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How to draw on shoes and get truly unique results

Customizing your shoes is a great way to get them to stand out and look unique. Whether you’ve been looking for a particular design but can’t find it or you want to brighten up a plain pair of sneakers, drawing on shoes is both fun and easy. Here’s how to draw on shoes.

 

Items you’ll need:

  • A good pair of canvas sneakers (you can buy a new pair or work on an old pair. But keep in mind that the better the shoe quality, the longer it will last with your designs)
  • Permanent markers (alcohol based pens are a safe bet)
  • A detail pen (e.g. a fineliner)
  • Aloe gel
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Paper

1. Plan your design

Planning’s boring and it sucks. We know. But you need to do it so you know how your design might look and whether it works. Otherwise, you could end up with something that looks more like a chaotic scribble than a creative masterpiece, no matter how talented and inspired you might be.

For instance, will your design be one big picture across the shoe or will it be broken up into sections?

Sketch your ideas on the page and draw them to scale. Keep practicing and making plans until it’s how you want it. Take the time to get the details right because remember: the pen ink’s permanent so if you make a mistake, it’ll be there forever.

planning a design on shoe 

2. Trace the designs onto the shoe using a pencil (optional step)

It’s way too easy to accidentally miss a section out or draw something too big or too small - even if you’re a professional shoe artist. That’s why we’re going to suggest that you trace the designs onto the shoe. This step’s optional so you can just skip ahead to step three if you don’t want to do this.

Basically, you’ll have made plans of your drawings onto some paper or card. Once you’ve got your final plan, carefully cut it into sections. Then, hold each section against the shoe and draw around them using a pencil. This way, you won’t have any sizing issues (e.g. drawing sections too big or too small). You can even fill in the blank spaces inside these sections freehand.

If you’re not comfortable with drawing freehand, you can poke small holes in certain areas of your cutout to help you trace a precise design. For example, poking holes where the lines intersect means you only need to connect the dots.

3. Grab a fine liner and start outlining

Once you’re happy with your pencil sketches, it’s time to marker up. Take your fine liner (such as Chameleon’s Detail Pen) and carefully draw over your pencil outlines. Keep in mind that not every section might need outlining - unless you want your designs to be totally defined.

 finelines on shoe

4. Use aloe gel to prevent color bleeding

Now that you’ve got your design and outlines, it’s almost time to start coloring. However, alcohol based markers tend to bleed and because shoes are made of an absorbent material, the inks can spread out even more. Prevent this by carefully using aloe gel to outline an area so the ink will be contained to only that area.

 aloe gel on shoe

5. Color like no other

Now you can color away. There are no specific rules to this part, but we do have some top tips:

  • It’s a good idea to create a color scheme before you start - just so you know which shades will look good and which won’t.
  • Put light colors on first so if you make a mistake, you can easily cover it up with a darker shade. But even if you make mistakes, don’t fret. It happens.
  • If you’re nervous about bleeding, making a mistake or something similar, start by shading in an unimportant area.
  • Try and avoid doing any intricate detailing around the heels because this area usually gets quite beat up quickly - especially if you’re someone who slides their shoes off using your feet.
  • Be creative and don’t overthink it. The best art happens when you just go with it.

 coloring on shoe

6. Let your shoes rest

When you’ve finished customizing, let your shoes sit for a day or so before you wear them. This allows the colors to sink in and dry completely. Alcohol pen ink dries pretty quickly on the outside, but it might not have dried properly within the shoe exterior fibers. This could lead to ink bleeding if you wear it when it rains. So, leave your shoes to rest for a while.

 

Choosing the right marker to draw with

Markers are one of the easiest permanent tools to draw on shoes with. Ensure you choose alcohol based markers over water based because the ink dries much faster. Water based pens take time to dry on just paper, so imagine how long they might take with fabric.

But that’s not the only quality. You should also look for pens that offer:

  • A wide range in color tones so you can choose the perfect color scheme to complement your design.
  • Sharp, vivid ink so the colors stay brighter for longer.
  • Permanent ink so you can be sure the colors aren’t going anywhere.

For instance, Chameleon Pens feature a unique Mixing Chamber which allows you to create multiple tones with just a single pen. So imagine how many tones you can create with the complete set of 50? Read more on how to find the best markers for canvas shoes here.

 

Improve your penmanship and take your designs even further…

Chameleon Pens can help you create some stunningly unique work. But if you really want to push the medium to the maximum, check out our techniques guide. Packed with tips and hints on how to draw and color with Chameleon Pens, it’ll ensure that your shoe designs attract attention in a good way.

However, it’s not quite ready for the public eye yet. But our web guys are just tying up the loose ends now so if you want to be the first to hear when it drops, sign up to our newsletter. In the meantime, why not explore our blog to find out a little more about what you can do with Chameleon Pens?

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