How To Paint Canvas Sneakers: 5 Step-By-Step Guide

You want to spice up your boring, outdated shoes by adding some flashy details. Painting your own pair of shoes not only makes you feel like you’ve just bought a new pair but also gives you a pair of shoes that no one else has.

If you consider yourself a sneakerhead, you probably have at least one pair of canvas sneakers in your collection. Unlike leather shoes or vinyl shoes with waterproof properties, canvas fabric allows it to absorb and keep the paint on the sneaker surfaces, hence, these shoes are the best option for customizers.

Let’s dive into the process with tips and tricks to paint your canvas sneakers.

What to prepare before painting canvas sneakers?

There are numerous services available for customizing shoes. You can have these businesses handle everything for you, from designing to completing the “masterpiece” shoes, or you can just have them paint shoes based on your personal designs.

But if you have the necessary materials and understand the process step by step, you can completely accomplish everything on your own.

It is recommended to apply with plain-colored or basic white shoes. When it comes to black shoes, it can be a little difficult. At this point, adding splashes of vibrant colors will finally freshen your style with these black shoes.

Prepare the shoes

Before you begin to paint the shoes, make sure they are clean and dry. So wash them carefully, then lay them out in the sun for a few hours to air dry.

If the weather isn’t helping outside, put the shoes near the windows, leave the windows open, and switch on the fan in your room towards them to remove any retained moisture from the shoes.

Prepare the ingredients

These are the things you should have for painting your canvas shoes: 

  • Primer
  • Acrylic or fabric paint (spray paint, marker paint, etc.)
  • Palette
  • Brushes
  • Rubbing alcohol/ erasing marker pen
  • Painter’s tape
  • Cup of water
  • Paper towels
  • Finisher
you should consider the paint

Among these ingredients, fabric paint is crucial because it is the foundation of your customization process. As a result, you should pay attention to the paint. If you don’t have your own fabric paint, you can buy it at art stores or borrow it from friends.

You can use Angelus Leather Paints to paint leather shoes, purses, or jackets. However, the best canvas shoe paint is acrylic.

Acrylic paints are great for painting on fabric, you don’t have to sand the surface of the shoes almost down to the fabric to make sure the paint will stick.

The paints dry rapidly, making them ideal for painting canvas shoes because they won’t leave your sneakers wet or sticky after application. These paints are non-toxic and safe for children to use, so it’s safe if your kids accidentally touch them. There are various brands to consider, including Liquitex, Sargent Art, and Golden Artist Colors.

For brushes and any other items for painting, like paint pens, tape, a palette, paper, etc., you can choose more freely. Getting consulting from the staff where you buy the tools can help.

Besides, putting on a thin layer of primer (or gesso) will help the paint stick better to the canvas and keep it from cracking. Closing with a layer of finisher ensures that the paint will last longer without chipping off the shoes. Equip yourself with other kinds of erasing chemicals, like rubbing alcohol or an erasing marker pen, to immediately fix some errors while painting. To quickly correct any painting mistakes, prepare yourself with additional erasing materials like rubbing alcohol or erasable marker pens.

Painting canvas sneakers: Step by step

Come up with designs

You should have a concept in mind for how your painted shoes will look. Use the Internet for references, or ask knowledgeable friends for assistance. To have the best chance of success, you must have a clear idea of what you intend to do. It will take some time to choose a nice design that suits your tastes. 

Draw the design

When you have a design in mind, it’s time to make it a reality on the fabric of your sneakers. The design should ideally be outlined initially.

You may now add the design to your shoes with a pen. Make sure to draw a thin outline if you don’t want the pencil lines to show. Alternatively, you can emphasize the pencil line by going over it with a fine brush or a marker. Some folks also like to use a fine brush or fine-tipped marker to go over their pencil outline. Before you begin painting, ensure your sketch is clean. 

It is a good idea to practice on an old pair of shoes first if you have never done this with shoes before and you don’t want to make mistakes on a subject that is important. It’s no big issue if you make a mistake on an old pair of boots or shoes.

ideally, the design should be sketched out first

Protect non-paintable regions

Before you paint canvas sneakers, you should tape off the parts of the fabric that can’t be painted. No matter how good you are, paint can still get everywhere and ruin the whole process. Tape or paper can be used to carefully cover parts of the shoes.

Apply the paint

using a brush, apply a single, light layer of paint

You can now paint your shoes with acrylic paint. Use big brushes for large areas and smaller or angled brushes for edges.

Manage to have short and even strokes with your brush. Keep adding paint to the brush until the shoe is full and you can’t tell where the old surface was.

Avoid loading your brush with too much paint at once. Applying a single, light coat of paint to the canvas shoes—first with a brush, then with a sponge—should be enough.

But you cannot just paint once and call it a day. The initial layer you applied can contain little gaps or blotches; don’t be worried. You can keep your paint from clumping and breaking by applying it in thin layers. Depending on how effectively your paint is applying and the colors you’re using, we advise applying 2-4 thin coats (light colors or neon may require more layers). More layers will help the colors blend evenly and fill in any gaps.

Keep the layers of paint dry and separate. You can speed up the drying time between coats by using a hair dryer or heat gun.

When you’re done painting shoes, take off the masking tape and use rubbing alcohol, acetone, nail polish remover, and an erasable marker as your last resort to clean up the messy edges and lines of canvas sneakers.

Let the sneakers dry

Lastly, give your shoes an hour in an airy space until they are completely dry. Also, you should wait a couple of days before wearing your shoes so that both the outside and the inside can dry.

Before you wear the shoes, spray them with an acrylic sealer to keep the paint from coming off. The spray will make the shoe waterproof and keep the design from getting damaged.

For a visual guide, watch this video:


  1. When will the paint on canvas sneakers begin to fade?

    Acrylic paint is very durable when applied to canvas fabric. If you mix acrylic paint with a textile medium, apply the paint in layers, and take proper care of the shoes, they can last for years. However, if you don't follow the right procedures, the acrylic paint on your shoes will fade after a few weeks of use.

  2. Can I paint canvas shoes with acrylic paint?

    Acrylic paint is a fantastic choice for sneakers because it isn't as water-soluble as other traditional paints and it tends to remain put, so you won't have to worry about painting your shoes.

  3. How can shoes be painted without the paint cracking?

    Start by cleaning the shoes well and letting them dry completely to avoid breaking. After that, prime the surface before painting. Use thin, even coats of paint, and wait until each one has dried fully before applying the next. In order to prevent the paint from cracking, add a final layer of sealer.

Naava Xin

Naava Xin

Naava Xin is the CEO and Founder of Outfitoza, she has over 5 years of experience in Clothing, she has helped hundreds of fashionistas understand more about fashion and love shopping.