Are you looking for new ways to stand out in 2021? Are you tired of wearing cookie cutter sneakers that everyone has? (I’m looking at you people who wear all white Air Force 1’s until they’re brown)
In this article, we’re going to show you how to customize your shoes and turn those all white Air Force 1’s into a 1-of-1 piece of wearable art!
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let's go over some of the must have materials we’d recommend before customizing your sneakers. Keep in mind, this guide is specifically made for people who are looking to customize their shoes with paint.
The materials we’d recommend you gather are as follows (in no particular order):
Brand new/like new pair of sneakers: This step is not exactly a necessity when it comes to customizing sneakers, however, if you want your design to last for the life of the sneaker, this is definitely a must. The main reason why we want to use a brand new pair of sneakers is because you always want to paint on a clean blank canvas. Used sneakers have a tendency to have more dirt on them which will impact the longevity of the design if you paint over that layer of dirt.
Prep solution: A prep solution is used in order to prep the surface for paint. This removes any factory finish on the shoes so you have a perfectly clean surface to paint on (Pro tip: Rubbing sandpaper on the leather before painting also helps make the paint last even longer). If you’re customizing on a budget, 100% acetone nail polish remover is the best option. This can be found at your local Walmart or some grocery stores. If you’d like to choose a higher quality option, we recommend using Angelus Direct’s leather preparer and deglazer.
Paint: What seems like a no brainer, this material is also extremely important. Certain types of paint are manufactured for certain materials. For example, you should never use watercolor paint for your design. It doesn’t hurt to stop by your local art store to see if they carry leather specific paint. However, a lot of stores only carry white and black leather paint. The most popular companies who supply leather specific paint are Angelus Direct and Alpha 6 corp. Using either of these paints will ensure your designs last the life of the shoe.
Paintbrushes: Paintbrushes are another essential when it comes to creating your own custom sneakers. Like so many things in life, you really get what you pay for when it comes to paintbrushes. For the cheapest options, you can find a basic pack of paintbrushes at your local Walmart for $3. These should last you a couple times if you take care of them, however, if you’re serious about customizing your own shoes, we recommend spending the extra cash on some higher quality paint brushes. For those, your local art store should have many more options to choose from.
Tape: Unless you’re already an expert at customizing sneakers, you will probably want to pick up some tape in order to make those clean lines on your design and to prevent bleeding. Some simple masking tape or painters tape should do the trick here.
Finisher: Although can’t be seen, the finisher is another must have for customizing sneakers. Not just any finisher, ACRYLIC FINISHER. Acrylic finisher is applied over the paint once dried in order to ‘seal off’ the paint. This is what protects the design and makes it scratch proof, water proof, and scuff proof. You can get different styles of finisher such as a matte finish or glossy finish which can also be found at your local Walmart. HOWEVER, we HIGHLY recommend investing into a higher quality finisher such as Liquid Kicks. All of our partnered artists use a high quality finisher on their designs to ensure our clients designs last the life of the shoe
Additional materials to think about:
Paint additives: Used to thin or thicken the paint used for the design
Air brush: Not necessary, just fun to use and speeds up the process a bit
Stencil vinyls and vinyl cutters: If you’re hand painting skills are not up to par, stencils can help make some of those more complex designs.
X-acto Knife: Helps when trimming the tape and peeling the stencils off the shoe after painting
Customizing your sneaker
Now that you have all the necessary materials to begin painting your sneakers, let’s talk about the step-by-step process.
Step 1: Prep your sneaker
Grab your prep solution of choice and a cotton ball and begin wiping down the area you plan to paint on. Make sure you get every area wiped down well and let the shoes dry before moving onto painting.
Step 2: Tape the shoe
Tape off the areas around the location where you plan on painting your design. This way, you won’t have to worry so much about accidentally getting paint on a part of the shoe you don’t want to be painted. For example, if you’re painting the uppers, tape off the midsole so you can get a clean line when finished.
Step 3: Prep your paint
Gather all your paint and painting materials and prep your paint for customization.
Step 4: Paint your design!
This is where the fun begins! Grab your paintbrushes and begin creating your 1-of-1 design. Don’t be afraid to use multiple layers of paint as one layer most likely won’t look the best. In order to add more layers, make sure you are letting the last layer dry before adding another one on top.
Step 5: Let your design dry
Before the final step, it is crucial that you let your design dry before adding your finisher. Place your shoes in a dry, cool room until the paint is fully dried.
Step 6: Apply your finisher:
Once the paint has dried, apply at least 1 layer of finisher over all areas where you painted the shoes. After the finisher has been applied it is also important you let the finisher dry in a cool, dry room as well. IMPORTANT: Once the finisher dries, DO NOT leave your custom sneakers in a hot environment for more than 2 hours. This will melt off the finisher and cause the paint to smudge.
And there you have it! That is a very basic tutorial on how to get started customizing your sneakers using paint. Like everything in life, this will take time to learn and get a good feel for the process. If you are someone who doesn’t have the artistic skills to complete a design, you can always submit your own design and we’ll personally work with you and one of our partnered artists to bring your design to life. You can also shop from our artists’ pre-made designs in case you find one that fits your style or simply want to use it as inspiration for your design.