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Shoe Customizing: An Introduction

Customs from left to right by @mycustomkicks, @astrotorf, @sq_customs, and @jordan_custom_kicks.

Customs from left to right by @mycustomkicks, @astrotorfcustoms, @sq_customs, and @jordan_custom_kicks.

The world of shoe customizing may be something you’ve wondered about but never really knew what’s involved or how you can get started.  You’ve probably seen some custom shoes on Instagram or on celebrities and wondered what’s involved with making them.  At Just1 Shoes, we are going to break down all of the details and set standards for each process, so you can be sure you’re getting the right knowledge and can make shoes that will last.  But, be warned that while the techniques can be listed and explained, the talent cannot.  It will take you many months to become proficient with working on all of the materials and years to become a professional.  There is no substitute for experience, so the time to get started is now!  Within these articles you will find all of the information you need, but if you prefer a progression of evolving skill with assigned projects, create an account with us and start following the Customizers Curriculum (coming soon) for free.  We also feature advanced courses that involve content and lessons from professional customizers who are at the top of the industry!

Our articles are the result of viewing YouTube videos, Instagram accounts, and live Instagram feeds; reading articles, websites, and blog posts; and connecting with professional customizers, manufacturer representatives, and other people in the industry.  Be prepared to learn how to work on canvas, leather, foam composite, mesh, cleats, plastic (parts), and many other mediums.  You will discover which brand products you should be using (we are unbiased and will never be sponsored), the proper processes to prevent wear and cracking, the latest techniques and effects, the differences between brush, airbrush, and dip methods, and much, much more.

Without further ado, here is your first lesson:

Understanding Different Shoe Materials

The most common materials shoes are made out of are canvas, leather, mesh, suede, plastic, and foam composite.  All of these can be painted on with the right preparation, paints, and paint additives.  The process for each of these is different, so before you start each project, think about what materials are on that shoe, read our articles on those materials, and purchase the right products.  Canvas is the safest, cheapest, easiest, and most common material that customizers work on. If you are just starting, a canvas project is perfect for understanding the basics and getting used to working with a brush.

Canvas customs from left to right by @7maryart, @shopgigicustoms, @vanimesole, and @artistslair.

Canvas customs from left to right by @7maryart, @shopgigicustoms, @vanimesole, and @artistslair.

Leather is the second most common material, but it carries a heavier capital investment in materials and equipment, and there are some toxic chemicals you will work with.

Leather customs from left to right by @feelgoodthreads, @kickstradomis, @chadcantcolor, and @bstreetshoes.

Leather customs from left to right by @feelgoodthreads, @kickstradomis, @chadcantcolor, and @bstreetshoes

Mesh may seem unpaintable, but if you do the right prep and set the colors in properly you can get a durable, professional looking product.

Mesh customs from left to right by @kelshmeamy, @sd_custom_kicks, @mache275, and @bbizon and @garrett_moon17.

Mesh customs from left to right by @kelshmeamy, @sd_custom_kicks, @mache275, and @bbizon and @garrett_moon17.

Foam composite is the most prone to having the paint crack or chip away, but again, there are proper methods that will make your shoe designs seem like they came from the factory.

Foam composite customs from left to right by @sierato, @dezcustoms, and @V.A.B.

Foam composite customs from left to right by @sierato, @dezcustoms, and @V.A.B.

Suede is actually not bad to work with because it soaks up paint very well and is a stiff material so it doesn’t flex as much.

 Suede customs from left to right by @inyofacetv, @blackaff, and @customshoessurabaya.

Suede customs from left to right by @inyofacetv, @blackaff, and @customshoessurabaya.

Shoes are not completely made out of plastic, but there are plastic parts that are perfect for new colorways.  Some additional scuffing and adhesion promoter should have those plastic pieces looking sharp!

The 3P's of Shoe Customizing: Preparation, Painting, and Preservation

Each shoe material requires you pay attention to three important steps: preparation, painting, and preservation.  Preparation is whatever it takes to get the shoe ready for paint.  Painting is the specific type of paint used, techniques, and recommended brands.  Preservation is what you need to do to protect your work and have a wearable shoe that lasts for years.  Skipping any of these steps or not paying attention to detail will result in your custom cracking, fading, bleeding, or worse.

Our next set of lessons will be on each type of material listed above.  Feel free to jump around and work on projects you create for yourself for each type of material!  I hope you are excited to embark on this new journey!  We at Just1 Shoes are here to serve you with the best products, articles, and community interactions.  Please give us a follow on Instagram @just1shoes and join our Facebook Group to ask any questions or leave comments.  Also, feel free to reach out to us directly at support@just1.shoes!  Be safe and have fun!


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