Buying custom Vans can be expensive. There are a lot of artists out there that hand paint van sneakers and sell them at $120 to $500 online. We’ve seen pairs below $100, but that’s usually for whack designs, knock-off Vans, or non-unique pairs. What you’re looking for is a one-of-a-kind pair of kicks, don’t settle for anything less.
So this begs the question: why not customize your own pair? Painting canvas Vans is fun, cheap, and much more personal to your style. It’s not as hard as you think. You get to learn a new skill, have fun in the process, and make something exactly as you wanted. Any detailing, color scheme, or design you want, you are the boss!
Taking the time to hand paint Vans shoes might seem like a daunting task and it’s okay if you’re a little lost on where to start, what to get, or how to invest in sneakers and begin the process. That’s what we’re here for! In this article, we’ll break down the exact steps you need to know to manually paint your canvas kicks, as well as provide you an extensive list of the materials you’ll require. You can get your very own personalized hand-painted shoes in no time!
Planning to paint your Nike, Converse, or Adidas instead?
If you’re looking to customize your Nike, Converse, or Adidas, we have a few recent articles to help you out:
- How to hand paint your Nike AF1s
- How to personalize your Converse sneakers
- How to hand paint Adidas shoes
Choose your Vans style or any canvas shoe
First things first, find a pair of Vans sneakers that you want to paint. You could choose several options, but what’s great about most Vans shoes is they are all canvas material! This makes it much easier for the paint to adhere to the shoe. Here are 4 of our top picks from Vans that we believe you’d like because they are easy to work with
- Slip-on’s. These are the most common choice for this kind of art project. They are easy to paint over, give you a lot of room to paint on, and are very comfortable.
- Old Skool. Equally as much canvas space as the slip-ons but way more potential for different patterns. Old Skool Vans have a lot more depth and texture.
- Authentic. They give an old sports vibe and are perfect if you’re looking for something simple yet versatile and fashionable.
- Sk8-Hi. If you’re more into ankle-high shoes or if your design requires more space, these are the shoes you should get. Also, look at all that empty canvas waiting to be painted by you!
Besides these, if you don’t feel like spending too much on your first attempt, you could get a pair of canvas shoes. Consequently, the one drawback of choosing an off-brand is that the shoe’s quality may not hold up over time. If you paint a design that you love, but the shoe starts to fall apart, you’ll be disappointed later.
Before you begin, it’s crucial to make sure that you have all the necessary items to ensure that your project runs smoothly so you end up with the best result. We’ve compiled a list of all the essential materials needed to hand paint Vans shoes of any kind along with a few extra things that you can get for your own ease that would make the painting process much more efficient and give you unique, one of a kind shoes. You can also find the complete description of all the materials required in @sneakersnipercustoms’ YouTube video, where he explains their use and source in detail.
You don’t need to be worried about where you’ll get most of these items as at Angelus Leather Paints, and you’ll find whatever you need. You can also order almost all of these things on Amazon, whichever option you prefer. At Angelus, everything is within the budget, and they are well-known for the best quality paints.
To help bind the paint to the canvas, make it last longer, and keep the material smooth and flexible, you’ll need to use a mixture of 50% Angelus 2-soft fabric medium plus 50% plain white for the base coats. This additional step also helps prevent cracking and gives it an overall smooth and bright look. You can also use 100% acetone nail-paint remover for this purpose if you don’t have Angelus 2-soft in supply. Note that you want to purchase the 2-soft (not the hard) because these are meant for softer surfaces, like canvas shoes.
Socks / Shoe trees.
You will need something to insert inside the shoes to keep the work surface elevated and smooth. Old pair of socks or shoe trees should suffice.
Leather or Acrylic paint
It’s easy to get these paints at any crafts store, but for better quality and variety, visit the Angelus online shop and get the colors of your choice.
You’ll need masking tape to cover the soles and edges to avoid getting paint on them and to mask over any other area you don’t want to paint over.
Heat Gun / Blow Dryer
This is to dry off the paint after each coating.
These are useful for mixing colors together to get a variety of different shades for your design.
Graphite / Vinyl paper
If you’re not good at free-handing, these tools will help with stenciling your design.
This is entirely optional and just helps in the masking process.
You can get standard paintbrushes, although they don’t last that long and are hard to maintain. For better quality, you can get micro-detail brushes from any good store.
This is to bind everything together, avoid chipping, prevent the paint from being washed off easily, and give it a finishing look. Angelus has an acrylic matte finisher that is perfect for this job and highly used.
Time to Paint your Vans!
Now that you have everything you need let’s get on to the fun part! You can get your own special hand-painted shoes in no time by following these simple and easy steps. Hattip to @whitneyestherfineart for her helpful tips!
Step One: Prep The Shoe
First, start by covering the soles, edges, the logo, and anything else you want to avoid painting over with masking tape. You can use the X-acto knife for easier masking.
Next, to keep your work space elevated, stuff the shoe with shoe trees or socks.
Now apply your prep solution (i.e., 50% 2-soft fabric with 50% plain white) on your shoes over the regions you want to paint. Completely dry the layer with a heat gun or blow dryer and then apply another layer again. Repeat this about 5-6 times and then see when it’s all dry. Note that if you’re painting over black shoes, it would be best to have the first 2 or 3 layers of 50% 2-soft fabric and 50% soft cream color. The flat white layers on top would then really pick up color and make it easier for other paint colors to shoe.
Step Two: Sketch Your Design
At this point, you can either do a free hand sketching of your design over your shoes or use a stencil for a specific design. Usually, the stencil is easier since it’s almost like coloring in the lines after you’ve transferred the design.
NOTE for stenciling: start by stenciling your design on a piece of paper, using a phone/ tablet screen, etc. scaled to the size you want to draw on your kicks. Lay the graphite on the shoes with the rough, textured side facing down and just trace your design over it.
Step Three: Apply The Paint
Now that you have your basic outline, simply start painting using acrylic paints of colors you like. Use different sized brushes for this and make sure to apply the proper amount as some colors might need more than one layer. For instance, lighter colors may need more than one layer in order to stand out on the shoe.
At this point, you can even add some glitter using glitter glue, etc. if you want.
Step Four: Give Them Space To Dry
It usually takes less time, but just to be on the safe side, let the shoes dry for 24 hours.
Step Five: Apply A Finisher
Once your artwork has dried, apply a layer of your matte-acrylic finisher on top to bind it and make it last longer. This layer protects your beautiful design from the elements and helps prevent chipping and cracking.
Step Six: Show Off Your Work
Ready to unveil your masterpiece?!? Just pull off the masking tape, check for any missed spots, and remove paint from unwanted areas using a paint remover and cotton swab.
Lastly, rock your new shoes!
Just in case that wasn’t enough explanation for you, check out this video from @angelusdirect giving you a step by step instructions on prepping and painting your shoes.
You can follow these general steps for any type of canvas shoes or designs and end up with some stylish sneakers. However, if you want a visual of these steps, check out Whitney Esther on YouTube, who explains the process very clearly, or you can see Angelus Shoe Polish’s video, which explains the entire process specifically for black shoes and also goes over some shading techniques. You can also search for other videos on youtube for tips and tricks on painting your sneakers.
In conclusion, you now have everything you need to create some spectacular Vans and put your skills to the test, so what are you waiting for? Go to the Angelus website, get your materials, and start painting. Practice makes perfect, and we’re sure that these tried and tested techniques will be of use. After trying these techniques, protect your creation by cleaning your kicks properly. This will keep your kicks fresh and in peak condition. So give us a like or a shout out and enjoy your new art project.