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Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Shoes? (Explained)

Everyone in today’s world enjoys customizing their attire to fit their desired look and taste. The trend has begun to include customizing our daily fashion accessories alongside our outfits.

It has been customary throughout history to paint shoes to make them unique to the user. Even in this day of technology, many people enjoy making their own pairs of shoes that are attractive and reflect their personal tastes.

Additionally, many people all around the world have created modest enterprises using their talent for modifying shoes. 

Today, if you are fortunate enough to find a talented artist to personalize your shoes, any type of shoe, from elegant and bright sneakers to casual crocs, can be customized.

Now let us find out if we can use acrylic paint on all types and brands of shoes and learn more interesting facts about acrylic paints and others.

Using acrylic paint on shoes

Acrylic paint can be used to paint shoes. This is the most common and preferred type of paint to customize shoes with. This particular paint can be used to paint many surfaces including fabric, canvas, leather, and rubber. Its water-resistant characteristic is an added bonus. 

Due to acrylic paint’s versatility, quick drying capability, and water resistance, it is pretty popular in the craft area. Some of the types and brands of shoes on which acrylic paints are used, have been used before to make them pretty will be mentioned and noted below:


Leather shoes: 

Leather shoes can be painted with normal acrylic paint. However, it is discouraged because the leather shoes with acrylics tend to dry quickly and form a layer that is crackable. A way to avoid this is to use a very thin layer of acrylic paint on the shoes.

Canvas shoes: 

Canvas shoes can definitely be painted with acrylic color. Due to the ability to dry quickly, the thick texture gives the painter more control over drawing design. Moreover, the paint’s impressive ability to adhere makes it a popular choice to paint on canvas.

Fabric shoes: 

Like Canvas shoes, the best paint to use on fabric shoes is acrylic paint.

Acrylic paints have a concentrated texture, it’s water resistant, and adheres quickly to fabrics. 

Rubber shoes: 

It is possible to use acrylic paint on rubber shoes since they dry quickly and form a strong layer. 

But like leather shoes, it is advised to not use acrylic paints on rubber shoes because the layer of acrylic paint is crackable and the design can be cracked due to the rubber twisting and the design might get ruined.


Converse shoes: 

Converse is a brand that makes sports or casual footwear. Besides, the most widely used material is cotton canvas that is used for painting. 

To paint converse shoes, acrylic paint is widely used since the material is canvas and the color sticks to the material well, and is durable.

Nike shoes: 

Nike is a brand that manufactures and sells athletic footwear, equipment, and clothes. It is famous for making durable shoes which are primarily made of leather but sometimes synthetic leather is also used.

Acrylic paints can be used on these shoes but not a thick coat since the paint tends to crack.

Vans shoes:

Vans is popular for manufacturing skateboarding shoes and apparel where the primary materials are canvas and suede which don’t melt easily from heat. 

While canvas can easily be painted with acrylic paints, suede shoes need very thin coats for the design to not crack. Hence, vans shoes can be painted with acrylic paint but with certain precautions.

Suede shoes:

Suede is made of certain leather and these particular shoes have an amazing factory finish. They look stylish and posh and have no need for further customization.

However, if one has the desire to paint suede shoes, they can use a very thin coat of acrylic paint so the design doesn’t crack once the paint dries.

Pointe shoes: 

Ballet shoes can be painted using acrylics since most of the time they are made of fabrics like satin and cotton canvas. Acrylics can stick to these fabrics. 

Unless the shoes are made of leather, one can use normal acrylic paint but if it is leather, a very thin coat of acrylic paint or Angelus Leather paint is preferred.

Is acrylic paint on shoes waterproof? Does it wash off?

No, acrylic paint on shoes is not waterproof. Acrylic is water-based paint and can be thinned when mixed with water. 

That’s why, the reason many think it is waterproof is that, when dried, it shows some distinct features of being waterproof. However, it is not waterproof but rather water-resistant. 

When the paint is still wet, it can easily be washed away using water and nothing else. But once the paint dries, it becomes a bit difficult to remove the paint without using anything else with water. 

Since the shoes are water-resistant but not waterproof, without the paint being sealed, water will ruin the design.

Additionally, acrylic paints can be washed off completely with water when it is wet but once it is dry, washing the paint off only with water becomes a tough feat to accomplish.

This is because, once dry, the paint becomes water-resistant to an extent that water will ruin the design but not wash it off. But if the paint is sealed, the water cannot ruin the design at all. 

Therefore, acrylic paint can be washed off with water if it is wet and has not been dried or sealed.

How do you set acrylic paint on shoes? 

To prevent your customized shoes from getting ruined or cracked, or for the paint to set on the shoes, there are some steps that should be followed:


Every shoe needs to be prepared before painting. Acrylic needs a clean, smooth, and non-porous surface to stick properly. Otherwise, the paint will not stick or get soaked into the surface.

To clean the shoes, mild hot water with dish soap or detergent can be used. 


Priming is done so the paint doesn’t flake off or peel off. Thus, use any primer, white primer or gesso and apply it to the shoes to prepare them for the next step, which is to paint the shoes.

A white primer is applied so the true colors are shown when applied to the shoes. On the other hand, gesso ensures that the paint won’t soak into the weave of the fabric, especially canvas.


Painting is the most fun part among all the steps. However, some instructions are to be followed in order to get the best results.

Due to normal acrylic paint’s tendency to crack when it dries, the design might get ruined after it dries on leather or rubber shoes. 

For that, we have to either use a thin coat that’s thick enough so it doesn’t crack upon drying or acrylic paints made for leather.

For canvas or fabric shoes, the paint should be applied in extra thick coats so it sticks and doesn’t soak through. The paint should dry completely before it’s sealed.


Sealing is done with a clear acrylic sealer, a waterproofing sealer, or gesso so the paint is sealed and doesn’t get ruined from use in any weather. Let them dry completely which might take a few hours or a day or two.

What paint to use on shoes? 

While the best paint for shoes is acrylic paint, there are other paints that can be used to customize our shoes. Some of them are noted below:

Leather Paint:

Using leather paint gives a better result when it comes to leather shoes since it will be flexible, and it can be a good replacement for normal acrylic color.

Fabric Paint:

Fabric paint comes in many shades and is the first choice when it comes to dyeing fabric shoes. They can be used on canvas shoes as well and since it has more texture and is not as runny as watercolor, it’s easier to control.

Spray Paint:

Another good replacement for acrylic paint is spray paint. Spray paints are a great choice when it comes to leather shoes since spray paint tends to be flexible.

They can also be used on fabric or canvas but one should be patient while working with it to avoid bad paintwork or flaking.

Permanent Marker/Sharpie:

With great control over the strokes, permanent or alcohol-based markers or sharpies are amazing replacements for acrylic paint. They are flexible, durable, don’t bleed, and are friendly to leather, canvas, fabric, and so on.

Final Thoughts 

In general, any type of shoe can be decorated or customized using acrylic colors since they are versatile, quick to dry, and water-resistant. They are also durable and come in many shades. However, one has to make sure they are preparing the shoes, using the right kind of acrylic paint and sealer.