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What Paint to Use on Shoes for Stunning Customization

Whether you're looking to revamp an old pair or add a personal touch to a new one, choosing the right paint is crucial for achieving the desired results. The kind of paint you use can significantly affect your shoe painting project's durability, appearance, and overall success.

While you can transform many shoes with paint, it's essential to note that our Vessi shoes, known for their waterproof and performance-driven design, may not be suitable for painting. The materials used in our Vessi shoes, such as the proprietary knit technology, could negatively impact their waterproofing and overall performance when painted.

Suppose you have a different pair of shoes you'd like to customize; fear not! In this article, we'll explore various types of paint suitable for leather, canvas, fabric, and vinyl shoes, along with a detailed guide on tips for maintaining and caring for painted shoes.

So, Whether you're a seasoned artist or just getting started, this guide will help you unleash your creativity and transform any other pair of shoes into a unique and personalized masterpiece. Let's dive in and discover the best paint and techniques to create your own one-of-a-kind kicks!

Why Do People Paint Their Shoes?

People paint their shoes to express their creativity, personalize their footwear, and make a fashion statement. Plus, painting shoes allows individuals to transform plain or old shoes into unique and eye-catching works of art. It offers an opportunity to showcase their artistic skills, experiment with different colours and designs, and create one-of-a-kind pieces reflecting their personality and style.

Why Do People Paint Their Shoes?

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Painting shoes also provide a cost-effective way to revitalize worn-out or outdated footwear, giving them a fresh and customized look. Ultimately, shoe painting allows individuals to stand out, embrace their individuality, and add a touch of personal flair to their outfits.

What Paint Can You Use on Shoes

1. Acrylic paint: the versatile choice

Acrylic paint is a popular option for shoe painting due to its versatility and availability. It is water-based, quick-drying, and offers various vibrant colours. Acrylic paints suit different shoe materials, including leather, vinyl, fabric, and canvas shoes.

 Acrylic Paint: The Versatile Choice

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When using acrylic paint on shoes, preparing the surface properly by cleaning the shoes and applying a primer, especially on vinyl or leather shoes, is essential. Acrylic paints can be applied using paint brushes or paint pens, allowing for detailed designs or broad strokes, depending on your artistic vision. To seal acrylic paint and ensure its longevity, use an acrylic sealer spray or a fabric medium mixed with the paint for fabric or canvas shoes.


  • Acrylic paint is adaptable and may suit a variety of materials, such as canvas, cloth, leather, or vinyl shoes

  • Wide colour range

  • Quick drying

  • Easy clean-up

  • Long-lasting


  • Prone to cracking

  • Requires sealing

2. Spray paint: quick and even coverage

Spray paint provides a convenient and efficient way to cover large areas of shoes evenly. It is particularly suitable for canvas shoes and sneakers. When using spray paint on shoes, it's essential to protect surrounding areas with masking tape or plastic wrap to avoid unwanted paint marks.

Spray Paint: Quick and Even Coverage

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Start by applying thin coats of spray paint, allowing each layer of the spray paint to dry before adding another. This process ensures a smooth and professional finish. While spray paint offers quick application, achieving intricate designs may be more challenging than brush-on paints. So, spray paint is best for solid colour coverage or as a base coat for further customization with other types of paint.


  • Quick and even coverage

  • It can achieve a smooth, professional-looking shoe finish.

  • Wide colour range

  • Suitable for various surfaces

  • Can create unique effects


  • Strong odour and fumes

  • Difficult to correct a mistake

  • Less suitable for certain materials

3. Leather paint: ideal for leather shoes

If you're working with leather shoes and seeking paint specifically designed for this material, leather paint is the way to go. Leather paint offers excellent adhesion and flexibility on leather surfaces, ensuring durability even with regular wear. Brands like Angelus produce high-quality leather paint in various colours and finishes.

Leather Paint: Ideal for Leather Shoes

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When preparing leather shoes for painting, clean the surface and remove any finish or protective coating using rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover. Apply thin layers of leather paint with a brush, allowing each coat to dry before adding another. Seal the finished shoes with an acrylic sealer spray or a leather finisher to protect the paint job and enhance its longevity.


  • Specifically designed for leather

  • Flexibility

  • Wide colour range and finishes

  • Can cover imperfections

  • Long-lasting


  • Limited application since it is ideal for painting leather shoes

  • Time-consuming than other paint types

4. Fabric paint: perfect for canvas and cloth shoes

Fabric paints specifically adhere to fabric and canvas materials, making them an ideal choice for painting canvas shoes or waterproof sneakers. It provides excellent flexibility and durability, ensuring the paint stays vibrant after repeated use or washing. Fabric paints come in various forms, including bottles, markers, or pens, allowing for detailed designs.

Fabric Paint: Perfect for Canvas and Cloth Shoes

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Before painting shoes, ensure they are clean and free from dirt or debris. Apply fabric paint using a brush, markers, or pens, depending on the desired effect. Mix fabric paint with a medium to make the paint waterproof or more resistant to washing. Once the shoes are completely dry, heat set the paint with a hairdryer or iron to ensure a permanent bond.


  • Adheres well to fabric

  • Flexible and washable

  • Wide colour range and finishes

  • Precise application

  • Customizable and creative


  • Limited adhesion to non-fabric surfaces

  • Requires heat setting or sealing

  • Slightly stiffer texture

  • Drying time and curing process

5. Paint markers: precision and detailing

Paint markers are versatile tools for precise and intricate detailing in various art projects, including shoe customization. With their fine tips and controlled flow, paint markers allow artists to add intricate lines, patterns, and designs easily.

Paint Markers: Precision and Detailing

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These markers work well on different surfaces, such as canvas, fabric, leather, and vinyl shoes, providing vibrant and long-lasting results. Whether you want to add small accents or create elaborate artwork, paint markers are an excellent choice for achieving professional-level precision and detailing in just a few strokes.

When using paint markers, shake them thoroughly, and start painting on clean and prepped shoes. Allow the paint to dry between applications and finish with a clear sealant for increased durability.


  • Paint markers provide fine and controlled lines, allowing for detailed and intricate designs

  • Ease of use

  • The paint in markers dries rapidly, reducing smudging risks

  • Paint markers come in many vibrant colours, offering creative freedom

  • Suitable for various materials, including fabric, canvas, wood, metal, and plastic


  • The ink may spread slightly on porous materials, affecting fine lines' crispness

6. Paint pens

Paint pens are convenient and user-friendly for customizing shoes, especially for intricate designs and detailing. They come in various colours and tip sizes, allowing for precise application.

 Paint Pens

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Use paint pens, shake them well before starting, and carefully draw your design on the shoes. Before applying more coats of paint or sealing the design with a clear coat, let the first coat completely dry.


  • Paint pens enable accurate control, making them perfect for intricate designs and fine lines on shoes

  • Unlike traditional brushes, paint pens eliminate the need for palettes and water cups, reducing potential mess

  • Quick drying

  • Easy use

  • They are compact and easy to carry, making them convenient for on-the-go use.

  • Wide colour range


  • The amount of paint in a paint pen is limited

7. Nail polish

Nail polish can be an unexpected but effective option for painting small details on shoes, such as accents or fine lines. Ensure that the nail polish matches the shoe's material for optimal adhesion.

paint shoes with nail polish

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Using nail polish, apply thin layers with a fine brush or the polish brush directly. Allow each layer to air out completely before applying extra coats, then cover with a clear nail paint topcoat.


  • Wide colour selection

  • Nail polish brushes are typically fine and precise, making them suitable for small detailing

  • Quick drying

  • Nail polish is readily available, making it easy to find and purchase

  • It provides a glossy finish

  • Cost-effective


  • Potential cracking, chipping, or peeling over time

Tips for Maintaining and Caring for Painted Shoes

Tips for Maintaining and Caring for Painted Shoes

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Proper care and maintenance are required to preserve the longevity and appearance of your painted shoes. Here are some tips for maintaining and caring for your newly painted shoes:

  • Choose the right paint: Opt for high-quality paint for your shoe material. Leather, acrylic, or fabric paint are popular depending on the shoe type. Ensure the paint fits the shoe material for optimal adhesion and durability.

  • Allow sufficient drying time: After painting, allow the shoes to dry completely before wearing or handling them. Follow the recommended drying times the paint manufacturer provides to ensure the paint fully sets and cures.

  • Handle with care: Treat painted shoes with care to prevent chipping or scratching the paint. Avoid rough surfaces, sharp objects, or excessive friction that can damage the painted surface.

  • Clean gently: When cleaning painted shoes, use a soft cloth and mild soap or detergent. Avoid harsh chemicals, abrasive materials, or scrubbing vigorously, as they can degrade the paint or cause colour fading.

  • Avoid excessive moisture: While some paints offer water resistance, it's generally best to avoid soaking or submerging painted shoes in water. Excessive moisture can cause the paint to lift or peel. Allow your shoes to dry naturally if they get wet.

  • Seal the paint: Consider sealing the painted surface with an appropriate sealant or finisher to enhance durability and protect against moisture, UV rays, and fading.

Final Take on What Paint to Use on Shoes

Final Take on What Paint to Use on Shoes

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With the right paint and proper techniques, you can transform your ordinary footwear into unique, personalized works of art. Throughout this comprehensive guide, we have explored the different types of paint suitable for various shoe materials and highlighted the tips for maintaining and caring for painted shoes.

Now armed with the knowledge and tips shared in this article, you can confidently embark on your shoe painting journey. Let your imagination soar as you create stunning designs, vibrant colours, and intricate details on your favourite pair of shoes.

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