Giving Shoes a New Color (Manmade Materials)

Let’s be honest: a lot of shoes aren’t made in the colors that most anime characters like to wear. But does that stop them? Heck no. And it shouldn’t stop you, either.

 A majority of fashion shoes are composed of manmade materials (read: plastic), fabric, and leather. Depending on that material, different supplies are required. This tutorial is for shoes made from manmade materials. The photos are from Grell Sutcliff from the anime/manga series Kuroshitsuji, for turning a pair of eggshell heels to a red/mahogany.

I got these from ModCloth.com. Stock there moves pretty fast (so fast that I saw another pair that I really wanted for Grell, and then had to get these and then paint them to match that gorgeous first pair. But I like these better now.) 

The process covered in this tutorial is potentially super-unsafe. Wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated area when using spray paint of any kind. Extra points if you put on a respirator! If you end up using pure acetone (its purpose is discussed in a little bit), make sure you have a respirator (yes, the kind with cartridges) and heavy rubber gloves.

 After you’ve figured out what your shoes are made from, get your paint. For manmade materials, a product called Nu-Life spray paint is recommended (this can also be used for leather, but shoe dyes for leather are not recommended for manmade materials.) I purchased mine from a site called ShoeCareSupplies.com about 72 hours before Christmas and they still showed up on my doorstep the Monday afterwards.

 Tip: You don’t really need that Nu-Life Preparer in order to clean the shoes beforehand. The main point is that there’s nothing getting in the way of the spray paint doing its job, like dirt or grease.

 Tape off everything that you don’t want the spray paint to touch. In general, the top lift (the usually black bit on the bottom of the heel), the sole, and the inside of the shoe as well as any hardware should be taped off. For the inside of the shoe, it’s easier to stuff the shoe with newspaper and then tape the newspaper to the sides of the shoe.

 If the sole of the shoe is drastically different from the end result, like this pair, it can be painted as well. Some hardware, like grommets, isn’t easily taped off, but acetone or any nail polish remover, even non-acetone, will remove this paint. Be careful, though, because it will also strip the paint from the shoe itself. Acetone will also work on leather shoes, but is not recommended on fabric shoes.

 After taping, spray paint in successive even coats, waiting for each to dry before applying the next one. This paint does have quite a kick, so let your shoes air out overnight.

 The shoes pictured here have undergone two coats of red paint. Tomorrow, I’ll touch up with the red, then tape off the top part and spray paint the rest in mahogany. But for now, I’m letting them do their thing.

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About greyrondo

My name is greyrondo. I've been a cosplayer since Fall 2006, and I've noticed that the best conversations I have with cosplayers usually involve the question, 'so how DID you do that?' So after studying costuming and making a closet's worth of costumes, that's what I'd like to help answer. Drop in and stay awhile whether you're a cosplayer or just a curious spectator; one of my musings is bound to be what you're looking for. If you have a question or something to say, leave a comment or contact me! I don't bite, I promise. View all posts by greyrondo

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