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

some steps to paint sneakers with acrylic

Modern sneakers are usually made out of leathers, textiles, synthetics, vinyl, rubber, foam, and plastic.

While each of these materials has unique applications in footwear, depending on the design, each material may or may not have a function value in your sneaker.

No matter what material your old shoe is made up of, you can probably still paint it as long as the surface is properly prepared.

Acrylic paints are among the most common types of paints that can be used to spruce up your old sneakers. 

Since the paint is less water soluble than other typical paints, and it tends to attach for long, you won’t have to worry about making a mess of your shoes by painting them more frequently.

Acrylic paints are easy to use and are available in a wide variety of hues. 

When buying solid acrylic paints specifically for shoes, check that the paint is compatible with your shoe’s fabric or other materials and follow the instructions on the package.

If you are in the process of painting your sneakers, below I have a detailed guide along with a few tips to follow. Make sure you check them before you proceed.

Painting Sneakers with Acrylic

Painting your old sneakers isn’t as hard or time-consuming as you think. You can use a variety of different colors to achieve the perfect look for your style.

To paint your sneakers with acrylic, you’ll need:

1- A pair of old sneakers

2- Acrylic paint

3- Paintbrushes or sponges

4- Masking tape or newspaper

5- A bowl of water

6- A hairdryer (optional)

Instructions to Follow:

Steps 1- Clean

First, you’ll need to clean your sneakers thoroughly by removing any dirt or debris from the surface of the shoes with a brush or cloth. 

If they’re particularly dirty, you can wash them with soap and water and then wipe the surface with a clean damp rag. Be sure to let them dry completely before starting to paint.

Step 2- Prep

Once your shoes are clean, it’s time to prep them for painting.

If you’re using masking tape, place it 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’re not cautious, the paint can quickly spread to other parts of the shoe and cause undesirable paint streaks.

Step 3- Choose the Paint

Acrylic paints are available in wide varieties and compositions.

Some paints are susceptible to reacting with the materials over time. This will tend to harden, become rigid or crack. 

So, when picking the paint, always check the manufacturer’s instructions on the package to see if it’s compatible with the materials used on your shoes.

In some cases, acrylic paints may not always be the best option – for example, if your sneakers are made of fabric, you can instead use fabric paint.

Step 4- Plan a Design and Pattern

Once you have the paint, it’s time to start thinking about the design. With paint like acrylics, there are no limits to what you can do. 

You can use a variety of colors and create any design you want to get a unique look for your sneakers.

You can also consider adding embellishments like sequins or beads to make your shoes even more special.

If you are using a single color for your sneakers, this isn’t as big of a deal. But, if you plan on using multiple colors, you’ll want to plan out the design and make a template ahead of time.

You can do this by:

1- Sketching the design on a piece of paper

2- Cutting out the shapes of each section with scissors

3- Taping the template onto the shoe

4- Tracing the design with a pencil

Step 5- Now, It’s Time to Start Painting

Once you have picked, the design planned out, start with painting your shoes.

Use a fine bristle brush or sponge to apply the paint to the shoe’s surface.

You may need different sizes of the brush, such as #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. Cover all the sides using a sponge or a brush.

To add the colors to fine details and patterns, you can even use a toothpick that will be easier to work with.

If you’re using multiple colors, make sure to let each layer dry completely before adding the next. 

Also, do not apply thicker layers of paint as it will take longer to dry, and there is a higher chance that the paint will crack.

Step 6- Seal

Once you’re happy with the way your shoes look, it’s time to seal the paint.

Since acrylic tends to crack and fade, sealing it will help protect the paint and keep it from chipping or peeling over time.

There are a variety of different products that can be used for this purpose. You can use a clear acrylic sealant, polymer varnish, or even clear nail polish.

Step 7- Let the Sneakers Dry

Once you’ve sealed the paint, let it dry before wearing the shoes. Depending on the sealants, it can take 2-3 days to dry completely.

If you’re in a hurry, you can use a hairdryer to speed up the process. Just be sure not to hold it too close to the shoes as this can cause the paint to blister.

Once it’s completely dry, your newly painted sneakers are ready to be worn! Enjoy showing off your new shoes, and be sure to get creative with your design.

Tips and Warnings to Avoid Cracks when Painting

While painting your shoes can be a lot of fun, there are a few things to remember.

These will help you paint your sneakers creatively without worrying about getting the paint cracked:

  • Not all paints are good for sneakers, so choose the right paint
  • Never use oil-based paints on shoes as they will damage the material.
  • Latex paints meant for drywall and other household uses are also unsuitable for painting shoes.
  • Even with a good acrylic paint like Apple Barrel Paint, do a patch test on the shoes before starting to paint them.
  • Never mix different paint brands, as this can lead to uneven paint application that can crack or break very fast.
  • Use old shoes that you don’t mind getting paint on for practicing the design and patterns first.
  • Wear gloves to protect your fingers from painting. Some acrylic paints can be harsh on the skin and cause irritation.

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.

And after you have painted the shoes, do not put painted shoes in the washer. The washer’s harsh treatment might harm the paint job.

how to paint old sneakers?

Can I Use Spray Paint for Sneakers?

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 properly to mix the paint in the can.

Next, sand the surface of the shoes and edges slightly to remove the attached dirt and grime. Now, apply the paint in thin layers.

To obtain an even coating, keep firm, constant pressure on the sprayer during applications and a nozzle 4-to-6 inches away from the sneaker’s surface.

An airbrush can also be used with spray paint to create some designs and patterns. But I won’t recommend using it if you are a complete novice.

Once you are done with spray paint, let the shoes dry in an open and well-ventilated area.

How can I add a Glittery Finish to My Shoes?

To add a glittering effect to your shoes, you can always use glitter paint or even mix some glitter with the acrylic paint.

A bottle of Mod Podge and some glitter can also help you achieve the desired look.

Simply apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to your shoes and then sprinkle some glitter on top.

Alternatively, add some Mod Podge to a cup and then mix some glitter. Next, apply this mix to your shoes with a paintbrush.

You can also use this technique to sparkle your old unpainted shoes to add a touch of glam.

To your old unpainted shows, consider adding a coat of Mod Podge and glitter which will help it get more even coverage with the well-polished look.

Related FAQs

Can you use shoe polish on acrylic paint?

No, you should not use any kind of shoe polish on acrylic paint. It is important to note that not all shoe polishes are compatible with all types of shoes.

In fact, most of them are meant to polish leather shoes that are not painted.

So, it is best to avoid using shoe polish on your newly painted sneakers to upkeep their look.

Can you use acrylic paint on vans or canvas shoes?

Vulcanized shoes are usually made of materials like rubber, fabric, canvas, and plastic. So, water-based paints like acrylic paints can be safe for all these materials. 

But before you start painting your shoes, I would suggest doing a patch test first to see if the paint is compatible with the shoes.

Can you use acrylic paint on shoes made up of vinyl and leather?

Vinyl and leather are different materials, so the answer to this question is complicated.

Leather is a natural material, and so it is breathable. That means it won’t be a good idea to paint over leather shoes with acrylic as the paint might suffocate the material and cause cracks.

On the other hand, vinyl is a synthetic material, so it is not as breathable as leather.

That means you can paint over vinyl shoes with acrylic without worrying about the paint causing any damage.

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 right 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.

I hope this article was helpful, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask me by contacting me via my contact page.

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