How to Prep Your Shoes for Painting

By Anna Sork

How to Prep Your Shoes for Painting

This preparation method goes for all types of paint applications – whether you are hand painting, airbrushing, or using paint pens, you’re going to want to prepare your shoe this same way for the best results.


  • A pair of sneakers 
  • Clean rag/cotton balls/ old shirt/sock (Must be clean)
  • Acetone/paint thinner/nail polish remover/rubbing alcohol
  • Heat Gun/Blow Dryer
  • Masking Tape
  • Craft Knife
  • Surgeon Creator Studio Premium Paint Pens
  • Stencil (Optional)


Let’s start prepping this shoe so we can paint a cool design after!

  • The first thing we are going to do is wipe down all areas of the shoe that will be painted on with acetone. This is to clean and remove the factory finish of your shoes so the paint will adhere to the material and last longer. 

  • Now that the shoe is clean and the factory finish is gone, start masking off the areas you want to keep paintless. You’ll need your roll of masking tape and craft knife for this step. 

  • We like to use a lot of tape to make sure the surfaces we want to keep clean are completely covered. Then, use the craft knife to help outline smaller areas, such as the swoosh, and cut away all the unwanted tape.
  • Pro tip: It helps to have a rough idea of what you are going to paint on your sneakers before this step, so you can really take advantage of masking the shoe off. It will save you time and make your life easier once it is time to paint.


  • It’s important to note that it may take several layers of paint to get sold color results.
  • There is no set number of layers. However, you should keep applying layers of paint until the color is solid and no streaks appear on the surface. Usually, you need at least 2-3 layers to achieve a solid color on the surface you are painting.
  • When adding a finish, whether it’s matte, glossy, or satin, it is best to apply even light coats and let them dry completely in between coats so you can see the full effect the finish has on your paint. Applying too much of a finish can change the colors of your paints slightly, making them darker or lighter than you intended.
  • Use the heat gun to dry your painted surface. This allows us to speed up the drying process and apply as many layers as needed. The heat also helps set the paint.

  • And now you have your painted sneaker!

  • In case you made any mistakes, use acetone and q-tips or a rag to gently wipe away paint mistakes. Make sure the surface is completely dry before attempting to paint it again.

Watch the full tutorial below.

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