How to Paint Canvas Shoes With An Easy Patriotic Theme

Transform your plain white shoes into stunning patriotic footwear for the 4th of July! 

Let me show you how to paint canvas shoes and make a statement this Independence Day with your custom-designed shoes.

feet up on a railing with patriotic tennis shoes resitng on the rialing. The shoes have red and white stripes  with a blue tongue that has white stars. Laces are red velvet

Today is the Handcrafted Society Monthly post. Amy @amysadlerdesigns took the lead this month and challenged us to paint something red, white, and blue.

If you came over from Amy’s blog, Welcome! I don’t doubt that you loved Amy’s amazing flower pot project. She is one talented gal. You will want to see all of the projects this month. Check out all the links at the end of my post.

Handcrafated society post

Did you know you can rejuvenate an old pair of leather shoes or create an original design on a pair of vinyl shoes? Who knew?

But today, I am going to focus solely on how to paint canvas sneakers.

What Type of Paint to Use on Canvas Shoes?

The first thing I want to go over is what is the best paint to use on shoes made of canvas material. 

There are several different types of paint you can use. However, I prefer fabric or acrylic paint mixed with a fabric medium for the best results.  

Despite trying to keep it simple with just three colors, I still couldn’t find exactly what I needed among the limited selection of fabric paint options.

So, I opted to mix acrylic paint with fabric medium, giving me access to a variety of different colors.

How tp oaint canvas shoes Americana red paint
how to paint canvas shoes- true navy bottle of paint

Did you know they make spray paint for fabric? 

I find this product intriguing. I need to find a great way to put it to good use.

Supplies You’ll Need to Paint Canvas Shoes

  1. ​One pair of white canvas shoes
  2. Acrylic medium
  3. Acrylic paints 
  4. Masking tape or painter’s tape
  5. Electrical tape that is 1/3-1/2 inch wide 
  6. Stencil brush
  7. Small paint brush 
  8. Avery star stickers 
  9. Paper towels
  10. Paper to put on the table to protect your workspace 
  11. Waterproofing spray or acrylic sealer spray
  12. X-acto knife or small scissors

Shop Shoe Craft Supplies

Shopping guide for shoe post

On my blog WM Design House, I may sometimes use affiliate links, which means a small commission is earned if you purchase via the link. The price will be the same whether you use the affiliate link or go directly to the vendor’s website using a non-affiliate link.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Paint Canvas Shoes

1. Select and prepare the shoes

If you are using your own shoes and they need to be cleaned, here are my suggestions to get them looking spiffy before you paint them. 

For optimal results, it’s best to wash them by hand, instead of in the washing machine. This takes a bit more time, but the results are much better. Here are the easy steps. 

  1. Using a 5-gallon bucket, add 1 cup of baking soda to one gallon of warm water. 
  2. Add a small amount of laundry detergent.
  3. Remove your shoelaces from both shoes.
  4. Soak your shoelaces and shoes for 1-2 hours. 
  5. Use a scrub brush to scrub away any stubborn stains. 
  6. Rinse your shoes thoroughly with cold water. 
  7. Air-dry your shoes outside.

I purchased new shoes. They are an inexpensive pair of high-top white canvas sneakers. I chose the high tops so I would have lots of space for the stripes.

White tennis shoes on a girl sitting on a counter

Here are a few of my top picks for new white canvas sneakers.

2. Plan your design

I used a basic design for my shoes that did not require much skill. You can use my simple idea or sketch out your own unique design.  

This is the perfect way you can express your creativity. I would suggest you draw it out on paper first and then use a light pencil to draw the design onto the pair of canvas shoes.

Unique hand-painted designs are amazing, but this was my first time painting shoes, so I wanted a quick and easy way to create my patriotic sneakers.

3. Taping your shoes (creating the stripes)

I used electrician tape to create the stripes on the sides of my shoes. I did this for two reasons. First, I wanted narrow stripes. you can not purchase painter’s tape in this width. Secondly, you need tape that will stick well to the canvas material. I experimented with several different types of tape and found the electrician tape was the best option.

  • Run a tape line along the rubber edge at the bottom of the shoes. Rub the tape against the canvas with some pressure to make sure it adheres well.
How to paint canvas shoes-A canvas shoe with tape run along the bottom of the shoe near the rubber sole
How to paint canvas shoes-A canvas shoe with tape marking the area to paint the stripes for the patriotic shoes
  • Cut a few one-inch pieces of tape and place them above the first line of tape several inches apart to guide your second strip of tape.
  • Run the second line of tape using the one-inch pieces as your guide.
  • Repeat this process until you have all of your stripes taped off.
how to paint a canvas shoe- a shoe with taped off stripes on the side in preperation for painting
  • Be sure to remove all of the one-inch tape pieces before you paint.
  • In addition, tape off any part of the shoe that you feel may be in danger of getting paint on it using masking tape or painter’s tape.
  • Use paper towel to put inside of the shoe to help give the shoe some stability.
How to paint canvas shoes - a tennis shoe all taped off for painting a patriotic theme.

4. The painting process (the stripes)

  • To create durable paint for use on fabric, it’s recommended to mix two parts of acrylic paint with one part of fabric medium in a cup or on a paper plate. Then, stir the mixture using a paintbrush. Fabric medium will help the paint to adhere to the canvas well. (always read the instructions on the bottle for full details)
  • Paint thin coats of paint on the white canvas stripes using a small paintbrush.  (I used a bright red for this first layer)
  • I did not want my stripes to be a solid color, so I used a dry brush with very little paint on the brush.
  • Apply a second layer of paint with a deeper color red using the same method.
  • Allow this paint to dry for several hours.
  • Remove your tape carefully.
How to paint canvas shoes - a white high top tennis shoe with tape marking off the stripes that are painted red

​5. Prepping and painting the tongue of the shoes

  • Tape off the stripes around the top edge of the shoes and along the lacing line and the toe.
  • Be sure to leave the paper towel stuffing in the shoes.
  • Place a folded paper towel behind the tongue of the shoes.
  • Place the Avery stars on the tongue in a random pattern.
Canvas shoe that is taped off and has star stickers on the tongue in preperation for painting
tongue of tennis shoe with star stickers. Background has been painted blue.
  • Using a stencil brush, dip the brush in the navy blue paint and dab the excess paint onto a paper towel first.
  • Use a dabbing motion, paint the background of the stars to your liking.
  • Allow this to dry for several hours.
  • Remove the stars using the tip of an Exacto knife or a small pair of scissors.
How to paint canvas shoes- removing the star stickers on the tongue of the tennis shoe after painting the background.
Close up of Patriotic painted shoes. A tongue of the shoe is painted navy blue with white stars.

6. Seal the paint

You want to protect your shoes using a waterproofing spray, Mod Podge, or an acrylic sealer.

  • Read the directions on whichever sealer you choose.
  • Mask off the rubber sole of the shoes.
  • Apply a thin layer of your sealer with a brush or spray. Be sure to cover the entire canvas surface of the shoes.
  • Allow this layer to dry overnight.
  • Apply a second thin layer of sealer on your shoes and again allow them to dry for several hours or overnight.

Replacing the laces of your shoes

You can choose to use the laces that came with your shoes or use a ribbon like mine. 

I used a red velvet ribbon that is 1/4″ wide to add a touch of charm to my sneakers. 

You could also use grosgrain ribbon as well for a sporty look.

Velvet ribbon used as shoe laces on a pair of patriotic tennis shoes painted with stripes and stars.
Up close of the patriotic tennis shoes and velvet laces
After picture of girls sitting on the counter with her feet hanging off . She is wearing jeans and her patriotic hand painted hight top white tennis shoes. There are stripes on the sides and stars on the tongue with red velvet laces.

Some common questions asked about painting canvas shoes

How do you prevent paint from cracking on shoes?

There are two main things to remember if you don’t want your paint to crack. 

  • Make sure you have thin layers of paint.
  • Be sure to mix the paint with the fabric medium.

Shoes hanging on a door knob
bottle of fabric painting medium

How do you prevent the paint from bleeding through on canvas shoes?

  • The paint will only bleed through if your brush is too wet and you have too much paint on your brush.
  • Remember that you can always add more paint, but it is very hard to remove excess paint.
  • Also, the excess paint on your brush can create bleeding under the tape. 
Tennis shoes painted with red stripes on the sides and the tongue is navy blue with white stars. White laces have been replaced with red velvet ribbon

What are some tips for painting canvas shoes?

  1. Be sure to use the right kind of paint for canvas shoes. 
  2. To ensure the best results, it’s crucial to let the paint on your shoes dry and cure completely before wearing them. Depending on the paint type, it can take several days to a week. Rushing this step may cause the paint to smudge or peel off.
  3. Canvas shoes with painted designs should not be machine washed if they become soiled. Instead, spot clean with a damp rag and a mild detergent. To avoid damaging the design, avoid vigorous scrubbing. Air dry the shoes instead of using a dryer.

Additional Tips

  1. It’s important to note that the paint on canvas shoes can fade or chip over time. To keep your kicks looking their best, touch up the paint as needed with the same type of paint and the original colors.
  2. After the paint has cured, protecting it from dirt, water, and other harmful elements is crucial. Applying a sealant is recommended at this stage to shield the paint. Use clear acrylic spray or fabric sealant, ensuring you are in a well-ventilated area. Read and adhere to the instructions of the product to ensure maximum effectiveness.
  3. Do not use a hair dryer or a heat gun to try and dry the paint faster.

That about wraps it up for me. I hope you enjoyed my quick tutorial on how to paint canvas shoes. This project only took me about 2 hours, so I hope you give it a try.

Now it’s time to move on to my friend Regina @savedfromsalvage You are going to really love her patriotic planter on her newly painted chair.


Be sure to stop by to visit all of these beautiful Patriotic DIY projects.

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  1. These are such fun Wendy, they are a feature over at Handmade Monday 🙂

  2. Hi Wendy. I was so inspired by your painting on your kicks that I wanted to give it a go as well. I bought them through your link and painted them yesterday on a beautiful lazy Sunday afternoon. Wish there was a way to show you my finished product. Just love the way they came out. My future DIL wants me to make some for her wedding party for afterwards only painting sunflowers and bees. Thanks for the inspo. So glad I found your blog. 🙂 Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy, I am glad you liked them and painted a pair yourself. Please send me a picture at [email protected]. I would love to see them. Can I put the image in my newsletter?
      And how fun your daughter is going to make them for her bridal party. That is such a great idea. I would love to see them as well. I am so glad you found me too.
      Have a wonderful day.

  3. Clever, very clever Wendy. I recall drawing on our shoes as a teen and getting into trouble for it! LOL. Love the stars on the tongue of your shoes!

    1. You were trying to be creative and got into trouble…
      I suppose I would not of been too happy with my kids either if they
      made a mess of their shoes.

      1. LOL! Yes, now that I am older, I understand why she was upset. I am getting so inspired to give a piece of my clothing an upcycle. Once upon a time, I worked for a popular retailer while going to school. Customizing clothing in the store was the thing to do, we had stations set up… we ripped jeans, used stones to age them, and cut holes in the necks of the t’s. At the time, I thought why not do this to items you have at home instead of purchasing new clothing and destroying them in the store? Of course, what do I know? Ha! Okay, now I am off to see what I can create!

  4. Wendy, these shoes are so cute. I love tennis shoes with designs. Love your shoes! I am going to share in my Sunday newsletter.

    1. Thank you, Michele. They were easy to make. Your granddaughter would love them.

  5. Oh Wendy! You’re a hoot! I love how these cute these shoes turned out! Thank you for sharing your talents!

  6. These are adorable! And so clever! I am obsessed with the red velvet ribbon! You better wear these at Haven so I can see them in person! Pinned!

  7. The cutest shoes, Wendy! My daughter would love them! I pinned them to my patriotic board to share. Adorable!


    1. Thanks, Jen, I am giving these to my daughter-in-law, she will love them too.

  8. Your high tops could not be any cuter Wendy! Excellent tutorial you provided, and I love the shoestrings! I want to make a pair for my granddaughter!

    1. Thank you, Michelle. I originally planned to make them for my three granddaughters but lost track of time. Maybe this weekend I can do that.

  9. Now those are some cute kicks!! Love your creativity, Wendy!! 🇺🇲

    1. Haha, they were so fun to make. They are getting passed down to my daughter in Law. She will love them.

  10. So darn fun Wendy! I love how you painted the tongue of the sneaker as well. Such a clever idea. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Susan, I will be styling on the 4th.

  11. So cute and clever of you! Love the stars and stripes of course. Thanks for organizing the Handcrafted Society (and inviting me)!

    1. Thank you, Diane. Now I am passing them on to my daughter-in-law. She will love them.

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