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5 Steps to paint & repurpose your old pair of shoes [DIY Guide]

Tips and colourful ideas to re-wear and re-style your footwear

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Do you have a pair of worn-out sneakers that you’d wear more if they had a different design? Here’s a quick DIY guide to repurposing your old pair of shoes – make the old look new!

Editor’s Note: Please explore your options for sustainable and more eco-friendly painting options. We have made our research and could not find any for repurposing your shoes, therefore any suggestions are welcome (please share in the comments below).

How many of us have an old pair of shoes in our closet that we love but haven’t worn in ages because they are lacking the style they once did when we first bought them? What if there was a way to revive them and bring them back to life. Fortunately, turning a blank pair of battered brogues into a colorful fashion statement isn’t as difficult as you’d expect!

5 Steps to paint & repurpose your old pair of shoes [DIY Guide]
Credit artwork: yourkicks.com
A recent trend amounts to gen Z, and a fun project to do at all ages is to customize and hand paint them. Not only is this a fun activity, but it’s also great for the environment. Instead of throwing away that pair of kicks, we are now repurposing them and giving them new life.

You can hand paint leather, canvas, vinyl, and mesh (or a combination). However, each material will require different preparation. 

Why should you hand paint your shoes?

Before diving into how to paint your shoes, let’s discuss why you should. A few reasons immediately come to mind:

  • Reduce waste and turn old into new. Instead of throwing away the pair, simply clean them off and give them a new style.
  • A fun activity for yourself, the kids, or an afternoon with friends!
  • Opportunity for creative expression. If you find yourself bored at home, why not make an activity out of it?

Whatever the reason why you want to customize your shoes, we got you covered with a step by step guide below.

5 Steps to paint & repurpose your old pair of shoes [DIY Guide]

Supplies you’ll need to repurpose your shoes

This guide shows how to hand paint sneakers and add unique designs with paint. Read on to learn how to spruce up your favorite pair of snazzy sneakers and take them on a walk!

  • An old pair of sneakers
  • Hand soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Acetate (nail polish remover) for removing existing polish
  • Cotton balls
  • HB pencil
  • Masking tape
  • Craft knife
  • Angelus acrylic leather paint
  • Angelus acrylic finisher (sealant)
  • Paintbrushes of different sizes
  • Heat gun

Read the steps below to learn how to hand paint shoes to bring a fantastic design to their life.

Step1. Pick your shoes

You can practically hand paint any pair of shoes, so get your sneakers ready.

Step 2. Choose a design

Get creative when choosing your design. Start by planning out your designs and color schemes on paper first. Then, sketch your designs on the shoes using a pencil. Check out Pinterest to get some inspiration.

Step 3. Prepare your shoes for paint

Remove laces and clean the shoes to remove any dirt or dust. Use a toothbrush and hand soap to scrub off any dirt and grime on the sneakers.

Wipe them with cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover. The aim here is to remove the glossy coating that sneaker manufacturers apply on their shoes to protect them.

Use a heat gun to dry off the layer, and you’re ready to start painting. You can use a hairdryer to dry off your sneakers. Alternatively, you can leave them to air dry, but this will take longer.

Remember, removing the clear coat allows the paint to chemically bond directly to the shoe material itself.

After cleaning the shoes, see if you will paint both the inside and the outside and prepare. Then, apply masking tape to any areas of the sneaker you don’t want the paint to touch.

First, apply the masking tape around the entire surface of the sole. Shoe soles made from rubber and other composite material don’t hold paint nicely, and tape protects them from paint.

Then, move on to the upper surfaces and cover other details (lace stays, swooshes) that you don’t want to paint. Use your craft knife to cut the excess tape.

If your sneakers are flimsy, fill them out with something like a rolled-up cloth to provide a sturdier painting surface.

5 Steps to paint & repurpose your old pair of shoes [DIY Guide]

Step 4. Paint the sneakers

At last! Time to fill your design with paint. Acrylic paint, leather paint, spray paint, and paint markers are all possible options.

Fabric paint is best used for canvas or cloth shoes, while spray or leather paints are used for vinyl or leather shoes. If you’re interested in painting your Vans canvas, check out www.yourkicks.com for their step by step guides.

For this project, use angelus acrylic leather paint and micro-detail paintbrushes to paint your shoes. You’ll need different brush sizes for various parts of the sneakers, so have a kit of different sizes handy.

Acrylic leather paint is specifically made to chemically bond leather. So, if you prepare the sneakers right, the paint shouldn’t crack or chip after applying it.

Once you’ve painted your shoes dry them out using a heat gun. Do another coat of paint, if needed. After applying the last coat, carefully remove the masking tape.

Using acetate and cotton balls, you can wipe away paint mistakes. Make sure the surface is completely dry before trying to repaint it.

If you’re going for one color on the leather, it’s best to use spray paint.

Step 5. Seal the shoes

If your sneakers were prepared correctly, the paint should last long without showing any signs of wear or cracks. Unless they’re physically scratched or the paint is rubbed off.

Then again, if you want to make the paint even more durable, you can add a sealant to the end. Besides, acrylic leather paint dries quickly and may need to be thinned for the best results.

Once your shoes are dry, use a paintbrush to apply light, even coats of the sealant on the painted areas. Allow to dry in-between coats fully.

After using leather paint, apply Angelus acrylic finisher, which is available in a range of finishes: regular, satin, high-gloss, and matte.  Applying the finisher to your shoes helps protect the paint from minor scratches and moisture.

Acrylic sealers protect painted finishes in several other cases, but you’ll need to use a sealant specifically designed for your shoes. Check the package and confirm that the sealer is compatible with the type of material your sneakers are made of – acrylic sealants work well on leather, canvas, porous fabrics, and human-made materials.

You can watch the entire shoe-customizing process on Xavier’s channel.

Time to wear your repurposed shoes!

Your old sneakers are plain and boring! At least, it seems so; otherwise, you wouldn’t be searching how to hand paint shoes. The good thing is that restoring sneakers is easy, and can have amazing outcomes.

All you people looking to salvage an old pair of shoes, know that painting can make them even better. Painting your sneakers will give them a custom makeover, no matter the material they’re made from.

And yes, your custom shoe paint job may not be as sturdy as the factory finish. But, if you use the right supplies and learn how to hand paint shoes correctly, your custom shoe paint will rise pretty close to the manufacturer’s finish.

Share this guide to help your friends learn how to do their first custom or restoration.

5 Steps to paint & repurpose your old pair of shoes [DIY Guide]

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Ben Kaplan

Ben started Your Kicks started over 15 years ago as a hand painting slip-ons project with a few artist friends in Los Angeles, CA. The brand has since transformed into purely digital and now focuses on cultivating sneakerhead culture and its online community.

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