The Best Shoe Paint

Painting sneakers is an art.  But it’s also very much a science.  Use the wrong paint, and the end result will be disappointing even if you are the best custom shoe artist on the planet.

Plain craft paint just doesn’t work well to paint leather shoes.  Sooner or later, it always chips, cracks, and peels off.

Proper shoe paints have different chemical properties from normal acrylic paints.  They’re specially formulated to be flexible, and to bond to porous surfaces like leather and fabric.

Whether this is your first rodeo or you’re an old hand at painting sneakers, here are our recommendations for the best shoe paints to customize your kicks.

1.  Angelus Leather Paint

The most trusted name in leather paint, they’ve been in business since 1907.

When used according to the directions, Angelus paint will give you the look and feel of factory-made sneakers, with your own colors and designs.  People have even painted whole leather couches with their paint, with excellent results!

If this is your first sneaker customization project, we suggest starting out with one of their terrific custom shoe paint kits.

The Starter Shoe Paint Kit comes with:

  • 3 colors of standard leather paint (your choice of colors);
  • leather preparer and deglazer;
  • a set of 5 brushes;
  • a sneaker cleaning brush and cleaning solution; and
  • an acrylic finisher (your choice of matte or gloss).

Paints are sold individually, so if you need more than 3 colors, you can add additional paint bottles on their website.  Check out their whole line of custom sneaker paint colors here.

2.  Leather Studio Paint by Plaid

Although it doesn’t come in as many colors as Angelus leather paint, Plaid makes a very capable Leather Studio Paint.  This is a high quality acrylic leather paint that performs similarly to Angelus paint.  It has excellent bonding to leather; remains flexible even after it dries; and it has great durability for a long lasting finish.

If you’re in a rush to get your sneaker customization project done, this paint ships with free 1-day shipping with a Prime membership.

3.  Plasti-Dip Aerosol Rubber Spray

This option is less durable than the other two shoe paints, and we don’t recommend it for suede or untreated leather surfaces.  But if you like to switch up the look of your shoes regularly, Plasti-Dip can be a good customization tool.

You use Plasti-Dip just like you’d use spray paint.  Spray on thin layers of the paint so it doesn’t run.  Be sure to wait until the first layer is dry before applying more layers.

Once you’ve built up a good coat of Plasti-Dip with several layers, you’ll have a rubberized color coating sitting on top of the existing surface.

Best of all, if you spray Plasti-Dip on rubber, plastic, or synthetic materials, the coating is temporary and won’t damage the underlying surface.  You can peel off the Plasti-Dip whenever you’re ready for a new look.

Again, Plasti-Dip is not a permanent sneaker customization tool, but rather a temporary and low-risk method for freshening up the look of your kicks.  Plasti-Dip holds up fairly well for casual wear, especially if you take care not to scuff your shoes against walls, stairs, or other objects.  However, you shouldn’t count on a Plasti-Dip coating lasting long on shoes you’ll wear to exercise or play sports.

The 3 paints above are the best options available for adding some color to your kicks.  So what are you waiting for?  Lay down some newspapers, roll up your sleeves, and get painting!

11 thoughts on “The Best Shoe Paint

  • July 11, 2017 at 12:24 am
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    so I have a pair of Nike football cleats I spray painted last year and no the paints chipping and I want to paint over them with angelus paint but I don’t know what I need besides the paint and brushes to make these cleats look dope for the up coming season, it would be awesome if you could help me out!

    Reply
    • Sneaker Pete
      July 11, 2017 at 4:35 am
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      Hi Kardelle,
      If they are vinyl or leather cleats, your best bet would be to use Angelus deglazer to remove as much of the spray paint as possible. If the deglazer doesn’t seem to remove the spray paint, you can try acetone (available near nail polish in most pharmacy stores) or LIGHT sanding with fine grit sandpaper.
      Once you have gotten as much of the old spray paint off as possible, use the deglazer a second time to ensure the surface of the shoe is clean. Then use Angelus leather paint in the color(s) of your choice. It should bond to the leather properly.
      If the cleats are a synthetic material that is NOT vinyl or leather, you might try spraying the cleats with Plasti-Dip coating to create a more temporary look. You don’t need to worry as much about the old spray paint if you go the Plasti-Dip route. But you may have to respray them every few games, as Plasti-Dip can scratch or peel off. The good part about it is Plasti-Dip is easy to remove, so you can change up the look of your cleats. Good luck, and let us know how they turn out!

      Reply
  • February 28, 2019 at 3:34 pm
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    Hey I have a lots of interest in sneaker and cleats.. Also want to start my own customisation…want some advices and tips from you.

    Reply
  • May 8, 2019 at 3:58 pm
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    If I am painting Ultra Boost what paint would be the best and should I spray paint or paintbrush and can you send me the link for good stickers or would any sticker work

    Reply
    • Sneaker Pete
      May 16, 2019 at 5:23 pm
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      Rodrigo, it depends on what part of the Ultra Boost shoe you want to paint. If you want to paint the plastic “cage” (the part of the Boosts that holds the laces), you’ll want to use Angelus paint (http://bit.ly/2uXQNMy) mixed with Angelus 2-Hard (http://bit.ly/2LYgZDY). The 2-Hard film hardener will help the Angelus paint bond to non-porous surfaces like plastic. If you want to paint the midsole or upper of the shoe, normal Angelus paint should work fine. You want to be careful to apply thin coats, and can mix the paint with acetone to further thin the mixture and help it soak into the mesh. Applying thick coats will create globs, which you don’t want — so start with a thin coat, and add another layer of paint on top of that if needed. (Note: It’s not recommended to paint dark shoe materials a lighter color. This is especially true for mesh. So starting with a white mesh is recommended.)

      As to your question about stickers, I don’t find stickers to be a good permanent solution for customizing sneakers. They can be good as a stencil to paint over, or for temporary customization.

      Reply
  • May 28, 2019 at 1:11 am
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    Appreciate the need to set up this article for guys like me starting out. I’m more into customising cleats (football boots) but I’m stuck as to what types of paints to use for different fabrics. I know angelus does a huge range on leather panels but how about mesh synthetics and so on. I’d appreciate your response. From the UK 💯🤙🏼

    Reply
    • Sneaker Pete
      January 4, 2020 at 8:10 pm
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      If you are painting more flexible mesh or synthetic fabrics, check out Angelus Fabric Medium Additive. Another option is airbrush, which uses a thinner sprayable paint and can even be used for custom t-shirts.

      Reply
  • October 5, 2019 at 12:52 pm
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    Hello I need a paint to paint the rubber (rubber) on the side of the All Star Converse (not the sole) that is durable so that it does not get away with friction and friction, what kind of paint would it be, because I am from Argentina, Or else what kind of varnish? Thank you

    Reply
    • Sneaker Pete
      January 4, 2020 at 8:07 pm
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      Andrea, your best bet for the rubber on the All Star Converse midsole is to first use Angelus Deglazer to remove any glossy finish from the rubber, and then mix your paint with Angelus 2-Hard Adhesion Promoter. The Adhesion Promoter is intended for hard smooth surfaces where the paint cannot penetrate. To protect the finish, you may also want to use a clear sealer such as Angelus Matte Acrylic Finisher.

      Reply
  • November 12, 2019 at 10:00 am
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    what paint is best for non-leather shoes? i want to paint canvas shoes (Converse, Vans etc.) and so far acrylic has been fine but I want to put forward the best product possible/

    Reply
    • Sneaker Pete
      January 4, 2020 at 5:18 pm
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      Kate, Angelus acrylic paint works great on canvas shoes too! However, you’ll want to include an additive to thin the paint slightly so that it is more flexible when it dries. Thinning the paint with some acetone works, but a better option is Angelus 2-Soft Fabric Medium Additive. This product softens the acrylic paint so that it does not dry hard and crack. Also, because canvas shoes are generally more flexible than leather, don’t forget to place cardboard or something rigid under the canvas while you draw your design or paint. Good luck!

      Reply

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