Canvas is the safest, cheapest, easiest, and most common material that customizers work on. That is why we at Just1 Shoes decided to carry DIY custom shoe kits for canvas first. All of the materials needed are non-toxic, which was important to us because we want to inspire creativity in kids. As is for all of our standards, we will first tell you what materials you need, then go over the 3P’s (preparation, painting, and preservation), list our tips, include links to useful videos, and then have links to where you can buy products (and view prices).
For some great project ideas, visit our How-To-Projects section.
*not included in our kits
Before you start and project you should make sure the shoes are clean or new. Shoe cleaners we recommend are Reshovn8r, Angelus Shoe Cleaner, and Jason Markk. After that, use painter’s masking tape (or vinyl tape) to mask off the areas you don’t want to get paint. We suggest you mask the soles since any paint on the rubber will crack, wipe off easily, and/or smudge. If you are kind of messy or are using an airbrush, you will also need to mask off the sock liner area and the elastic band areas. In contrast, if you are extra careful and using a brush, you can skip masking.
Shoe with sole masked off.
There is no preparation for fabric paints, so you can move onto the next section if you are using those. Fabric paints we recommend are Jacquard brand Textile, Dye-Na-Flow, Neopaque, or Lumiere lines. Also, DecoArt Sosoft fabric paint is good for the budget-minded. The Jacquard Textile and DecoArt Sosoft lines will keep your canvas as soft as possible (meaning, it doesn't stiffen the material).
For Angelus paints, there are two methods you can use. If you have white shoes you can first lay down 2 layers of (1:1 mix) flat white+gac900. Then, simply paint on it with normal Angelus paints. Rick from Save the Panduhs video here using this method. If you have a darker shoe, you may prefer to mix 1:1 of 2-soft or gac900 with each of the colors you plan on using. We recommend Angelus over all other paints because of their staying power and awesome color choices.
If you are airbrushing, use Jacquard Airbrush Colors or the same 1:1 Angelus mix. For Angelus, there is no need for 2-thin since the 2-soft or gac900 should have thinned the paint out enough to spray. But, if you find it’s not spraying easily, feel free to add some 2-thin.
If you are using acrylic paints (our kits come with acrylics) you will need to first prime the canvas. Applying a thin layer (no clumping) of gesso will allow better adhesion between the canvas and the paint and also prevent cracking. Acrylic paint brands we recommend are Sargent Art, Golden Artist Colors, and Liquitex. You can find them at any art store. Please avoid the cheapest paints because they will ruin your work. Allow to dry before painting.
Applying a thin layer of gesso before using acrylics.
Example of cracks from using acrylic paint on canvas that was not primed first.
For a new person painting on customs the first thing you should realize is that you will need to paint in thin layers. You can’t simply paint once and be done. We recommend you do 2-4 layers, depending on how well your paint is laying down and the colors you’re using (light colors or neons may require more layers). Using thin layers will keep your paint from clumping and cracking. Don’t be alarmed if the first layer you apply is blotchy or has tiny gaps showing. As you add more layers the colors will soak in evenly and gaps will be filled. Below is an example of what it looks like as you add more layers. Notice that after the first layer you can still see the red in the background. After the second layer you can still see red but after the third layer you can’t see red at all in those areas.
Example of 1, 2, and 3 layers of white paint on top of red.
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). If you used a stencil, clean up is crucial for getting those crisp lines and perfect images.
Now that you’re done painting you will need to let it dry. If you used fabric paint or an Angelus mix you will need to use a hair dryer or heat gun to heat-set the paint into the canvas. Be careful not to burn the paint with the heat gun.
Applying 1-2 thin layers of finisher will protect your artwork, waterproof your shoes, and make them scuff resistant. If you used gesso + acrylics, we recommend you use brush-on finisher over a spray because you have more control and guaranteed coverage of every area. We suggest Angelus Acrylic Finisher, DecoArt Matte Medium (comes in our kits), and Liquitex Matte Medium. Do not use Sargent Art Matte Medium, we found it leaves streaks. If you used fabric paint, we recommend you use an aerosol spray because it will soak into the canvas better. Also, if you use brush-on finisher there is a chance the fabric paint will bleed. Brands we trust are Treehouse Matte Clear Acrylic Coating and Krylon Matte Finisher. Tip: before spraying, always shake the canister and do a few sprays away from the shoe because it sometimes the liquid settles and gives a foggy effect for the first few sprays, which will ruin your shoes.
The most popular finisher type is matte finish, but you can also use gloss or satin finishes. For gloss we recommend Sargent Art Gloss Finisher brush on or Krylon Crystal Clear spray on. For a satin look we recommend Angelus Satin Acrylic Finisher.
Difference between finishes. Taken from the Angelus webpage.
Allow your finisher to dry at least 2 hours but preferably 24 hours.
If you want a fresh layer of protection, use Crep Protect once every few wears or if they’ve been on the shelf for longer than 2 months.
- Start with lighter colors because darker colors are better to use for touch-up. If you are airbrushing a fade, you should use dark colors first because overspray from dark colors will ruin your light colors if laid down afterwards.
- 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.
- Your palette can be washed with soap and water and used again!
Article and Video Links
- If you want to use stencils read our other article here.
- Article on using Pens on Canvas here (coming soon).
- Article on using an airbrush here (coming soon).
- For some great project ideas, visit our How-To-Projects
- Honestly, for the most part customizing on canvas YouTube videos are garbage because it’s a lot of amateurs using the wrong paints, pens, and processes. Do not trust them. They are making shoes that only look good until you actually wear them.
- Angelus trusted video by Rick from Save the Panduhs with an Avengers: Infinity War custom.
- Angelus video of Chadcantcolor showing how to fade with a brush.
Product Links (and Retail Prices)
- Just1 Shoes DIY Custom Shoes Kit ($75)
- Shoe Cleaners
- Jacquard Paint
- Angelus Paint ($2.95, 1oz)
- Heat Gun, Furno 300 ($19.98)
- Matte brush-on
- Matte spray can
- Gloss brush on
- Sargent Art Gloss Finisher ($5.00, 2oz)
- Gloss spray can
- Krylon Crystal Clear (9.04, 6oz)
- Satin brush-on
- Angelus Satin Acrylic Finisher ($4.07, 4oz)
- Continuous protection
- Crep Protect ($14.99, 11oz)
- Masterbrush Cleaner ($8.71, 2.5oz)