Painting Sneakers Part 1 - OSU

Our grandson loves basketball and is seriously into shoes and I thought it would be cool to paint him some custom sneakers. I saw some videos on YouTube that gave some tips and tricks for painting shoes, as well as some videos about which paint to use and how to prepare the shoes for painting.

First Project - OSU Shoes

Before diving in too deeply I thought it would be a good idea to practice by painting some shoes that I could wear to the Texas Bowl where my alma-mater Oklahoma State would be playing Texas A&M right after Christmas.

Step 1 - Get Shoes and Design

I bought some inexpensive Walmart sneakers, took a picture of them, and then prototyped a design using the program:

OSU Shoes Design

Note: The colors in the design are a little bleached out because they were added as a top layer that was at a reduced opacity to allow the background patterns of the shoe stitching to show through.

Step 2 - Prepare Surface and Tape

The surface that was going to be painted was scrubbed with a cotton face pad soaked with nail polish remover. That removes the factory finish and allows the leather paint to adhere better. It is also recommended to lightly sand the surface although I didn’t do that for this project.

The areas that weren’t going to be painted were masked with green painters tape (Scotch #2060). Then I also masked the areas that were to be painted orange since I was painting gray first.

Step 3 - Paint the Colors

It’s recommended to paint a base coat but for this project I just laid down multiple coats of the final color. First I painted the gray areas with an airbrush, first coat being a light one to establish the base. In between I used a hair drier to help the paint dry faster.

After three coats of the gray I removed the mask from the large orange area and masked the gray areas. Then I repeated the process for the large area with the airbrush for three coats. For the small orange area I hand-painted it with a brush.

The paints I used for this step were Angelus Orange Acrylic Leather Paint and Angelus Gray Acrylic Leather Paint.

Step 4 - Paint the Finisher Coats

For the final finisher I sprayed three coats of the Angelus Acrylic Matte Finisher. This protects the finish and also tones down the shine a bit.

For the logo I made several attempts at making a stencil and then spraying the black paint over it. The practice runs were on an old shoe and they turned out unsatsifactory due to overspray. There were some premade stencils online but weren’t the correct size. I finally just bought a premade sticker online and used that which was an OK compromise since these shoes where only for occasional wear.

Final Result

The final result wasn’t bad for a first effort and I learned some techniques along the way:

OSU Shoes Completed

On the “Kobe Bryant” shoe project I did after this one I learned a lot about making the stencils for a logo and may make a run at redoing the logo for these shoes to replace the sticker.

Update - January 2024

The sticker wasn’t satisfactory for long-term use because it would separate from the shoes at the edges due to the curvature of the shoe. I decided to remove it and try the stencil like I used on the “Kobe Bryant” project.

To make the stencil I used “Oracal 813 Stencil Film". I reversed an outline of the OSU logo and then taped it to the top of the stencil and cut through it with an X-Acto knife. The reverse mirror image was necessary because the sticky material on the stencil is on the top paper that will be removed:

Cut OSU Stencil

The stencil backing was then removed and attached to the shoe and hand painted black. One thing that helps is not to apply light coats multiple times to avoid the paint seeping under the stencil.

Painted OSU Stencil

After the paint dried and the stencil removed there were a few areas of touch-up required:

  • Filling in the blank areas caused by the little “bridges” that held the stencil together.
  • Painting over the paint that seeped underneath the stencil.
  • Thickening a few points that came out too thin from cutting inaccuracies.

The final result came out OK and looks better integrated than the original sticker.

Completed OSU Logo

The next article in the series is about the Kobe Bryant shoe project for our grandson:

Painting Sneakers Part 2 - Kobe Bryant

The third article in the series is about a Starry Night sneaker project for my wife:

Painting Sneakers Part 3 - Starry Night