DIY Guide: How to prepare a shoe for customisation

Have you ever tried painting a hard surface without sanding it? 9 times out of 10, it will not work. The paint job with be patchy and you’ll have to start over. The same applies to painting shoes. If you paint directly onto them without preparation, the paint will likely crack and damage. It’s a straightforward step but tends to get overlooked, and not everyone realises what has gone wrong when the end result is unsatisfactory because of the botched paint job.

Preparing your shoes is one of the most important stages of the customisations process. It creates a workable surface for you to paint on, removes dirt and/ or residue as well as helps your paint bond with the shoe easier for a longer-lasting and more durable design.

How to prep

On the market, the prepping agent is commonly known as a 'deglazer'. It is essentially a mixture with an acetone base which help breakdown or strip off the finishes and paint from whatever you're working with. Angelus and The Footwear Care offer leather specific deglazers. Another great resource to use is Sneaker science this is where I purchase most of my product from.

Alternatively, you could also use a common nail police remover (the one with acetone in). Please be very careful when working with acetone. Make sure not to breathe in the fumes I recommend wearing a face mask as a precaution. 

All you need to do is dab some of the mixture onto a cloth or cotton wool pad and give the shoe a good and thorough wipe down. Acetone all areas you will be working on. If you are just customising the tick then just acetone that area. If you are painting the whole shoe then all panels will require deglazing. 

It should take 1-2 minutes to dry and then the shoe is ready to be painted on, it really is that simple! 

Don't be worried if you see some white residue on the pad, it means you have cleaned through the finish and now touching the paint so you can work on the shoe. Another tip is that the shoe will look slightly duller when the finish is removed (mainly using airforce 1).


Take a look at our step-by-step guide for shoe customization if you need some help with what to do next. 

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