Sunday, 14 July 2013

Canvas shoe art

I've been having some fun drawing on canvas shoes. I first came across the idea when browsing Instagram. There are a number of custom shoe artists out there and from what I can see, the concept is a very popular one.

Here is a breakdown of my experiences with drawing on shoes...

The first pair of shoes I had planned was my take on a Chinese dragon and tiger. I have dubbed the work, crouching tiger, hidden dragon. I probably should have sketched and planned it all out on paper first but instead, I just drew the pencil lines straight onto the shoe...

Then I inked it over using a fine tipped Sharpie pen..

The Sharpie did bleed into the fabric of the shoe if I held the nib in contact for too long. Despite this, I was quite pleased with the result. Next, I added colour. I bought some alcohol based marker pens from a brand called Kurecolor.

The alcohol markers also bleed but it was less of a concern here as the black lines allowed plenty of give. I like the rich colour saturation the pens gave for the orange.

For the second shoe, I practised on paper first, then applied the pencil lines more carefully...

I was worried about bleeding with the Sharpie pens so after a bit of research, bought some Posca Pens. These are water based pigment paint pens so I figured they would be less inclined to bleed.

I was correct and the black went on really well.

The Posca pens were also good when laying down the dragon colours. Being opaque I could add light onto dark, though I didn't really use this much for the dragon...

Although the two shoes used different subject matter, I think as a pair they looked complimentary.

After seeing these my wife wanted a pair too. So we went out to buy some ladies canvas shoes. These are taller, covering the ankle, so gave me a lot of space to place art. She wanted some koi and dragonfly. I used solely the Posca pens on these pieces...

The koi was fun to do and easier to draw because there are so many examples of Japanese koi art on the internet so it was easy to find references. The dragonflies were harder as I pretty much had to make it up as I went along - there aren't many dragonflies drawn in the Japanese tattoo style.

For fixing the art I used a can of art varnish (matt) on the tiger and dragon, but I left the wife's shoes unfixed. Posca pens are permanent and I did a mini water test on them to see if they would run. They did not. Though I do expect them to fade with use over time. One mistake I did do was to spray my tiger shoes with Clark's Shoe Protector. These killed my Sharpie pen lines. I guess the spray contained some sort of acetone or other solvent that reacted with the ink lines and obliterated them. Luckily it was only a small test patch, but still horrible to see.

Painting on shoes is the ultimate in customised art, I really enjoyed trying this for the first time. Hopefully I will have time to make some more.



  1. Love your artwork! Did you prime the shoes first?

    1. No primer I painted straight onto the shoe.

  2. Hey there I've actually just recently decided on getting into doing customized canvas shoes. I was pretty happy to find your blog as I've been looking for tools that are going to give me that Grade A look to the finished work I do. Clearly the Posca Pens are where to go.

    My thing that I've always had concerns about is maintaining of the shoe. I know for leather based shoes you can put on a protective coat and call it a day. Granted I know it's been a few weeks but do you have any advice or suggestions on making sure the quality look lasts?

    1. I don't use any protective spray, these shoes are good to go and my wife has worn the top photo pair in all weathers and the artwork remains intact. Obviously the shoe and the art will deteriorate with time in the normal process of wear and tear, in which case, I would just draw another.

  3. love your work ,shoes shirts all of it amazing ,best of luck in all you do .

  4. Can I ask u something?how to keep the color maintain (I use a sharpie pen)Im scare if I make to customer the color can't maintain so long