I decided to try my hand at doing custom shoe designs. Since I’ve been a professional artist for far more years than is comfortable saying, I figured I had most of the skills.
It turns out the trick is not so much knowing how to paint but in creating the draft for the final work. A canvas hightop may still be a canvas, but at that point the similarity ends.
Your typical stretched canvas is not round, and certainly not the shape of an old-fashioned basketball shoe. I had to create a rest for my right hand so I could hold it steady while keeping the brush at the proper level for detail work. Air brushing is actually easier since all you’re doing is spraying color into a fixed area.
I found that, even though I could get some pretty cheap white high tops at the big box discount stores, the Converse brand uses a higher quality of canvas and white dye so the colors come out brighter and they also seem to adhere into the material of the shoe a bit better which is what you want if you wish to keep the pair around for a while.
In doing my research I came across a good number of sites that sold custom painted shoes, and some of the art was of a very high-caliber, but they were using acrylics. Now acrylics are a fine medium, if you’re painting onto canvas or board, but it really doesn’t like to be flexed all that much, especially if sealed for permanency. I would not want to be the artist receiving an email from someone who just played a pickup game in their new $300-plus dollar custom art shoes and found that the art now resembled a 500-year-old fresco in need of repair.
Yes, acrylic dries faster, is more light permanent and allows for greater detail, but it tends to crack and peel, especially if the shoe is washed or put under continued stress, such as that applied in walking or running.
There were a lot of designs using super heroes, old masters and a lot of cartoons. What I did not see were too many that were personalized, and that’s a shame. It doesn’t take that much to do a decent portrait or something that makes such a piece of art special to the one ordering it. At least, I don’t think so. Let me know what you think.