How to Draw on Canvas Shoes (even If You're Not an Artist)




About a year ago I set out to design my own pair of shoes because I couldn't find anything remotely close to what I wanted and the things that were just 'ok' were ridiculously expensive. I'm sure you've been there. Unfortunately there wasn't a lot of comprehensive guides out there and I ended up winging it. Taking that into account I made a second pair, they turned out even better and took about half the time so I thought I'd share the process with you.

Bear in mind: The first time I did this it took me almost a week to do the whole thing. The second time it took a couple of days. But I'm a perfectionist.

Items Necessary: 1) A pair of white canvas shoes. I got mine for twenty dollars at Payless.

-Keep in mind the amount of time you intend to wear them and buy accordingly. I wore my first pair eight hours a day for six months and by the time winter hit the heel was pulling away from one of the shoes. All my hard work down the drain, I should have bought better quality. But it's up to you.
- Also I know that everybody loves converse but if you're like me and wear pants (as oppose to say shorts) all people can see is the toe and it's covered in that ugly white plastic bit that you can't draw on. If you're going to bother drawing on your shoes, flaunt them to the world!

2) Markers   - use whatever kind you want but make sure that they're waterproof. I used Prismacolor because they were on sale.
                      - be wary of markers with fat tips, they bleed easier but tiny marker tips take longer and use more ink. Your call. I like 
                          the medium sized one (you can see it below, the cap is off and it's orange)

3) Paper, Pencil, Eraser  -seriously, you need them if you want this to turn out well

4) Some kind of Waterproof Spray - I'm told it's not 100% necessary but why take the risk?

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Step 1: Planning and Drawing and Cutting

Yes, yes I know, nobody likes to plan. But do it anyway. Decide if your shoes are one big picture or divided into sections. Then either find some source material and start drawing it out on a piece of paper or just start drawing ON THE PAPER. Do not go right to the shoes. Also, when drawing on the paper try and draw it to scale. Now I drew mine but for all of you not artists tracing is perfectly acceptable too as long as you're not making money off it. Just bring an image up on your computer, resize, slap a paper on the screen, and trace away. Draw more then you think you'll need.

Make sure you take the time to get the details right.

Cut them out CAREFULLY

Step 2: Tracing

All of you 'artists' are about to kill me but I'm going to suggest that you trace the outlines of what you just cut right onto the shoes. Lay them on and make sure the sizing is right (if you messed that up start over and redraw). Then just hold them down one at a time and trace the outline, this way you're guaranteed to have no sizing issues. Then you can either fill in the inside free hand OR there are two other options for the nonartistic (like me).

1) Take a sharp pencil and poke small holes into strategic places (where lines intersect) on your papercutout. Then line the outline back up to the cutout and using a pencil put little dots on the shoes where the holes are. Then it's only a matter of playing connect the dots!

2)Trace the outline. Start cutting your paper drawing into smaller pieces based on the details of your drawing (I did number one but that would be like cutting out Superman's S shield or trimming off Batman's gloves). What's left is a line that tells you exactly where the line in your drawing was.

Either way at this point you can still erase but be careful! If it's something that you need to leave white any erasing is going to show a little. Always press as light as you can still see.

Step 3: Marker Time!

Because I do 'comic book style' I like to outline everything that I just did in pencil in black marker. Besides the comic book feel I also think it makes the image pop. Plus if you're worried about bleeding I've found that the black boundary helps prevent that. 

However large sections of black take forever to fill in. Take a look at Wonder Woman's hair, the darkness changes. It takes way more black ink to fill in a space then it does for a lighter colour, keep that in mind. However I've found the lighter colours have a higher tendency to bleed, once again your choice.

I seriously do recommend outlining the the black though.

Another thing I recommend is to give your shoes a sense that they're actually a PAIR of shoes, without making them identical. Personally I divide these shoes into four sections based on the seams, make two sections unique (here it's our sections with the Justice League) and then the other two the same on both pairs of shoes (the backs and the symbols side)

Step 4: COLOUR!!!!!!!!!

Time to add colour. 

There's not a lot I can do to explain that. But a few tips and tricks
1) Start with the 'foreground' first. For me this is my characters and fill the background colour in only when you're done

2) If you're nervous about bleeding or anything else start with something unimportant, usually for me (because my jeans cover it) the heels. Also remember with the heels that if you're like me and slide off your shoes with your feet the heels are going to get pretty beat up so don't put anything too important there and try to use dark colours.

3)Put the LIGHT COLOURS ON FIRST That way if you mess up hopefully you can just dark colour over it. But don't stress out, it happens

4)Personalize it! That's why your making the shoes isn't it? I like to write quotes and things on mine. Batman's on the shoe, I want to write something Batman said on it.

5) I never found a good skin tone marker, I just leave it white.

Step 5: Let It Sit!

Once all the markering is done and you're happy let your shoes sit for at least a day before you spray/wear them. It lets the colours sink in. I didn't do this and all of my yellow bled like mad and I had to make some changes on the fly.

If you're wondering how the shoes hold up after six months I've got some pics up below of my first pair of shoes as they are now.

Now go forth, wear and enjoy!

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    40 Discussions

    what kind of markers did you use? I don't know if I have overread this but do they have to be waterproof?


    Question 1 year ago on Step 5

    What Do I use on the color of the shoes to keep the colors from bleeding from water.


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    I love the shoes!!!
    What did you use to waterproof the shoes? My daughter used sharpies on white canvas shoes. What do you recommend?


    2 years ago self Subhash from India I have one pair old blue shoe.............

    how can I design it...........?

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    can I wash the shoe afterwards? if yes what are the washing process


    2 years ago

    Really cool, thanks!


    3 years ago

    excellent tutorial and great finished item :-)


    3 years ago

    Im just starting out doing shoes. I use a combination of permanent ball point pens and sharpies. What should I use to protect the colors from fading.


    3 years ago

    If you don't mind me asking, what waterproof spray did you use? Also, do you know any close alternatives to the one you used?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    wow thx so much for this tutorial

    ive seen a lot and this is definitely the best one


    4 years ago

    What is the use for waterproof spray?


    My shoes were fresh out of the box when I started but if they're older shoes that have been out and about then I would definitely suggest cleaning! However, make sure they're completely dry before drawing or the markers will likely run.

    Well I'm not entirely sure what sort of adhesive spray you have, typically I'd say no. Adhesive spray is designed to stick two things together rather than act as a sealant.


    5 years ago on Step 5

    Great job! you may say you're 'not an artist' but I think you did great with image placement and details!