How to DIY Canvas Shoes – Purple and Gold High Tops Tutorial

November 13, 2013Allison Murray
How to DIY Canvas Shoes - Purple and Gold High Tops Tutorial

Today we’re going to talk about how to DIY canvas shoes. As you may or may not know from my shoe gallery I’m kind of fond of this particular type of craft project!

This past weekend I had such an amazing opportunity… I got to help with a Pinterest Party at Michael’s on behalf of iLoveToCreate, who I have recently realized I kind of think of as my crafty benefactor. The whole shebang was a ton of fun, and I do mean a TON of fun. These things can be totally hit or miss but in this instance everybody was kind, every employee knew their job and did it well, everyone had a great attitude and overall spirit was very high. Plus the store had lots of inventory and it was easily accessible and, having not been in this particular location many times, I could still easily find what I needed. Because I can’t go do a job at a craft store and not come away with bagfuls of stuff. So if you’re in the OKC area and you’re crafty, the Michael’s on North May is a fantastic craft store and I’d really recommend them.

But let’s get on with this tutorial already. It came about because I was actually working on these shoes during the Michael’s Pinterest party and I got a handful of questions. These questions included… Why? (because I want to) Why are you using that paint? Where did you get those shoes? Did you paint the soles purple? It made me realize that perhaps a lot of what I know about shoe makeovers isn’t exactly common knowledge, but since I learned as I went it just kind of got tossed into the experience bank without a whole lot of thought. So today we’re going to cover some tips on DIYing canvas shoes.



So, first thing’s first the shoes.

  • Whenever you’re wanting to DIY up some kicks you always have the option to either upcycle a pair you already own or purchase a new pair from somewhere. I purchase shoes from Ebay, Amazon, 6PM, Dollar General and Wal-Mart most frequently. You can find lots of styles and prices to fit almost any budget.
  • When working on shoes it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for. A lot of my makeovers are knock-off Toms, I mean, classic canvas slip ons. Now I know that I am going to DIY just about any pair I can get my hands on, so when I see a nifty color and a good price, I’ll snap them up and toss them in “the stash” . Now I understand not everyone needs a box with 30 pairs of shoes in it like I might, but take advantage of great deals or really interesting styles/colors. You might just kick yourself if you don’t snap them up while you can!
  • Sometimes it takes a long while for the right shoes to be found. Because what is in your head might not actually be on the market. For instance those purple sneakers above have been something I have been looking for for A LONG TIME. My sister wanted purple and gold high tops because “who wouldn’t?” and finding the right sneakers for the makeover wasn’t easy. One day perusing 6PM I just happened to spy these suckers. The price? $16.99 with free shipping. I bought these within minutes of seeing them on the site.
  • Why were these particular shoes great? I could see that the lighter purple areas that look kind of inset would make naturally great areas for a change of color. Try to keep in mind what you’re going for and try to look at shoes for the project subjectively. Most of the time if you seriously modify the project to fit the shoes you’re not going to be happy with them and that’s time, money and materials down the drain.
  • When you’ve worked on a few pairs, it gets easier to spot the potential in pairs of shoes that are readily available. If you have a hard time at first, no worries, but I promise after a good handful you’ll start to see plain shoes in a whole different light.
  • Buy cheap shoes. Sometimes things don’t go right and you need to be ready to write off the project. In those cases it’s going to be a lot harder to do when you’ve got $75 tied up in them. My maximum is $20. If they cost over that I’m not buying them and in fact, most of the shoes you see me DIY run around $6 a pair. Because, and trust me on this, sometimes you’re going to mess ’em up.


A couple of tips on choosing your materials

  • When working with canvas or fabric shoes, it’s smart to go with a fabric paint or an acrylic plus fabric medium otherwise your paint will dry too stiff to be comfortable. I obviously dig Tulip brand products and have long before I started blogging for the iLoveToCreate team. When you find a brand that you like, stick with it to keep consistent results in your projects.
  • When painting fabric shoes a stiff brush is necessary to get the job done neatly and without blurry edges. The brushes you can purchase from the art or crafting departments are great but they’re going to give you sub-par results and this is something it took me forever to realize. So buy your paintbrushes in the wearables department of a craft store! These are the brushes I use.
  • When it comes to drawing on shoes fabric markers are awesome. Just so that you’re warned, if you’re working with fabric  with markers that are general purpose they’re going to bleed giving you ugly results.
  • There are lots of different brands of markers with different tips. I prefer a brush tip because it is more like painting so these fabric markers are my favorite. But there are others with a more traditional tip. Feel free to open up markers in store to be sure that it is one that you’ll like using.
  • Sometimes the color isn’t going to end up the way you think it will. When using fabric markers and paint test on a piece of scrap and allow to dry before proceeding if color is a big issue.


General tips

  • You often need more coats of fabric paint than you’d realize so be prepared for that extra time.
  • Keep a junk rag and cotton swabs handy to quickly clean up mistakes.
  • Be aware of your hands as much as you can. It sucks to grab the wet part of the shoe and then accidentally transfer that color onto the soles.
  • You can’t paint the rubber soles of shoes as a long term solution. If making for a single wear, perhaps for a costume, go for it, otherwise know that colorful soles (like the purple ones above) have the pigment embedded in the rubber which keeps the color from scraping off.
  • If making shoes laceless, hang on to those laces! They come in really handy around the house for binding up things and since they’re typically sturdy you can even use them to carry those bundles.
Liddy is oh, so sneaky, isn’t she? Can hardly tell she’s shooting across my photography set up!!!

And last of all, have fun with it. The first shoes I ever made over were okay at best. You may not get professional looking results straight out of the gate but it’s like I often say… Unless you have people always coming up to kiss your feet, they’ll never see the imperfections  that you do.

Do you DIY a lot of shoes, or are you inspired to try, now?

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