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How to dye shoes

Updated on January 5, 2014

You'll need:

  • approx 20ml (1 fl oz) of a good-quality fabric or acrylic paint (I prefer paint rather than dye because it's much easier to mix to the shade you want, and the finish is waterproof);
  • a medium-sized flat brush with reasonably firm bristles (I use a sponge brush as it doesn't shed bristles, and doesn't leave brushstrokes).

Make sure the shoes are clean. If necessary, spritz over any stains with Vanish spray (or similar cleaning product), wait a few minutes and then scrub gently with a soft toothbrush or nailbrush. Rinse the brush in water and gently go over the shoes again to rinse off the cleaning agent. At this stage make sure the shoes are evenly damp all over, otherwise they may be left with watermarks. Leave to dry but not completely. When applying the paint, the colour will spread more quickly and evenly if the shoes are slighly damp.

  • If you haven't had to clean the shoes, start by dampening them slightly with the paintbrush and plain water.

  • Mix the necessary paint colours to get the shade you want. If you're having trouble matching a specific colour, choose a lighter shade because it is easier to go darker afterwards if you need to. (If you start with a shade that's too dark, it will be extremely difficult to lighten the shoes afterwards.) Once you've got a shade you're happy with, dilute with water. I use DecoArt acrylic paint, 2 parts water to 1 part paint, and/or Tulip fabric paint, 3-4 parts water to 1 part paint.

  • Brush on the paint sparingly - it's better to do 2 or 3 thin coats rather than one heavy layer. But apply as evenly as you can. Wipe off any drips/smears along the edges of the shoes as you go, with kitchen roll or a cotton bud, because once the paint is dry it will be very difficult to remove. Likewise any smudges on buckles or embellishments.

  • Allow to dry for at about an hour and then apply a second layer.

If you have used acrylic paint, the shoes may look matte depending on how much you diluted the paint. Satin shoes may still look satin if the paint wasn't applied too thickly. Tulip “slick” paint has a slight sheen so that will maintain the satin look. Metallic and pearlescent paints will also result in a nice sheen/shimmer.

I like to apply a clear spray at this point to seal and protect the colour. I use Rustoleum Crystal Clear - this comes in matte, gloss and semi-gloss so you can choose the finish you prefer.

If you choose not to apply any spray, you might find the shoes are prone to chalky scratch marks, and more likely to stain.

If you would like to repaint the shoes at a later date, bear in mind that multiple layers of paint will stiffen the fabric so it's best to limit the number of times you re-do them.

© 2012 Lkenny Crafter

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