If you’re an artist or have a flair for creativity, customizing your shoes with your designs is a great idea. But before you get started, it’s only natural that you want to set yourself up for success. This includes finding the material to paint on and deciding what paint to use.
Acrylic paint is one of the easiest to work with—when it’s wet, of course. Hence, today, we’re answering the question: how to prevent acrylic paint from cracking on shoes?
Here’s how to prevent acrylic paint from cracking on shoes:
- Apply the paint in thin layers.
- Paint in the direction the shoe flexes.
- Avoid mixing brands of paint.
- Don’t apply heat to dry the paint.
- Use an acrylic paint sealant.
What Kind of Paint to Use on Shoes?
What kind of paint to use on shoes depends on what you’re looking to create and the material you’re applying it on.
Watch this video for additional tips on customizing shoes and building colors.
How to Prevent Acrylic Paint From Cracking on Shoes
Although acrylics are easy to apply to the shoe, they can be tricky to keep on. Acrylic paint tends to crack as it dries, which will ruin your design. Preventing the color from breaking is something to think about when you begin painting. Here are a few tips:
- Apply the paint in thin layers. This is not a process you should rush, and layering on thick paint from the start is likely to result in cracking. Instead, your first stroke should have very little paint on the brush—let it dry and then administer another layer. Acrylics dry fast, so it shouldn’t take too long.
- Paint generally cracks where the shoe flexes the most, such as toe box. So to avoid it, try to direct your strokes in the same direction. Bend your sneakers and watch where the lines appear. For example, in the toe box—here, you want to go across as opposed to straight down from the top.
- Avoid mixing brands of paint. Although not proven, many artists state that combining two brands makes the paint crack more easily.
- Don’t apply heat to speed up the drying process. Avoid using the hairdryer or placing the shoes in direct sunlight—the heat will crack the paint. Instead, find a place with good airflow and a comfortable temperature.
- When your design is finished, use an acrylic paint sealing The secret on how to seal acrylic paint on shoes is to do it in bursts, not dragging it across. Find a spot, do two quick spray bursts and then move to the next—it’s time-consuming, but the results are worth it.
- When the sealant is dry, you can apply a waterproofing spray—any regular rain and stain will do. Give it a gentle coating and let your shoes dry thoroughly for 24 hours before wearing them.
- Easy-use 5 oz aerosol spray bottle
- Works on suede, canvas, or nubuck
- Protects footwear with an invisible barrier
- Repels liquids and prevents stains
How to Paint Running Shoes
Running shoes, including sneakers, are so much fun to work with, and it’s a more budget-friendly way of acquiring customized footwear. All you need is the following:
- Damp cloth.
- Fine-grit sandpaper (optional).
- One wide-bristled brush and one fine-bristled brush.
- Your choice of acrylic paint.
- Acrylic paint sealing spray.
Here’s what you do:
- Take your cloth and dampen it with water. Wipe the surfaces of your shoes to remove dust and dirt. Let them dry.
- If your running shoes are leather, use the fine-grit sandpaper and gently sand the surface where you want to apply paint. Roughening up the surface will help the paint adhere to it. If your sneakers are canvas, you can skip this step.
- Now you’re ready to apply the paint. It’s up to you how you want to start. If you’re less experienced, start with light colors and work your way into the background with darker tones. For detailed work, use the fine-bristled brush and the wide-bristle brush for the backdrop.
- When you’re finished, take your shoes outside and place them on some newspaper. Seal your design with an acrylic sealant—remember the tips from earlier.
- Let your shoes dry for up to 24 hours before wearing them.
Painting Toms Shoes
Whether you’re painting Toms shoes, Vans or Converse, they’ll give you an ideal canvas to go into detail. You can use the same method as above, excluding the sandpaper.
If you want to create more integral designs, start by outlining your shoe. Keep a reference of what you’re painting to one side, then use a pencil or marker to sketch it on your shoe.
Once your guide is ready, you can begin applying the colors. Keep different sized brushes with you—use small ones for detailing and outlining, and bigger brushes for background and filling. Remember to apply in thin layers—let it dry and reapply.
Don’t get discouraged if it looks “bad.” The first layer tends to be the worst, but continue your process and follow your reference. Once you blend and get further into the process, the pattern will come together nicely.
When you’re happy with the finished product, grab your paint sealant spray and coat the shoes. Again, use sharp bursts, don’t drag it across. Once the sealant is dry, apply your waterproofing spray.
Painting Leather Shoes
Whether you want to give your dress shoes an upgrade, or your leather heels a new look, paint is one way to do that. However, keep in mind that after painting, it’s not easy getting their original appearance back. In other words, unless you’re 100 percent sure, avoid painting your $100+ leather shoes.
Here’s what you need:
- Leather Preparer and Deglazer.
- Your choice of paintbrushes.
- Leather-approved acrylic finisher.
- Flat paintbrush or sponge brush.
- Leather shoe cream.
- Leather polish.
This is what you do:
- Start by brushing your shoes with the Leather Preparer and Deglazer. This removes the factory finish, making it easier for the paint to stick. Give it a few minutes to dry.
- While your shoes dry, get your paint and brushes together. Thin the paints with water, this makes it easier to apply several layers without it looking inconsistent.
- With a flat paintbrush or sponge, apply your paint. Follow your reference and paint what you see, not what you think for the best results. Create a thin layer, let it dry, and apply another.
- Once you’re finished, let your shoes dry for 24 hours. Place them in a ventilated room or on a shaded spot on your porch.
- Following 24 hours, use a sponge brush or flat paintbrush to apply the finisher. Use gentle strokes in the same direction. Let the shoes dry for another 24 hours.
- Before wearing them, rehydrate the leather using liberal coats of shoe cream followed by a leather polish. This restores the texture and shine—you can always do this as a pick-me-up when needed later on.
- Don’t rush the drying process. Yes, 24 hours is a long time, but cutting this short could result in smears on your design or leave them with a tacky feel.
- If you’re mixing different colors for a custom hue, remember to create enough to cover both shoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof?
Acrylic paint isn’t waterproof—it’s merely water-resistant. Even if you coat your acrylic painted shoes with a waterproof spray, you should still be mindful before wearing them on a rainy day.
Is Acrylic Paint Permanent?
This depends on the surface you’re applying it to and the quality of the acrylics you’re using. Acrylic is an elastic paint that’s easy for materials to absorb.
When applying acrylic paint on paper and fabrics, like canvas, it’s almost permanent and would be difficult to remove. Smooth surfaces, such as leather, glass, plastic or metal, it’s more likely to peel or crack off when it dries.
Of course, if the pigment in the paint is high-quality, it will last significantly longer than low-quality. However, keep in mind that eventually, they’ll fade despite the quality due to exposure to outdoor elements, like sun and dirt.
How to Prevent Sneakers From Cracking After Painting
Cracking occurs once the paint is dry, and the shoe’s materials begin to flex as you move. There are some steps you can take to prevent this—these are:
- Buy soft insoles. Thicker and softer insoles absorb your body weight instead of leading it to the shoe’s midsole, which minimizes flexing.
- Avoid storing them in a room with reduced humidity. Try to keep your closet or where you store your shoes at 40 percent humidity. Use a humidifier to restore moisture in the air if needed.
- Maintain the shoes, especially if it’s leather. When you feel they’re getting stiff, treat them with a conditioner.
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Here’s a video showing you some techniques to apply to prevent cracking paint.
How to prevent acrylic paint from cracking on shoes? The best way to avoid this is by applying several thin layers, allowing them to dry in between. Apply it the direction that your shoe flexes, stick to one brand and seal with an acrylic sealant. Don’t rush the drying process and treat it with a waterproof spray afterward.
Acrylic paint is fantastic for giving your plain shoes a new look. However, keep in mind that it’s not permanent and will fade with wear.
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