Sneaker Customizing for the Beginner: Learn How to Paint Your Sneakers | Gigi Rodgers | Skillshare

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Sneaker Customizing for the Beginner: Learn How to Paint Your Sneakers

teacher avatar Gigi Rodgers, Artist | Video Editor | Super Squirrel

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Shopping List

    • 3. Precautions & Techniques

    • 4. Cleaning Your Sneaker

    • 5. Prepping Your Sneaker

    • 6. The Paint Job

    • 7. The Ultimate Finisher

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About This Class

Do you love sneakers, painting, and design? Join sneaker artist Gigi Rodgers as she shows you how to transform old, white sneakers into wearable art. 

This is a class on painting leather sneakers - old and new.

It's 30-minutes where you'll learn the foundational techniques of painting your leather sneakers - so you can paint fresh kicks that don't crack or peel (not on my watch), look expensive (while keeping your bank account healthy), and separate yourself from the “Sea of Sameness” (you're mood? technicolor).


Key lessons include:

  • The 2-Steps That Will Make the Difference Between Shoes That Crack & Shoes That Last
    (Once you do these 2-Steps, A LOT of your worries over cracking - go out the window)

  • The Magical Ingredient You Need to Add To Your Paint to Decrease Creasing
    in the Toe Box Area

    (This was a game-changing, Hogwarts magic addition to my painting arsenal)

  • The No Holds Barred Finisher That Reigns Supreme Amongst Professional Sneaker Artists
    (This finisher is so good, if someone steps on your fresh kicks in public - you won’t even sweat it. Why? Because you know it’s scratch resistaaaaaaaaaaant!)

  • The Exact List of Supplies I Use for Every Custom
    (Once you invest in these supplies, you’ll be set for a LONG while)

In the project for this class, you'll paint a pair of sneakers in the colors of your choice. You DO NOT need a new pair of sneakers for this project. The shoes I purchased, to make this course, were (very well used) $28 Nikes I purchased from eBay. 

If you have a pair of sneakers that have been banished to the back of your closet & forgotten about, it's time for a prison break. 

Whether you purchase your kicks from a thrift store or a Foot Locker, the same techniques will apply in you creating kicks that are your vibe & your creation. 

You don't need to be a professional artist to paint sneakers. 
You only need to know how to paint in between the lines.
If you can do that - you can paint your kicks.


Images courtesy of Gigi Rodgers

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Gigi Rodgers

Artist | Video Editor | Super Squirrel


Gigi Rodgers is an Artist, Creative Director, & Video Editor who can get a bit "sweary" at times.
She's also the Founder & Director of Doodling at Puck'n Khaos and The Chop Shop Chief at The Puck'n Studio.

Want a beginner sneaker kit to test out this sneaker painting thing?
She's made one - PERFECT for beginners!
Learn more about it HERE.

Want to learn about looking like a natural in front of the video camera?
She's got you there as well. 
Check out her Skillshare course, Charisma on the Cam: How to Look Like a Natural in Front of the Camera

She's created a sneaker painting YouTube channel where she paints old, janky sneakers into her pop art style, on a weekly-ish basis. The results, even to her, are prett... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Well, hey now super scrolls. My name is Gigi Rodgers and I paint sneakers at Puck'n Khaos. In this class, I'm going to teach you how to transform this very used grusty dusty sneaker into this little beauty. As I've learned by talking to other various sneaker professionals and going through my own trial and error with the sneaker painting process, there is more to painting shoes than what you see on YouTube. We're going to cover how to paint your sneakers the right way, from cleaning your shoes and yellowing the mid soles, properly prepping your shoes to be painted, the types of paints you can use, the finisher that is absolutely scratch resistant and more. This is a follow alone tutorial, so you can see exactly how I do it for myself and for clients. I'm going to get you up and running on foundations of painting your shoes, even if your brand spanking new to this. In case you're worried about it, you do not need to know how to draw to do this, this is all coloring in between the lines. Afterwards, what you'll be able to do to new or used sneakers artistically, it'll be limitless and 1000 percent up to you and your motivations and inspirations. Lastly, I need to mention that you do not need to buy new sneakers to do this tutorial, you can grab a pair of old ones that you want to give new life to that's been banished to the back of your closet or go purchase a used pair like I did. Just make sure for this course, they're leather, which most sneakers are, and you're good to go, so go grab your pair of sneakers and I'll see you in class. 2. The Shopping List: Hey, super squirrels. Let's get started by talking about materials. Of course, if you speak to other artists, the brand name of materials may vary, but I'm going to share with you the materials I use. If you purchase used shoes or you're taking a pair that have been rescued from under the depths of your bed, you'll need to clean your shoes before any painting happens. You're going to need these items: a small tub you can fill with water, a big towel and a little towel, some gloves, disposable and rubber gloves. My rubber gloves are those yellow kitchen gloves you can purchase at just about any grocery store. Brushes to clean your sneakers. I purchase Reshoevn8r's brushes which include a soft bristle, medium, stiff, and brass brush. The soft bristle and medium brush are used to clean the uppers or the top of your shoe, and that includes the fabric part and the tongue of your shoe. Use the soft bristle brush only for any fabric cleaning. The stiff and brass brushes are used to get that really self grime out of the midsoles and the bottom of your shoe. A cap full of laundry detergent or whatever you have in your home, a shoe tree, Salon Care 40 or any kind of 40 volume cream developer. The cream developer is used to unyellow your midsoles and get them back to white. A fluffy application brush to apply the cream developer to your midsoles, Saran wrap, a netted laundry bag, and a washing machine. To prep, paint, and finish your sneaker custom, you're going to need these items: cotton balls, 400-600 grit sandpaper, acetone by Klean Strip or another industrial strength acetone, paintbrushes, and those are paint brushes with an angled head, a full boot brush, a flat head and the smallest pointiest detailed brush that you can find. For my detail brushes, it usually says 3/0 or 0 on the handle. Angelus paint. There are other paint brands out there for you to use as well like Jacquard Neopaque and Lumiere line, but know that Angelus is the industry staple. Whichever brand you choose, I would suggest you only get three colors. The constraint of having only three colors to play with will help you immensely from being paralyzed with indecision, especially in the beginning. No matter what brand you use, you don't need a big bottle. The smallest bottle the brand offers like Angelus is one ounce, will go a long way. Let's continue, Createx Colors flexible adhesion promoter from their Bloodline collection, one of the secret ingredients to long lasting sneakers, Liquid Kicks top coat finisher. This finisher is like no other, scratch resistant. This is a must. My favorites are the matte and factory finish. Back to the list, a small cleaner glass jar, 3M automotive performance or refinish masking tape. I use this tape because it doesn't leave a sticky residue on your sneaker. 3m vinyl tape, this is great for covering up your midsoles. It has a lot of stretch or give, which makes it a lot easier to tape off your shoe. A small art palette, small disposable mixing cups, a glass or cup you can fill with water, a blow dryer, and finally, some paper towels or a sacrificial old tee. You're going to use this to clean your brushes in-between use. In fact, designate some clothes as your specific painting garments. Paints splatter on your clothes, happens. Invest into this list, and I know what you're thinking, "Dang girl, this does have a little bit of half to it." Yes, it is a bit much and you have two options. Option number 1, you can go through the list and purchase everything individually like pretty much everyone does or option number 2, I created a sneaker kit with pretty much all the essentials you'll need to paint your sneakers outside of the acetone. Acetone doesn't really ship well. In this case, we're painting a pair of sneakers, not painting and cleaning them. That duo could be coming down the line sometime soon. If you're interested, you can find that kit on my website at Now, if you think you can skip over purchasing any of these products, I wouldn't suggest it. When we get started, you'll see why. All of these materials come into play. So yes, this is a small investment to get set up, but after that, you're rolling for a while. In the next video, we're going to talk about a few precautions and techniques you need to be aware of before we jump into this custom. 3. Precautions & Techniques: Now in this video, we're going to cover four things you want to keep in mind when painting and prepping the shoe and some other side notes to keep top of mind. Number 1, acetone. When you're using this, try to be in a well ventilated area or have crosswinds so you don't inhale it. It's pretty toxic stuff. If you're trying to think of a well ventilated place with lots of crosswinds, just go outside. That's what I usually do. Now I didn't do this in the video, but please, please, please, when you're using acetone, put on your yellow rubber gloves to protect yourself from handling these chemicals. If you do get any of this on your skin, just make sure to wash off immediately with soap and water. Number 2, using tape. You see this edge of my paint brush? I'm going to use this to push the tape just underneath some of my leather pieces like the switch on the Nike. You can also use a butter knife or these cuticle scissors to push a tape underneath that clearance area. Doing this will help you concentrate the paint on the designated areas you're trying to paint, and it will reduce the paint from bleeding. The better you get at taping, the fewer cleanups you'll have to do afterwards. Though it will give you some comfort, my taping skills at best. So if you have to do a clean up job, it's not a big deal. It's just a little bit annoying at times. Number 3, painting techniques. At no time will you take a glob of paint and try to cover the panel of the shoe in one go, it just doesn't work that way. You're actually going to take a little paint on the tips of your paint brush, and you're going to brush it on in the feathery strokes. I'm barely touching the shoe using this motion, spreading the paint out evenly and thinly across the area. You see how patchy this first coat looks? That's fine. The first coat always looks like this. You're going to put down three to seven layers depending on the colors you chose before you get full coverage. To help you not put a lot of pressure on the shoe while painting, which can cause a bald spot on the shoe, I want you to hold your paint brush in the middle like this. If we want to be even lighter to the touch, put your hand even further from the brush head, and then light, even, thin coats. Number 4, the idea. Do you know what color palette you're going to use for your shoe? If you're unsure, go on Pinterest and type in sneaker customs. In our array of color palettes of sneakers, should pop up for you that inspire you. FYI, there is zero shame in seeing a color paddle on the same sneaker you have and saying, "I'm going to do that too." People get caught up on this all the time. But at the end of the day, who cares? It's your shoe and it makes you happy. End of story, go with that color palette. The word of caution, whatever you do, don't get caught up in the designs that other artists are doing. All we're doing for your first shoe is color blogging. So what are your color choices? Black, white, and gift box blue, hot pink, black, and white, red, white, and flat black? You can't really make a bad decision on this, so don't stress out about it. In the next video, we're going to start working on some shoes. If you have brand spanking new shoes, you're going to want to skip ahead to this video. If your shoes need a Duncan soap and water before the painting job, on to the next video. 4. Cleaning Your Sneaker: Let's get started cleaning your shoes. The items you're going to need are your big towel and little towel, your cleaning brushes, your small tub. Go ahead and pop in a cup of detergent and fill it with warm water. Your gloves, your shoe tree, your laundry net, and of course, your shoes or in my case, a single shoe. First things first, let's take the shoelaces off and put those to the side. After that's done, insert your shoe tree. Now grab your soft brush dip it in side your soapy solution and let's start scrubbing the sneaker. While building up those bubbles, make sure to get the inside tongue and liner of your shoe as well. I'm going to go ahead and detach this insoles so I can give that a good scrub as well. You're going to scrub your shoe for a few minutes to loosen up any and all dirt on your shoe. Then next, we're going to switch to the medium brush. Let me point out that you're not going to get all the dirt off the shoe, but you need to help it along this way when it goes in the washing machine, any leftover dirt will come off pretty easily. Now that the uppers are done, let's move on to the mid and outer soles. This is where you're stiff and brass brush come into play. Just to set your expectations now, if you have a yellow or brownish mid sole, this scrub party isn't going to get it back to white, that treatment is coming a little bit later. Though still, let's try to eliminate the dirt and grime and all those little crevices in your mid-soles. When you're done, take out the shoe tree if you haven't already throw your shoe, your shoelaces and the insole in your laundry net, tie it up and toss it into your washing machine with any other towels you use or that might need some washing. If you're wondering why you're throwing the towels in with your shoes in the wash, it's for cushioning. You don't want your shoes to beat up the inside of your washing machine, so a little bit cushioning from towels or even a comforter will help with that. Now that you've put them in the wash, add some detergent, set the wash cold cold or warm cold and hit start. While that's going on go back to your workstation to clean things up. When the wash stops, take your shoes, insole and laces out, throw towels and laces in the drier. Place your shoe trim back inside the sneaker and find a spot where the insoles and sneakers can dry overnight. It doesn't need to be a breezy spot, but it does need to be a place where there's a lot of sunlight present. I used to use my window sill. The next day when shoes are completely dry, notice a difference of how they look before and how they look now, leaps and bounds are better I'm sure. Now that they're clean, let's unyellow those midsoles, and it's actually quite simple. Pour little of the creme developer into it's cap, take your fluffy brush and tap and spread the solution onto one side of the mid-soles. Make sure to not get any of the uppers as this can damage the material. If some of this developer, it does happen to get on the uppers, use a wet washcloth to wipe it off. Easy. After you've applied that solution generously, take a sleeve saran wrap a laid over the midsoles. Gently tap it on. You're doing this so the solution doesn't dry up while its working this magic. Then place that sneaker solution side up towards the sun. If you do this outside, make sure you tape it down with saran wrap so the wind doesn't blow the saran wrap off. Though I haven't tendency to place my sneakers in the windowsill alike so. After 30 to 60 minutes, take the shoe out of the sun and wipe off the solution with a wet cloth. You should definitely see a difference between the treated and untreated side. Now you are going to flip the sneaker over and do the same thing again. When that's all said and done, it is now time to prep the uppers of his sneaker to be painted. 5. Prepping Your Sneaker: Alright. It's time to prep your shoes and this is what you're going to need. Your 400-600 grit sandpaper, your acetone, your cotton balls, your glass jar, your rubber gloves. After you get everything in place, go ahead and take some small strips of sandpaper and then circle in motions whenever you can start buffing the leather. I spend about three to five minutes on each section of the shoe. Not only does this help to prep the painting surface, it helps you to smooth out any scratches that may have occurred on your sneaker, especially if you're working with used shoes. Now for this next part, for whatever reason, I cannot think of, I did not wear my protective gloves when handling this acetone, and that is a huge no. I've said this before and I'm going to say it again, please, make sure you wear your rubber gloves when handling this acetone and make sure you handle this stuff in a well ventilated area with crosswinds, preferably outside. Burn this warning into your brain as you watch this next part. Now that you've finished setting down your sneaker, go ahead and pour some acetone here your glass jar, about a quarter full is all you'll need. Dip your cotton ball into the acetone and squeeze the excess out, you don't need to have the acetone dripping on your sneaker. Start wiping the cotton ball on your sneaker, which will remove its factory finish. I usually like to attack the shoe with acetone in sections, with each section getting two cotton balls each. You'll know if you're doing it right because if you run your finger across the material after swapping it with that acetone a few times, the leather will have some resistance or tackiness to it, like you're running your fingers across rubber. That's it, your sneakers have been properly prepped. In the next video, we finally get to start painting. 6. The Paint Job: All right. let's go ahead and jump into this paint job. What you're going to need are your paint brushes, your paint, your createx flexible adhesion promoter, your paint cups or mixing cups, your paint palette, your cup of water to clean your paint brushes, a used t-shirt and/or napkins to wipe your brushes clean after washing, your cuticle nail scissors or a butter knife, your blow dryer, and your tape. Step 1, tape off your midsoles like this. I'm using the vinyl tape for this area. Just to put it on the record, l usually don't tape off the midsole. I'm pretty good at not getting paint on that area, but for you first timers let's tape a portion of it off. As you can see, l really didn't feel like doing the whole shoe. When you're applying the tape, try to get it as close to that edge is possible. Now, let's discuss a small detail before we start painting. Are you going to paint the cut of the shoe panels or not? That's this section here. If you do decide to do that, it will take more time and more tape but it will also look professional. If you don't, it'll take less time, less tape, but it might not come across as a polished finish to the professional. It's a 100% up to you. There is no right or wrong answer here. Now, for clients I paint the cut. But for myself, if I don't feel like it that day I don't. This is your shoe. The general public isn't going to be all up on your shoe with a magnifying glass putting out that you didn't paint the cut side. I'm going to show you the technique to paint the cut side. But again the choice is yours. If you're going to go down that route, you're going to place the tip of the tape on the edge of the cut and push it down a bit like this. This way you can paint that cut side without getting paint on the bottom layer, if it's done right. Sometimes I even mess it up. If you do mess it up, don't stress over it. You'll just have to clean it up later with paint. Now, let's move on to mixing our paint. Grab your mixing cup, pour in a small bit of paint, put in 5-7 drops of the flexible adhesives and mix. You're going to apply 1-2 thin coats of this mixture to your sneaker, making sure to use a blow dryer to speed up the drying process in-between coats. Put simply, the flexible adhesive in the paint keeps the paint from cracking, and as the name suggest it gives it flexibility. This is especially helpful around the toe box area where there's a lot of bend or creasing. Now, it's not necessary for you to use this around your whole shoe, why? Because some parts of the shoe are inflexible like the heel of your shoe. I do because it's habit. But again, not necessary. If the paint looks patchy or uneven afterwards that's fine, if not normal. It's the first two layers. It can take up to seven thin coats to get everything looking even all depending on the color you choose. You just put down those two layers with the adhesion promoter. Now, grab the same paint color again and apply just that color with no additives on the sneaker. When it comes to painting the cut side, get your smallest brush, a tiny bit of paint, and slowly start painting. One thing to keep in mind while painting, after you've dried the paint with a blow dryer pull back the bottom layer like this. You see that white underneath that top panel? Take a small brush and carefully paint that section. Now, I thought my piece needed a bit more contrast, so I decided to outline the pink with a black. If you want to do this take your flat brush, dip it in a regular paint then use the sneaker's seam as your guide. Lastly, just to manage expectations, if you think this is going to take an hour to do, no. Even at just doing this color blocking, it's going to take a few hours, and this is why this is a good weekend project. That's the end of painting your sneakers. I'm sure they're going to turn out gorgeous. In the next video we're going to apply the finisher and lace them up. 7. The Ultimate Finisher: We're at the finish line, folks. In this final step, we need to protect your paint job from the elements and your clumsiness. For this final section, you're going to need: a mixing cup, your fluffy blending brush, your liquid kicks finisher, and your blow dryer. This is going to be simple. Pour a small squirt of the finisher into the mixing cup. Dip your brush by the tip edge into the cup, and start to apply it all over your shoe. A little goes a long way, so there's no need to douse your brush in this solution. There's no feathering motion needed for this application, just apply it. If it starts to build up in one area, it will look a bit milky. Just spread it out. Afterwards, let it sit for a few minutes until you see the milky liquid completely disappear. I like to give the liquid up to 10-20 minutes to settle in. After it does, take the blow dryer to it so it can fully heat set. Repeat this process one more time. Apply the liquid kicks finisher, let it set, hit it with a blow dryer. The reason I like to have this finisher sit for so long is because if you don't and hit it with the blow dryer too early, you'll get these milky spots on the sneaker. So give it a little time to settle in. After you apply the finisher twice and blow dried them set, your sneakers are super protected. Give your sneakers 24-48 hours, at least, to set before wearing or giving them the scratch test. Now, it's time to lace them up. I usually never use the Weiss sneaker laces. I purchase my laces to coordinate with my shoes from either at my local store or my favorite place to order affordable laces in just by any color palette right now, Lace the Game at This time, I chose black laces which I already owned. I took up the shoe tree, laced them up, put the shoe tree back in, and this is the final look. I know you may be ready to hit the streets with these shoes right after you've finished painting them, but remember to give your sneakers at least 48 hours before you wear. Give your paint, the finisher, and promoters time to 1,000 percent bond. After that, go wild. If your shoes get dirty, take a soapy napkin or a towel, and wash the dirt off. When you're not wearing your sneakers, have the shoe tree in so it helps maintain the shape. That's all the care instructions I really have for you. Fellas, ladies, that's the end of this custom sneaker painting course. I truly hope you got everything you wanted to know out of this. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment down below. If you go through this course and make your own shoes, post a picture of the before and after down below. I, as well as the community, would love to see what you create. Until then, enjoy creating heat on your feet and I'll catch you later.