You could pay a fortune these days for custom sneakers — or you could customize them yourself. Hint: the second option is MUCH more fun! I did a simple color job on these Champion brand kicks, and I’ll walk you through it to show you how easy it is.
Before you paint or color your shoes, you need to know what they are made of. In this case, the blue is suede, the white stripes and heel trim are leather, and the white sole is rubber or plastic. You can dye suede and it will come out as soft as it started. Leather (or faux leather) you can paint with Lumiere or Angelus paints, and rubber or plastic soles you can tint with permanent alcohol inks, like StazOn, Pinata or Ranger Adirondack Ink.
Here’s how to use these three products.
Lumiere Paint– Prep leather by rubbing with rubbing alcohol (or use 100% acetone for manmade leather), using cotton balls or a rag. Using a soft brush, brush on 2-3 coats of Lumiere. Wash brush with water. Seal with Pledge.
Angelus Suede Dye – Brush suede free of dust, clean oil stains if any. Using wool dauber that comes with the dye (and a small brush for reaching tiny areas), saturate the suede. Apply 2-3 coats, depending on the original color. Blot dauber and brush on a paint rag; they will dry soft and ready to reuse with dye. When fully dry, use a stiff brush (I use a nail brush) to brush up the nap of the suede. No sealant needed, though you could spray on a suede protectant.
Pinata (or other brand) Alcohol Ink – Squeeze into a disposable cup (and stir frequently if using metallic colors). Using a cheap brush, brush the ink onto the rubber/plastic areas. Apply 3-4 coats as needed to cover evenly. Let dry (this can take at least a day). You can try cleaning your cup and brush with acetone, or you can toss them out.
The final touch? Custom shoe laces. You can purchase colorful new laces, paint the original white laces with Lumiere paint diluted 25% with water (iron them when dry to set the paint), or purchase trim that you can use as laces.
So, no excuses for out-of-the box shoe colors. I chose soft colors for this pair, but you could get wild, live it up — and save money! Do sneakers for kids, men, and your elderly mom who refuses to wear anything that isn’t 100% comfortable and non-slippery. (And send us your before and after pics for the blog!)