What Type Of Paint To Use On Shoes For The Best Results?

What Type Of Paint To Use On Shoes For The Best Results?

Perhaps you want your new kicks to look like no one else’s. Or maybe you want to breathe new life into your well-worn pair. Either way, painting your footwear is the best way to create a unique work of art unlike anything else out there. 

But before you grab just any type of paint from the craft store, stop and think: what type of paint should I use on my shoes?

If you haven’t tried painting shoes before, then you came to the right place. Today, we are going to teach you what type of paint to use on shoes, be it canvas, leather, or vinyl. Why does it matter, you may ask? Well, we’re going to start this article by answering that question:

Why Does Choosing The Right Type Of Paint To Use On Shoes Matter?

Paint adheres differently to different types of materials. That said, you have to do a little bit of research before you try customizing your shoes with paint. Otherwise, the paint on your custom kicks might end up running, cracking, or not drying at all. At the very least, your paint job may not look anything like what you had in mind. Don’t worry - you’ll soon know exactly what type of paint to use on your shoes for the best result.

In general, here are the different types of paint and the shoe materials with which they work the best:

  • Spray paint - leather or vinyl shoes
  • Fabric paint - canvas shoes
  • Acrylic paint - leather, canvas, and vinyl shoes

What Type Of Paint To Use On Shoes: 4 Different Options

As you can see, there are several options of paint you can choose from to customize your shoes. But which one will work best? Let’s go over the different types of paint in deeper detail:


Out of all the options, acrylic paint is the most versatile for painting shoes. It sticks well to leather, canvas, and even vinyl shoes.

Acrylic paint is highly recommended for painting leather shoes. In fact, some shoe manufacturers use acrylic paint to create designs on their leather goods. However, you have to be careful to keep your paint layers thin. If the paint is too thick, it may end up cracking when you inevitably flex your leather shoes. Using a deglazer is also a good idea as it removes the waxy coating from the shoe. This helps the paint stick on the leather surface.

On the other hand, when using acrylic paint on canvas shoes, use a primer first. Doing so helps the paint adhere easier and avoid cracking. Similar to when painting leather shoes, always keep the layers thin and wait for each one to soak into the fabric before applying another layer. After you’re done painting, seal your shoes with a finisher to make your new custom pair waterproof and prevent the paint from “running”.

For vinyl shoes, you will have to prepare the material with lacquer thinner to remove grease, dirt, and other types of residue. After that, paint your shoes with thin layers until you achieve the design and shade you want. Wait for the paint to dry and then seal your pair with a plastic sealant, which will help prevent cracking and add a pleasant, finished look.

All that said, if you plan to paint multiple pairs made from different materials, buying acrylic paint will give you the most bang for your buck.

Spray paint

Spray paint is a great option if you’re wondering what type of paint to use on leather shoes or vinyl shoes. It’s also a go-to selection if you’re aiming for a grungy, streetwear look for your customized pair. One downside, however, is that spray paint can be difficult to use if you don’t have any experience with it. In this case, we recommend using painter’s tape to seal off any parts of the shoe that you don’t want to be painted while doing every layer.

Leather paint

Just like spray paint, leather paint is a good choice when you’re painting leather or vinyl shoes. But unlike spray paint, you will have more control with leather paint because you’re using sponges and brushes instead of an aerosol can. Plus, there is little to no risk of leaving streaks on your shoes when using leather paint. And when you apply it right, leather paint will not fade, crack, or peel off.

Fabric paint

Wondering what type of paint to use on canvas shoes in particular? Along with acrylic paint, fabric paint is one of the best choices. Whether you want to change the entire color of your shoes or create unique designs on them, fabric paint will help you do the job easily. Plus, there are fabric paint pens that you can use when creating intricate designs, and they are particularly useful if you’re worried about spilling the paint over the different parts of your shoe.

Other Factors To Consider Along With The Type Of Paint You Use On Your Shoes

Now that you know what type of paint to use on shoes, let’s take a look at some other important factors to consider when customizing:


If you wish to give your customized pair of shoes a nice, finished look, you will have to use a finisher that is designed for the material of your shoes or the type of paint you used. For instance, use an acrylic finisher for acrylic paint. Or if you painted a pair of leather shoes and want to bring its shine back, use a gloss finisher.

You can also waterproof painted shoes with a good sealant - as long as you use the right type for the kind of paint you used or the material of your shoes. Doing so will keep your design safe from the elements and, at the same time, extend the lifespan of the shoe itself.


If you want to learn how you can wash painted shoes without damaging your design, check out our previous blog!

Drying Time

Different types of paint will have varying lengths of drying time. To be safe, wait for 24 hours before applying a sealant or finisher to your shoes. When in doubt, touch a small part of your design and see if the paint is still wet. If it is, wait for another few hours before checking again.

Resist the urge to blow dry your paint! Heat can make it less adhesive and can also result in flaking later.

Final Thoughts On What Type Of Paint To Use On Shoes

From the different options we have mentioned above, acrylic paint is the best and most versatile type of paint to use on shoes. It’s relatively easy to apply, adheres to different materials easily, and dries within a few hours. So, whether you’re painting on leather, vinyl, or canvas - acrylic paint is the go-to choice.

But if the design you want is too complicated for your art skills, you can have Custom My Sneaker bring your custom made sneakers to life in the best way possible. We specialize in custom AF1s, custom Vans shoes, and so much more! Contact us today and see how you can turn your pair of shoes into unique works of art.

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