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What Paint Do You Use to Paint Shoes?

what paint do you use to paint shoes

Painting shoes is certainly not just a current thing. For decades, artists have painted their sneakers for customization purposes or just to make them look new. These days, sneakerheads are all about custom-painted sneakers.

Many artists have also actually made quite a good living out of it. So, what paint do you use to paint shoes?

Are you also thinking of trying your hand at painting sneakers but are unsure what kind of paints you can use to achieve your desired effect? In this article, you will learn about what kind of paint will adhere well enough to sneaker materials so you can get the effect that you want.

What Paints Are Safe to Use When Painting Shoes?

You have a lot of choices when it comes to painting shoes. To give you an idea of what you should use, here’s a quick guide.

Spray Acrylic

spray acrylic paint shoes

Spray acrylic paints are great for when you want to paint the entire shoe a single color. You can also use masking tape to cover certain portions of the shoe and then spray paint the exposed areas.

The great thing about spray paints is that it applies the paint uniformly. This makes it different from other brushes that usually leave brush marks on the surface. Spray paints are ideal for leather and vinyl shoes as they have formulations that adhere to those kinds of surfaces.

  • Lays down paint evenly
  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Does not leave any brush marks
  • Compatible with leather and vinyl shoes
  • Only useful when applying one color
  • Can’t be used when planning to add details

Brush-on Acrylic

brush-on acrylic paint shoes

Although spray acrylics are more uniform, in the right hands, brushing on acrylic paints can create wonderful effects. With brushes, you can treat your old shoes like canvases, allowing you to paint whatever kind of designs you like.

If you are artistically inclined and have some skills in painting, you can use regular acrylic paints and paintbrushes to give your shoes renewed life.

  • Provides users with more creative power
  • Allows for the mixing and blending of colors
  • Can bring a new life to your shoes
  • Requires some skills to pull off
  • Leaves brush strokes if the paint is too thick

Acrylic Fabric Paints

If you will be painting over canvas shoes, then it would be better to use fabric paints. These paints are acrylic-based but formulated to seep through the fabric without smudging or bleeding.

Regular acrylic paints are a bit too thick. It may just sit on top of the fabric, which leads to cracking and chipping once dried. Fabric paints bond with the fabric and will not flake off.

  • Bonds permanently on canvas shoes
  • Does not crack or peel
  • Does not cause smudges or bleeding
  • A bit harder to apply
  • Requires some painting skills to create passable designs

Acrylic Paint Pens

acrylic paint pens for shoes

If you want to add intricate details to your shoes, you can use paint pens. These are markers that use acrylic paints instead of inks to write. If you will be drawing things like cartoon characters, intricate landscapes, or any other detailed designs that you like, paint pens will come in handy.

  • Easy to use, convenient, and not as messy compared to other paints
  • Allows for the addition of fine and intricate details
  • Convenient to use
  • Does not work that well when covering large areas
  • Leaves streaks when used for coloring sections of the shoe

Why Do People Paint Their Shoes?

what kind of paint do you use to paint shoes

There are many reasons why people would paint their shoes. Here are just a couple of them:

To Cover Up Damages and Make Shoes Look Like New

In the old days, people would paint over the scuffs on their leather shoes to hide the blemishes. They usually do this when dark-colored shoe polish does not do the trick. The nice thing about using acrylic paints for touch-up jobs is that you can accurately copy the color of the leather. The paint does not also crack even after it completely dries.

Aside from covering scuffs and scratches, painting shoes is always to make them look new again. It has been practiced for decades. Kids would paint the outer soles of their sneakers to make them white again because they do tend to turn yellow after some time.

For Artistic Expression

When many artists look at shoes, they don’t just see the footwear but a blank canvas. Most sneaker artists paint their shoes because they want a colorway that the manufacturer did not provide.

This is why it is not surprising anymore to find different colors of a particular sneaker model when it officially came out in two or three colorways. Some artists take it to a whole new level and they treat their sneakers as literal blank canvases for their artwork.

Aside from coloring the sneakers, they turn them into masterpieces. Some artists would paint various patterns. Others drew landscapes and pop art. Whatever reason you have for painting your shoes, as long as it makes you happy, it is already valid.

How Do You Paint Shoes?

People mistakenly think that you can immediately just start painting on shoes. Technically, you can. However, if you want to make your artwork last, you will need to follow specific steps to make sure that your paints will stick through for a long time.

Here are the steps:

Prepare the Shoe for Painting

If you are painting on a new pair of shoes, you will need to deglaze the surface so that the paint can adhere to it better. All shoes have a special coating that helps prevent stains, and this also means you will not be able to paint them properly.

You can buy a shoe deglazer for this purpose. However, if you cannot find it, you can just lightly sand the parts of the shoe that you will be painting. This will also make the surface of the shoes rough so the paint can stick better.

Next, you need to mask off the parts of the shoes that you will not be painting. Use as much masking tape as you want since you do not want to stain the shoes. The only parts that you need to leave exposed are the ones that you intend to paint.

Proceed with the Paint

What kind of paint do you use to paint shoes? As mentioned earlier, use acrylic paint on your desired designs on the shoes. Prepare a couple of brushes of different sizes. This will allow you to paint even the smaller details.

To ensure that the paint will not crack once dried, you should paint several thin coats. This will allow the paint to get absorbed into the shoe material. You can then let the paint air-dry. Do not use a hair dryer to hasten the drying process as it will make the paint brittle and dry out the shoe material.

Seal the Paint

Apply a sealant over the paint to keep it from chipping and falling off the surface of the shoes. You can use the spray-on sealant or the kind that you brush on. I suggest that you use the brush-on sealant as it is more economical.

Once the sealant dries, you can remove the masking tape and your newly-painted shoes are ready to hit the town. If you want, you can also apply the sealant to the rest of the shoe. The sealant is clear anyway and it will make the rest of the shoe waterproof.


The process of painting shoes is not that difficult, especially if you have a bit of artistic talent. Just prepare the shoes beforehand to make the process smoother and use the right paints.

What paint do you use to paint shoes? Technically, you can use any kind of paint. However, if you want to get the best and long-lasting results, you will need to use acrylic paints. Now that you know the basics of painting shoes, you can start practicing your craft. Hopefully, one day you can create masterpieces that you will be proud of.