Introduction: Personalize Shoes With Acrylic

Picture of Personalize Shoes With Acrylic

Personalizing shoes is a fun activity for both adults and children who love to paint and express themselves in artistic ways. Shoes can have any pattern the designer wishes. The first thing to do, before even buying the shoes, is to have a basic idea of what you are going to draw. Take careful consideration when buying your shoes, the most important factor is the fabric and color. Do not buy non- shoes, athletic shoes, leather shoes, or shoes with a lot of texture. If you want an intricate pattern, I suggest high-top converse with a plain canvas material because these shoes will offer a large flat space on both sides on the shoe. If you are interested in smaller designs, buy either canvas flats or something like Keds or Vans. If you buy white or light colored shoes you can use fabric markers and sharpies to color your art, giving it a smooth natural look. Darker color shoes are going to need acrylic paint so that the images can be visible.

Step 1: Preperation

Picture of Preperation

Get materials ready and remove laces from shoes.
Materials needed:
1. Plain fabric based shoes like converse, vans, or keds. 
2. Acrylic paint-depending on the pattern, I suggest red, blue, yellow, brown, white, and black. These basic colors can be mixed into any color you need.( In theory you don't need brown, but I suggest it because hand mixed brown is often grayer and less appealing than store bought brown)
4. Firm small paint brushes, preferably nylon
5.paper plate (to pour the paint on)
3. A Black Sharpie
4. Clear Varnish- matte, satin or gloss. I recommend the spray on from Rust-oleum or Krylon. 
Optional: Fabric markers (if decorating a light colored shoes)
Optional: Black sharpie pen, for those really fine details
optional: Glitter

Step 2: Paint a Base Color

Picture of Paint a Base Color

A white background does not need a base coat for preparation. Also thinner amounts of paint can be used on white shoes, making them more durable and less likely to crack.

A black background will need many layers of paint to become completely smooth and opaque, so paint a base color to make your project easier. However, if you put too much paint on the fabric it will be more vulnerable to cracking in the future. 

1.Sketch an estimated shape of the space needed for your picture on the shoe with a pencil. If using black shoes, don't worry if you over shoot the amount of space you need because you can always blacken the extra unneeded space with sharpie and black paint later. If using light colored shoes then I suggest skipping this step; you don't need a base color because your shoe is already light enough to paint on. If you are painting over your entire shoe, you may want just buy white shoes to make your life easier. 

2.Mix white and brown paint to make a tan color. Really water your base down, so that the paint seeps into the canvas. You will probably need two coats to make the surface smooth. 

Tip:A smoother picture looks better, so make sure the surface is completely smooth, otherwise your paint will not fill in the little spaces in between the fabric and it will give your picture a pixel-y uneven look. 

Tip:In my opinion, the base color of tan works best because it offers enough darkness for painting dark colors and enough lightness for painting light colors. Your going to paint over this color so don't worry, it won't show in the end. However if you are going to be painting something like the Starry Night you should probably make your base color blue. 

Tip:If you are using a higher quality paint, like Basic, you can actually thin the paint with small amounts of water. Using a thinned paint for the base helps the fabric absorb the paint better and saves you paint. It also makes it easier to paint on fine details. I have seen little difference between the quality of Basic and more expensive paint brands, so I just use Basic.

Step 3: Sketch on Your Image and Begin Painting

Picture of Sketch on Your Image and Begin Painting

Now that the base color is completely dry, you are ready to finally begin personalizing your shoes!

Tip: If you are not a good artist you can use Transfer paper. It has one side with graphite and one side with plain paper. This way you can perfectly trace the image right onto your base color. Print out the picture you want and follow the directions on the package; use a picture that has simple lines so that it will be easier to trace.

Tip: If you plan to draw the image yourself use a pencil and draw right onto the base color. I suggest drawing only basic shapes first, then color them in with the paint, and then draw on the details with a sharpie later. But its up to you! Don't use pen to draw the image, it will bleed into your paint and ruin your picture. 

Tip: For shoes of a lighter color, you can paint on the main characters or details with acrylic and then use fabric markers to do the background. Here is an example of a person that uses both acrylic and fabric markers: Be careful when you use acrylic and fabric marker, it will be much harder to cover up mistakes on a white shoe. 

Tip: You can mix small amounts of water in with your acrylic to make it smoother. This helps when doing fine details and just generally makes the whole piece look better when done correctly. Some acrylic paints do not mix with water as well.

Suggestions for beginners:
1. Paint light to dark to conserve paint. 
2. Paint the base color of your object first and then add highlights and shadows after, mixing the remainder base color with white for highlight and one of the matching primary colors for shade. Mixing black and your base color makes the color darker, but also grey-er and less realistic.
3. Be patient and do all of one kind of color first to conserve paint, otherwise you will constantly be cleaning your brush and by the time you come back to the other colors, they will dry up.
4. If you use a sharpie to create the the black outlines and final details, it will come out much cleaner looking. Painting them on gives you greater control over the size of the black line, but it is difficult to get really fine lines on the canvas. 
5. DON'T GIVE UP! At first your painting will look odd and vague, but it will be fine once you have finished all the details. Also use additional paint to cover any mistakes you make, even if you totally mess up you can always just paint over the whole thing again with the base color.

Step 4: Sharpie Details

Picture of Sharpie Details

Now you can start finishing the details. 

1. Add details and outline; if you mess up with the sharpie, just touch it up with more paint.
2. Fill in the extra space with black paint if you have black shoes. If you have white or other color shoes try to make an acrylic mix of paint that best matches your shoe color and fill in the extra space.

Ideas: You can use sharpie to draw on the rubber part of the shoe like I did. The sharpie will wear down and rub off eventually on this part of the shoe, so it may be necessary to cover your little pictures with varnish to protect them.

Step 5: Cover the Painted Area in Varnish

Picture of Cover the Painted Area in Varnish

Once the paint is dry, spray on the varnish. Remember use a just few light coats to prevent dripping. If you spray the sealer on too harshly it might dissolve your final details. Also if you spray too much spray paint, it will be sticky and will not dry correctly. 

Now you have your own personalized shoes to wear on a nice, dry, sunny day!


eljaypropshop (author)2017-08-10

I customise boots and props for character artists - just a thought would nail varnish sealer not work to seal graphics on shoes. As any one tested automotive acrylic sealer or nail varnish on a small test sample of leather or fabric to see if that works! t

My most recent work can be seen on

Making Dawn Of Justice - Batman Boots:

Material appears to be pleather!!

I just used plastico spray paint primer in grey, Metallic gold plastico paint spray, and then parade gloss boot polish dabbed on the top (leave this to dry, then apply 2 more coats-then remove with a damp sponge,) using black boot polish gave the boots a weathered and more urban armour look.

I have not sealed yet but I have sprayed light amounts of water on and it ran off.

I may use matt sealer if I can ever find any in the UK. I know people use hair spray to seal paint on canvas paintings so wondered if that might work.

So possible options to test o a small sample of fabric may be- nail varnish acrylic sealer, automotive semi or gloss sealer ( I can not find matt sealer), or even hair spray like artists use on canvas.

I'd prefer a sealer that would not bleed or make the paint run or feel tacky if any one knows one - thanks in advance for the nice tutorial.

issidiri (author)2017-03-31

Can you use Masking fluid on converse?

Onlyonwednesday made it! (author)2016-03-30

These are pairs that I made this week. It's my first time painting on shoes. I sprayed them with a rain and stain guard I found at Payless. Do you think that will hold the design or should I buy a clear varnish?

Gosh! These look great! Congrats!!

Aditya K Mehta (author)2016-10-28

Hi! Personalizing shoes is fun especially when you are bored wearing the same old shoe. Rather throwing away your shoe, it would be great if you just customize a little bit like painting? Good idea, right? There are many ways where you can redesign your shoe. One cool example is this, you can check this: So, try this easy DIY and wear your shoe differently. Make sure you take the help of your guardian or any friend. Have fun!

Aditya K Mehta (author)2016-10-28

Hi! Personalizing shoes is fun especially when you are bored wearing the same old shoe. Rather throwing away your shoe, it would be great if you just customize a little bit like painting? Good idea, right? There are many ways where you can redesign your shoe. One cool example is this, you can check this: So, try this easy DIY and wear your shoe differently. Make sure you take the help of your guardian or any friend. Have fun!

Whovian123 (author)2016-07-20

are those doctor who shoes????

kenzy leeh (author)2016-07-06

So i painted some shoes and they look amazing, (I might post pictures) but the person I made them for is concerned about making them breathable. I was wondering if you have any tips on making it more breathable.

EshitaB (author)2016-05-11

I have a set of white sport shoes..the proper badminton shoes for playing on wooden floor...they are not like the canvas shoes everyone is painting because they are white, boring and old i wish to be a little creative and make them all colourful and new...please help me...all these techniques right from the type of paint which in the usual course is acrylic for canvas shoes can be applied to them as well...or do i go with some other set of products...if yes which ones?

SarahT51 (author)2015-12-29

In my experience working with acrylic paint in canvas shoes you will want to thin the paint down a little bit. This prevents the fabric from becoming too stiff and getting a "gloppy" texture. Also, it's really important to let the artwork dry completely before spraying any finishing over it.. Use Sharpies only on projects that you're not serious about.

DaveyB4 (author)2015-12-09

I have painted on shoes and was very happy with the way they turned out. Now, I have a pair of white Cons, low tops to paint and I want to make SURE that you can really use Sharpies for fine detailing as the area to paint is so small. Won't they run when you use the 'spray varnish finish'? I am doing these shoes for a paid order and don't want to end up replacing the shoes. I need anyone that has used Sharpie's and their advice, real quick!! The shoes are a Christmas present. Thanks!!

JulieG36 (author)DaveyB42015-12-16

NEVER use Sharpie markers if you are going to 'seal' with matter if you spray, roll or brush it on...IT WILL BLEED! Invest in permanent paint markers. They are pricey, but well worth the $$ and time you spend on your project. I use paint markers for canvas, ceramic, glass...etc.

NolaR4 made it! (author)2015-12-02

Never before tried painting on shoes...I'm a little concerned about hoe they will wear...time will tell.

Super_seal (author)2015-11-29

Absolutely amazing! I love the totoro designs, especially the catbus :) keep up the good work!

Franstuff1 (author)2015-03-29

Awesome designs! Thanks for sharing your technique with the rest of us!!

CeliaSouthey (author)2015-02-08

TGN Designs ie our family, have been doing this for the last 6 years, using Sharpies or acrylic paint on canvas shoes. After the shoes are dried well, the paint stays well, even after a couple of goes thru the washing machine. we have never varnished or scotch guarded any. The colours only fade a little as years pass. Check out our Face book page if you want to see what we've done and how well they last after wearing. ;-) they make great gifts too.

Sanddansart (author)2015-01-18

Hello,Do I have to use clear varnish on the shoe? I am using white converse allstars, sharpies, either acrylic paint,or fabric paint, and maybe oil markers too, on the rubber parts. Sandra

susansf1 (author)2014-12-26

Hi, your shoes are awesome. To protect the artwork and shoes, how do you feel about spraying on Scotch Guard after two layers of varnish on the art? Would you avoid spraying the Scotch Guard (or gereric waterproofing spray) onto the artwork? Thanks,


heather.allred1 (author)2014-12-17

HELP! I am making shoes for my kids for Christmas, I am almost done with 5 pairs, but when I was spraying the first ones with the sealer, the sharpie bled... How do I keep the sharpie from bleeding on the rest of my shoes!

susanka1 (author)2014-12-08

Someone had asked about gesso- I accidentally used some thinking it was white acrylic paint (it said acrylic large and gesso small underneath) to paint my shoes. It covers well but does leave a rough texture. Also when I sprayed the varnish on to seal it, I must have used too heavy a hand because it made the sharpie bleed. Going to have to start over.

cheryl.ridout.9 (author)2014-12-05

My mother asked me to paint something small on a leather pair of tennis shoes. I painted it in acrylics so I could shade. My question is do you know what I could use to seal the painted area? As you can see from the picture, it is a small area so I'm not sure if a spray is ideal? Any suggestions? Thank you!

mitch9953ell (author)2014-10-07

I made some and have no regrets

karisiler made it! (author)2014-09-27

I made these today!

marshmellowbelly (author)2014-09-07

how long does the design stay on the shoe? I'm most definitely doing this sometime

fallenXmisery (author)2014-09-07

can i use poster paint instead of acrylic?

Rich_O (author)2013-09-15

Hi. I love your topic. By the way, can I use POLYURETHANE SPRAY PAINT FINISH for the painted canvas shoes? Thanks! You're prompt reply will be hihgly appreciated

rsolas (author)2013-08-23

Awesome tutorial and beautiful work!

Love his movies

amirofthedesert (author)2013-05-16

dont u used any textile medium?they said that it will crack if u dont...nice work by d way...

amirofthedesert (author)2013-05-16

dont u used any textile medium?they said that it will crack if u dont...nice work by d way...

nortega6 (author)2013-05-09

So after looking at the comment about using sharpies, I'm wondering about using Gesso. I'm only just learning something's about painting technique and so I looked it up online. Apparently, it is used to prime a surface or raw canvas before painting with acrylics, to keep the paint from soaking into the canvas. That may work if you don't want your Sharpies to bleed, but I don't know how gesso and permanent marker ink interact. If it's true that the packaged, ready-to-paint canvases you buy at the store are already primed, then I know that Sharpie looks good and is extremely easy to draw with on a primed canvas, that is if the same primer packaged canvas makers use is in fact gesso.I don't know, however, how it will hold up after continuous wear. Also, the research I did said that gesso will tighten raw canvas. Will this make it necessary to break in the shoes to make them comfortable? If so, how will the canvas look once shoes are broken in? This is just an idea, but if anyone has tried this before, what are your results? Or if you are used to working with. gesso, what do you think will happen when using it on shoes?

kirany13 (author)2012-01-13

so i wanna do some white vans the ones that dont have shoe laces and i want to decorated them all the way around completely i dont want any white showing but i dont want to use paint is it the same if you just use colored sharpies?? will the sharpies fade?? or smudged?? do you have to paint your shoes white again so they could be smoooth to color on?? and after your done drawing on them do you still have to spray them with varnish?? can you please answer me on here or on facebook: Kirany'thehobo Lavadores add me :) i wanna design my own shoes its something ive always wanted to do

cattibalistic (author)kirany132013-05-03

Sharpies may bleed.....

kiffakitty (author)kirany132012-03-12

Haha, I will think about it! However, I bet you could make them if you tried! Then you could learn a new skill and have awesome Majora's Mask shoes! :)

cattibalistic (author)2013-05-03

Thanks so much for the tutorial! I got a pair of white canvas Keds from goodwill for this purpose!

miss_totoro (author)2013-05-01

Theese shoes are amazing! I just love them! I wish i was talented to make myself a pair :)

ewilliams26 (author)2012-11-25

Thank you SO much for this tutorial! I have been looking everywhere for a good tutorial on how to do this!

Biancapoop (author)2012-08-12

Is there anyway for the clear varnish part. Can we use spray on modge podge?

kiffakitty (author)Biancapoop2012-10-16

Darn! I thought I posted to this. No don't use that stuff! It is not water proof and it does not last! It gets gross over time; plus, it is meant for paper, not fabric.

i would pay you an inane amount of money to do my chucks with a similar Majora's Mask theme. seriously, those are gorgeous. hit me up if you wanna make some cash

Haha, I will think about it! However, I bet you could make them if you tried! Then you could learn a new skill and have awesome Majora's Mask shoes! :)

gjanelle (author)2011-08-02

OMG! i love my neighbor tuturo (but yet idk how to spell "tuturo lol) i love the cat bus!!:)<3 and great job on the shoes! i made my own linkin park shoes after i saw thiss:D

gjanelle (author)gjanelle2011-08-02

but i didnt use acrylic i used actual fabric paint

kiffakitty (author)gjanelle2011-08-15

Cool! Please post a picture, I would love to see them! I have never used fabric paint before because I have not found a brand that works well enough to do small details (or that blends well). Which brand did you use?

jcoronadoh (author)2011-07-17

Can you wash them?, like what happens if water touches the shoes?

kiffakitty (author)jcoronadoh2011-08-15

You can not scrub them too hard, nor can you submerge them into water. However, if there is just a little bit of dirt then you can definitely use a wet rag to gently clean them. The Star War's pair of shoes (that are posted here) actually got ruined because my friend stepped in mud and then tried to scrub it off too harshly. He went right through the protective matte layer and then the paint bled all over.

htonks (author)2011-07-07

Could you use printing ink, like used for printing onto t-shirts and stuff?

kiffakitty (author)htonks2011-07-14

I have never used it before. However, if it doesn't bleed or wash off easily then it should be fine. Protect it with the spray-on varnish, just to make sure it does not come off with use. By the way, I would love it if you could post some pictures when you are done, I would like to see how well printing ink works on canvas shoes.

litto_kutie (author)2011-05-24

How many layers of varnish shouold be applied??

kiffakitty (author)litto_kutie2011-06-12

Two light coats should be good. If you put too much paint/varnish it may crack, so only apply what you need and don't over do it.

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