You’ve worked for hours — days even — tracing your design, laying on the layers, fading the colors properly, and painstakingly painting the finest details on your kicks. But now you’re afraid to wear them.
We’ve all been there. When you’ve poured your heart and soul into a custom shoe paint job, the last thing you want to do is see your new colors and designs crack, peel, chip, or wash away.
While there’s never any way to ensure a pair of shoes will stay flawless — much less a custom paint job — consider these methods before, during, and after painting, to help ensure you’re doing the best you can to protect your new kicks.
1. Prep the sneakers properly.
Prepping the shoes may be the most important part of a custom shoe paint job. The amount of prep work depends on the materials you will be painting. For most shoes, the paint job will involve painting factory-coated leather. Painting over the factory coating is ineffective, because the glossy coating prevents the paint from chemically bonding to the leather itself. So, apply this leather preparer and deglazer with cotton balls or a soft rag, and rub that factory coating off until a waxy substance begins to accumulate on the surface of the shoe. Once that coating has worn away and you’ve let the shoe dry, you’re ready to start painting.
2. Use the right shoe paint.
When doing an aftermarket paint job on a pair of leather sneakers, there’s really no substitute for quality paint. And the best custom shoe paint on the market is this acrylic leather paint from Angelus. It’s specifically formulated to chemically bond to leather, so if you prep the shoes right, the paint should not chip or crack after application. (NOTE: If you cut corners and try to use acrylic paint that is not specifically formulated for leather, you’re more likely to ruin your shoes than end up with a cool pair of custom kicks.)
3. Let each layer of paint dry properly.
The normal rule when painting shoes is to apply several, successive THIN coats of paint, until you get the solid color you want. Applying thick layers can result in drips, uneven coloration, or poor bonding of the paint to the leather. So brush each layer on thin, and let it fully dry before painting on the next layer. To reduce the drying time between layers, you may want to use a heat gun, like the Wagner Furno 300, which Angelus sells for sneaker painting.
4. Apply a sealer to protect your new paint job.
After you’ve applied all of the thin layers of paint that you intend to lay on, and you’ve waited for all the layers to dry, it’s tempting to put the new shoes on right away. But there’s a final step that’s well worth taking to protect your hard work: sealant.
We recommend one of these finishing sealants, which are available in a range of finishes: matte, satin, normal, and high gloss.
While no custom shoe paint job will be as tough and durable as a finish straight from the factory, if you use the right supplies and follow the proper procedures, your custom paint job can rise pretty close to the same level of durability. Take your time, have fun, and good luck!