Bored of plain black, white or brown shoes? Hoping to spruce up your favorite pair of battered brogues? Interested in making a personalized gift for someone who has feet? This instructable will talk you through the process of turning a blank pair of shoes into a colorful fashion statement. Of course, what that statement says is entirely up to you.
A while ago I bought myself a snazzy pair of white leather dance shoes (for lindy hop and blues, if you must know). Clumsy dancer that I am, within a few evenings my shoes were covered in scuff marks and stains. A lesser geek might have just cleaned the shoes, or perhaps resolved to stop kicking people on the dance floor. Instead, I chose to repaint both shoes with a complex design so that any scuffing would be less immediately noticeable. (Think shoe repair is best left to seasoned professionals? What a load of old cobblers!)
The finished shoes are durable, flexible, colorful and even scuff-resistant. Read on to find out how to paint your own shoes!
Step 1: An Overview
- Stripping the shoe's finish – nearly all shoes will already have a protective coat applied by the manufacturer. This needs to be removed so that you can paint directly onto the leather.
- Penciling in your design – this step can be skipped if you're super-confident in your own painting skills. I am definitely not.
- Painting – using flexible paint to create your own design on the leather.
- Finishing – sealing the painted shoes in a layer of acrylic to protect the beautiful new paint job.
What you'll need:
- Solvent to remove the shoes' finish – I used Angelus Brand professional leather preparer and deglazer.
- Flexible leather paints - I used Angelus Brand paints. I was surprised by how little of each paint I needed.
- Acrylic finisher – That's right, I used Angelus Brand acrylic finisher. Sensing a theme?
- Pencil and eraser.
- Brushes Cotton buds/Q-tips.
- Wooden skewers for fine detail.
- Disposable sponge.
- Shoes (or anything with a smooth leather surface).
- I also recommend a waterproof drop-cloth or plenty of newspaper to catch all the mess you'll be making.
Warning: This is a smelly and fumy project. The leather deglazer in particular gives off some quite noxious fumes. Be sure to do this in a well ventilated area, away from any flames. Also, keep a lid on any paint/solvent containers when you're not using them. You have been warned.
Step 2: Choose Your Shoes and Make Some Sketches
Step 3: Strip the Shoes
Err on the side of excess here. Remember: any patches of original finish will stop your paint from sticking properly
Step 4: Pencil in Your Design
Note: I drew on and painted my shoes one at a time because (a) I wasn't sure whether it would work and (b) I wasn't sure that I wanted both shoes to look the same. However, I strongly recommend painting both shoes at the same time. That way, the colors will all match and you'll be able to wear your shoes again much sooner.
Step 5: Paint on the Base Layer
Paint your shoes one shade at a time, using bold solid areas of color for now. Later on, you can add shading and texture to these areas. The leather paint gives very good opaque coverage, so a thin layer will usually completely cover up whatever was beneath it. However, occasionally you may need to apply multiple layers to achieve this coverage. This is almost a better choice than trying to apply one thick layer, which will smear or dry unevenly. Fortunately, the paint dries so quickly that you can apply multiple layers in a single sitting.
Yes, at the end of this stage your shoe will look much uglier than it did while you were penciling on it. Don't worry, you'll add borders to tidy it up in the next step.
Step 6: Paint on the Borders
There, isn't that much tidier? It still looks somewhat flat and cartoony, though. If that's what you like, great! Otherwise, it's time for some shading.
Step 7: Apply Shading and Highlights
Step 8: Seal It
The finish makes an enormous difference; as well as protecting the shoe, encasing your paint job in a thin layer of acrylic adds a striking veneer of professionalism to the shoes' appearance.
Note: Even though I used a matte finish, the shoes are still rather glossy. This could be minimized by combining a dulling agent (also available from most paint suppliers) with the paints and/or sealant.
Step 9: Shoe Number Two
Step 10: The Finished Shoes
Let me know what you think and, as always, please share pictures of your own shoe painting projects!