrush most fills so that there are minimum brushmarks to be seen. The trouble with airbrushing is that you always have to keep in mind overspray and underspray; this can prove particularly difficult especially when colors are mixed as opposed to straight out of the bottle.
In order to keep cleanup of the over/under spray to a minimum- the masking off of the shoe should be pretty exact. Mofoz' Airica helped mask these off, as its a good idea to use fingernails to wrap tape around edges of the sections...in my early days I used a flat razor to bend the tape over the edges of the sections and tuck it under the section.
This is a tedious process, as you will need to tear and apply tape for hours sometimes, just to reapply to different sections after the first round of paint.
Use Scotch "soft" painters tape, dont buy the cheap stuff- it will save you a lot of time in the long run. The soft tape can be applied to paint 24 hrs after the first painting and will not peel the paint off when removed. The cheap stuff probably will.
NOTE: You can also use the soft painters tape for small stencils. This is really good for elaborate and detailed logos.
Step 3: Step 3: Painting the Fill/ Solid Color Sneakers
Here is what the shoes look like after 3 light coats of airbrushing. Whether you are airbrushing or handpainting, use multiple thin coats. (allow paint to dry for at least an hour between coats)
Using thin coats will make sure the paint dries quicker, and will ensure that the paint will not crack when worn.
Step 4: Step 4 Removing Masking Tape From Sneaker
We repeat steps 2-4 to apply the following blue coat of paint, where we first masked it.Be sure to allow paint at least 24 hrs to dry before you apply painters tape over it.
Step 5: Step 5 the Details /Clean Up
At this point all is left is the details, this is what makes a custom pair of AF 1's go from "eh", to"damn!!! Take notice that there are still small parts around where the sneakers were masked that need to be painted, as well as the inside edges of the sections that need to be painted /or cleaned up from overspray.
Use the fine line brush and be very patient when doing this-you do not want to get paint on places where its not supposed to be. I used to actually use a flat razor to "paint" the edges, also, but since have gotten a lot more proficient with a fine line brush. If you happen to get paint where you dont want- quickly use a clean rag or q-tip with water or nail polish remover on it and carefully dab the paint.
Step 6: Step 6 Airbrushing Sealant to the Sneakers
Again, you can paint the clear sealant on, but we choose to airbrush to minimize brushstrokes.
After the sealant is applied to your custom kicks, the paint will be protected. If they get dirty, they are easier to clean than if they were brand new. Just take soap and water on a clean rag and give it a once over.
Allow the sealant to dry for at least 24-48 hours before wearing.