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
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Franstuff15 months ago

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

CeliaSouthey6 months ago

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.

Sanddansart7 months ago

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

susansf18 months ago

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,


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!

susanka18 months ago

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.

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!

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mitch9953ell11 months ago
I made some and have no regrets
karisiler made it!11 months ago

I made these today!

pokemon shoes.jpeg

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

fallenXmisery12 months ago

can i use poster paint instead of acrylic?

Rich_O1 year ago
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
rsolas2 years ago
Awesome tutorial and beautiful work!
Love his movies
dont u used any textile medium?they said that it will crack if u dont...nice work by d way...
dont u used any textile medium?they said that it will crack if u dont...nice work by d way...
nortega62 years ago
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?
kirany133 years ago
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
Sharpies may bleed.....
kiffakitty (author)  kirany133 years ago
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! :)
Thanks so much for the tutorial! I got a pair of white canvas Keds from goodwill for this purpose!
miss_totoro2 years ago
Theese shoes are amazing! I just love them! I wish i was talented to make myself a pair :)
ewilliams262 years ago
Thank you SO much for this tutorial! I have been looking everywhere for a good tutorial on how to do this!
Biancapoop3 years ago
Is there anyway for the clear varnish part. Can we use spray on modge podge?
kiffakitty (author)  Biancapoop2 years ago
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. dvorakbrdr@live.ca 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! :)
gjanelle4 years ago
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
but i didnt use acrylic i used actual fabric paint
kiffakitty (author)  gjanelle4 years ago
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?
jcoronadoh4 years ago
Can you wash them?, like what happens if water touches the shoes?
kiffakitty (author)  jcoronadoh4 years ago
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.
htonks4 years ago
Could you use printing ink, like used for printing onto t-shirts and stuff?
kiffakitty (author)  htonks4 years ago
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_kutie4 years ago
How many layers of varnish shouold be applied??
kiffakitty (author)  litto_kutie4 years ago
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.
OH WOW! Thank you so much for sharing this! And kudos on the Kiki shoe. : ]] I love it! Jeez people like you are the whole reason I love crafting like this. Thank you for sharing your creative talent with us. Also of course for your tips and tricks on how to do it, and not just sending me to an Etsy page to BUY them. : ]]
agupta114 years ago
i love i love i love...i am planning to start wid white canvas shoes.any basic tips or suggestions?
Awesum job ! I have a question, for the acrylic paint, do i need to mix fabric paint medium in the paint to make it fabric paint or can i just paint the shoes with the acrylic paint?
kiffakitty (author)  Lazy_Bones274 years ago
Just paint them with acrylic paint, but never wash them. If you have a good fabric paint in mind and are using white shoes, then you can use that instead of acrylic paint. The great thing about acrylic paint is that it is opaque. Fabric paint, on the other hand, tends to be transparent.
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