Customize Your Converse: Paint and Tools for Canvas

The greatest artists of all time began with a blank canvas to create some of their most famous masterpieces. The same is true for sneaker artists — there simply isn’t a better blank canvas for a custom sneaker paint job than the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star.

But if you want to custom paint your Converse All Stars, you can’t treat them just like any other sneaker. Most sneaker artists paint leather kicks, so sneaker paints are specially formulated to bond to smooth leather, not rough canvas. Canvas is also more flexible than leather, which means you want a paint that is not rigid when it dries, but stays flexible and bends along with the fabric of your sneakers.

Follow the tips below, and your DIY custom painted Converse will end up being a masterpiece on your feet.

1. Mix Angelus paint with 2-Soft Fabric Medium. For canvas Vans or Converse sneakers, you don’t want to use plain acrylic paint or even plain Angelus leather paint. Your paint needs to adhere to canvas and flex with the fabric after it dries. So, mix basic Angelus Leather Paint half-and-half with Angelus 2-Soft Fabric Medium. The 50-50 mixture you create is a thinner solution, and the final product will fold and flex without cracking.

2. Tape off all straight lines and rubber soles. Canvas shoes have a rougher texture than leather, and that additional roughness makes it hard to make straight lines or paint the precise areas you want. While normal masking tape can be used, a Angelus’s premium vinyl masking tape will help ensure no paint slips under the edge of your masking job. The tape is available in 1/4″, 1/2″, and 1″ widths. We recommend 1″ for masking off rubber midsoles and larger areas, and 1/4″ for more precise masking jobs.

3. Outline your design with pencil — on the shoe or on transfer paper. If you want a professional product like the Converse All Stars shown below, outline your design lightly in pencil before you reach for the paint. Freehand works if you have the skill. You can also trace your design onto transfer paper and then rub it onto the surface of your canvas, as shown in this video.

4. Paint with precision. On smooth leather, you can often use a wet cloth or acetone to “erase” stray paint marks. Unfortunately, canvas sneakers are not so forgiving. They quickly absorb paint. For that reason, you’ll want accurate brushes at your disposal, like the Angelus Micro Detail Set. If you do make an error on canvas, your best bet is to tweak your design a bit and just paint over the area containing the mistake — either with the same color paint, or a darker color.

If you follow the tips above, you’re going to end up with some epic one-a-kind Chuck Taylors like the ones shown below. Take a look at the gallery for inspiration . . . and then get started painting your own. With a little practice, you’ll be an “All Star” at painting Converse canvas sneakers!

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