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How to change the color of leather shoes

Updated April 17, 2017

Quality leather shoes can withstand years of wear and tear. Great construction combined with timeless design make them classic essentials in any wardrobe. But what happens when you want a bit of change to follow current trends? Instead of tossing out your favourite shoes, you can easily alter their colour. With some painting and dyeing products from a local craft/fabric shop or an online store like Amazon, you can give your old favourites a new life and a new modern twist. Get ready to be trendy!

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  1. Strip leather shoes of dirt and oils by applying leather stripper with a clean cloth, rubbing to remove any oil or sheen. This will help the paint stick to the leather.

  2. Protect areas of the shoes that you do not want painted by covering these spots in masking tape.

  3. Prepare your painting area by covering it in old newspapers or a tarp to prevent possible paint stains and splatter.

  4. Test the paint on a blank sheet of paper to get a feel for how the brushed paint or spray paint works. It will also give you a better idea of how much paint you will need and how to apply it.

  5. Apply thin coats of the paint with long strokes. If using spray paint, hold the can vertically about 12" away from each shoe and spray evenly using a sweeping motion. It's OK to see the original colour peeking through.

  6. Let shoes dry for about 2 hours. Apply second and third coats as needed.

  7. Polish the shoes lightly with a leather shoe polish, following the directions on the container.

  8. Again, prep your workspace by putting down tarp or newspaper. Strip leather shoes of dirt and oils by applying leather stripper with a clean cloth, rubbing to remove any oil or sheen. This will help the dye stick to the leather.

  9. Apply a thin first coat of dye evenly with the brush. Let this coat dry for about 30 to 45 minutes.

  10. Apply a second coat of dye. Let dry for 2 hours.

  11. Lightly buff shoe with a clean cloth to even out application. Use a polish on the cloth for a glossy finish.

  12. Seal the dye with a leather dye sealer.

  13. Tip

    Always paint in a clean, well-ventilated area. The paints used have strong odours that can be harmful in closed spaces.


    Testing the colour of the dye or paint before application is crucial since the possibility for reversal is minimal. This process should not be undertaken by children.

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Things You'll Need

  • Paint Made for Leathers (such as Waproo Color Change Paint, or a Spray- On Paint)
  • Leather Dye (such as Waproo Leather Dye)
  • Leather Stripper
  • Clean Cloth
  • Leather Dye Sealer
  • Synthetic Bristle Paint Brush (if your paint/dye doesn't come with one)
  • Blank Paper
  • Newspaper or Tarp
  • Masking Tape
  • Shoe polish (optional)

About the Author

Darren White

Darren White is a third-year student studying photography and art history at Haverford College. Raised in the Philadelphia area, he has followed its art scene for some time, which has influenced his column, The Fashion File, that he writes for the "Bi-Co News." He also writes, edits and photographs for Haverford's fashion magazine, "Feathers & Fur."

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