#1 Basic Guide to Customization
cotton(lots of it)
brushes of your choice
I’ve broken it down into two parts: prepping and painting. I feel both are equivalent in importance and time should be spent on both.
This is what you should spend your time on. Your paintjob may be the greatest, but will not matter if it does not hold up.
Begin by cleaning the shoe with alcohol, esp. if it has been used. It may be difficult to clean the shoe after you have painted.
Determine where you will be painting. Choose now to get it out of your way. If you paint, it will be hard to go back and prep an area close to it.
Now take your acetone. This stuff can be found in any of your local hardware stores and is fairly inexpensive. However, this is heavy duty stuff so wear gloves and work in a well ventilated area.
I use an old glass cup or glass tray here. Don’t use plastics, acetone will melt right through it. I put some cottonballs in and pour the acetone in it. I do this so i get a good amount of acetone in the cotton but I keep them from becoming dripping wet. You will be using a lot so I hope you stocked up.
When prepping, rub the acetone over the shoe to remove the factory finish. When you rub, keep one hand inside the shoe and press against the area you are wiping. You should be creating a sandwich effect with your hands and the shoe and cottonball in between. It is important to press hard on the inside, and rub hard on the outside to really get in and clean the leather. Change your cottonballs frequently. With black shoes it is easy bc your cottonballs should turn black. But with white it is very difficult. If you are using one cottonball the whole time, you are basically exhausting the acetone in there and respreading the wax finish back all over the shoe. If you apply tons of pressure, you should have no trouble in seeing the prepped results.
Below I have a picture of the pressure points of a shoe that should be concentrated on the most. These areas are susceptible to the most bending and creasing and therefore should be cleaned properly. This does not mean you should neglect the other areas of the shoe.
Some use an abrasive sponge to prep. Simply soak the cotton in acetone and sandwich it in between the sponge. Be careful with this method and should only be used in the large open areas away from creasing and edges. If you use this method, you run the risk of fraying stitching, dying the edges green or the color of the sponge, or scratching of nonleather parts.
How to tell if your shoe is prepped
Usually, the leather will turn grey. However, that is not always the sign of prepped leather. Simply run your finger through the leather. If you feel resistance, then it is ready. If it is smooth or feels waxy, it still is not ready. It is still very hard to determine so it is best that you wait for visual proof.
Before you being painting, clean the shoe with alcohol again. Make sure there is no dust, hair or cotton strands from the prepping stage.
Now it is time to paint. Keep your brushes damp as you will need to paint in smooth thin layers.
To apply the layer of paint, get a decent amount of paint, don’t bother wiping as you need a sufficient amount to pull the paint but don’t dip the entire bristle head into the paint.
Apply the paint and pull the brush throughout the entire surface. It’s best to start on the edges so early coats won’t be overlapping if you start on the middle. Make sure first coat is thin and even. It should look very transparent and blotchy but it’s alright.
Let it dry. Wait about 30 minutes. Even if it feels dry, it may not be. The paint needs not just to dry but bond as well.
Add a second coat. Wait. Keep following the process until the surface looks solid. If you get some paint on another area, just clean it off with alcohol and a qtip.
After you paint the final coat, you should wait even longer until you wear them.
You can use a finish coat. There are many brands available and can be used by spraying, airbrushing, applying with rag, or applying with brush.
Angelus does not require it (it’s waterproofed already). If you do use it, it usually needs 2 coats max and is applied with the same manner (thin, even coats) as painting.
Enjoy your sneakers and be creative.
#2 Tips for a Lasting Paintjob
This remains one of the most frequent questions I receive. Angelus is a very durable paint and will not chip, crack, fade, or peel if used properly. Proper mixtures can be made to provide adequate flexibilty as well as adhesion.
I will post some possible reasons as to why your paintjob is failing.
#1. Layers are too thick – This should be mastered in customs101. Paint in many thin coats instead of a few thick ones blah blah blah.
#2. Timing in between coats – I know this is a common mispractice. Just because it “feels” dry doesn’t mean that it is. What’s going on with the layer is that the paint is actually bonding with the leather, becoming a part of it. If you’re painting coats on top of ones that haven’t bonded yet, you’re basically doing the same as one huge thick layer. When I say wait for some time, I mean wait. Twenty/thirty minutes may seem long but it’s better safe than sorry. Go paint, take a break, watch TV, go out and relax. I seriously hope you guys aren’t watching your shoes dry, I don’t want shoe customizing to be the leading reason for the rise of ADD. In some cases, paint will take longer to dry. From personal experience, on hot humid days, paint can take up to 45minutes-an hour to dry. In these cases you need to test it out. Slide your finger throught the painted area. If it feels like factory leather and runs through smoothly, then you’re good. If there is any remote oily, moist residue, or if it feels slick, then it needs to dry more.
#3 Improper Prepping – I think this is THE MOST IMPORTANT step in painting a shoe. It doesn’t matter what you put on it. If it’s cracked, it’s destroyed. So take as much time with the cotton balls and acetone as with the brush and paint. Not all shoes turn grey, however. Nike shoes generally do since they use cheaper leather. To tell with other shoes is to a do a before and after test. Run your finger through the unprepped leather. It should feel smooth all the way across. Now run your way back through prepped leather and you may feel a little more resistance. Also, constantly change your cottonballs. A lot of the time when you don’t switch up, you’re rubbing a cottonball saturated in the melted factory protective layer. So as you glide back and forth you may actually just be adding the wax layer back on other areas. Check out my full guide above so that you prep appropriately.
#4 Brush Stroke – The problem may actually lie in the manner of how you apply the paint. The basic coloring should be the first thing to master. If you see streaks and uneven patches, then you are far from ready. Start with a good amount of paint on your brush, don’t bother wiping it on the side of the bottle but don’t cover the entire head of bristles with paint. Apply it to the shoe in long, smooth strides. If you see a collection of paint on one area, simply pull it throughout the entire shoe until the entire area is smooth. Don’t worry about the look early on as it will greatly improve with more coats.
#5 Thick Paint – If it helps, thin the paint out. The basic diluter is distilled water. I stay away from tap water as there may be some chemicals in the water that may mess with the paint formula. Call me paranoid. Angelus neutral can also be used to thin as well as extend the amount of paint. Just be careful as it will slowly lighten the shade. If you’re using Angelus, don’t bother using acetone.
#6 Faulty Brushes – This is easy, the softer the better. Don’t waste your pennies on cheaper brushes that are hard and stiff as you are only hurting yourself. A person can only be so good without the proper materials, otherwise we’d have more finger painters. Also, I like to keep my brushes damp the whole time. I keep a cup of water by me all the the time and am constantly dipping my brush to clean it. Also keep a small rag to wipe your soaked brush. Keep it damp but don’t too wet as the water will just make the paint super thin and have it run everywhere.
#7 Elements – Before you even paint, you should clean the shoe before and after prepping. Strands of hair and dust that clump up in your paint is not only unattractive, but causes a chain of headaches once you try to get it out after the paint has settled. Also, extreme heat is your enemy. Put it on top of a radiator or baking windowsill and you will see not just then but for some time afterwords.
#8 Effort – If you halfass through the job, your work will show. The final product is a representation of the effort you actually put into it. Take your time and pay attention to detail, your work will progress. Become sloppy and rush, your work will do a complete 180.
Fabric/Denim/Material Attachment Guide
This is my in-depth guide on adding fabric or denim. It is seperated by two methods, glue-on and stitch-on.
-Exacto Knife (artistic blade)
-Large Fabric Scissors
-Sewing Machine that can withstand bulk of shoe leather(stitch-on guide only)
#1. Decide which panels of the shoe you wish to apply your fabric. When you have decided, it’s time to make templates. Take your masking tape and put 2-3 layers of tape over the section. Don’t worry if it’s messy, you’re gonna clean it up later. It’s important to do 2 or 3 layers bc that will eliminate the possibility of having the template from falling apart. Once you have the area applied with masking tape, take your exacto knife and cut around the edges to get the shape of the area.
#2. At this point you should have a replica of the panel of the shoe in exact size and shape. Carefully take it off the shoe and put it on the fabric. Make sure you carefully place it so a quality image will be cut out (not someone missing a head of half of a word) and so that the fabric isnt wrinkled or folded under the tape which would cause it to be disfigured.
#3. Cut the fabric with the fabric scissors around the template. If you have the correct, large scissors, you will notice how easily and cleanly the cutting will be. If you don’t, you’re just going to have to suffer. It’s important here to get it as close as the actual size and shape of the template.
#4. This part is recommended but not necessary. If you have all your pieces of fabric cut out into the shapes of the shoe, you should stitch a border around the cut fabric. This will eliminate frays and loose threads. Once it is stitched, use those handydandy fabric scissors n trim off whatever loose threads there are. They shouldn’t be coming back.
#5. Time to put the fabric on the shoe. Take whatever adhesive you have and apply a thin layer to both the shoe and fabric. Before combining the toe, spread the glue around evenly so there are no bumps or lumps in concentrated areas. Carefully apply the fabric onto the shoe and even it out, again smoothing out wrinkles, lumps or bumps.
#6. Let em’ dry and they’re done.
This is where it gets tricky. Unless you know what you are doing, I highly suggest you take them to a specialized tailor or to a shoe repairman instead. This method requires dismantling of the shoe. I will not be held responsible for whatever damage that may occur during this process.
Follow Step #1 and #2 from above
#3. Basically the same above with one variation. When you cut your fabric, cut apprx. 1inch around the template.
#4. Now comes the messy part. Take your exacto knife or blade and you have to seperate the panel of the shoe you wish to apply fabric to. Just slip the blade under the top panel where the stitching is located and slowly slice the threads.
#5. You should now have a seperated shoe panel and an overlarge fabric template. Glue the fabric to the seperated panel like above. Since it was cut larger, you should have “flaps” hanging over. Simply fold those over and glue them to the other side of the panel.
#6. Stitch panels back to shoe with heavy duty sewing machine.
Tongue Stuffing Guide
Here’s everything you want/need to know about stuffing tongues.
Exacto Knife or Thread Ripper
Tongue stuffing material (I used Poly-filâ„¢ Premium Polyester Fiberfill)
Thread and needle
Prepare kicks. Unlace them completely. Clean them up so you have a fresh kick to work with.
This step will be done in reverse later, so remember how the lace stay was attached.
Unstitch the lace stay, starting from the tongue underside. Remove all loose threads that remain on the underside or overside. Set the lace stay aside.
Unstitch the rows that hold the NIKE tag in place (if they exist). If the tongue is mesh, be very careful to only cut stitch threads and not tongue threads. Set the NIKE tag aside.
With the exacto knife or thread ripper, cut a 1 inch hole along the line left by the upper stitch row. By cutting a hole in this location, after sewing the tag back on, this hole (sewn up) will be out of sight.
Starting with the hole, begin to peel the inner layers of the tongue apart. There should be two layers with minimal glue holding them together. Just push down with your fingers making sure to fully separate the layers, including all the corners.
Take the stuffing material, and stuff that tongue. For now, this is just for proper fitting.
Remove the stuffing, and begin to reattach the lace stays and tag. The lace stay can be a hassle to sew back on. If you don’t care, feel free to skip the next step.
Reattaching the lace stay. Recalling how the lace stay was originally attached, sew the lace stay back to the overside of the tongue ONLY. (If you can’t recall how it was removed, sew the upper lace stay section first, then the bottom section). Do not sew through the underside of the tongue.
Reattaching the NIKE tag. To begin, you must sew the tag on the overside of the tongue. Again, do not sew through the underside of the tongue.
Stuff that tongue with the stuffing material set aside from earlier.
Sew that hole up. Do not sew into the overside of the tongue. Be careful to make a smooth seam or a ridge will rub against your ankle/foot when you walk. That could be annoying.
Now flip the tag over to the underside and sew that guy down. This seam will be visible to yourself and others if you are showing your handiwork off, so make sure to do this one real well.
Stand back and realize you have finished one shoe. Then go back to Step 1 on the other shoe.