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How to Embellish and Paint Leather Shoes

Margaret has worked in the fashion world as well as the business world. She enjoys sharing her passion for fashion, crafting, and marketing.

Learn how I created this fabulous fashion makeover that transformed a pair of boring beige leather comfort sandals into fashionable footwear with simple painting, stenciling and embellishing techniques.

Learn how I created this fabulous fashion makeover that transformed a pair of boring beige leather comfort sandals into fashionable footwear with simple painting, stenciling and embellishing techniques.

Give Your Old Shoes a New Lease on Life

Do you have a closet full of old shoes that are perfectly wearable but look a bit tired or outdated? Turn them into stylish custom designs with a little fabric paint and maybe some trim for an extra special touch. Just changing the color can make an old pair look like new, and it's quick and easy to do if you know the right technique.

You can also pick up an inexpensive new or used pair of shoes at a discount shoe, vintage, or second-hand store and transform them to reflect your own sense of style.

Customize Shoes to Match a New or Favorite Outfit

Choose a pair with a shape you like and use the easy painting and embellishment tips and techniques in this tutorial to transform them so they match or complement the outfit perfectly.

Transform a pair of plain black or white pumps into something spectacular by adding stripes painted with acrylic paint between strips of masking tape. Easy and fabulous!

Transform a pair of plain black or white pumps into something spectacular by adding stripes painted with acrylic paint between strips of masking tape. Easy and fabulous!

The Great Shoe Makeover: Paint Yourself a Closet Full of Fun, Fashionable Leather Shoes, Sandals or Boots

In this easy step-by-step tutorial on how to paint leather shoes, I'll show you how I turned an old, boring pair of beige leather comfort sandals from ho-hum to fabulous. Along the way, I'll share some simple tips for breathing new life into old leather or manmade leather boots, shoes, sandals or handbags or adding some fashion flair to new but ordinary bargains with new colors, trims, and other great details. You can even mix a custom paint color to match a favorite or special occasion outfit!

All you need is some acrylic fabric paint, a couple of paint brushes and some simple supplies like painter's tape, alcohol, and cotton balls to transform ordinary, boring leather shoes and accessories with new fashion colors or colors that match a special outfit.

These step-by-step instructions also explain how to adapt the prep for this painting technique if you're painting manmade rather than genuine leather.

Prefer your accessories to be artsy or to have more bling? Kick it up a notch by adding embellishments like rhinestones, faux gems, ribbons, lace, feathers, fabric or other fun trimmings to your custom painted leather shoes.

Ready to learn how to turn your old shoes, sandals, boots, purses, belts, and other leather accessories into your own one-of-a-kind, custom designs? Let's get started!

Old beige leather comfort sandals prior to being painted and embellished

Old beige leather comfort sandals prior to being painted and embellished

Can These Boring Beige Comfort Sandals Be Transformed from Ho-Hum to Hot? See for Yourself!

Finding extra-wide sandals that fit are comfortable enough for my "problem feet" is always a major challenge. Finding ones that also look attractive and fashionable is more like Mission: Impossible.

My old, worn and matronly looking beige leather sandals were what are euphemistically called "comfort sandals," which is marketing code for low heeled, ugly, clunky and totally devoid of style. They also were the most comfortable shoes in which I had ever walked, with a thick, flexible sole that cushioned my feet. So I decided to take on a seemingly impossible challenge: turning my beat-up, boring, but oh-so-comfy sandals into fun, stylish footwear.

The Best Book on How to Paint Leather Shoes and Embellish Them

I did a lot of research up front so I wouldn't risk ruining my most comfortable sandals. "Sassy Feet" by Margo Silk Forrest and Destiny Carter quickly became my go-to reference resource for information on leather painting and embellishment for this project and others. If you're going to buy only one book on how to paint leather shoes, manmade leather shoes, and fabric shoes, make it "Sassy Feet."

The Best Paints for Painting Leather and Manmade Leather Shoes

Photo of Jacquard Lumiere and Neopaque acrylic paints and Crafter's Choice brushes.

Photo of Jacquard Lumiere and Neopaque acrylic paints and Crafter's Choice brushes.

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Three Types of Paint Came Up Repeatedly in My Research

  • Angelus Leather Paints: The first was Angelus Leather Paints, acrylic paints made specifically for painting leather shoes, handbags, wallets, etc. From what I could tell, I also would have had to buy their proprietary brand of Leather Preparer, Finisher, and also possibly something called Deglazer. The dealbreaker for me was that I couldn't find a local retailer that carried all the Angelus Leather Paint colors, and I wanted to see them before deciding which ones to buy.
  • Spray Paint: The second was spray paint. I didn't think it would have the flexibility needed to prevent cracking and peeling where the shoe leather creases during walking. And I didn't like the idea of breathing in the paint or propellant vapor.
  • Acrylic Fabric Paint: That left me with the third type of paint that was recommended by several sites for painting leather: acrylic fabric paint. It comes in tons of colors, remains flexible after it dries, adheres well to both genuine leather and manmade leather-like materials. I was quite tempted by the FolkArt Extreme Glitter acrylic fabric paints by Plaid—and I am looking forward to trying them out on a pair of pumps—but I didn't think glitter would look good on my very casual sandals.

Thanks to the Information in Sassy Feet, I Learned That:

  • Jacquard's Lumiere and Neopaque acrylic paints work beautifully for painting leather shoes (as well as shoes made from manmade leather, but not vinyl, rubber or plastic).
  • Prepping leather for painting requires only a gentle cleaning with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol (or in acetone for manmade leather).
  • Inexpensive Pledge acrylic floor finish works perfectly as a sealer to protect the painted leather or manmade leather.

Now I was ready to start planning my leather shoe painting project in earnest.

What Color Shoes Would YOU Love to Have?

Color Tips to Help Inspire Your Custom Shoe Design

Learning how to paint and embellish leather shoes means you don't have to be at the mercy of whatever seasonal colors the fashion dictators have decreed this year or limit yourself to what's available in stores or online, or in your particular size and width. Now you can choose any color or combination of colors that tickles your fancy, regardless of what's currently in fashion, and paint yourself a fabulous pair of shoes in whatever styles, colors and patterns you prefer.

You can pick a color palette to match the clothes you wear most often or a special favorite outfit. If you wear mostly neutrals, consider adding a pop of color by painting a pair of shoes or sandals in this season's fashion shades.

  1. Don't worry if you make a mistake - it's easy to fix. Don't like the color after all? No problem! Just choose a different shade and paint over the first one. You can always change your mind, and even re-paint your shoes next season, next year, or whenever you wish. If you decide to change the color after you have already applied the clear top coat of Pledge floor finish, simply sand it off gently before you prep and re-paint over the old color.
  2. You can easily mix up a range of shades of that color for a tonal look (including ombré shading) by mixing any Lumiere color (or any custom color you've mixed) with different proportions of Neopaque white or black paint. Adding white paint will create lighter shades of that color, and adding black paint will create darker shades.
  3. Want something bolder? Try using strongly contrasting colors together with color blocking or maybe an animal print pattern. Are you artistic? How about painting your own designs freehand? Or use stencils to add pattern and more color, as I did on my comfort sandal transformation project below.
  4. Remember that you're the designer. Let your imagination run wild and have fun!
Photo of Jacquard Lumiere and Neopaque acrylic paint exciter packs

Photo of Jacquard Lumiere and Neopaque acrylic paint exciter packs

Deciding on a Color Palette and Choosing the Right Jacquard Lumiere and Neopaque Acrylic Paints

My warm weather clothes tend to be in the blue-green palette (mint, turquoise, royal, etc.), so for my sandals I bought three full-sized bottles of Jacquard Lumiere paint in Pearl Turquoise, Halo Blue Gold (a fabulous color-shifting bluish-green shade with shimmering gold flecks), and Pearlescent Blue. Jacquard Lumiere paints come in a gorgeous selection of pearlescent, metallic and even interference (color-shifting) shades, and all of them are beautiful! So I also decided to get both the Jacquard Lumiere Halo & Jewel Colors Exciter Pack and the Jacquard Lumiere & Neopaque Exciter Pack. Each of these samplers includes 9 paint colors, which gave me a wider range of paint colors to play, just in smaller quantities. Between them, the two "exciter packs" also included my three main colors, but since I wasn't sure how much paint I'd need I bought the full-size bottles of those colors. And the Lumiere & Neopaque Exciter Pack includes both Neopaque Black and Neopaque White, so I could mix lighter or darker shades of any color I wanted.

I highly recommend getting both the Jacquard Lumiere and Neopaque Exciter Packs I mentioned, which will give you a great choice of colors to accent your main shoe colors. In fact, if you are painting the body of the shoe in more than one color, you may not even need to buy any full-size bottles of the Lumiere and Neopaque paints, depending on how much each color you will be using in your design.

I also recommend getting a bottle of Jacquard Flowable Extender, which can be mixed with Lumiere or Neopaque paints to make them more transparent without thinning the paint consistency or can be mixed with Jacquard Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments to create transparent, shimmery glazes (which is how I used it).

I already owned a nice assortment of Pearl Ex mica powder, which has a pearlescent or metallic sheen and is fabulous for all sorts of crafts and work well with many different craft materials, including polymer clay. For this project, I purchased two additional colors, Duo Blue-Green and Turquoise. (Unfortunately, the Duo Blue-Green has been discontinued, but there are many other spectacular Pearl Ex colors for you to choose from, including several other color shifting "duo" colors.)

Choosing the Right Paint Brushes for Painting Leather Shoes

Something else I learned on the Sassy Feet site was that soft, synthetic brushes such as white Taklon are the best choice for applying the acrylic fabric paint on leather and man-made leather shoes smoothly. Margot Silk Forrest and Destiny Carter of Sassy Feet recommend the following four brushes for painting leather or manmade leather shoes:

  • #1 or #2 fan brush - an essential brush for covering large areas evenly;
  • #0 or #1 round brush - for painting details or fixing mistakes;
  • #6 or #8 flat shader brush - for painting along (or up to) edges;
  • 1/2" flat shader brush (sometimes called a "wash" brush) - to apply the acrylic sealer (also can be used the same way as the smaller shader brush to cover larger areas at a time).

You can buy a set of all four Crafter's Choice white Taklon paint brushes recommended by Sassy Feet at the Sassy Feet online store. You also can find them both as a set and individually at most large art or craft stores.

Other Types of Paint Applicators

A cool trick I learned from the book "Sassy Feet" is to use a tapered, silicone rubber-tipped Colour Shaper rather than a round brush to create perfectly round, neat dots of paint. I've used and loved Colour Shapers for years with metal clay and polymer clay and I adore them, so it was great to discover yet another good use for them, as well as learning the secret to making perfect paint dots on my shoes! These come in a range of different sizes, shapes, and degrees of firmness, but a firm or extra-firm tip is the best choice for painting dots. If you work with any type of ceramic clay, metal clay, polymer clay, etc., I recommend getting a few sets of them in different sizes, shapes and firmness levels.

Another cool tool for painting large dots is a new, unused eraser end of a regular #2 pencil.

And an alternative to a clay shaper for making tiny dots is to stick a flathead head pin firmly into the eraser end of a new pencil, although getting the pin stem aligned perfectly parallel to the pencil is tricky, and it's important so that the head of the pin is perfectly perpendicular so it creates an evenly round paint dot.

In certain situations, a toothpick can give you more control than a small paint brush for painting certain freehand designs with fine lines, such as snowflakes.

Photo of leather shoe painting preparation supplies

Photo of leather shoe painting preparation supplies

Prep Leather Shoes For Paint With Rubbing Alcohol, Manmade Leather with Acetone

I learned that the best way to prep leather shoes before applying Jacquard Lumiere or Neopaque paints is to clean them gently with rubbing alcohol (AKA 70% isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol) and a cotton ball. Extra-large cotton balls are particularly useful for this task.

If your shoes are made from manmade leather, substitute plain acetone from the hardware store for the rubbing alcohol. Note: Do not substitute nail polish remover unless it says 100% acetone or pure acetone.

If you are painting leather or manmade leather shoes with a shiny finish, including patent leather, I suggest sanding them lightly with a superfine sanding sponge to remove the shiny finish before cleaning them gently with the alcohol (for leather shoes) or acetone (for manmade leather shoes, including patent leather).

Using Painter's Tape to Mask Off Areas of the Shoes

I chose painter's tape rather than masking tape because it is low-tack and less likely to leave a residue on the l leather after it is removed. I tried both Scotch Blue multi-use painter's tape and green FrogTape brand painter's tape. Both worked well to mask off areas from the paint, such as the heels and soles of my sandals, but the Scotch Blue Painter's Tape was easier to remove.

Photo of partially taped off leather sandal prior to painting

Photo of partially taped off leather sandal prior to painting

Cutting In the Edges Isn't as Easy as it Looks

After all my books, paints, and supplies had arrived, it finally was time to get to the fun part: prepping and painting my shoes (and then embellishing them, although I didn't know I would be doing that at the time)!

The photo above shows my sandals after I prepped everything except the heel and sole with alcohol, taped around the straps with FrogTape painter's tape, and painted the strap at the very front of the right sandal. After discovering that "cutting in" the edges without getting any paint on the sides of the insole wasn't as easy as I had thought, I added some strips of the blue painter's tape to cover the adjacent parts of the insole before starting in on the left sandal.

Custom iridescent paint shade mixed and stored in a contact lens case.

Custom iridescent paint shade mixed and stored in a contact lens case.

Mixing a Custom Paint Color for the Front Strap

For the front straps, I mixed up a custom color by stirring a little of the Turquoise Pearl Ex powdered pigment into a dollop of Pearlescent Turquoise Lumiere paint. Instead of using a paint palette, I used some clean, empty, screw-top contact lens cases (that I had gotten from a colleague for storing small amounts of metal clay air-tight). The acrylic paints dry quickly, and the screw top allowed me to seal the paint if I needed to stop for a break or to answer the phone. (I kept a little leftover custom paint mixture in one of the cases for a few days as a test, and the paint was still perfectly fresh and ready to use.)

After I finished painting the front strap of each sandal, I used the same custom paint mixture (Pearlescent Turquoise Lumiere and Turquoise Pearl Ex pigment) to paint the leather strap at the back.

The finished paint job - designed, created and photographed by Margaret Schindel

The finished paint job - designed, created and photographed by Margaret Schindel

Painting the Remaining Sandal Straps

I also seriously considered using a scissor with a fancy edge to cut out a strip of painter's tape that would cover half of the strap and allow me to paint a more interesting version of color blocking. I own a set of fancy edging scissors in a wooden stand with 12 different designs that would be perfect for this, and also to create interesting border stencil designs around the top edge, throat, or along the heel of a shoe.

You can use automotive detailing tape or drafting tape to mask off straight lines for stripes, grids, etc. And I came across an interesting tape from 3M called "Scotch Artist Tape for Curves" that is designed to create curved lines for masking off pain, which opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities!

Adding Pizazz With Hand-Painted and Stenciled Flourishes

I wanted a somewhat tonal palette of greens and aquas with touches of bright blue. After painting the heel strap in the same custom pearlescent turquoise as the front straps, for the second set of straps in the front I added some Halo Blue Gold and some of the Duo Blue-Green Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments to the leftover paint mixture from the first set of straps, which created a lovely greenish aqua shade. I used straight Halo Blue Gold for the two wide elastic straps on each sandal.

The tonal effect was really pretty and also very subtle, which was the effect I had been aiming for. But after being inspired by the wonderful painted and embellished shoes in Sassy Feet, I knew I wanted to take my sandals a step farther (so to speak). One of the amazing shoe makeovers in "Sassy Feet" that had inspired me to try transforming my own comfort sandals was a pair of sandal-clogs even clunkier than my own pair that had been painted and then stenciled with bright, contrasting colors for a fun, festive, artsy look. So I decided I'd try stenciling the front straps of my sandals.

I didn't want to use a plastic stencil because I knew it would be nearly impossible to avoid getting paint underneath it, since it couldn't conform to the shape of the straps. So I decided to make a stencil by punching decorative holes into painter's tape with a paper punch. I quickly discovered that trying to use the paper punch with just the tape didn't work; the cutouts as well as the punched-out tape got stuck in the punch and getting them out was a major pain. So I decided to try putting a strip of painter's tape on a sheet of plain white paper and punching through both at the same time so that the sticky side of the tape wouldn't touch the punch. It took more force than I could muster to get through both layers, but after enlisting the help of my husband, I was able to get exactly what I needed. We used the punch upside-down so that we could align the end motif from the punched-out strip with the matching motif at the beginning of the punch die, which created a punched-out strip with a continuous, properly-spaced design. The tricky part was separating the punched-out tape stencil from the paper, which required the use of an X-ACTO knife and a lot of patience, since the pressure required to punch through both layers had bonded the tape to the paper rather firmly and removing the tape without tearing any of the delicate punched-out motifs wasn't easy. Also, the little punched-out parts that weren't attached to the main part of the strip tended to curl up. But we finally got them separated and straightened out.

I carefully applied the punched-out tape stencils to the front straps of both sandals and smoothed down each motif carefully to make sure there was good contact around all the edges so no paint would seep underneath. Then I mixed up a custom paint color by combining Pearlescent Blue Lumiere paint (a gorgeous royal blue pearl shade) with some of the Turquoise Pearl Ex powdered pigments and used a wedge-shaped cosmetic sponge to dab on the paint. I allowed the first coat to dry briefly and then applied a second coat, and after just a couple of minutes I carefully pulled off the painter's tape stencil, which I wanted to do before the paint dried completely.

After the stenciled paint design was completely dry, I mixed up a glaze from the Jacquard Flowable Extender and the Pearl Ex Duo Blue-Green powdered pigments and brushed it over the stenciled straps to soften the contrast a bit. The sandals were looking really good, and I was thrilled!

Making Stencils for Painting Shoes

The paper punch I used to create my stencil (from painter's tape) was an Anna Griffin design that I purchased many years ago and has long since been discontinued, but there are many wonderful paper punch designs for you to choose from to create your own shoe painting stencils. If you want to stencil in a straight line, as I did on my straps, choose a border punch. Otherwise, there are some fabulous large motifs that would look super on a shoe's vamp, back seam, or heel. There also are self-adhesive punched paper borders or stickers you could use.

"Sassy Feet" also suggests a cool two-step reverse "stenciling technique" that is actually easier than doing a regular stencil. Paint the shoe the color you want the stenciled design, pattern or embellishment to be and let it dry. Then apply self-adhesive paper stickers, paint on the background color, and then carefully lift up an edge of each sticker with the tip of a craft knife and peel it away to reveal the color underneath. Clever idea!

Instead of using commercial stickers, you also could use paper punches or craft scissors that cut fancy borders or edges to punch or cut out self-adhesive sticker paper to create your own unique shapes for reverse stenciling.

After I finally scraped off the tenacious, cracked paint from the elastic straps they were badly stretched out and stained.

After I finally scraped off the tenacious, cracked paint from the elastic straps they were badly stretched out and stained.

I Paid the Price for Ignoring the Book's Advice About Painting Elastic

I had read the warning in "Sassy Feet" not to use Jacquard fabric paints on elastic or stretch fabrics. But I loved my harmonious color scheme, and the Jones Tones fabric and craft paints they recommended instead for elastic or stretch fabrics weren't available on Amazon, and I didn't want to have to introduce another color into my already harmonious color scheme. OK, the real reason was that I was impatient to finish and wear my pretty new sandals and didn't want to have to track down another type of paint.

Not following Margot's and Destiny's advice about painting elastic turned out to be a BIG mistake. After admiring my lovely paint job I decided to try on my sandals before applying a protective clear top coat. To my horror, as I slipped them on the beautiful, even coat of Halo Blue Gold paint on the elastic strap across my instep fractured into dozens of tiny, ragged-edged stripes. Aaarrggghhh!!! I had no one to blame but myself and was kicking myself ignoring the experts' explicit advice.

Fortunately, the elastic strap at the front of each sandal hadn't stretched noticeably when I put on the sandal and the paint on those straps didn't crack. But I definitely needed to remove the paint from the top strap across the instep. However, I had applied three or four coats of paint over the elastic to get a nice, even coating and the fractured paint held on tenaciously to the elastic. In desperation, I even tried brushing it off with a brass-bristle brush meant for metal, but that paint clearly had made a commitment and wasn't going anywhere! The only thing that worked was to hold the elastic in a stretched-out state while digging and scraping off the paint with the thumbnail of my other hand.

In addition to shredding the tips of my thumbnails, this process also had the unfortunate side-effect of permanently stretching out the elastic straps, which had picked up some of the blue pigment and were now a dull, faded-looking, almost denim color. They no longer held the sandals against my foot and, as you can see in the photo, the edges of the stretched-out elastic were now rippled. Now what?

Reinforcing the stretched-out elastic strap with strong, thin elastic. Photo by Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved.

Reinforcing the stretched-out elastic strap with strong, thin elastic. Photo by Margaret Schindel, all rights reserved.

Reinforcing the Stretched-Out Elastic

I had no idea yet how I was going to fix the aesthetic problem I had created, but it was obvious my first challenge was to address the structural problem—namely what do do about the loose, flabby elastic in the paint scraped straps!

I dug through my old sewing notions drawer and, luckily, found some narrow, white, flat elastic that was at least 10–15 years old but still seemed to have good stretch-and-recovery properties. I also found some elastic thread and promptly used it to sew a strip of flat elastic along the center the straps. My stitching wasn't especially neat or even (sewing isn't one of my better skills), but I knew the elastic and stitching would be covered with something (although I hadn't yet figured out how or with what) so I didn't worry about it.

I tried on the sandals again and was pleased that I had succeeded in stabilizing the straps while maintaining enough stretch to pull them on easily. Whew!

Option 1: The Iridescent Sequin Strap

Covering the reinforced elastic strap with stretch sequin trim.

Covering the reinforced elastic strap with stretch sequin trim.

I Could Hardly Believe It When I Found Perfectly Matching Wide Stretch Trim with Iridescent Sequins!

I took one of my sandals to the fabric store to see what type of stretchy trim and/or embellishments might work to cover up the stabilized elastic straps. All the ribbons and trims that looked good with my paint color scheme weren't stretchy, and none of the stretchy trims seemed to coordinate with my paint colors. I had asked my husband to come along since he has a wonderful and artistic eye, and I was about to give up when he suddenly spotted some wide, elastic trim covered with fabulous, transparent, iridescent square sequins that color shifted from light aqua to light green. Excited, I snatched up a yard right away! The photo shows what it looks like covering the strap of one sandal, as well as the blue-green rose montée rhinestone I sewed carefully onto the still-painted elastic strap in the front.

Option 2: The Mega-Jeweled Strap

Aqua faux jewels sewn onto the stretched-out elastic strap.

Aqua faux jewels sewn onto the stretched-out elastic strap.

Go Big or Go Home With Rhinestones and Faux Jewels

At the same moment that my husband spotted the sequin elastic trim, I spotted some large, oval, faceted aqua sew-on faux jewels that were the perfect width for the strap. I found some matching thread and brought home both the sequin elastic trim and the aqua faux jewels so I could try both options.

Here you can see what the strap of the other sandal looks like after I sewed on the faux jewels. Again, my stitching is far from perfect, but unless someone's face is within a foot of my foot, it looks fine. I wrapped and tacked some of the sewing thread around the edges of the jewels and in between them to hide the white elastic I had used to stabilize the strap.

I liked the look of the rose montée rhinestone on the sequin strap version and decided to sew on three of them in a row for this jeweled strap version.

Tips for Attaching Plain Flat-Back Crystals or Hot-Fix Crystals

If your shoe or sandal is made of non-stretchy fabric, you can attach flat-back crystals with Gemtac glue or use hot-fix crystals. Imagine encrusting the heel of a plain black or jewel-tone satin pump with clear or colored Swarovski crystals in a faux pavé look!

Decisions, Decisions... My Sandal Strap Makeover Options Side-by-Side

Which solution looks better, the bejeweled strap or the sequin trim strap?

Which solution looks better, the bejeweled strap or the sequin trim strap?

Which of My Sandal Strap Makeover Options Do You Prefer?

Do you like the sequinned strap version or the jeweled strap version better?

Doing the Bling Thing and Painting the Insoles

Thanks to the generous input I received in the poll from visitors to this page, I ultimately decided to go with the jeweled strap. So I removed the sequin trim from the left sandal and sewed on jewels to match the right sandal.

Unfortunately when I tried on my blingy "new" upcycled sandals to admire my handiwork, I didn't like the look of the original tan insole that showed at the front. I gave myself a pedicure with one of my fun new aqua nail polish colors for summer to see whether that would make any difference, but the crescent of tan leather in front of my toes still bothered me.

I mixed up a new paint color halfway between the pearlescent aqua blue of the narrow leather straps in front and the metallic aqua-green-gold of the large diagonal elastic strap immediately behind them. Then I used that new shade to paint the insole, including the edges that showed all the way around.

I tried them on again and they definitely looked a lot nicer! But I still didn't like how much of the (now painted) insole showed past my toes, and I realized that the bright iridescent blue stenciling that I had put only on the thin strap at the very front needed to be repeated somewhere to tie everything together harmoniously.

I painted freehand flourishes on the front edges that would peek out in front of my toes.

I painted freehand flourishes on the front edges that would peek out in front of my toes.

The Finishing Touch: Freehand Painted Decorations

I came up with a solution that would solve both problems: I would paint the bright blue stencil pattern from the strap in mirror image to fill in the section at the front that extended beyond my toes! Unfortunately, some of the delicate tendrils on the stencil tape had torn when I removed the tape after stenciling the front straps. And I really wanted the pattern to curve ever so slightly at the ends to match the shape of the front of the insoles. So I did something ludicrously ambitious for my very first try at painting leather: I painted a mirror image of the stencil design freehand, using a very small round paint brush!

As you can see, my attempt to replicate the stencil design in mirror image was far from perfect. Even so, I was really happy with the way it turned out. And this time when I tried on the sandals again I loved the results!

Adding the Protective Clear Coat

Now that I had finished all the painting it was time to apply a flexible clear coat to seal and protect the acrylic paint.

I brushed a thin, even coat of Pledge with Future Shine Premium Floor Finish over the painted straps, as recommended in the book and allow it to dry overnight. The clear coat was extremely shiny when I applied it, and I was worried that my sandals were going to end up looking like patent leather — definitely NOT the look I was after! So I was delighted to see that after it dried completely the clear coat's effect on the painted leather's appearance was fairly subtle.

Note: The marketing folks over at SC Johnson changed the names of their Pledge with FutureShine floor finishes, and now choosing the right product is very confusing. You can use Pledge FloorCare Wood Finish (NOT Pledge FloorCare Wood Trigger, Pledge FloorCare Wood Concentrated Cleaner or Pledge FloorCare Wood Squirt & Mop) to seal your painted shoes. (I don't know whether Pledge FloorCare Multi Surface Finish might work also.)

Before and After: The Big Reveal!

Here's another look at how my leather sandals looked before I started beautifying them, and the completed painted and embellished final product.

Before the Makeover ...

Before: The unpainted sandal

Before: The unpainted sandal

... and the Finished Hand-Painted and Embellished Sandals

Ta-da! Don't the finished sandals look cool?

Ta-da! Don't the finished sandals look cool?

I think it's a pretty awesome transformation, especially considering what I started with and the fact that it was my first try at painting and embellishing leather shoes. And now that I've got all my supplies, a little experience, and quite a bit more confidence I'm already planning several more shoe makeovers. I also bought a cute leather bag that I'm planning to paint to coordinate with or complement my "new" leather sandals!

Concerned That You're Not Creative Enough, or That You'll Mess Up Your Shoes by Painting Them? Not to Worry!

Worried you're not "creative enough"? Don't be.

Worried you're not "creative enough"? Don't be.

Artistic Talent Is Not a Requirement!

If you can press on strips of tape and use a paint brush you can paint your own leather or manmade leather shoes and make them look terrific — I promise!

And if you're worried about messing up your favorite pair of shoes, remember that fixing mistakes is easy. Even if you hate the color or design, you can just repaint it! If you're really worried, buy an inexpensive pair to practice on.

So relax, dream big, and have fun planning your first (or next) hand-painted shoes project.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you think Mop & Glo would work as the sealer? That’s what I have on hand and I use it on other things for that renewed shine look.

Answer: I've never tried it, so I can't say for sure. If you want to try it, you could paint an old leather belt you don't mine ruining and apply Mop & Glo as the sealer and see how well the finish wears over time.

© 2012 Margaret Schindel

What Do You Think About Painting Shoes? Do You Think You Might Try It? - Comments? Compliments? Suggestions? They're all welcome!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on April 15, 2019:

Hi Jocelyn, I’m so glad my article has inspired you to try painting your own shoes! I haven’t tried mixing micro glitter into the paints. Since they are opaque, I’m not sure the glitter would show up well. Maybe mixing micro glitter in the clear topcoat might work. I suggest you experiment with mixing up some test samples on paper before trying it on leather shoes. I’d be very interested to hear your results!

Jocelyn beavan on April 15, 2019:

Thank you this is amazing. I’d love to start making these, your site was so helpful. Have you dabbled with powder micro glitter in the paints?

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on August 16, 2018:

I think the Jacquard Lumiere metallic gold paint probably should work, but I would test it out in a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the rest of the bag. You might try applying it very, very lightly with a barely dampened, almost dry sponge. Try a makeup sponge with an open texture or a small piece of a clean kitchen sponge. Brush a small amount of paint onto the sponge, then blot it on a piece of paper to remove most of the paint before lightly dabbing the almost-dry sponge on your test area. Let it dry. Use almost no paint- you can always dab on more, but it will be almost impossible to remove it successfully from suede.

If your test area is successful, try “feathering” the newly sponge-painted areas gradually into the original painted areas. If the difference is too noticeable (there are many different shades and finishes of gold paint), you might need to sponge the Jacquard Lumiere paint lightly over the rest of the bag to make the surface appearance blend visually. Again, be sure to do a test to make sure you don’t ruin your bag. Hope that helps!

Muriel on August 15, 2018:

I have a black suede bag with mottled metallic gold over the entire surface. There is some loss of the gold along seams, corners, and the handle. Will this paint work with suede and how can I create a slightly mottled appearance? Thanks!

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on September 13, 2017:

This is just so cool! I have seen others embellish their own shoes, but I have never actually tried it myself. I love the idea of take the old "not so pretty" sandals and making them new and beautiful again. Thank you for the inspiration and the instructions!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on July 30, 2015:

So glad to find this page! Two years ago, I bought a pair of white sandals to wear to a wedding, then didn't wear them. I'm really not a white sandal kind of woman, so I changed my outfit to match the faux golden snakeskin sandals I liked best.

Those white sandals are still taking up space in my closet. I don't throw them out because this brand is almost as comfortable on my feet as my expensive walking shoes. But what to do with them? Now I know. This will be a fun project. Thank you, Margaret.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on November 14, 2014:

The before and after photos are strikingly different. I never would have thought of this on my own but it is a fabulous idea. I have some old, tired shoes that are just begging for me to give them a new look.

Giovanna from UK on September 23, 2014:

I love shoes and get very sad when I have to stop wearing them because they look past their best -so this would be a perfect solution to that problem! I really like this -think I might have a go! Thanks for sharing Sassy Feet

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on September 22, 2014:

Have fun, Tawnya! This works beautifully on leather and manmade leather footwear but not rubber. I can't wait to see what you create! :D

Tawnya from NE Ohio on September 22, 2014:

I've only ever tried embellishing flip flops. I can't wait to try this!

LindaSmith1 from USA on September 22, 2014:

The idea of painting old shoes has never occurred to me. This is a remedy for like when I have found a pair of comfy sandals, but hated the color, and ended up leaving them on store shelf.

curleegirlee1 on June 22, 2014:

I actually enjoyed this article very much. I'm not a very crafty person but I am a very frugal one. This makes me want to go by a cheap pair and just have fun with it. Your writing style flowed easily and kept me engaged all the way through. Excellent job (on the article and the shoes)!

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on May 15, 2014:

I think you did a marvelous job. I love the stencil work on the shoes, very attractive. When I was in the Army, we had to strip our leather shoes with lighter fluid, and re-dye them, and then spit polish them on the new dye. That was so they looked like patent leather....GEEZ, why couldn't we just have had patent leather in the first place? hahaha! I've never painted any of my shoes these days, but it's an interesting concept, and nice to know that I can if I want to.

Andromachi Polychroniou from Maurothalassa, Serres, Greece on May 08, 2014:

I think your lens is great. I haven't thought of painting myself my shoes.

Now I regret giving away some of my shoes.

Never again I will use everything I have learnt here and make my tired shoes new again. I can't thank you enough.

Takkhis on November 04, 2013:

What a great lens! You have got everything you need from Squidoo for this lens, such as LotD, purple star, many Squidlikes. However, you will be happy to know that, from my point of view, this is the best lens I have visited so far today :)

Beverly Rodriguez from Albany New York on July 03, 2013:

This looks like such fun to do...and then you can wear them! Congrats on being in the top 200 lenses.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on June 28, 2013:

Wow, you did a really good job! I like the colors you chose! The stenciling is great too!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on June 28, 2013:

What fun! Love your painted shoes and enjoyed reading this. Congrats for being featured on the Bravo Squidoo!

Sheila from Omaha, NE on April 17, 2013:

I've done this more than once! My most recent transform was a pair of boring black leather sandals last summer. I freehand painted on a floral design by hand with, of all things, nail art polish! I added glitter centers to the flowers with glitter nail polish. Wore them out the same evening and got loads of compliments! Awesome lens, blessed!

Kimberley Vico on April 15, 2013:

I've always wanted to do something special to my wedding shoes... now I've got to find them!

jayavi on April 07, 2013:

Thanks for sharing. this is a good idea even boys can surprise their girl friends with some small effort.

knitstricken on February 09, 2013:

Fun fun fun! This and all of your lenses are so captivating, so well written. I'm inspired to give this a try!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on January 30, 2013:

@dunky400: Wow, thanks for that awesome compliment! :) Go for it - and let me know how you fare with your faux! ;)

dunky400 on January 30, 2013:

I think you are amazing. lol. I am on it! Going for a faux.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on January 26, 2013:

@myspace9: Wow, thanks for that awesome compliment! :)

myspace9 on January 25, 2013:

Very unique idea to paint your shoes, this lens is fantastic.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on January 25, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks very much, Dave!

anonymous on January 24, 2013:

It may not take a lot of creativity to paint shoes, but it is a very creative idea. I would have never thought of painting shoes.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on January 15, 2013:

@donna-gwinditges: Jump in and give it a try, Donna! If you're really nervous, pick up an low-cost pair on clearance at Payless Shoes or another discount store so you can test out your design and practice your skills before you paint your favorite pair. Best of luck and have fun! :)

donna-gwinditges on January 15, 2013:

@Margaret Schindel: Definitely! I hope I get the courage to try it.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on January 15, 2013:

@donna-gwinditges: My pleasure, Donna! I'm glad you enjoyed it. On these sandals, which I wear barefoot in the summer (when the soles of my feet tend to perspire quite a bit), I've had to touch up the paint on the insole once or twice during the summer and then re-seal with Future acrylic floor finish. The painted insoles on my fall and winter pumps, which I wear with pantyhose, haven't needed to be touched up at all so far. I hope that helps!

donna-gwinditges on January 15, 2013:

Thanks for the great instructions and for listing all the products you used. How long did it take for the paint to rub off the part where your foot rests? Just wondering how long it lasts.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on December 29, 2012:

@sheriangell: Many thanks for your lovely feedback and your blessing! :)

sheriangell on December 28, 2012:

I don't know if I have the patience for this, but I have a friend who repaints EVERYTHING she can get her hands on. She will surely go crazy over this, especially since she's a shoe junkie too! Excellent lens and Angel blessed today!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on December 18, 2012:

@RhondaAlbom: Many thanks for your lovely comment and for your Squid Angel blessing. Much appreciated! I look forward to hearing how your shoe makeover turns out. :)

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on December 18, 2012:

@anonymous: My pleasure! I hope your shoe makeovers turn out great. :)

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on December 18, 2012:

@primoz11: Thanks very much!

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on December 16, 2012:

This is such a great idea! And with these directions should be possible for us. I will be back next month to let you know how they look. For now ~Squid Angel Blessed

anonymous on December 15, 2012:

Wow, this is fantastic! A few of my shoes would need a makeower, thank you for the idea.

primoz11 on December 15, 2012:

nice lens

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on November 19, 2012:

@anonymous: I'm glad it inspired you! :)

anonymous on November 19, 2012:

Never thought about painting shoes before, thanks for the idea!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on November 15, 2012:

@ambervaprice: Thanks, Amber! Don't be scared. You don't need to be artistic to do this! And if you don't like what you've painted, you can just paint over it. :)

ambervaprice on November 15, 2012:

Great lens! I am so scared that I'll mess my shoes up though, lol. I am not really the artistic type.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on November 08, 2012:

@rawwwwwws lm: Thank you so much!!! I truly appreciate the compliment and the blessings. :)

rawwwwwws lm on November 08, 2012:


Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on November 06, 2012:

@LaraineRoses: Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback and kind congratulations! Both are greatly appreciated. I'm delighted that you are considering giving some of your shoes a fashion makeover. If you do, I'd love to see your new creations! :)

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on November 06, 2012:

A wonderful idea and you did such a lovely job! I have a couple of pairs of shoes I was going to give away .. maybe I'll practice on them. Congratulations on you LotD and Purple Star Wins - this lens deserves the awards!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 28, 2012:

@delia-delia: Thanks so much for your truly lovely comments and your Squid Angel blessing! :)

Delia on October 28, 2012:

Congratulations on LOTD and Purple Star! What a great lens and subject...this is really a wonderful creative idea. I'm very fond of rehabbing things and recycling things in art. Thanks for sharing!

~d-artist Squid Angel Blessing~

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on October 20, 2012:

@magnetic06 lm: Thanks very much! I'm so glad you found these ideas useful.

magnetic06 lm on October 19, 2012:

awesome lens, useful ideas

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on September 10, 2012:

@ModellingAdvice1: Thanks so much! I'm delighted that you like this lens and my sandal makeover. :)

ModellingAdvice1 on September 10, 2012:

They are absolutely beautiful! Great lens!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on August 22, 2012:

@Gypzeerose: Thank you SO much, Rose! I am honored and humbled by all your recognition of this lens!

Rose Jones on August 22, 2012:

Wonderful lens and such a frugal idea! I have pinned this to a brand new board made just for you "Pretty for Cheap" - sent this out by google plus and blessed this lens. Great pictures, clear directions. A craft that most people can do.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on August 22, 2012:

@BabyGirl1940: Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this lens and I hope you get a chance to try out these shoe painting tips and techniques. :)

BabyGirl1940 on August 22, 2012:

What a fun idea!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on August 18, 2012:

@fugeecat lm: So glad you enjoyed learning about this technique!

fugeecat lm on August 18, 2012:

This is a great way to recycle some old shoes. Thanks for sharing.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on August 10, 2012:

@lbrummer: Thanks so much for your kind comment and for sharing this with your daughter and daughter-in-law! I agree with you that college-aged girls would find this fun to do. In fact, women of all ages seem to enjoy it! :)

Loraine Brummer from Hartington, Nebraska on August 09, 2012:

Very informative lens. I've sent this to my daughter and daughter in-law. I think their college aged girls would find this fun to do. Thanks!!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on August 02, 2012:

@Stacy Birch: Thank you! :)

Stacy Birch on August 01, 2012:

Jewels are better, I think you made an ugly pair cute.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 12, 2012:

@WinWriter: Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed this lens. :)

WinWriter on July 12, 2012:

Wow! Cute cute cute. I'd never thought of this before.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 11, 2012:

@JennySui: Thanks so much! I'm delighted that you enjoyed it. :)

JennySui on July 11, 2012:

Congrats on LotD! Beautiful lens.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on July 01, 2012:

@sheezie77: Thanks so much for letting me know! :)

sheezie77 on July 01, 2012:

Really enjoyed this lens, squidlike!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on June 29, 2012:

@streetlegaltees: Thanks for the lovely comment.

streetlegaltees on June 28, 2012:

very creative!!! great way to convert old pair of shoes in to new one.i appriciate you.

Funny T-Shirts

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on June 27, 2012:

@lesliesinclair: Thanks! :)

lesliesinclair on June 26, 2012:

Can't say anything that hasn't already been said!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on June 25, 2012:

@rushfashion: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed this lens. I really like SoCrafty, too! :)

rushfashion on June 23, 2012:

Love it, I really like SoCrafty!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on June 10, 2012:

@Sylvestermouse: Thanks so much for the lively compliments and congratulations! Much appreciated. :)

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on June 10, 2012:

What an awesome way to make over an old pair of shoes! Congratulations on the purple star and lotd!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on June 02, 2012:

@aesta1: Thank you so much for the wonderful compliment! I hope you have fun painting and embellishing your shoes. :)

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 01, 2012:

This is really worth the LOTD award. I just came home from walking through a street here in Hanoi where store after store sell every kind of embellishment ever produced. I will have to do some shoe embellishment based on your lens here.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on June 01, 2012:

@Kailua-KonaGirl: Thank you so much for this awesome comment! I'm very grateful to you for your kind words and congratulations and for letting me know that this lens has inspired you to get started on your granddaughter's show painting project sooner. :)

KonaGirl from New York on May 31, 2012:

Really great lens. It has inspired me to get my GD's project going sooner. A huge congrats on your LOTD and Purple Star. You deserve it!.

*Squid Angel Blessed* and added to "My Squid Angel Blessings for 2012" in the "Arts & Design » So Crafty Magazine" neighborhood. Well done.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on May 23, 2012:

@goo2eyes lm: Thanks so much for your very kind words and your blessing, Gloria! I'm very grateful for both.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on May 23, 2012:

@MerandaJade: I'm so glad to hear that I've inspired you to try using some of these techniques on your own old shoes! Thanks very much for letting me know.

goo2eyes lm on May 23, 2012:

this lens really deserved to be the LoD and deserved to win the purple star trophy. congratulations.

MerandaJade on May 23, 2012:

Very creative! I think I'll try to makeover some of my old shoes now. You've inspired me!

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on May 22, 2012:

@Shivani09 LM: Thanks so much for your lovely feedback! Glad I could share these techniques with you.

Shivani09 LM on May 22, 2012:

I love this lens!! Amazing way to restore old shoes! Never knew it could be done with leather as well

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on May 22, 2012:

@soaringsis: Thanks so much for letting me know you love it! Much appreciated. :)

soaringsis on May 22, 2012:

Just love this lens, now I know what to do with my old shoes. Thank you for the info.

Margaret Schindel (author) from Massachusetts on May 21, 2012:

@teristazko: Thank you so much for y