How to Paint & Seal Acrylics on Leather Shoes

Last Updated on March 15, 2024 by Masha Eretnova

Itching to paint on your perfect pair of leather air forces or loafers? It can be done!

You can safely paint leather shoes with special acrylic paint, seal them with a spray or beeswax, and wear them!

Let’s find out how exactly we do that.

Can you use acrylic paint on leather shoes? nike air forces 1
Emmanuel Black, custom-painted Nike Air Forces 1

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Can you use acrylic paint on leather shoes?

If you plan to wear your custom leather shoes you need to use acrylic-based leather paint.

But if it is just for fun, you can use any craft or professional acrylics on leather shoes/sneakers as long as you properly degrease the shoes and seal the paint.

Painting shoes is very different than painting any other leather, as this leather is in contact with streets, dirt, rocks, water, scratches – constantly.

So the leather needs to be very absorbent and prepped well, while paints need to have very good adhesion and high water and damage resistance. As our feet are moving most of the time, the paint also should remain flexible after drying.

Otherwise, we will have cracks, and with rain or time, the paint will just peel off.

Read also: Painting Leather with Acrylics

What paint to use on leather shoes?

Leather acrylic paint is the best choice for painting leather shoes as it accounts for shoe flexibility and the characteristics of leather.

There are 2 brands I would recommend above all leather paints on the market:

  • Angelus Leather Paint – best on the market. Will adhere better without peeling. It lasts for years.
  • Golden High Flow paints (the Golden brand tested it!) – high-quality paint, that can be used on canvas and other surfaces too. Thinner and more control than Angelus for some crafters.
  • For suede shoes, I recommend using suede dyes over paints.
  • For painting or restoring soles you need extra durable and resistant paint – special for soles and walking. The colors can be very limited but Angelus has 2 available.
How to paint leather shoes with acrylic paint

More: 12 Best Acrylic Paints for Leather & Suede

How to paint leather shoes with acrylic paint

Painting leather shoes or sneakers with acrylic paint follows the same simple steps: preparation, painting, and sealing.

An important consideration is that we probably will wear these sneakers, so we need to properly protect them and make them weather-resistant!

  1. Clean the shoes with soapy water and brush. Let them dry. Remove the shoelaces.
  2. Degrease and degloss your shoes using leather bleach, isopropyl alcohol, or a special degreaser like Angelus Universal Preparer and De-greaser. It works both for real and faux leather. This step is essential! Wipe the shoes thoroughly, it will help the paint stick and penetrate the leather deeper, staining it. Otherwise, your shoes will crack or the paint will just peel off. How do you know if it’s done? The leather is not shining anymore.
  3. * In rare cases, your leather will still be glossy. Use a fine sandpaper (100) to gently sand the surface. Repeat step 2.
  4. Mask with artist tape the areas you are not painting to protect them from any accidents 😉
  5. Paint in thin layers following the direction of the flexes of your shoes. The first layer is slightly diluted with water – no more than 30% of water. Let it dry and apply the next layers of paint undiluted. You can have even 7 layers, no worries! Apply long even strokes.
    • At first, the shoe color will still be visible, but keep applying thin layers, don’t try to overpaint it with thick layers.
  6. After each layer bend the shoes, to make sure the paint goes evenly inside the leather and doesn’t get stiff. Let each layer dry for at least 20 minutes.

How to seal acrylic paint on leather shoes

  1. Once you’re happy with the color, allow your shoes to dry completely. Do not use heat to speed up the drying. Just wait (leaving them overnight is the best decision).
  2. Apply a topcoat to protect the shoes from moisture and weather and make them durable using a sponge or a brush. Angelus acrylic leather finisher will do the job: mix with water in a ratio of 1 oz. of finisher to 1 pt. of water. Let shoes dry for 24 hours. Don’t move until it’s dried!

There are also 2 alternative methods to seal paint on leather shoes: silicone spray sealant and beeswax.

  • Silicone Spray Sealant is a professional way to waterproof leather shoes that you need to renew either every season or once you feel like water started to get in. Good brands are Sof Sole, Angelus.
  • Beeswax Rub is the simplest and the oldest way to preserve and waterproof leather. And probably one of the most affordable. If you want you can mix in some oils for extra protection but it is optional. Heat helps to really get the wax inside the absorbent leather.

A good old Mod Podge is a cheap craft way to waterproof and seal paint on shoes but it will most likely be only a temporary solution.

Have you tried painting leather shoes with any acrylic paint? If you have any questions or remarks, leave a comment!