Difficulty: 2/5 (easy)
Estimated Time: 5 hours
Your chances of winning your office Ugly Sweater contest just went from good to great! Show off your holiday spirit by making your own shoes in this pattern or make up your own. We’ll show you exactly how to make these, and adapt to make anything you think of. Please also feel free to use our Custom Shoes Request form to have any shoe made for you or our Stencils Request form to have any shapes made for you!
In this tutorial we teach you the fundamentals of using stencils to make perfect shapes and the basics of making any professional looking shoe! When we are done, you will have waterproof, scratch-resistant shoes that will last for years. Enough talk, let’s get started!
·Cup of water
·Hair dryer or heat gun
·Jacquard airbrush paint (optional)
- Mask the soles with masking tape.
- Apply gesso (primer) to areas you want to paint.
- Place stencils on and heat with a hair dryer to improve adhesion.
- Paint over the stencils with your background color(s).
- Remove the stencils.
- Color in the pattern and draw details.
- Apply matte medium (finisher).
1. Mask the soles. Paint on the soles will rub off or crack in the long run. It’s best to not get any paint on these areas unless you understand it will only be temporary. You may also want to mask off the two stretchy elastic parts and/or the sock liner if you don’t trust yourself to not get paint on those areas while painting. This step is optional, depending on your skill level and willingness to be extremely careful on the edges. Note: if you are airbrushing, this step is not optional and you will additionally need to mask off any areas you are not painting. Picture of full masking for airbrush is shown in step 3.
If you have a shoe tree, paper towels, or newspaper available it helps to stuff the shoes before painting.
Shoe with sole masked off.
2. Apply gesso (primer) to any areas you will paint. One thin coat will do. The primer will help the acrylic paint stick to the canvas shoe. Allow to dry or speed up drying with a hair dryer. Note: if you are airbrushing, there is no need to apply primer. Instead, make sure you heat set right away after each layer.
Applying a thin layer of gesso (primer) before painting.
3. Place stencils in the pattern shown below onto your shoes. At first, just place them on lightly to get them into place. After that, you will heat up each stencil individually with a hair dryer or heat gun to assist with adhesion to the canvas material. A hair dryer is preferred over a heat gun so that you don’t melt or deform the vinyl. Heat up each stencil for a few seconds and then use your fingers to press them down onto the shoe.
Note: For stencils that don't need to have the positive parts placed relative to each other (e.g. LV or Gucci pattern or lettering) you can just place them on like stickers. If you need to keep parts relative to each other, you will need transfer paper. Full article on stencils here.
Stencils applied and shoes taped up.
4. Paint the background. First you will paint the background colors. For these customs we chose Jacquard airbrush paint. Airbrush is preferred when working on large surfaces, applying multiple coats, and when using stencils. It's much faster, can spray thinner layers, and will apply perpendicular to the surface. If airbrushing, make sure you sufficiently heat set the paint after each coat. A brush will work just as well in the end, but it will take more time, there is a greater likelihood that paint will seep under the stencils, and there will most likely be more touch-up work. You will want to apply 4 thin layers, allowing each layer to fully dry (your hair dryer or heat gun can speed up dry times). If you are using a brush, as you apply the paint on top of the stencils, be sure to paint away from the stencil so that you are not pulling paint underneath the stencil. A horizontal (or toe-to-toe) stroke is preferred because that will reduce the chances of cracking or chipping near the toe areas (where there is the most wear-and-tear). Don’t be alarmed if your first couple of coats look light or blotchy, this is normal. See below for visual comparisons between layers. As you can see, by the 4th coat the paint is nice and filled-in with no gaps or blotchy areas.
Applying 4 coats of red paint over the stencils.
In order to use thin layers, don’t glob the paint onto your brush. Just pull up enough so you can do a few swipes. Use the brush as a spreading tool with the goal of making the paint apply thinly and evenly. You can use a hair dryer or heat gun between coats to make it dry faster. Be careful not to make it too hot or the paint may burn and change color.
I like to start out with big brushes to do large areas and then use smaller or angled brushes near edges. It’s a good idea to reserve 1-2 hours at the end of painting to clean up all of the detailed edges (after removing the masking tape).
Now that you’re done painting the background, you can remove the stencils.
5. Remove the stencils. You will want to slowly remove the stencils, starting in one corner. If the paint isn’t completely dry, you rip the stencils off too fast, or you have paint that is too thickly applied, paint may pull up with the stencil. It’s usually not too much of a problem and you can go in and fix any imperfections afterwards, so don’t worry too much.
Shoes with background painted and stencils removed.
6. Paint in the pattern. First, do any touch-up that is needed. Some shapes will not be perfect – just paint white/red/green wherever needed and as many coats as needed (up to 8 coats to paint white over another color). After touch-up is done, color in the diagonal lines between the candy canes. Below is guidance for what they should look like.
Pattern filled in.
Now it’s time to fill in the stencil areas! We chose to color in every other tree green and the candy canes with red stripes.
Finished "Ugly Sweater" custom shoes!
If you would like to do some additional candy-cane pattern painting on the sides, we used masking tape to create diagonal lines and alternated white and red on a different pair of shoes.
Painting candy-cane stripes on the side of the shoe.
7. Apply finisher. Use a large brush and put on one or two very thin layers of matte medium (finisher) over painted areas. Don’t be alarmed if the coat is a bit white and streaky, it will dry clear (as long as it’s not too thick). Make sure you rise/wash your brush right away because the finisher will dry fast and make your brush un-usable the finisher is left on. Allow to dry 24 hours before wearing. Your shoes will be waterproof and scratch-resistant!
- Thin layers are better. Thick layers can lead to the paint cracking, so put just enough paint on your brush to spread thin onto the canvas material. If it dries with tiny gaps or faded looking colors it’s ok, you can put on more thin layers until it looks uniform.
- Now is a good opportunity to get used to different brushes, angles, and brush strokes. For large areas, use the biggest brush you have, but make sure you are spreading it evenly and not too thick. Angle brushes are perfect for doing fades. Fades can be achieved by using two brushes with the paints you want to fade and blending them into each other. Make sure the paint you are trying to blend is still wet. Flat brushes are great for edges and everything else.
- It’s a good idea to paint across the toe box (in the across-the-toes direction) because that area flexes more than anywhere else on the shoe. Having the paint flex in the same direction as the shoe will reduce chances of cracking. If your pattern doesn’t lend itself to painting across-the-toes don’t worry about it, it’s a minimal effect.
- Use those detail brushes at the end. The key to a professional looking shoe is having clean edges, artwork, and images.
- Excess paint on the soles can be cleaned up with acetone (nail polish remover) or isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab or q-tip.
- Proper brush care will extend the life of your brushes. Don’t allow the paint to dry on the brush. Always put it in some water and rinse it around. If you are switching colors, repeatedly rinse until nothing comes off while drying your brush on a paper towel. After you are done working, brushes can be washed using a brush cleaner (we recommend Masterbrush Cleaner), soapy water, or shampoo. Do not store your brushes head-down or in water or solvent.