Acrylic paint is wonderful stuff. The color is brighter and more vibrant than watercolors, but you can still water them down if you want a subdued, layered effect. They’re not as expensive as oils and there are no noxious odors to deal with. They work best with cheap brushes.
This paint is not too hard to work with! If you wash your brushes with soap and water after each use, clean up is super easy. Plus, when it comes to your palette, just wait for it to dry, and you can peel it right off.
Thankfully, acrylic paint has a remarkably fast drying time. Some artists will even add substances to acrylic paints that keep them from drying to quickly, so they have longer to work with them. Of course, quick drying means you can paint over what you don’t like easily.
Perhaps you have been thinking of using acrylic paint on a shoe. You may have seen some DIY crafts online and want to try decorating your own shoes with an original design. Or maybe you’d like your athletic shoes to have your team colors.
Maybe your clown costume needs some multicolored shoes to set it off. Maybe your Dorothy Gale costume must have the Ruby Slippers and you could only find them in white. Maybe you belong to a fandom not known for flashy merch, but you want some. Could acrylic paint help? Read on to find out!
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What is Acrylic Paint?
It may be surprising to learn that Acrylic Paint is, technically, a sort of liquid plastic. The technical term for this paint is actually acrylic polymer emulsion. After German chemist Dr. Otto Rohm invented acrylic resin, his discovery led to the invention of acrylic paint.
Otto Rohm, along with his partner Otto Haas, patented acrylic resin for dispersion in the year 1934. Leonard Bocour and Sam Golden mixed in some mineral spirits and invented modern acrylic paint under the brand name Magna Paint. These came on the market in the fifties and became extremely popular.
Acrylic paint was initially seen as a house paint, but it soon became a favourite among professional artists. Roy Lichtenstein was drawn to the vivid colors of acrylics to make pop art paintings reminiscent of the Ben-Day dots system commonly used in comic books at the time. The bright colors this paint was capable of, as well as its thick glossy texture, also drew the attention of some famous artists.
Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans is perhaps the most famous acrylic painting there is. Acrylic paint can be blended with a fabric medium for the silk-screening technique such as that used by Robert Rauschenberg.
The Best Canvas is Canvas
The word “canvas” is now widely used in the art world. A tattoo artist, for example, may describe human skin as a canvas or a muralist may describe a brick wall as a canvas. If you want to paint shoes, it’s best to go with the best canvas there is. Canvas shoes!
It must be spotlessly clean or else the paint won’t adhere to the surface. Most acrylic paint available today is meant for canvas, though there are some made with materials like leather in mind.
Canvas shoes, and canvas you can buy in an art store are different. A canvas for traditional painting is usually even and firm, stretched out over a frame. Unfortunately, the comfortable nature of Canvas shoes means it will be a flexible, loose painting canvas. To make painting easier, pack your shoes with bunched up paper or even plastic bags to make the surface firmer.
Once stuffed, remove the shoelaces and cover all areas that you do not want to get covered with paint with masking tape. Then, you can prime your painting surface. Gesso works best.
Try not to use a type with a high concentration of calcium carbonate may cause the consequential film to dry to a brittle surface that is apt to crack easily. Try to apply a nice, thin layer of gesso and avoid leaving any clumps. A thin gesso layer will help your paint stick better and avoid any future paint cracking. Once it is completely dry, you can start painting.
Get Cracking but Keep from Cracking!
Acrylic paint is flexible by nature, but it can crack under certain conditions. Use these tips to keep your artistic footwear looking good. When doing this, keep in mind that Rome was not built in a day. Take your time to create something beautiful. The best way to keep your acrylic paint from cracking is by using thin layers to start with. Apply a thin layer and let it completely dry before putting on another.
Make your brushstrokes short and even. Rushing can lead to mistakes, so take you time! Some artists like to start with the background and work to the foreground to give a better illusion of depth, but it may be best to start with lighter colors and use the darker colors for touch up. Any gapes or faded colors can be easily touched up as well.
Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t look right at first. Just keep at it. Use a reference image to help guide you. To prevent cracking, paint across the toe box, in the same direction the foot would flex. This is the area that flexes the most. If the paint flexes in the same direction that the shoe moves, the chances of cracking will be reduced.
It’s best to stick with one brand of paint, as combining brands can lead to more cracks. Find a brand you like and stick with it. Always remember to let your layers dry before you work on them again. Fortunately, acrylic doesn’t take long to dry. Don’t try to speed things up with a hairdryer! Heat is bad for paint and can lead to cracking. To prevent this, dry your shoes somewhere not too warm, but with nice airflow.
To increase your shoes lifespan, add on an acrylic sealer once dry. Waterproofing spray can also work to extend the life of your shoes. Remember to spray in pointed bursts. You must not drag the can across the shoes while spraying, otherwise, the paint will smear.
You are creating a seal, not spraying for bugs! Pick a spot, spray two quick bursts, move on, repeat. Yes, this means you will have to take your time here too. It will be worth it. Get every little bit down to the very crevices covered.
What Kind of Paint to Get?
When shopping for acrylic paint, you’ll find there are often two kinds: those meant for artists, and those meant for students. The big difference here is price. The student’s quality is less expensive. The trade-off in price is that student’s quality doesn’t come in as wide a range of colors as the artist’s quality and the artist’s quality is made from a more finely ground pigment.
The artist’s quality paints have a smoother consistency, making them easier to layer and blend and the colors tend to be more vibrant. However, regardless of the kind of paint used, a great artist can make it work! Remember, Picasso was known to occasionally make paintings with just a paper plate and some pizza sauce and Giulia Bernardelli uses coffee.
There are ten basic acrylic colors, but really if you just have cadmium red, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, titanium white and ivory black, you’re good to go. Get alizarin crimson if you don’t want your reds and pinks to be too orangey. If you want an earth tone, burnt sienna is good. Always remember to cap your paints when not in use.
Heavy body acrylics have a buttery consistency. They’re great for any work that requires blending or creating simple washes. However, to achieve the thin layers you need for those techniques, you’ll have to make the paint very watered down. Fluid acrylics are the best choice for painting shoes. They have a slightly thicker than watercolor consistency and are great for fine details and dry brushwork.
Notes on Leather Shoes
It is recommended that you work on canvas or other cloth, but what if you have a pair of leather shoes that just must be another color? After all, Dorothy wears Ruby Slippers, not Ruby Sneakers. Maybe you want to cover the gray and blue shoes meant for your favorite team for those of another.
Maybe you got a new pair of leather Oxfords after you got your acceptance letter to Hogwarts and want to paint them your house color. With the right preparation and tools by your side, working on leather can be easy!
When approached correctly, leather can be a great, workable canvas for paint. First you need to prep your leather shoes- the glossy coat new leather shoes come with has got to go. All you need is a bottle of leather preparer and deglazer, available at most art supply stores that have a leather goods section. Apply the solution to some cotton balls and use this to just rub that glaze right off. Use it in a well-ventilated room away from heat or flame.
Once the glaze is totally dry, it’s time to paint.
There is acrylic paint made especially for leather surfaces. This paint is durable and flexible. If the leather is prepared properly, it shouldn’t chip, or crack once applied. Even here it is best to remember to use very thin layers and let them dry before adding more.
To preserve your work, add a finisher. There are different types of finisher depending on what kind of glass you want, be that matte, satin or high gloss. Once you combine your finisher ingredients, shake them well, and apply. You can use a paintbrush, a rag, a sponge, or even an airbrush. Spread it out evenly and then leave it out to dry. The drying process may take a day or two, but the result should be non-cracking and weather resistant finish.
How the Natives Did It
Suppose you have a pair of leather moccasins you’d like to paint with a tribal design. How could you make it more authentic? Well, the Native Americans didn’t have acrylics!
They had to use what nature had available. Pigments were made from berries, bark, flowers, and earth. Paint palettes were even natural materials- clam shells for those who lived near water, or clay bowls used by those who lived on the land.
If you want to make homemade paint for materials like leather, combine gum Arabic powder (about 300 grams) wit boiling water (about a liter). Combine the two by pouring the water into the gum powder and stir until it is combined and lump free. Add three drops of clove oil to keep it from spoiling. Let it soak for a day or two.
Mix it all up until you get a thick and creamy consistency. Straining it through a cheesecloth may work. You can then add a dry pigment. You can also try adding one part glycerin to five parts of the gum solution while it’s still warm to prevent cracking.
The Natives used things from nature to make their pigments. Clay, sand, and various types of dirt can make various shades of brown, black and gray. Terracotta and rust made reddish brown shades. Sometimes the Natives crushed beetles to make red, but beet juice can work if you’re squeamish. Mashed berries can create color. Heating them slightly can make the juice even more colorful.
Gypsum, limestone and kaolin clay can make white paint. Soot or charcoal makes the paint black. Powdered lapis lazuli can make a beautiful blue, those this material was often used sparingly due to its difficulty to source.
Blueberry juice or sunflower seeds are less costly ingredients for blue. The Natives used buffalo gall bladder to make yellow paint, but most artists would use onion skin as a more accessible material today. Moss and algae can be used to make green.
Painting your shoes can be a fun art project. Who doesn’t love art that they can wear? It may take a little time and some painstaking care, but it can be done. There’s no timetable for this. Just relax and enjoy the process. If someone asks how long it took you to make them, tell them your age. That’s how long it took you to get that good.