Shoe Win: How to Dye Leather Shoes Like a Pro

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.

64 comments | Click here to reply

That’s awesome Kiley!


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.


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!


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


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


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


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 Lee

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.


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 Lee

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


That re-painted pair of shoes looked really amazing – I love the shade of red! Did the dye last long?

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

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!


Awesome Candace! So glad to hear that.


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

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!


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


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.


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

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