Introduction: Painting Leather Shoes (or Other Leather Stuff)
Fortunately, painting leather shoes is easy, and can have excellent results. There are communities online of shoe-painters (naturally the internet has a community for everything), but most people have never seen a sweet pair of custom kicks.
For this instructable, we'll be customizing a pair of Florsheim Imperial dress shoes. I wanted them to be spectators (white/black two-tone), but they were $140. The Black version was on sale for less than $50. Paint was less than $5, so the choice was clear.
This method uses Angelus Leather Paint, which is well known as a quality Acrylic leather paint. It stays flexible, comes in a range of colors, and for once, is inexpensive! These instructions would work well on most natural leather articles, such as wallets, purses, BDSM wear, etc. It isn't designed for suede or other textured leathers.
Painting leather shoes is a 3 step process:
- Prep leather by removing existing polish and coatings with acetone.
- Paint leather with Angelus paints.
- Finish with an Acrylic Finisher for a gloss or matte finish.
You will need:
- Acetone for removing existing coatings (available at Hardware Store) - nail polish remover NOT recommended.
- Angelus Leather Paint (available at many online craft suppliers. I recommend Dharma Trading Company.
- Paper Towels
- Masking Tape (Quality matters - get a good blue tape, or premium green "Frog Tape")
- Paint brushes of various sizes
- A shoe.
- (optional) Angelus Acrylic Finisher or Angelus Duller
Step 1: Prep the Shoe
Prep the shoe by washing any dirt or muck off the shoe.
Then mask any areas you don't want to get paint on. Masking tape quality does matter - use a good 3M blue tape, or the fancier green Frog Tape to get clean lines. In this case I masked the area above the spot I will be painting, because the shape of the leather and the size of my brushes will allow me to avoid painting the brogue.
In a well ventilated area, use the acetone to remove any existing coatings or polish. Use the Q-tips and paper towels to scrub any exposed areas. It should take on a dull appearance. Keep cleaning with acetone until you stop seeing polish come off on your towels! This step is crucial for good adhesion!
Step 2: Paint the Shoes
Painting the shoes is simple. The Angelus paints have good coverage, and are easy to work with. When applying light colors over dark leather, expect to use multiple coats. I had to use 5 coats to cover black leather with white paint, but other colors usually work fine with 2-3 coats. Allow the paint to dry between coats, I recommend at least 20 minutes. As with most paints, several thin coats is better than one thick one!
After your last coat, carefully remove the masking tape. Don't allow the paint to dry completely before removing the tape - you want the slightly wet paint to "flow" a bit, making a smoother edge. You also don't want the tape tearing the fully dry paint when it is removed.
By itself, the Angelus paint has a semi-gloss appearance. This can be made more matte by adding Angelus Duller directly to the paint itself (~4.5mL per oz of paint). To get a more gloss appearance, you will apply the Angelus Finisher after the paint is fully dry.
Step 3: Apply Finisher
Angelus paints come out semi-gloss by default. For a gloss look, allow the paint to dry completely, and apply Angelus Finisher. It has the consistency of diluted milk, and is brushed liberally over the paint. Allow to dry fully, at least 24 hours, before using the shoes.
As you can see, the black and white spectators came out well! At the same time, I decided that my Doc Marten Industrials were too boring, so tuned them up with a navy, light blue and red color scheme. Go nuts!