Shoe Win: How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

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DIY // How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

So…I may be completely crazy for doing this…but I painted my Swedish Hasbeens. Now, before you pull your hair out in disagreement, I feel like I ieould mention that I have literally NEVER worn these shoes out and I have had them for YEARS. No exaggeration. Which is exactly why I decided to paint them. So that I could actually wear them.

Okay, so now that I’ve over explained myself. Let’s get to the before and after photos. Here’s the side by side…

DIY // How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

DIY // How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

I’ve been searching for a more colorful neutral lately, so I went with a rich wine color. Which works with pretty much every outfit I own…or close to it. Mission accomplished. Now I can finally get some use out of these puppies.

To dye leather like a pro, you’ll need a good textile dye, a paint brush, and some painter’s tape. My favorite textile dye is Dye-na-Flow by Jacquard.  That’s what I used for this project and the leather bound notepads DIY. Good stuff! AND it also helps if you’re dyeing a lighter leather, like mine. 

DIY // How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

First things first – be sure to tape off the areas that you do not want the dye to go. You want to make sure the tape is nice and secure to get a crisp clean line. This really helps to make the finished shoe look like it was always the new color (as opposed to painted on, which isn’t always a cool look).

As for the dyeing, it works just like paint. The only difference is that it’s less forgiving than paint. You need to apply pretty even coats for the leather to maintain an allover color that doesn’t appear blotchy. It’s still simple to do though, even with a larger surface area to cover. You’ll just have to go over the entire area several times with a paint brush and more dye to get even coverage that builds up over a few layers.

More Tips: I also found that painting in just one direction and not overfilling your brush with dye helps with getting even coverage.

Once you’ve reached the desired color, allow the dye to dry completely before using. You can get your blow dryer out to speed up the process, if you’re impatient like me.

DIY // How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

DIY // How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

DIY // How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

Photography by Linda Jednaszewski
Concept and styling by Brittni Mehlhoff

So now that you know how to dye leather shoes like a pro, think you’ll give this DIY a try? I bet there’s at least one pair of shoes in your closet that you could get some new use out of it with a quick dyeing facelift.

46 comments | Click here to reply

Love that wine color! Do you think this DIY would work just as well with a handbag…or would the dye rub off on clothing?
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Kimberly | May 27th, 2015 at 8:35 am

That’s a good question Kimberly. I would say that it probably depends on the type of dye you are using, but if you use the same one that I use, you can actually heat set the leather, either with an iron or with this stuff called Airfix http://www.jacquardproducts.com/airfix.html if using an iron isn’t practical. For best results, the leather should be untreated. Hope that helps.

Brittni | May 27th, 2015 at 9:32 am

They turned out amazing , these are definitely on my try out list !

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Lola | May 27th, 2015 at 11:02 am

I don’t think I have any leather shoes to dye… but I’m loving the idea!
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Amy W | May 27th, 2015 at 11:34 am

Thanks Lola and Amy.

Brittni | May 27th, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Very nicely done! Oh, I love red shoes! They go with everything! (: I like buying cheap shoes and dressing them up by dyeing and other DIY methods like painting on them/sewing beads etc. Life is too short for ugly shoes! (:

Love your shoes – they look so cheery now!

xx Jia, honeyandgazelle.wordpress.com
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honey&gazelle | May 27th, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Ha. I completely agree…life is too short for ugly shoes. :)

Brittni | May 27th, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Wow. I love what you did there!

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Ujjaini | May 27th, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Thanks, Brittni! I’m going to give the heat setting a try. I’ve been wanting to extend the life of my white handbag by dyeing it for ages!
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Kimberly | May 27th, 2015 at 12:34 pm

This is awesome! This would be such a fun way to revamp an old pair of shoes!

Paige
http://thehappyflammily.com
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Paige | May 27th, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Gotta try this with my leather purse. Thanks for sharing! :)
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Eleigh | May 27th, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Great idea! Any tips for painting shoes that are man made fiber?
I found shoes I love so I bought a 2nd pair in a very light tan, with the plans to somehow paint them PURPLE. I was thinking that the paint they use to paint vinyl car seats might work. But I have yet to find a purple. AND I would rather not have a spray paint because the shoe has a flower on the front that would be hard to cover if spray painting. It might make a blobby mess. LOL
Any ideas?

Robin | May 28th, 2015 at 9:01 am

Hi Robin. There are lots of textile paints and dyes that also work on synthetic materials. Usually, it will say the types of materials the dye or paint will adhere to right on the label. The dye that I used (Dye na Flow) actually works on synthetic materials as well. So, it would be the same process that I shared in the tutorial. Hope that helps. :)

Brittni | May 28th, 2015 at 10:15 am

thanks for posting! I have some Frye boots I’ve wanted to dye. I bought them online in “banana” not realizing how yellow they really were in person. I now have to buy some dye.

Carissa | May 28th, 2015 at 8:58 pm

[…] ¿Quieres renovar tus sandalias? Pues este tutorial para teñir piel te irá perfecto. Además nos confesamos fans de estos […]

Ideas para el fin de semana - Demodé | May 29th, 2015 at 2:22 am

[…] Who knew dyeing leather could be this […]

Friday Links! - The Crafted Life | May 29th, 2015 at 3:15 am

Were do you buy your dye at? Love this idea of dyeing shoes ect.

sreynolds | May 29th, 2015 at 10:42 am

Hi Sreynolds. I bought mine locally, but you can also get it on Amazon. The color I used can be found right here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009IJZJK/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0009IJZJK&linkCode=as2&tag=papernstitch-20&linkId=WX5PLJATYYS46IEB but there are plenty of other colors on Amazon as well. Just search Dye na Flow. Hope that helps.

Brittni | May 29th, 2015 at 11:24 am

I am intrigued. I have a pair of Doc Martens sandals that I haven’t worn in years, that would look super cool dyed. Praying for courage…..

Cathie | June 1st, 2015 at 9:15 am

Good luck Cathie! I think this would be a perfect experiment for sandals….especially if you haven’t worn them in a while.

Brittni | June 1st, 2015 at 9:39 am

Lot’s of shoes to give a new lovely life in Holland. Let’s Dye!

Anita | June 2nd, 2015 at 8:28 am

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This Week + A Freebie » Lovely Indeed | June 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am

Bought some white leather nike boots, will like to dye the boots brown are dark brown. Can you help out please. Do your company dye shoe.

Emmanuel Caldwell | February 3rd, 2016 at 11:11 am

Hi Emmanuel. I don’t dye shoes professionally. I would recommend following the instructions in the tutorial above (first testing on a small surface to make sure that this project will give you the desired look). Hope that helps.
-Brittni

Brittni | February 3rd, 2016 at 11:22 am

Hi Brittni
Just wondering how to stain black leather shoes in red….fire red?
Thanks a bunch
Julie :)

Julie | March 28th, 2016 at 11:50 am

Hi Julie. For a dark color, like black, you first would need to lighten the leather, and then go through the dyeing process that I outlined in the post. I don’t have much experience lightening dark leathers, but there are a few tutorials online, using natural light, acetone, and/or bleach that you can look up. Once you’ve done that, they should be okay to dye that fire red color you’re hoping for. Good luck!
-Brittni

Brittni | April 4th, 2016 at 5:16 pm

This DIY is the best! I bought a pair of Cape Clogs online & the light lime color didn’t go with anything in my closet. I was going to try & use shoe polish to darken the leather, but I am so glad I found this method first! I used the Ochre Dye-na-Flow and I wanted a neutral nudeish color (very similar to the color in your before photo). Capte Clogs come with untreated leather, so I think this helped make the dyeing process that much easier for me. The Ochre color worked perfectly! I am so pleased with the end result, they look straight out of an anthropologie catalog! Thank you for the great tip!

Candace Grace | April 9th, 2016 at 5:02 pm

Awesome Candace! So glad to hear that.

Brittni | April 9th, 2016 at 5:17 pm

There are a pair of sandals I really, REALLY want, but they’re discontinued and only found on eBay.

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.shoebuy.com%2Fpi%2Fwolve%2Fjb%2Fwolve508093_5626_jb.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.shoebuy.com%2Fmerrell-henna%2F508093&docid=Su_zwb1mboNryM&tbnid=USSTfiDm2ps5JM%3A&w=450&h=270&client=ms-android-google&bih=604&biw=412&ved=0ahUKEwjU6pKe457MAhUBWmMKHbzXD4sQMwgeKAIwAg&iact=mrc&uact=8

They are dark so I’m not worried about the dyeing, but I am worried about the cord that goes around them. According to the seller, they’re decorative but tired into the sole; can’t t take em off temporarily.

So wondering if you think it would be a total fail to tape off that thin cord; if not, what do you suggest I tape/cover it with? I would be totally adverse to dyeing the cord, too, but do you think the cotton would take leather dye well?

I’ve looked all around and found Nada on the web; I called one cobbler and he said he wouldn’t take the job because of possible bad results.
A quick response would be GREAT. Thank you so much!

Jessica | April 20th, 2016 at 11:28 pm

That re-painted pair of shoes looked really amazing – I love the shade of red! Did the dye last long?
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Dressu.org | July 20th, 2016 at 3:27 am

Thanks! The dye is permanent, so it’s been doing a great job holding up to the elements. Hope that helps, Dressu.

Brittni | July 20th, 2016 at 10:07 am

I have a pair of beige colored sandals that have what looks like a grease spot on the front strap. I would like to paint them black. But I am concerned the grease spot will come through the paint as a darker hue. What do you think? If it will be darker any solutions…perhaps priming the area?

Thank you,
Carol

Carol Lee | September 21st, 2016 at 4:50 pm

It’s hard to say without seeing the stain, Carol Lee. But my first inclination would be that if you’re using a deep color dye like black you should be okay without doing anything else. If it were me and I was committed to dyeing the shoes regardless, I would wet the entire area of the grease stain and the surrounding leather with a damp cloth first. Then let it dry completely before dyeing. Hope that helps.
-B

Brittni | September 21st, 2016 at 9:39 pm

Thank you! My local Michael’s did not carry the paint you suggested to use. I guess I’ll order on line.
Thanks for your advice!!
Carol

Carol Lee | September 23rd, 2016 at 3:56 pm

How can you make paint around the thread of your shoes that it didn’t cover in paint? :-)

Anh | October 11th, 2016 at 12:11 am

It’s pretty easy to find online, Carol Lee. So that’s probably your best bet, if you couldn’t find it locally.

Brittni | October 11th, 2016 at 8:42 am

Hi Anh. I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you’re asking? Can you rephrase? Happy to answer!

Brittni | October 11th, 2016 at 8:43 am

Yayyyyy!!!! I’m moving into winter with my nude hasbeens, and as much as I’d like to buy a new black pair, I just can’t. Soo… I’m going to try the dye!

Phoebe | October 26th, 2016 at 12:24 pm

I have saved more than one pair of shoes by giving them a new color. It’s surprisingly easy. I have even gone so far as to re-dye an entire leather sofa, using the same basic method to turn a curb-side reject into a super comfy and expensive looking piece.

Kiley | November 11th, 2016 at 7:48 pm

That’s awesome Kiley!

Brittni | November 13th, 2016 at 11:08 pm

I am trying to gauge how much due to order. Was one jar plenty to cover your clogs? I understand more is used if you want darker results.

Thank you for this article! 8 can’t wait to spruce up my stark white Hasbeens to a nice Scarlett red!

JD | November 14th, 2016 at 11:05 pm

Great question, JD. One jar is plenty for what you’re planning to cover.

Brittni | November 14th, 2016 at 11:07 pm

My mother in law just gave me some vintage frye clogs that definitely could use a face lift. I thought of dying them but felt nervous. So happy to stumble on this! I’m going to do it!

Lexi | November 16th, 2016 at 8:17 am

Great! Let me know how it goes Lexi. I think you’re going to love how they turn out.

Brittni | November 16th, 2016 at 2:38 pm

You may have already mentioned it and I missed it….what was the name of the leather dye you used and where might one order this leather dye?

RedFabb | November 20th, 2016 at 12:29 am

Hi there. Here’s the link to the dye I like to use… http://amzn.to/2ferzRS It’s on Amazon.

Brittni | November 20th, 2016 at 7:38 pm
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