Last spring I wrote a post called "Tennies Transformation" about copying some "faded" pink sneakers made by Chuck Taylor (he called them his Washed Canvas Sneaks). The originals had caught the eye of my wife, Erin, a mixed media artist who loves all things vintage, faded, worn, rusty and otherwise ephemeratic.
These tennies definitely qualified — and they looked VERY easy to reproduce. They were. You can go read that post if you want all the details. What I am going to tell you about today is the three variations I have since created, each one easier than the last.
Before I start, I want to say that you don't need to make your faded tennies in pastel colors — you could use Metallic Rust or Metallic Olive Green to create a similar effect. You might want to lighten darker colors first with some Neopaque White, if you are painting over white sneakers, however. Or you might want to try those colors and the techniques below on black sneakers! How cool would that look??
Here's the short version of how to do this: Start with clean sneakers or other canvas shoes. Brush or wipe on your color — usually lightened with some white — sparingly, leaving some of the original color of the sneaker showing. If you cover up too much of the white (or black, as the case may be), brush some white (Neopaque or Lumiere) over top of the color. Do the same thing on the laces.
Then you lightly swipe color onto the rubber sole using an alcohol ink such as StazOn, Pinata inks (most easily found in a set), or Adirondack Alcohol Ink by Ranger. Let the soles dry three days — then wear the heck out of them!
You don't have to start with white sneakers, either.
These sneakers (from Payless Shoe Source) started out a strong violet color. I tried just brushing on some white to get the faded effect, but they were still not faded enough (photo at lower left) for Erin's taste. So I painted them all over with a single coat of Neopaque White (upper right). Then I LIGHTLY brushed on a mix of Pearl Violet and Pearl White.
Finally, I tinted the soles with two colors of StazOn. You can see the pink and purple inks best in the photo at lower left. At first they were also too dark for Erin's vintage-y taste, so I gently removed some of the ink. All three lines of the inks I recommend have some sort of remover called variously "all-purpose cleaner" (StazOn), "extender" (Pinata), and "blending solution" (Adirondack). I highly recommend having one of these on hand.
These three pairs were all done last spring and summer. This year, Erin decided she wanted "faded" green sneaks…. And of course I made them for her. By now, though, I'd gotten really smart and the whole process took just 1/2 hour!
What did I do differently? I mixed plenty of paint beforehand (Citrine lightened and made less shiny with Neopaque White), and instead of brushing it on, I dabbed it on the canvas and the laces with a small piece of a George Foreman Grill Sponge. (I have written before about using this type of sponge to create a cool pattern of tiny dots, but it's worth repeating. See below.) Then I lightly swiped on some Pinata Lime Green ink with a cotton ball — and they were done!
TIPS ON FOREMAN-SPONGING: This technique uses synthetic sponges made for cleaning George Foreman Grills. These have an irregular pattern of little points, like a sea sponge, but since they are synthetic, those points never go soft from the wetness of the paint, so they never lose their "pointiness." They also make really nice tiny dots. (I use scissors to trim off the ridges so I can sponge a wide area without getting a ridge pattern.)