I love spray paint because it is so incredibly versatile and lets you knock out a lot of fun projects quickly. Since I have 3 little girls in dance, there is always something going on with costumes, including their shoes. A while back, I wondered it if it was possible to spray paint shoes and what kind of final result I could expect.
I learned that you can spray paint shoes with almost any kind of all-purpose, oil-based enamel spray paint, such as Rustoleum 2x Ultra Cover, which will work on both faux leather and cloth shoes. For best results, lightly sand and clean faux leather shoes before painting and be sure to tape off any areas that you don’t want to be painted with painter’s tape.
Read on to learn more about painting your shoes, finding the right products to use, and some helpful tips to achieve the results you are looking for with your project!
Is spray painting shoes a good idea?
Depending on the look you are trying to achieve, spray-painting shoes can be a fantastic option.
Spray painting shoes works not only to change the color of an entire shoe (such as high heels), but also to add fun design elements or other customizations to shoes for a specific purpose. In most cases, you don’t need special paints to spray paint your shoes as nearly all high-quality, all-purpose paints will work for the job.
Keep in mind, however, that spray painting shoes is really just a cosmetic project, and the paint might be prone to chipping on harder materials such as leather and fading or cracking on cloth materials.
Pros of spray painting shoes
So, why would you want to spray paint your shoes?
- Quickest and easiest way to paint shoes
- Wide array of colors, textures, and finishes are available
- You can mix and layer paints to create fun designs
- Painter’s tape lets you protect areas of the shoe that you don’t want to be painted
Cons of spray painting shoes
But, there are some potential issues that you should consider.
- In most cases, you won’t be able to remove the paint if you don’t like it
- You’ll have to purchase lots of spray paint, tape, and other materials
- Some techniques have a learning curve
Is spray paint better than regular paint for shoes?
At this point, I’ve argued that spray painting shoes is totally doable, but is this option better than using regular paint?
In nearly every case, spray paint is the best option for painting shoes because it is the quickest and easiest option and will produce the best results. However, you can still use regular paint and a brush to create specific design elements or highlight details such as logos.
Really, it just depends on your project because different types of paint will work better for different projects.
Here is a quick table with some ideas of what would work best in a given situation:
|Project Type||Spray paint or regular paint|
|Splatter paint||Regular paint with brushes or plastic knives for flicking|
|Drip paint||Either – lightly press the spray paint or drip from a paintbrush|
|Complete color change||Spray paint|
|Accents and details||Regular paint with a brush or paint pens|
|Hydro dipping||Spray paint|
What type of spray paint should I use for my shoes?
If you walk through the spray paint section of your local big box hardware store, it can be a bit overwhelming. In fact, there are dozens of different spray paint types available and if you haven’t done much spray painting you are probably at a loss as to which ones will work best for your project.
Fortunately, you can use almost any all-purpose spray paint on your shoes and achieve great results. These days, all-purpose spray paints really can do it all – cloth and leather included. Based on my personal experience, I would recommend the Rustoleum 2x Ultra Cover line of spray paints in whichever colors you want. These spray paints adhere to pretty much any surface, provide good coverage, are fairly durable, and are reasonably priced.
If you can’t find that brand, you can really pick up almost anything else – just make sure that it says “works on all materials or surfaces” somewhere on the can. It might also be labeled as “all-purpose” or “general purpose” somewhere.
Note that some of the spray paint with unique textures such as hammered, crackled, rubber, etc. might not work well on cloth shoes but feel free to experiment!
How to spray paint shoes step-by-step
It is impossible to tell you exactly how to spray paint your shoes because every project will be different and I certainly can’t walk you through everything. What I will do, however, is walk you through the basic process of spray painting a cloth or faux leather sneaker like a Nike Air Force 1 or something similar.
Here is what you’ll need:
- A nice, flat surface to paint on such as a cardboard box
- Painter’s tape
- Various spray paints
- A brush for detail work
- Paint pens for detail work
A step-by-step process for spray painting shoes
Once you have your materials collected, it’s time to paint!
Here are the steps for spray painting your shoes:
- Prepare your work area
- Clean your shoes
- Tape off parts of the shoe you want to protect
- Spray paint your shoes
- Let the shoes dry
- Remove the tape
- Retape and repaint as needed
Prepare your work area
Before you start any project, it is a good idea to get all of your materials together and prep your work area. Once I start working, I hate stopping to get something, interrupting the flow.
Collect the items I mentioned above and set up an area to work. I recommend getting a big piece of cardboard to spray over but you can use a tarp, old blanket, old towel, or anything else that you don’t mind getting paint on. Make sure your cans of spray paint have enough paint in them for the job and that they aren’t clogged up from lack of use.
If your cans are clogged, I have a full guide for getting spray paint cans unclogged 😉
Now, let’s start the project.
Clean your shoes
If you are working with brand-new shoes, this isn’t really important.
If you are working with old, dirty shoes, this is a very important step. Although the paint will cover up some of the wear and tear on old shoes, it will have a hard time sticking to shoes that are covered in dirt, grease, and other yucky stuff.
Use warm, soapy water to scrub down your shoes, paying special attention to the little crevices around logos and design work. If your shoes are truly dirty, you could even spray them down with a light degreaser before scrubbing them with soapy water.
Here is a quick video demonstrating how to clean super grimy shoes:
Once the shoes are clean, be sure to let them dry fully! Spray paint will NOT stick to wet shoes well and it will complicate the entire process, potentially ruining the project.
Tape off parts of the shoe you want to protect
Next, we’ll tape off the parts of the shoe that you don’t want painted. Typically, you will tape off:
- Laces area and tongue
- Inside of the shoe
- Midsole on the bottom of the shoe
- Outsole (if needed)
- Any logos or design elements that you want to leave unpainted
Really, the tape work is where we start to get into the design aspects of your particular project, so it will depend heavily on the look you want to achieve.
Just remember that you can use tape to protect areas of the shoe but you can also use it to create ‘negative space’ on the shoe to use as part of your overall look.
Spray paint your shoes
Now, it’s time to paint.
If you did a good job with your tape, this should be a fairly quick and easy process.
Keeping the spray paint can about 10-12 inches from your shoes, spray the shoes with long, even motions. Start spraying before the can is over the shoe and keep spraying for a second after, ensuring that your spray is even. Also, overlap a bit on each pass with the can.
Here is a perfect shot of what your spray painting technique should look like:
Let the shoes dry
Once you’ve painted the first coat or you are done with your first color, you’ll need to take a break to let the paint dry. Letting the paint dry in between coats will help reduce runs and crackling in the final product. Note that different shoe materials will have different drying times.
- Mesh – Shortest drying time
- Knit – Shorter drying time
- Canvas – Longer drying time
- Leather – Longest drying time
If you are painting rubber or foam sole materials, they will dry a little more slowly as well, depending on how absorbent the material is. You also might need a couple of coats on absorbent foam.
Remove the tape
Depending on your project, this might be the most exciting part.
After the paint has dried on your shoes, carefully remove the tape one piece at a time being careful not to peel or crack the paint.
You’ll know if you did a bad job taping up your shoes at this point!
Retape and repaint as needed
Depending on your project, you might need to retape your shoe in different places and then spray them again with a different color.
If you need to spray paint with a different color or in a different place, just be very careful taping over parts of the shoe that have already been painted. Be sure that you are using painter’s tape to avoid pulling the paint off with the paint!
Here is a great example of the whole process – taping, painting, and removing the tape on a pair of Nike AF1s:
Does spray paint wash off the shoes?
After all is said and done, what happens if you don’t like the spray-painted shoes?
Will the spray paint ever come off??
Probably not. In fact, it will be almost impossible to remove all of the spray paint from your shoes without damaging the shoes themselves. If you aren’t happy with the finished product, you could repeat the process and try to repaint them.
Of course, the spray paint will likely crack and chip over time as you wear the shoes out in the real world. If you are planning to wear your spray-painted shoes every day, expect there to be wear and tear over time. Fortunately, you can likely just touch them up with a little more paint if you need to!