Hello everyone! We’ve gotten a lot of questions about how we paint our shoes, so we wanted to address the basics of painting with Angelus paints. We’re not being endorsed by them or anything, by the way – these are just the best paints we’ve found for the job.
First of all, what are Angelus paints? Angelus is a brand that makes an acrylic paint that is suitable for leather and vinyl. It can be mixed to obtain any color you wish, and they have a great set of colors to start with, too – and they even have GLITTER paints! This means you can paint any leather or vinyl shoe, fabric, belt, gloves, or other accessory ANY color you need! We typically end up painting shoes and boots for senshi.
Next, where can Angelus paints be purchased? A quick Google search will point you in the right direction, but we usually recommend Amazon or ordering directly from Angelus (https://angelusdirect.com/). The paints can be sourced at brick-and-mortar locations too, such as at Tandy Leather Co., or various specialty stores. We’ve even seen them sold at Michael Levine in the LA Fashion district. A small bottle goes a long way – the 1oz sizes seem tiny, but are usually enough to paint most shoes. If you’re painting tall boots, you might want to order more than one or get one of the larger size bottles, but that’ll be up to your discretion.
In order to start painting, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Angelus paint in whatever color(s) required
- Angelus’ Leather Preparer and Deglazer
- Angelus’ Acrylic Finisher in the shine you desire
- Adhesion Promoter (If painting patent leather. We’ve used the Dupli-Color brand)
- Cotton balls/pads
- Paper towels
- Something to protect your work surface
- Paintbrush or foam brush
- Painter’s gloves
- Painter’s tape (masking tape works well in most cases, too)
Now you may be thinking, wait a minute – I thought I just needed paint? What are the deglazer and finishers for?
The deglazer sold by Angelus is a gentle form of acetone that is designed to strip the factory finish from whatever leather or vinyl surface you intend to paint. You may be tempted to save money and use regular acetone that you already have at home, but please do NOT use regular acetone on your shoes or vinyl fabric unless you want to run the risk of ruining them. It’s really not worth ruining your perfect base shoes over a $4 bottle of deglazer.
It can also be EXTREMELY tempting to skip deglazing altogether, but it is NOT worth skipping unless you want to have your entire project fail. You absolutely need your surface prepped for paint, and you don’t want those factory finishes interfering with your project! Here’s an example of why you should ALWAYS use deglazer:
The left piece of vinyl was left as-is, and the right piece was deglazed. This is not a trick of the light – the shine present on the left piece is due to the finish applied to the fabric from the factory. This also prevents your paint from sticking well and – even worse – prevents it from drying properly!
Here’s what the pieces look like after one coat of paint. A photograph cannot express this well, but the left piece (left as-is), took nearly 2 months to dry, and the right piece (deglazed), dried in the proper amount of time (roughly an hour or so).
The deglazer also doubles as an “oops fixer” – if you accidentally paint an area you shouldn’t have, you can take a Q-tip or cotton ball/pad dipped in the deglazer to gently rub and remove the paint.
The acrylic finisher is just a topcoat that will protect the paint job you applied. You can skip this step if you really want to, but if your piece gets scuffed and the paint comes off, you’ll really wish you had applied the topcoat… so our recommendation is to always use the finisher. Plus, the finisher is only about $4 a bottle.
The actual process of painting is very straightforward. Please make sure your painting station is set up in a well-ventilated area that is not too humid. If you’re painting in the Texas spring the way we often do, try to paint indoors where it’s air-conditioned (away from your pets, especially if you have birds!), and let your paint sit a bit longer than recommended on the bottle.
We use cotton balls to apply the deglazer, and most often do about 3 deglazings before we begin painting. It’s generally a good idea to let your project sit a little bit after you’ve finished deglazing – it doesn’t need to be too long, but this might be a good opportunity to go check on something else you’re working on (or grab some food).
Next, use your painter’s tape or masking tape to mask off the areas that you don’t want painted – for example, your shoe’s heel, or an area at the top where a stripe is going to be added (you don’t want to waste paint)! Once your project is masked off, you can grab your paint and begin painting!
The 1oz bottles come with a little paintbrush in the lid. These are good for small projects or ones that require a careful hand, but for boots or larger projects, you’ll probably want to switch to a brush. Apply your first coat LIGHTLY – it’s very tempting to rush the painting process, but you will need multiple layers anyway and you may as well do it right, so don’t be too heavy-handed when applying layers of paint.
Let your paint dry for about an hour (or more if it’s very humid). Then you can apply the next coat, let it dry, and repeat the process as many times as needed. The amount of coats necessary is entirely dependent on your project – we’ve needed as few as 3 coats, to as many as 10. Just keep on painting until you’re satisfied with the coverage and color.
Once you’ve finished painting, make sure you let your project sit a little bit longer. If you’ve followed directions, all your coats of paint should technically be finished when your last coat is done drying, but depending on the climate you’re in or if you rushed things a little bit (don’t squirm too much, we’ve all done it), you should let it sit about 24 hours before moving on to the next step.
Once your project is completely and 100% dry, you can topcoat it. Angelus sells various finish styles in their topcoat, so you can make your project as shiny or as matte as you like. We apply the topcoat with a brush and recommend about 3 layers, just to make sure you have a well-done project that won’t get ruined.
And that’s it! Now you can peel off your masking tape and enjoy your newly painted project.
A note on patent leather:
Working with patent leather is the same process, except that after you have sufficiently deglazed the surface, you’ll need to apply two to three coats of adhesion promoter since the surface is slicker. Apply a moderate coat to the surface and allow each coat to dry fully before adding the next. Once the third coat is dry, proceed painting as normal!
Since we’ve painted a great deal of pieces with this paint, we have some special recommendations based on experience that we’ve gathered over the years. A lot of these are miscellaneous tips, so we’ll just list them as bullet points…
- PAINT YOUR PIECES EARLY ON IN YOUR COSPLAY-MAKING PROCESS! We know how easy it is to get lost in other pieces of your cosplays, but you really don’t want to leave your painting for the night before the con! It’s very easy to work in a coat of paint between other cosplay tasks, so we recommend doing all the deglazing and setup work early on, to leave your project ready for paint in between other steps of your cosplay. Then if you leave your painting station out, it’s easy to remember to put a quick coat of paint on your pieces before you run to work or before you eat dinner!
- The deglazer can remove the finish off the heels or other non-leather/vinyl pieces of your project. Be careful when using this if you don’t want to strip the color from other parts of your project!
- DO NOT use marine vinyl for your project if you intend to paint it. Marine vinyl has a very extreme factory finish, since it’s intended to be used outdoors and has to withstand sunlight, moisture, flame, mildew, cold, and many other things. It’s very unfriendly to paint and does not play nicely with glue after it’s painted, either. No matter how hard you try with deglazer and no matter how long you let your coats of paint sit, your paint will not dry in a satisfactory way. Take it from us, and avoid it if you intend to paint it!
- Angelus paints CAN be used with an airbrush – please refer to Angelus’ website for more info on this!
- Is the zipper of your boot a different color than the final color you want it? You can paint plastic zippers with thin layers of Angelus, too!
- We’ve also had luck painting leather shoelaces with Angelus paint. If you have regular shoelaces and desperately need them to be a different color, you can either buy them from We Love Colors, or give Angelus’ GAC-900 Fabric Medium a try! (NOTE: We haven’t tried the Fabric Medium ourselves yet, but it seems very promising!)
- Angelus paints also work well with EVA foam! It’s a bit expensive, but if you REALLY need a piece to match (say, shoes to a prop piece), it works wonders!
- If you’re worried about color matching, paint a spot in a small, inconspicuous area. Let this test spot dry completely before deciding if the color will work or not – Angelus paints DO look different wet vs dry.
Painting can seem like a long process, but the end results are always worth it. In fact, we usually prefer to paint shoes, rather than make covers for them, because the results are often more realistic and durable.
If you ever have any questions, you may email us or contact us at any of our social media platforms. You can also refer to Angelus’ own FAQ, which is a WONDERFUL resource: https://angelusdirect.com/pages/faq-1
– Cosmic Coterie