How To Paint Canvas Shoes

Custom shoes are cool, but what if you could take it to the next level and paint your own? Painting your shoes is the ultimate form of expression that you can wear, and canvas shoes are the perfect material to get creative and make something that your friends will be jealous of. 

One look online will show you a range of incredible designs that people have made to turn their basic canvas shoes into walking works of art.

If you already have skills as an artist, then this guide will help you pick the best materials and paint to take your shoes to the next level, and if you’re new to art then don’t fear! This guide is to help you through the process.

What Canvas Shoes Are The Best To Start Painting?

We mostly recommend canvas shoes with a smooth material and one color, though you can stray from this recommendation if you have the right paints, or if you have a specific style in mind.

Almost all parts of canvas shoes are paintable apart from soles. If you do choose to paint the soles you might find it difficult because of the material, and that soon enough the paint will rub away.

What Paint Should I Use To Paint My Canvas Shoes?

When it comes to paint for your custom canvas shoes, there are a lot of options. Leather paint is a specialized type of acrylic paint made specifically for painting leather, though it can be used for canvas shoes and might be your best bet when it comes to painting your canvases. 

We recommend Angelus Neon Acrylic Leather paint. It’s a tried-and-tested brand that offers quality and a variety of different color combinations. It’s also worth picking up a leather preparer and deglazer before you begin painting, as this will help prepare the shoes for the paint. 

For more detailed work, we also recommend either paint pens or markers, though these are more specialized pieces of equipment that will be worth investing in once you’re more accustomed to working with leather paint. 

Note: you should also get a pencil for sketching early designs. 


Try something simple in preparation, sketch out your design on paper before you try it on your shoe. It’s important to make sure you like whatever design you’re trying, so it’s best to see it on paper first. 

Next up, it’s time to protect the parts of your shoes that you’re not going to be painting.

Taping up the soles of your shoes is the idea here, use masking tape around the edges and even the underside of your shoe. We also recommend taping up the inside of your shoes if you’re inexperienced with paints and run the risk of spilling paint over the rim.

Masking your shoes will ensure that your custom painting will be slick and clean without smudges of paint over soles and inside the shoes.

Also, this is the point where you apply your preparer and deglazer onto the shoes with a clean cloth. Check the instructions for your product here. 

Note: ensure your shoes are clean and or new before you begin working on them. If they’re dirty, faded, or worn out, it’s going to be more difficult to customize them. 


Take some time to sketch out your design on your shoes with a pencil before you begin painting. If you have a great eye and skills in art then you might be able to do it free-hand without any guidelines, but we’d recommend sketching at least the outline of your design onto the shoes.

It’s best not to sketch too heavily here, else the pencil lines may linger even after you’ve added paint and ruin your design.


After much preparation, we’re here! The painting section of our guide! We recommend painting directly onto the surface of the canvas with diluted paint. It’s important to paint in layers here. You have to take your time and let the layers dry as you work.

Customizing shoes is all about patience and planning. Work out which color will go where. If you’re finding it hard to wait between layers then you can speed it up with a hairdryer or heating tool. But careful! Don’t make the canvas too hot or the paint might burn or melt and be spoiled.

By using thin layers and allowing them time to dry between, you’ll stop your paint drying or being too thick. To paint with small layers you’ll want to make sure you’re adding paint to your brush sparingly.

Don’t use gigantic globs of paint else there will be too much on the canvas and you’ll run into a whole host of problems.

Once you’ve painted each layer and you’re happy with how it looks, this is the point where you can add more specialized details and effects with paint pens or markers. It can be important to properly outline figures or shapes on your shoes to make sure they ‘pop out’ in the right way.

This is the part of the process where you can do too much, so be careful! If it’s already looking good, then chances are adding will only make it worse.

guide on how to paint your canvas shoes


Once your shoes are painted, looking awesome and dry, it’s important to take steps to preserve your new design. We recommend Angelus Matte Acrylic Finisher for this. Take care when applying and make sure you read the product instructions before starting.

With a brush on finisher, we recommend testing a tiny area of your shoes to make sure the paint does not smudge or streak.

Allow up to a full 24 hours for your finisher to dry. As with all steps in this guide, patience is your best friend!  

Final Thoughts 

We hope this guide was a good introduction to painting your canvas shoes, and that whatever design you come up with ends up looking just as you wanted. The most important tips to remember are good planning and patience. If you do these things you’re bound to come out with something that looks impressive and is a true artistic expression that you can walk around with.