Sneakerhead’s Guide to Painting Leather Shoes: DIY Tips

Custom painted shoes? SNEAKERHEADS WE’RE TALKING TO YOU! Are you tired of wearing the same Air Force Ones, Dunks, Jordans, Adidas or Reebok Classics as everyone else? Want to add some personality and uniqueness to your kicks? Custom painted shoes may be just what you need! In this article, we will guide you through the steps of painting leather shoes. Resulting in custom painted shoes that will make you stand out from the crowd.


Custom painted shoes have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many people opting to create their own unique designs rather than buying expensive, limited edition sneakers. Not only is it a fun and creative way to express yourself, but it also allows you to breathe new life into old shoes. With a little bit of patience and creativity, you can transform any pair of plain sneakers into a work of art. Time to get started painting your leather shoes.

Materials Needed

Before you begin, you will need a few essential materials:

  • Pair of sneakers
  • Acrylic paint (Angelus is great)
  • Airbrush and/or Paintbrushes in various sizes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Water and cloth
  • Deglazer
  • Sealant spray
white leather nike dunk low for painting leather shoes
nike dunk low


Prepping leather shoes, such as Nike Air Force Ones, for acrylic paint requires several steps to ensure that the paint adheres properly and lasts for a long time.

  • The first step is to clean the shoes thoroughly to remove any dirt or oils that might interfere with the paint’s adhesion. This can be done using a mixture of water and mild soap, and a soft-bristled brush. Once the shoes are clean, they should be allowed to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.
  • The second step is to use a leather de-glazer (or acetone) to remove the top layer of finish on the shoes. This will help the paint to adhere better to the leather. It’s important to be careful during this step, as acetone can be harsh on the leather and should be used in a well-ventilated area.
  • After the shoes have been deglazed, they should be allowed to dry completely again before applying a base coat of paint. The base coat serves as a primer for the acrylic paint and helps it to stick to the leather. It’s important to choose a high-quality base coat that is specifically designed for leather surfaces.

Once the base coat has dried, the shoes are ready to be designed & painted.


Many start with a white or light-colored shoe. This allows the colors to pop a bit more. If you’re wanting a chameleon pearl to stand out, you’ll want to use a black shoe.

When it comes to the design process, there are countless possibilities. Some artists start with a sketch or a reference image, while others prefer to freestyle their designs directly onto the shoe. The type of shoe and its material also play a role in the design process, as certain paints and techniques work better on different surfaces. From choosing the color palette to adding intricate details and finishing touches, the design process is a truly unique and personal experience. Each pair of custom painted shoes is a one-of-a-kind work of art that reflects the artist’s vision and the wearer’s personality.

Mixing Pearls

To mix your pearls you’re going to need some Angelus Neutral Paint. This is a product that dries clear so you’re able to mix the pearl in & see it shine. According to some prominent shoe painters, about 1/2 gram of pearl to 1 oz of neutral is the way to go. You can also add in 1 oz of Createx adhesion promoter to aid in the adhesion (and also dilute your mix further).


Once you have sketched the design, start painting with acrylic paint. Use a fine brush or an airbrush to apply the paint in thin, even layers. You can use multiple colors and layer them to create depth and texture. Be patient and follow each layer with a heat gun so that you can aid it in drying before moving on to the next color.


Seal your artwork with a water & stain repellant.


Overall, painting leather shoes are a great way to express your individual style and stand out from the crowd. Whether you’re a fan of Jordans, Nike Dunks, Adidas, Reebok Classics, Nike Air Force Ones, or any other brand, there’s a custom paint design that’s perfect for you. So why wait? Get started on painting your leather shoes today!

How long does it take to customize a pair of shoes?

It depends on the complexity of your design and the number of layers of paint you apply. Generally, it takes a few hours to complete a pair of custom paint shoes.

Can I wear my custom painted shoes in the rain?

If you have sealed them properly, yes but you definitely want to dry them ASAP.

How do I take care of my custom painted shoes?

You can clean your custom painted shoes with a damp cloth and mild soap. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the paint.

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