How To Prevent Acrylic Paint From Cracking On Shoes

Anyone who has a creative streak should have a go at customizing their shoes at some point. It’s fairly easy to do and adds a touch of your personality to every outfit. 

Acrylic paint is a common choice for those wanting to jazz up their footwear as it’s reasonably cost-effective and very easy to work with. It does, however, have an irritating habit of cracking and flaking when it dries.

So how do you keep your freshly adorned shoes looking amazing with every wear? We have put together some tips to help your shoes look brilliant with every step.

Quick Tips

In a hurry? We’ve got you covered! These quick tips are a surefire way towards keeping the acrylic designs on your shoes from cracking.

  • Avoid mixing brands of paint
  • Don’t apply heat to the acrylic paint
  • Paint in the direction of the shoe’s flex
  • Use acrylic sealant
  • Paint in thin layers

First of all, you need to avoid mixing brands of paint. Mixing brands of paint means you are mixing together different formulas that are probably not going to integrate well. Improper mixing will mean the paint cannot properly adhere to the shoe and will fall off when dry.

Don’t apply heat to acrylic paint as it will bubble and crack as it dries. This is because too much heat interferes with the adhesive qualities of the paint, meaning it will readily fall off when the paint has dried. 

Where possible, paint in the direction of the shoe flex as this will limit the distortion and stress that your acrylic design is put under. Less stress means the paint will last longer. Bend your shoes and make a note of where the wrinkles appear.

Take the toe box, the shoe will flex width ways when bent which means that you should not paint from the heel towards the toes or vice versa. Painting across the width of the shoe instead will keep the paint more secure for longer, meaning limited cracking.

More obvious measures include using an acrylic paint sealant and applying it in thin layers. The sealant will help lock all of the gorgeous paint pigment into place and the less paint you paint on the shoe, the less paint there is to crack. 

Painting Specific Footwear

There are some tricks that you can use to help prolong the life of your painting, depending on the type of footwear you are customizing.

Leather Shoes:

Prepare the leather shoes by removing the finish using a leather deglazer. No finish on the shoe allows the acrylic to adhere much better to the leather which will prevent cracking.

Mix the paints with water as thin paints will stick to the leather and dry a little quicker, as well as make multiple coats look consistent.

Be sure to let the paint dry between layers and let the shoes dry a full twenty-four hours when the design is finished before applying a finishing product. This will take another twenty-four hours to dry.

You may need to rehydrate the leather before wear so be sure to use a thick coat of good quality shoe cream and normal shoe polish.

Keeping up with general shoe maintenance using these products will give your shoes that attractive leather shine, as well as help to keep the acrylic pattern secured to the shoe.

Keep in mind that it will be impossible to get the leather back to its original state after you have used acrylic paints. Only paint your leather shoes if you are absolutely certain!

Running Shoes:

Sneakers are a great customizable footwear option as the fabric uppers are easy to work with, forgiving to unsure artists, and have readily available budget-friendly options. Be sure to start your work on clean and dry running shoes – the paint won’t stick otherwise and will crack off much too soon. 

Canvas or other fabric shoes will not need any more prep than cleaning, but leather running shoes will need to be lightly sanded. Slightly rough leather will accept and hold onto acrylic paint much better. 

Once your running shoes are appropriately prepped, you can go ahead and start painting. Once finished, remember to let the paint dry fully before painting over an acrylic sealant.

You need to leave your shoes at least twenty-four hours before you wear them. Any sooner and the paint will not have fully adhered to the shoe and will crack and peel easily.

Canvas Shoes:

Canvas shoes are a great option for those who want to really ‘go mad’ with their shoe customization as the rubber soles and fabric uppers hold lots of design features and provide great contrast in textures. Any experimentation with these types of shoes is bound to create loads of visual appeal!

The best process for painting these shoes with acrylics is the same as that for canvas running shoes – make sure that they are clean, paint them, let them dry, then seal.

The fabric and overall design of Vans, Converse, or Toms shoes means that they will look great with detailed or intricate work. Just be sure to use thin layers as you paint as too much will create a bulky design.

Once your design is finished, remember to let them dry and then spray thoroughly with an acrylic sealant.

You should also cover the shoes in a waterproofing spray to stop the design from coming off when it’s wet. You need to let the sealant and waterproofing dry completely before you can wear them – twenty-four hours usually does it but do check with the manufacturer.

Why Use Acrylic?

If acrylic cracks, peels, and falls off shoes so easily, why is it the go-to choice?

Compare acrylic paint to other mediums like watercolors, for example. Acrylic paints are much more vibrant than watercolors, creating standout and vibrant pieces with minimal effort. There is also no need for specific brushes when using acrylic paints, unlike watercolors that often require expensive equipment to get the full-color payoff. 

Now compare acrylic and oil paints. Acrylic is far less expensive, available in lots of rich colors, and does not have an uncomfortable or suffocating smell associated with them. Acrylic paints are also far easier to clean up than oil paints, which require specific solvents.