In today’s post: Learn how to make your own American Flag shoes using acrylic paint or fabric markers. Fun summer craft project!
Today’s project is a great craft idea for teens and adults: DIY American Flag shoes. I grabbed some $6 white canvas shoes at Walmart and turned them into flag shoes, perfect for wearing around all summer. Thanks to star stickers and masking tape, these shoes aren’t hard to make and don’t require any artistic skills. This would be a fun summer craft activity to do with friends!
NOTE: Be aware that kids may not have the motor skills to “stay in the lines” while decorating these shoes, so if you do this project with kids instead of teens or adults the shoes will likely end up looking a bit messy…but most kids won’t mind.
I ended up making two version of these shoes because I wanted to try out using both fabric markers and acrylic paint so I could tell you which one works better – read on for the pros and cons to each method as well as step by step instructions.
To make American Flag shoes, you need a pair of white canvas sneakers. I found these at Walmart for $6. If your shoes have laces, remove them before you begin decorating.
You’ll also need small star stickers, which you can find in the office or school supply section. Also, you’ll want masking or painter’s tape and a way to cut it into 1/4 inch strips (I put the tape down on a cutting mat and used an exacto knife and ruler to cut it into strips).
Finally, you will either need fabric markers OR acrylic paint + foam paintbrush + textile medium (optional, see below).
Fabric Markers vs Acrylic Paint
You can make these shoes with either fabric markers OR acrylic paint. There are pros and cons to each option.
Fabric Markers are nice because they are easier to use and less messy than paint. I found them easier to control, especially around the edges of the shoes that I wanted to leave white, and I was able to get cleaner lines with the fabric markers. The finished look is a little bit faded and worn, which my teenagers thought was cool. Also, the fabric marker ink goes on nicely and the canvas stays very soft.
The drawback to fabric markers is that they are a little expensive, especially if you have multiple people who want to make flag shoes. I couldn’t find fabric markers in individual colors, so I purchased a 10 pack of Tulip Brand Brush Tip fabric markers for around ten bucks. I don’t know how many pairs you could do before the blue runs out, because you end up using a lot of ink for the blue.
Acrylic Paint is your other option, and the main benefit of using paint is that you can buy just the colors you need for under a dollar each at any craft or big box store. If you want to make lots of shoes, acrylic paint is probably the way to go since you don’t use much paint at all per shoe. Acrylic paint will also give you brighter colors, which you may prefer.
The drawback to using acrylic paint is that it tends to dry a little stiffer than fabric markers, and if you apply a thick coat it may end up cracking in places if the shoe bends a lot when you walk in it. I mixed textile medium into my paint, which turns normal acrylic paint into fabric paint which will be soft and flexible when dry. I already had textile medium on hand; if you don’t, it can run between $5-$10 dollars, so if you choose to purchase it your cost may be close to the cost of using fabric markers anyway (find it on Amazon or at a craft store). However, if you are making multiple pairs of shoes, it will be cheaper to use paint even if you do buy textile medium.
Finally, you may be able to find fabric paint in red and blue at a craft store – just don’t use puffy paint, which is not the same thing.
Either method should give you permanently colored flag shoes!
How to make DIY American Flag Shoes
- White Canvas Shoes
- Small Star Stickers
- Masking Tape or Painter's Tape 1/4 inch wide OR plan to cut it down
To Decorate Shoes with Fabric Markers
- Fabric Markers red and blue
To Decorate Shoes with Paint
- Acrylic Paint red and blue
- Small Foam Paintbrushes
- Textile or Fabric Medium optional, for best results
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- Place star stickers on the section of shoe that you plan to color blue. Press them down well to adhere.
- Cut masking or painters tape into strips 1/4 inch wide. I did this by taping a long piece of tape to a cutting mat and using an exacto knife and ruler to slice it into 1/4 inch wide strips. Run the tape around the sides and back of your shoes to create stripes.If desired, you can also use tape to mask off the white sole of the shoes. I didn't bother with this and was just careful as I drew or painted near the soles.
- If you are using fabric markers, begin by outlining the blue section of the shoe. Then color in the blue section. I used strokes that were all going the same way, and when I was close to a star I started the stroke on the star and drew away from it, to ensure I didn't accidentally move a star out of place and color under it.Then use the red marker to color in the stripes along the sides and back of the shoes, being careful not to color on the sole or "trim" along the top edge of the shoe.
- If you are using paint, apply stickers and tape as directed above. Mix your paint with fabric medium, if desired, according to fabric medium instructions. Begin applying blue paint to the top of the shoe by dabbing the paintbrush straight down onto the shoe. This helps ensure the stickers stay in place and paint doesn't bleed under them.
- Be careful when applying paint near the soles. If you do get paint on the soles, you can wipe it off with the corner of a wet paper towel.
- Fill in the red stripes, again using a top down dabbing motion.You may want to let the paint dry and then go over any spots that seem patchy with more paint.
- Remove the star stickers and tape along the sides to reveal your design. If you painted the shoes, it can be helpful to use tweezers to remove the stickers and tape.Allow shoes to dry thoroughly before wearing.
Tips for Success
If you use paint, it’s VERY important to apply paint in a dabbing motion, bring the brush straight down onto the shoe and then back up again. If you try to paint normally, with back and forth strokes, you will get paint under the tape and star stickers.
If you use markers, your finished shoe will look better if you use strokes that all go in the same direction. Start a stroke on a star and draw away from the star to make sure you don’t accidentally displace a star sticker with the marker. It will take a little longer to color the entire section this way, but the end result will look much better