Can You Paint Your Old Sneakers – What Kind of Paint to Use?

how to paint sneakers with acrylic

Fashionable sneakers commonly consist of leather, textile fabrics, synthetics, vinyl, rubberized foam, and plastic. They may or may not serve a specific purpose in the shoe’s design; nevertheless, you can always update those old shoes with some paint – as long as they’re clean and prepped correctly.

Acrylics are among the most common types of paints that can be used to spruce up your old sneakers. But depending on the material your shoe is made of, you can also use fabric paint, spray paint, leather paint, paint markers, or even tintable dyes.

If you are planning to fancify your old sneakers with acrylics, below I have a detailed guide and a few tips to follow. Make sure you check them before you proceed.

Painting Sneakers with Acrylic

To paint your sneakers with acrylic, you’ll need to gather the following:

  • Your old sneakers
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes or sponges
  • Masking tape or newspaper
  • A bowl of water
  • A hairdryer (optional)

When buying solid acrylic paints specifically for your sneaker pairs, check that the paint is compatible with your shoe’s materials and follow the instructions on the package. In general, here are the instructions you will need to follow:

Step 1- Clean and prep

Before painting, you must clean your sneakers thoroughly by removing any dirt or debris using a brush or cloth. If they’re too dirty to dry clean, wash them with soap and water and then wipe them with a clean damp rag.

Once your shoes are clean, use masking tape around the shoe areas (such as the sole and inside) that you don’t want to paint. You can also use newspaper or other materials to protect the soles of the shoes.

If you don’t cover these areas, the paint can spread, causing undesirable paint streaks on these parts, which can be tricky to erase.

Step 2- Plan a design and pattern

With paint mediums like acrylics, there are no limits to what you can do to your sneakers – you can use a variety of colors and create unique designs while also adding embellishments like sequins or beads to make your shoes even more special.

If you’re aiming to craft a unique sneaker that consists of multiple colors, the best way to ensure it turns out perfect is by pre-planning your design and crafting a template. Here’s how:

  • Start with sketching on paper
  • Cut each piece into its shape using scissors 
  • Securely place your template onto the shoe and delicately trace it with a pencil for accuracy
painting sneakers with acrylic

Step 3- Paint your shoes

To begin painting your shoes, grab a fine bristle brush or sponge and move forward with your design. You may also need several sizes of brushes – like #0, #1‌ , ‌#2‌, ‌#6‌, ‌and‌ #8‌ , for different areas and details of the shoe.

  • Start with coloring the edges and then move on to the flat sides.
  • To add colors to fine details and patterns, use a toothpick, as it will be easier to work with.
  • To prevent any problems, make sure each color layer is given ample time to dry before adding the next.
  • Additionally, take caution not to use too much paint in one layer; this will only slow down drying times and increase the chance of cracking.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Vans or Canvas Shoes?

If your shoes are made of rubber, fabric, canvas, or plastic, you can certainly use water-based acrylic paints to give them a unique look.

But even if you have vulcanized shoes, leather boots, or vinyl trainers at home, the 100% acrylic paint won’t cause any cracks or damage. Before painting your kicks, though, I would advise testing out a small patch with the specific formulation in order to be sure that it is compatible with the material.

Sealing Acrylic Painted Sneakers

After you’re satisfied with the look of your shoes, it’s time to protect them. Acrylic is known for cracking and fading over time, so by sealing it you will ensure that your paint does not chip or peel away.

There are various products available for this purpose; however, a clear acrylic sealant, nail polish, or polymer varnish will provide optimal results in terms of preserving the painted surface on sneakers.

To ensure that the sealant on your shoes is dry and cured, give it 2-3 days. If you need to expedite this process, a hairdryer can be used – just make sure not to hold it too close, lest the paint begins blistering.

It’s crucial to refrain from using any sort of shoe polish on your newly acrylic-painted sneakers. The majority of them are formulated solely for leather shoes and won’t work with anything else.

Tips and Warnings

Painting and adding a personalized touch to your kicks can be an entertaining experience, but you must take certain precautions. Here are some of the most important pointers you need to keep in mind…

  1. Never use oil-based paints or latex paints (meant for drywall and other household uses) on sneakers. They might damage its expensive material.
  2. Even with a good acrylic paint like Apple Barrel Paint, do a patch test on the shoes before starting to paint them.
  3. Never mix different paint brands, as this can lead to uneven paint application that can crack or break very fast.
  4. It’s good to experiment only on your old shoes that you don’t mind getting paint on. These are best for practicing the design and patterns first if you are not very confident.
  5. Wear gloves to protect your fingers. Some acrylic paints and sealants can be harsh on the skin and can irritate it.

Above all, if the paint begins to deteriorate in color or shows signs of fading or some flaws, revitalize a painted surface with new thin layers of acrylic paint in the same hues or a darker shade.

Also, do not put the painted shoes in the washer, as the harsh treatment might harm the paint job.

how to spray paint old sneakers?

How Can I Add a Glittery Finish to My Shoes?

To add a shimmery, luxurious look to your old shoes, you can use glitter paint or mix some sparkles with acrylic paint. If you want to sparkle your old unpainted shoes to add a touch of glam, use the same technique after cleaning them nicely.

For an extra special touch, use Mod Podge and add golden, silver, or copper-colored glitter. Apply a thin layer of glue to your footwear and top it off with whichever hue of glimmer you desire.

Alternatively, you can add some Mod Podge to a cup, mix some glitter and apply this mixture to your shoes with a paintbrush.

Can I Decorate My Sneakers Using Spray Paint or Airbrushing?

Painting your sneakers using spray paint is the easiest option, especially if you want to apply a single color to your shoes fast.

Pick a spray can with the finest nozzle and shake it to mix the paint. Next, lightly sand the shoes’ surface and edges to remove the attached dirt and grime. Finally, apply the paint in thin layers. To obtain an even coating, keep constant pressure on the sprayer during application and a nozzle 4-to-6 inches away from the sneaker’s surface.

An airbrush can also be used with spray paint to create vibrant designs and patterns like stars and flames. However, an airbrush is more challenging than spray paint due to the required detail. But it can provide a more professional and intricate look, and I won’t recommend using it if you are a complete novice.

Before you start, make sure to use a clean airbrush with fresh High Flow Acrylic. When using an airbrush, remember consistency is key. So, keep the pressure and speed even throughout. And remember to use steady strokes when painting intricate designs.

The bottom line

Painting your old sneakers is a great way to give them a new lease on life and add a personal touch.

Make sure you use the correct type of paint and follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging your shoes. Also, don’t forget to do a test before you start painting by applying a very thin coating on an inconspicuous area.

With some creativity and a bit of patience, you can turn your dull shoes into something fun and unique in no time.

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