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How to Draw On Canvas Shoes (even if you're not an artist)

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About a year ago I set out to design my own pair of shoes because I couldn't find anything remotely close to what I wanted and the things that were just 'ok' were ridiculously expensive. I'm sure you've been there. Unfortunately there wasn't a lot of comprehensive guides out there and I ended up winging it. Taking that into account I made a second pair, they turned out even better and took about half the time so I thought I'd share the process with you.

Bear in mind: The first time I did this it took me almost a week to do the whole thing. The second time it took a couple of days. But I'm a perfectionist.

Items Necessary: 1) A pair of white canvas shoes. I got mine for twenty dollars at Payless.

-Keep in mind the amount of time you intend to wear them and buy accordingly. I wore my first pair eight hours a day for six months and by the time winter hit the heel was pulling away from one of the shoes. All my hard work down the drain, I should have bought better quality. But it's up to you.
- Also I know that everybody loves converse but if you're like me and wear pants (as oppose to say shorts) all people can see is the toe and it's covered in that ugly white plastic bit that you can't draw on. If you're going to bother drawing on your shoes, flaunt them to the world!

2) Markers   - use whatever kind you want but make sure that they're waterproof. I used Prismacolor because they were on sale.
                      - be wary of markers with fat tips, they bleed easier but tiny marker tips take longer and use more ink. Your call. I like 
                          the medium sized one (you can see it below, the cap is off and it's orange)

3) Paper, Pencil, Eraser  -seriously, you need them if you want this to turn out well

4) Some kind of Waterproof Spray - I'm told it's not 100% necessary but why take the risk?
 
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Step 1: Planning and Drawing and Cutting

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Yes, yes I know, nobody likes to plan. But do it anyway. Decide if your shoes are one big picture or divided into sections. Then either find some source material and start drawing it out on a piece of paper or just start drawing ON THE PAPER. Do not go right to the shoes. Also, when drawing on the paper try and draw it to scale. Now I drew mine but for all of you not artists tracing is perfectly acceptable too as long as you're not making money off it. Just bring an image up on your computer, resize, slap a paper on the screen, and trace away. Draw more then you think you'll need.

Make sure you take the time to get the details right.

Cut them out CAREFULLY

Step 2: Tracing

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All of you 'artists' are about to kill me but I'm going to suggest that you trace the outlines of what you just cut right onto the shoes. Lay them on and make sure the sizing is right (if you messed that up start over and redraw). Then just hold them down one at a time and trace the outline, this way you're guaranteed to have no sizing issues. Then you can either fill in the inside free hand OR there are two other options for the nonartistic (like me).

1) Take a sharp pencil and poke small holes into strategic places (where lines intersect) on your papercutout. Then line the outline back up to the cutout and using a pencil put little dots on the shoes where the holes are. Then it's only a matter of playing connect the dots!

2)Trace the outline. Start cutting your paper drawing into smaller pieces based on the details of your drawing (I did number one but that would be like cutting out Superman's S shield or trimming off Batman's gloves). What's left is a line that tells you exactly where the line in your drawing was.

Either way at this point you can still erase but be careful! If it's something that you need to leave white any erasing is going to show a little. Always press as light as you can still see.

Step 3: Marker Time!

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Because I do 'comic book style' I like to outline everything that I just did in pencil in black marker. Besides the comic book feel I also think it makes the image pop. Plus if you're worried about bleeding I've found that the black boundary helps prevent that. 

However large sections of black take forever to fill in. Take a look at Wonder Woman's hair, the darkness changes. It takes way more black ink to fill in a space then it does for a lighter colour, keep that in mind. However I've found the lighter colours have a higher tendency to bleed, once again your choice.

I seriously do recommend outlining the the black though.

Another thing I recommend is to give your shoes a sense that they're actually a PAIR of shoes, without making them identical. Personally I divide these shoes into four sections based on the seams, make two sections unique (here it's our sections with the Justice League) and then the other two the same on both pairs of shoes (the backs and the symbols side)

Step 4: COLOUR!!!!!!!!!

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Time to add colour. 

There's not a lot I can do to explain that. But a few tips and tricks
1) Start with the 'foreground' first. For me this is my characters and fill the background colour in only when you're done

2) If you're nervous about bleeding or anything else start with something unimportant, usually for me (because my jeans cover it) the heels. Also remember with the heels that if you're like me and slide off your shoes with your feet the heels are going to get pretty beat up so don't put anything too important there and try to use dark colours.

3)Put the LIGHT COLOURS ON FIRST That way if you mess up hopefully you can just dark colour over it. But don't stress out, it happens

4)Personalize it! That's why your making the shoes isn't it? I like to write quotes and things on mine. Batman's on the shoe, I want to write something Batman said on it.

5) I never found a good skin tone marker, I just leave it white.

Step 5: Let it Sit!

Once all the markering is done and you're happy let your shoes sit for at least a day before you spray/wear them. It lets the colours sink in. I didn't do this and all of my yellow bled like mad and I had to make some changes on the fly.

If you're wondering how the shoes hold up after six months I've got some pics up below of my first pair of shoes as they are now.

Now go forth, wear and enjoy!

wow thx so much for this tutorial

ive seen a lot and this is definitely the best one

AllisonM528 days ago
JimY21 month ago
What is the use for waterproof spray?
riswebb156 months ago

Is it better to wash the shoes first before drawing?

RunWithWolves (author)  riswebb155 months ago

My shoes were fresh out of the box when I started but if they're older shoes that have been out and about then I would definitely suggest cleaning! However, make sure they're completely dry before drawing or the markers will likely run.

hetherwynn6 months ago

is an adhesive spray okay to use for the waterproof spray?

RunWithWolves (author)  hetherwynn5 months ago

Well I'm not entirely sure what sort of adhesive spray you have, typically I'd say no. Adhesive spray is designed to stick two things together rather than act as a sealant.

Great job! you may say you're 'not an artist' but I think you did great with image placement and details!
That is awesome. Did you have to spend a bit of money on thee shoes or were they pretty cheap?
They were about 20 dollars, so not bad at all. i switch it up too much to spend money!
mini_mom1 year ago
YOUR shoes are awsome. You say you are not an artist but you are indeed a "designer" which is a type of artist ........cool idea.......make more.
ragu19752 years ago
Very nicely done! Nothing like a one of a kind product!
GKingsley2 years ago
Thanks for this tutorial! I Googled "how to draw on canvas sneakers" and found you. I'm an okay artist but I want to cover my sneakers with characters from the cartoon Yellow Submarine, and like every drawing of cartoon characters I've ever seen, they have to be done carefully if they're going to look right. I really love the "connect the dots" idea - that's how quilters transfer complex stitching designs, but it hadn't occured to me to use it in this project. Hopefully my shoes will come out as good as yours did! I'm planning on using fabric markers - if they don't work out I'll post a warning.

Thanks again!
theunnamed2 years ago
I love your shoes so much!

I really want to make some of my own but I can NOT draw at all and I am afraid I will ruin the shoes. Do you have any advice for me? Would paint work as good as the markers?
RunWithWolves (author)  theunnamed2 years ago
I'd definitely stick to the tracing/cut out method. You're going to at least get something close. When i first tried I thought the same thing so I bought cheaper shoes that I wouldn't feel bad about potentially destroying. You could always stick to a simpler design too. But just have confidence go for!
I've never used paint personally but i've seen ones where it worked out. I have a friend who did a TARDIS pair with paint and they looked great!
However I fail with a paintbrush, but go for it!
Okay thank you so much. I know what I will be doing in my school holidays now. I will have a go and see what they look like. I can complete mess them up.
I have seen some others with paint but I fail with painbrushes too. I might just stick with markers. Thank you again for your help.
HMice3 years ago
Wow! Whenever I draw on my shoes or shirt with fabric marker the line always tends to leak a little and I get a really uneven line.... :(
RunWithWolves (author)  HMice2 years ago
Certain markers run more than others even these had some run. You've just got to compensate. I find the faster you move and the lighter you press the less the ink ran. As for the uneven I have two points. You notice way more problems yourself than anyone else will. There are parts on these that always bother me because i know i did them wrong. Secondly people are seeing them from a distance so unless it's really really bad or their nose is up against your shoe they're not going to notice/care.
Keep trying!
I'd like some clarification, I don't have a job at the time and i really need some source of income. If I start customizing sneakers is it legal to draw popular characters on them? I see it all the time but I'm not sure what would be considered copyright infringement...any suggestions or advice because I plan to sell the shoes, no matter what i end up drawing/painting . Thanks
RunWithWolves (author)  xlovejunkiex2 years ago
This is tricky and in all honestly i don't actually know. I've been asked to do commisioned and although I would love to I hesitated only because I didn't know the legalities.
I doubt if it's just one or two things that anyone's going to come after you. People claim to get away with it because they're getting paid for their time and not the image. Technically my guess would be that it's illegal but in terms of superheroes you do see all sorts of artists selling work of copyrighted characters.
The moral is I really don't know. You'd probably be fine unless you started selling a lot. But I don't know, sorry... If you find out let me know though!
Tomcat943 years ago
I love these! They look so bright and colorful! I think I'm going to do this now, but instead of Justice League characters, I'm going to use Nintendo characters instead.
Also, I love how well-documented this process is! Just about anyone can take these instructions and make an awesome pair of shoes. :)
RunWithWolves (author)  Tomcat943 years ago
Nintendo, also an excellent choice!
mccannip3 years ago
Why don't you just use a pair of white vans? they're WAY better than what you're using and so much better than converse!
RunWithWolves (author)  mccannip3 years ago
Excellent point, I'll probably look into that before I start again. The last couple of times I've been so excited that I just grabbed the first pair of white shoes I could find.
kmdill3 years ago
LOVE your custom canvas! You did a great job.
You mentioned the waterproofing spray, did you decide to use it to finish?
RunWithWolves (author)  kmdill3 years ago
I did. I end up walking through alot of mud so the spray helps me clean them later. But if you are going to spray them MAKE SURE you let the colours 'sink' in a little first or else you'll have some problems with running.
poofrabbit3 years ago
I'm an artist, but I'm not going to kill you. :) I think this is a fantastic and well written instructable for any individual no matter how high or low their skill level. I'm going to make myself a pair once I find some white shoes and I promise to post what I come up with. Well done!
RunWithWolves (author)  poofrabbit3 years ago
I look forward to seeing them!
I will for sure show you I put an order in for some canvas shoes. I'm excited because I will also be doing super heroes, it will match my apron I used in my classroom. :)
farmerboyk3 years ago
I agree with poofrabbit :) Im gonna make these once I get the permanent markers.
Plain white converse, prepare to become colorful!