Introduction: How to Make Professional Looking Custom Shoes for £10!

About: I am a Hobbyist, Maker and Designer and love to spend my free time getting creative and building new things!

Why paint your own shoes?

If you are at all like me, you may really enjoy expressing different aspects of your personality or your passion for certain TV shows or video games through the clothing that you wear. Being able to walk down the street wearing an item of clothing or accessory from your favourite Fandom and immediately bonding with other people when they recognize the show or game that you are wearing merchandise from, is a great feeling. This sort of pop culture representation can help make like minded friends very quickly.

However, sometimes certain things may not be popular enough to have dedicated merchandise, or the specific thing you want to wear isn't a design that is available, or maybe its just too expensive, all of these are issues I have had in the past and the best solution I have found is to make your own custom piece.

You may be thinking that you aren't the best artist or don't know how to design your own clothing, but in this Instructable I will do my best to show you a cheap and easy way to hand paint your own custom shoes. The methods that I use to paint these shoes can be easily applied to any clothing or accessory that you want to customize.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Choosing your paints

When painting on shoes you are going to want to be careful what type of paints you use, I find that acrylic paint works really well at bonding to the fabric, however some acrylic paints when they dry will become very brittle. With something like shoes or clothing the flexible nature of the fabric can mean that it will crack or break off the acrylic paint if it becomes brittle, so in order to prevent this you can mix fabric medium into your paints which will help them to dry more flexible and will make your shoes more sturdy.

List of materials and tools

  • A cheap or old pair of shoes - A more expensive or brand name pair can be used but I would recommend practicing on a cheap or old pair that you don't care too much about first
  • Masking tape - This is the star of the show for this project and will help enormously in the process
  • Acrylic paints - Again I used quite a cheap brand as long as it has a good range of colours and they are vibrant you should be okay
  • Fabric medium
  • Paint brushes (varying sizes)
  • Pencil
  • Scalpel/ Craft Knife
  • Cutting mat/ Cutting board
  • A fine tip permanent marker


The only things that I personally had to buy for this project were the pair of shoes and some paints. This meant for me, the whole build cost only around £10! The rest of the things I used in the project I already had. If you already have those things lying around the house too, you could do this whole project at no additional cost to yourself!

Step 2: Planning

Designing a good shoe

The most important part of this whole process is the design of the shoe, if you design something you don't like that much, no matter how carefully you paint it and how nice it turns out you will not be happy with the final product.

I find that taking the time and coming up with some concept ideas and then doing some rough sketches or some form of a mood board really helps in making a good final product.

For my shoes, I decided that I wanted to make them Fallout 4 themed, so I took a bit of time to look up different pieces of art from the game and see if there were any existing shoes other people had made that I liked the look of. Then I took a few of the things that I liked the most and collected them in a few pages in order to give myself some inspiration for my design.

Step 3: Your Starting Point

The base shoe

When I design a shoe the first thing I consider is the base shoe I am working with, I normally like to buy quite a cheap and plain shoe which allows me more freedom in adding my own value to the shoe by my design and painting. It also has the benefit of meaning that if you make a mistake or are not happy with how it turns out, it is not too big of a loss.

In this project I started out with a very bare minimum white shoe which was styled loosely off of a converse shoe it only cost me about £3.50 from Primark.

I looked at the shoe and decided which areas I wanted to paint and which I wanted to leave the original colour. Then it was a mater of making a template of the areas that I wanted to paint.

Step 4: Templating

Depending on the kind of shoe that you have, your process for templating may differ slightly, or you may feel you do not need to template at all.

For the shoe I was using, there was quite a distinct seam of where the different pieces of fabric were layered together, and I knew that I wanted to use that seam to my advantage and paint within that area.

Once I decided on the area, I lay down a few strips of masking tape, overlapping them to cover the whole area I wanted to paint. I then used my thumb nail to press the masking tape down into the seam and that allowed me to get a very accurate impression of the edges of the area I wanted to paint. Then I traced the outline I had given myself using a fine tipped marker. Next, I used a scalpel to carefully cut the masking tape along this line, if you do this while the tape is still covering the shoe, be careful with the amount of pressure you apply with the knife, you don't want to cut through the shoe.

I then repeated this process for the other areas I wanted to paint, then took the masking tape off of the shoe and traced the outline on to a sheet of paper, which left me with a template of the areas I wanted to paint.

Step 5: Designing the Shoe

Once I had my template made, I did some very rough mock ups and designs to see what I liked and where I wanted to place things. At this point it is really important to experiment with the layout and colour scheme you want to use, as it is much easier to experiment now than to begin painting the shoe then decide you wish to change it.

I then finalized a design I was quite happy with and went forward to painting.

Step 6: The Base Colour

This step is only necessary if you wish to change the base colour of the shoe you are working with, if you are just wanting to put a small design on a part of the shoe, you can skip this.

I wanted to change the areas I was painting from the base white colour of the shoe to a blue. In order to do this, I again used masking tape, to mask off the areas I wanted to remain white. The more time you take now the better it will turn out and the more time you can save yourself later, if you mask it off halfheartedly, the lines you are left with when you remove the tape will be very splotchy and uneven and will not result in a nice looking final product, or you will need to touch up the lines more using a paint brush.

After you have masked off the other areas, you can simply paint the area your desired colour, since this is quite a large area it is easier to use a bigger brush, and if you've masked off properly you don't need to be very careful so wont need a smaller brush.

Depending on the starting colour and how different you want to change the colour, you may need to apply a few coats of paint, I started with a white and was changing to a darker blue so found I only needed one or two coats.

Now is one of the most satisfying parts of this project, unmasking the shoe, once you are finished painting remove the masking tape to reveal those sweet crisp lines. If your lines aren't as precise as you'd like, don't worry too much you can go back in with the colour you were painting and the original colour of the shoe to touch up the lines.

Step 7: Creating a Stencil

If you have a vinyl cutter then you can easily use it here to create your stencils however, if you don't have a vinyl cutter, like me, then this is a really easy way to make very detailed stencils just using... you guessed it, more masking tape!

For this step you need to make sure you have a good work surface that you can cut on, I used a cutting mat but a cutting board or scrap piece of wood or something similar could work just as well.

I start by placing my graphic that I want to make into a stencil down on the mat to get a rough idea of the area it will cover. Then I make a piece of masking tape that is large enough for the graphic to fit on, I do this by overlapping each piece of tape so that it effectively acts like one large piece of tape. it is important that you overlap the tape in such a way that if you peel the tape off, it all comes up as one piece.

Then I stick the piece of tape firmly down to my cutting mat and use small pieces of tape to stick the graphic on top of it.

Then it is the simple matter of using a sharp scalpel or craft knife, to very carefully cut around the outline of the shape you want to cut out.

Once you have fully outlined the shape, you can remove the graphic and peel off the parts of the shape that you want to remain, leaving behind the negative which will act as your stencil.

Step 8: Painting the Stencils

At this point, you are ready to start painting the graphics on to the shoe. Begin by peeling your stencil off of your mat and sticking it firmly to your shoe where you want the graphic to be. Ensure that the edged of the stencil are firmly pressed down, then paint over the stencil in your desired colour, here you can see me painting a yellow vault symbol onto the shoe. Since my graphics colour is lighter than the base colour of the shoe, I had to apply several coats until it reached the opacity I wanted.

I then allowed the last coat to dry and once I was happy with it, removed the stencil. When you remove this stencil, don't worry if the edges are a little rough, this will be addressed in the next step.

Next, repeat these steps to create any other stencils you would like, I made stencils for different sections of the vault boy graphic and coloured the sections appropriately.

Now you may not be very impressed with how the shoes are looking at the moment, but here is how you pull it all together.

Step 9: Outlining

This is the step that can change the shoes from looking very amateur to very professional. Its as simple as using a fine tipped permanent marker to outline the shapes you have painted on, just go slow and use a steady hand and freehand by going over the edges of where one colour meets another.

Step 10: Sealing/ Clear Coat

Now that you have put in so much effort to make your shoes look the way you want them to, you will want to protect them so they don't get ruined the first time you wear them out. I recommend using a spray on clear coat to water and stain proof the shoes. Once that's done and dried, go and show off your new custom shoes!

Step 11: Final Thoughts

In the end, the shoes or whatever you choose to make using this method will only turn out as good as you make them, you have full control over the process and the more time you put into them, the better they will turn out.

This method can be used to design any kind of shoe, I have made another pair that were themed after the TV show Rick and Morty, with this pair I used a wipe on clear coat and sadly smudged some of the lines, which is why I recommend using a spray on version.

With this simple and cheap method I've shown you the only limit to what shoes you can design is your own creativity! This same method can easily be used to paint jeans, shirts, jackets, bags or whatever you choose to customize!

You can used your own hand drawn graphics or use art or graphics from games or TV shows or other peoples designs you find online.

All of the graphics I used in this Instructable were either hand drawn or sourced from google images, most of which are originally properties created for Fallout 4 by Bethesda.

Step 12: What I Used in This Project

Any materials that I have described earlier can work but here are some of the things or similar things to the ones which I used if you were interested in getting some yourself.

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