How to Paint Canvas Shoes | The Best Techniques


Hand-painted shoes are a fun way to add a unique bit of personality to your outfit. And with this simple guide on how to paint canvas shoes, we will walk you through all the fun steps of painting your canvas shoes beautifully and permanently. You’ll also learn what paints to use best, like acrylic paint and fabric paint.


Things You’ll Need

  1. Canvas Shoes | Vans slip-on or converse canvas sneakers are hot picks
  2. Paints and Primer
    • Acrylic primer (surface preparation) | works fine and you can apply it thinly. You have to be careful though not to leave any drips. Gesso Acrylic Primer works even better, but it’s more expensive than the regular primer.
    • Acrylic Paint | Golden Acrylics is one of the most respected brands in the industry. Has a wide range of colors and a reputation for quality and versatility.
    • Acrylic Paint Thinner | If you like to airbrush or thin your acrylic paints. Many artists use this to clean their airbrushes every few hours, but it can also make acrylic paints flow more easily over a surface.
    • Fabric Paint | best used to paint cloth or canvas shoes.
  3. Marker (for outlining and sketching)
    • Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pens | Smudge and Waterproof for outlining or detailed work.
    • Sharpie | quick-dry and oil-based ink
    • Pencil | easy erase when sketching design
    • Gel Pens | great alternative but leave no room for mistakes
  4. Synthetic Paint Brush (Best for Acrylic Paint) | creates a smooth finish on any surface
  5. Stuffing Materials
    • Newspaper | Crumple or roll to stuff the insides of the shoes
    • Plastic Bag | rolled or balled as well
    • Tissue | Another accessible option
    • Old Socks or any fabric you don’t use anymore
  6. Masking Tape to protect soles and covering non-paintable areas.
    • Vinyl Tape for curved exteriors
    • Painters Tape works as good too
  7. Hair Dryer | to fasten the drying process (optional)
  8. Water Proof Agents

How to Paint Canvas Shoes

Follow these steps and craft your most gorgeous looking shoes!

Step 1: Choose your Canvas Shoes

How to Paint Canvas Shoes - Choose your Canvas Shoes - Converse Men's Chuck Taylor All Star Core Hi
Converse Men’s Chuck Taylor All Star Core Hi by Converse (Amazon)

An enduring canvas shoe is the best place to start when customizing shoes. Vans slip-on and converse canvas sneakers are among the most popular canvas sneakers in the market today. You can easily determine whether they will be a good canvas for your customizations. 

You might also want to consider the base color of the canvas shoes you’re using. For convenience and easy painting, you can opt for an all-white canvas sneaker. You can also choose canvas shoes with plain neutral colors or bold ones that you can incorporate into your design. 

If you haven’t got any Canvas shoes to paint on yet, you might want to look at Converse Men’s Chuck Taylor All Star Core Hi. For the ladies, have a look at Converse Women’s CTAS Lift Hi Black/White Sneaker.

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Step 2: Sketch your Shoe Design

How to Paint on Canvas Shoes Permanently - Sketch your Shoe Design

If you are open to your creative side, feel free to paint directly on the canvas. Otherwise, it’s always good to sketch out your ideas first. This gives you a better idea of whether your design will work in the space.

When starting a design, you need to find inspiration and references. Choose your preferred art or draw inspiration from other artists and designers. Choose your color scheme if you’re going for a vibrant bold look or minimalist chromatic art.

Vans for instance aren’t exactly a rectangular canvas, so it’s important to factor in the design height of your artwork. To get the most out of your shoe canvases, make sure that you account for the top elastic sections when designing your logo or illustration.

To ensure that your design fits nicely into the Converse canvas sneakers, sketched out a rough draft on paper first.

Step 3: Prepare Everything

Can you Use Acrylic Paint on Shoes - Prepare Everything

You might want to organize your supplies first before you start painting and nearby. Having everything ready will save you time and frustration. 

To avoid a messy workspace, you may lay out newspapers or old boxes. Stuff the toes of your shoes with plastic bags and newspapers. Or any material you can find like old socks or tissue paper to raise your canvas and keep it from warping while you work. 

That makes it much easier to paint on when you don’t have to worry about the fabric moving under your brush.

The sole will also require preparation. To protect the sole during painting, just put on masking tape on the sole.

You can also use masking tape to tape off the areas you don’t want to paint. Vinyl and painter’s tape works as great with the arches on your canvas shoes.

You might want to paint directly with diluted white acrylic paint for a cleaner and blank canvas. Or you may directly apply thinly the Acrylic Primer too.

Step 4: Create an Outline

How to Paint Canvas Shoes with Acrylic Paint - Create an Outline

You’re done sketching the design you want and now ready to transfer them to your canvas shoes using a sharpie or marker. Do this lightly to avoid smears and so the ink doesn’t go through your canvas shoes.

If you want a detailed painting, work with small and simple.

When you paint your shoes, start with the drawing out of designs in pencil first. Pencil lines can be easily erased and don’t need to be perfectly drawn to look good.

Even if your lines are shaky, the paint job will cover it up down the line. So don’t sweat it! Just have fun with this step!

Step 5: Painting your Canvas Shoes

How to Paint Canvas Shoes Fabric Paint - Painting your Canvas Shoes

As a general rule, it’s easier to work with two shoes at once when creating a pair with the same shoe design.

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You might need to design all the elements of each shoe in tandem, to ensure that the colors stay consistent between the two.

Referencing color pallets from the pictures you’ve gathered can help you create a more vibrant and realistic product, such as the one in your paper.

For instance, if you’re creating a design like a blue ornament like the one on the photo, try to use shades of blue. 

It’s a good technique to represent its setting and vibrancy may not look as good in real life as it does on paper.

How to Paint Canvas Shoes with Acrylic Paint

If you want unique designs for each pair but cohesive like matching characters, you can work on them separately. Check out our step by step on how to paint canvas shoes with acrylic paint below. 

  • Fill in your outlines and design with your synthetic paintbrush. Build up layers of color in a way that won’t result in a muddy mess. If you are wondering whether can you use acrylic paint on shoes or canvas shoes in particular, well the answer is yes.
  • Golden Acrylics is an acrylic paint that has a variety of colors and it is great for color mixing as well. You can also use fabric paints to paint canvas shoes. Fabric paints don’t usually crack easily too which is a huge plus.

You could use a fabric paint pen to easily do this. So how to paint canvas shoes? Fabric paint pens can help if you want to go into detail and do it easily.

  • Use Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pens to bring your designs and drawings to life. Whether you want to make a quote, add some lyrics to your fan art. Or simply share your favorite poem that you wrote yourself, the possibilities are endless! 
  • For a better grip, try using a tiny rolled towel to support your hand in a natural drawing position.
  • You can also save time by designing your template with masking tape. Create shapes by blocking areas with the masking tape.
  • Remember to let your markers or acrylic paint dry first before layering it. You can also use a hairdryer to speed up the process but use it carefully to avoid damaging your work.

Once you’ve done all the painting and it is well-blended (Tip: apply the paint in patches, saturate your synthetic brush in water, and blend on the canvas. This will help to get smoother transitions between colors), let the canvas dry.

To get the perfect effect, use a marker with a fine tip like Sharpies, and don’t forget to write on the outline of your design to make it pop. 

If you’re doing some shading, work slowly — think about each line you draw; every mark should enhance the overall appearance of your design. You may use gel pens too.

Step 6: Seal your Work of Art

How to Paint Canvas Shoes - Seal your Work of Art

I hate to be the one to tell you, but… painted shoes are weather-sensitive. If you plan on wearing a pair of painted shoes, you might expose them to direct sunlight or get wet in the rain. That leaves your canvas shoes’ paint and design to fade and run.

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So, how to paint on canvas shoes permanently? Your paint doesn’t have to be waterproof; you just need a waterproofing agent or spray to do the job.

A water-proof shoe agent or spray is your solution. You might want to try Mod Podge Waterbase Sealer for a smooth and non-glossy finish or Angelus Acrylic Finisher too for a matte finish. Scotchgard Fabric Water Shield is a perfect option if you despise strong odors. 

Just use it sparingly, so that you don’t end up with a crispy pair of shoes. Brush or spray thinly along the canvas. Be sure to cover corners, seams, and any cracks, and allow the waterproof agent to settle into the canvas material for a minute before use.

Extra Tips

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No matter how slowly and cautiously we do these kinds of painting projects, mistakes are always unavoidable.

There are different ways to cover up mistakes though, depending on the situation.

Mistake Fix

  • Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint does the covering job! Paint over your slip-up and brush evenly, making sure that your mistake has dried up and ready for layering. 
  • If you apply a layer of primer to your artwork, you can subtly reapply your paint to correct any mistakes or make it look better.

Removing Paint inside the Shoes’ Sole

If you get acrylic paint on the sole of your shoe, you’re in luck. You can remove the stain can with acetone, nail polish remover, or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and dishwashing soap

You don’t have to fear the structural integrity of your shoes. Regardless of the method used, each one worked on different shoes without damaging them.

You could also try the hydro dipping method like in the video by Dylan & Vincent if you want to learn how to paint canvas shoes the cleverest and quickest way.

How to Paint on Canvas Shoes by Dylan Vincent


You’ve finally reached the end of our step-by-step guide on how to paint canvas shoes. I hope you enjoyed the process as much as I did. 

Canvas shoes are stylish and practical, also a hot trend among men and women. You can easily slip them on for a quick dash around the house or wear them with some jeans for an easygoing night out. 

However, classic styles seem to have an outdated design, so you only have limited options.

The extra up-front cost of custom-made shoes is a lot. But with your newfound knowledge on how to paint your canvas shoes, you can now customize your shoes however you want without breaking the bank.

So that just means you’ll always have painted canvas shoes that go with your mood.

Let us know how your canvas shoes turned out in the comments below. Also, share this with your friends now and start painting your canvas shoes together.

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