Friday, February 20, 2015

DIY Tie Dye Shoes (with Sharpies!)

Hey everyone!

Straying from my usual type of post, I got a little crafty and decided to make a post about something I did myself while Patrick was out of town!

The idea is to make tie dye shoes using the following supplies:

  • White Canvas Shoes
  • Sharpie Permanent Markers
  • 91% Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Medicine dropper
You may also need: 
  • Paper Towel
  • Plastic Bag(s)
  • Acetone
  • Q Tips
The inspiration came from this Pinterest post, originating from a girl named Ashlyn Hale. I had been planning on doing this project for a few weeks now, but when I saw that one of my favorite Youtubers, Bunny (aka Grav3yardGirl) posted this video about the exact project, I had to do it! 

I went out and gathered all of my supplies, which I got from Wal Mart. The entire project cost me about $26.70 (+ tax). The good news is that the only thing that I "used up" was the pair of shoes. I still have 85% of the isopropyl alcohol, all of the Sharpies, and both of the eye droppers that I got in the package I bought!

I started by choosing the colors that I wanted to use on my shoes (I actually ended up adding in an extra green and an extra yellow, which are not pictured here, however they are pictured in the next photo).

Then, I started drawing my dots. The coloring process took 10-15 minutes, which I completed while I was watching a show. I didn't take too many progress pictures because I got kind of caught up in the coloring!

Finished with drawing!

Now, I'm a crazy person, so I was a little bit bummed that the shoes didn't turn out identical, which I really can't expect with a project as subjective as this one, but once I started doing the rest of the steps, I ended up being really pleased that they were a little bit different and I wished that I had done more to make them obviously different. 

Because I was doing this in the living room and I would lose my mind if my carpet ended up tie-dyed in only one spot, I first laid down a flattened plastic grocery bag (the one that my items came in from Wal Mart) and then doubled up two pieces of paper towel and put them on top of the plastic bag. The idea, which worked extremely well, was that the paper towel would absorb any run-off liquid and anything that soaked through the paper towel would simply hit the plastic bag. 

Then, I just placed the shoes on top of the paper towel and plastic bag, opened up the bottle, filled the dropper with alcohol, and went crazy.

It turned out that the more alcohol I added, the more the colors bled (which is what I wanted). I spent about 15 minutes on this process and even got my hands a little dirty (or stained, if you will) by picking up the shoes and tilting them to make sure that the alcohol worked with gravity and bled the way I wanted it to.

Here is the end result directly after I finished the first alcohol soak, while they were still wet:

As they dried, the dots started to become less pronounced and continued to soak into the shoes, making the "dye" more even.

Because the alcohol has so little moisture in it, the shoes began to dry very quickly, so as an experiment I soaked them with alcohol again about 45 minutes into the drying process, just to see if the colors would bleed a little bit more and the dots would spread out further, which they did! 

Completely dried after a second soak in alcohol

Final result!

Left Shoe:

Right Shoe:

I'm super pleased with the end result! These are such a cute, cheap project. I would definitely recommend doing this as a project for yourself or even as a group project for kids, teens, social groups, parties, etc.! I can't wait to wear them!

What I would change:
I can't say that I would for sure do anything differently, since I haven't personally experimented with any other options and I don't know the outcome, but I think that this could be done in a way to prevent the dots from staying. Possibly scribbling on the tie-dye design and then using the alcohol to blend? Maybe use only the lighter colors, since those seemed to blend out the best? This could definitely use some experimenting, but for now, I'm cool with my groovy new shoes. 

I also had some trouble with the alcohol bleeding onto the rubber parts of the shoes, and more alcohol didn't take it off, so now I have stained rubber bits. I was not really jazzed about this, so I tried removing it with acetone. This DID work, however it worked because it corroded the rubber part of the shoes that I was trying to remove the ink from. I did continue the process until I was pleased with the result, but I would be a little more skeptical about doing this if the shoes weren't only $6. It also got a little dangerous in some spots, because if you get too close to the edge of the shoe where the design is supposed to be, the acetone will make the inks bleed upward. 

I have a couple ideas about preventing the bleeding from happening. I feel that tape or painter's tape won't necessarily work because it may just come off due to the moisture. I have a thought that painting Elmer's Glue on just the rubber edge and letting it dry may prevent the staining, and then after the shoes are finished it will peel off. However, this may not work because the moisture will just make the glue sticky again. I have no idea, so if someone tries this, please let me know. 

The other idea I have is Vaseline. Apply it evenly to the rubber edge after you've drawn on your dots and then start with the alcohol. I think this method may work better. Again, if anyone tries this, let me know! I will also update all of you if I try either of them or find a method that works. 

Example 1 of the bleeding I was trying to remove

Example 2

A bit of the shoe where the acetone moved the ink the wrong way. As you can see, the acetone did remove the bleeding, however it affected the ink in the fabric when I got too close to it. 

Note: Due to the fact that 95% of the comments on this post (and on this blog in general) are spam comments that I have to personally moderate because I won't allow questionable links to be posted on something I'm associated with, I have permanently disabled comments. My sincere apologies to anyone who may have a genuine comment or question, it seems that bots have ruined it for everyone!


  1. Maybe try putting tape around the rubber of the shoes so it doesn't bleed. I so am going to try this with my daughter and her friends at her birthday slumber party this weekend. I'll let you know how it went

  2. I can't wait to try this! I got a pair for me and my daughters, will post a pic of the finished product 😉. Got this from a friend on Facebook and figured since my one daughter is heading out on vacation thought she might like to have some fun kicks to show off to her cousins 😃. Thank you for sharing

  3. Have you work these out in the rain? I'm curious if the color will continue to run once they get wet.

    1. Hi! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Unfortunately the shoes I did were a half size too small for me so I haven't worn them at all (I'm waiting for summer to come so that the store will re-stock the blank canvas shoes!) however, I do have some insight. The original poster did mention that when she would wear her shoes and sweat in them a lot, her feet would get stained with the colors from the shoes. Additionally, when she posted a photo of her "current day" shoes in comparison to the first photos, they were very faded (however I think that made them look cooler, in my opinion). I know that when using real tie-dye methods, vinegar is often used to "set" the dye in the fabric. I think that would be worth a try if you're concerned about the colors fading or running off on your skin... But they definitely shouldn't bleed. There is a reason that alcohol is used to displace the colors and make them bleed versus just plain water (alcohol separates the molecules in the ink so that they run with the alcohol-- something water by itself cannot do). I hope this helps!

  4. I've wasted 3 pairs of shoes doing this. I've followed these steps every single time, but the color never spreads. What am I doing wrong???

    1. Hi there! I apologize for the late reply. Here are some things that I think could be a potential problem:
      1. The shoes must be canvas. They can't be faux leather or anything like that. I have no experience with shoes that may have a rubber inside-- the ones I used were 100% canvas with nothing on the "back".
      2. The liquid used to spread the colors is 91% Isopropyl Alcohol; water will not work.
      3. The Sharpies that I used were brand-name. I've seen huge packs of off-brand "Sharpies", which look like a good deal, but I have no experience with them and I have no idea if they would actually work.

      I know you said you followed all of the steps each time so I'm sure you've already done these things, but without actually being there to see your supplies, I can't provide much more information. I hope that it does work out for you and I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help!

  5. I really want to try these but I'm wondering what will happen if I get caught out in a down pour of rain, which is most likely in the north of England!? X

    1. From what I understand, they will inevitably fade over time, and the colors may bleed on to your feet with prolonged wear while they are wet! I have heard of setting tie dye with white vinegar but I haven't tried it on these, so if you do I'd love to hear the result!

  6. Looks very cute - I'm going to try with my granddaughter! I had a thought about the bleeding. Since they are canvas, I wonder if doing a cooler wash then drying in the dryer would heat set the color? They may fade a little, but it would be worth it if they didn't bleed onto your skin! Thanks for the post!

    1. I bet that would be a great idea to try! If you do, please let me know the end result! :)

  7. I think if you use actual fabric markers from JoAnn's fabrics and then set it with vinegar like you do with regular tie dye, it might keep it from dying your feet when they get wet. I'm going to try this for next summer. Thanks for the cute idea!

  8. Pretty. I like the fact that the dots are still visible.

  9. I bet spraying Nikwax would help to repel the rain and keep them from fading as bad. These look awesome!

  10. So glad you shared this! I love the dots and am going to try this on my next pair. I used the YouTube video from Micheal's Craft Store which coated around the soles with Vaseline to keep the Sharpie from coloring them.
    For the link to their video and to see how I created my sneakers go here:

  11. Hey, I was super excited about dog this project and I got all the supplies and I colored the shoes one day but figured I would come back and do the alcohol a different day. I used all of the right supplies but I'm concerned that the colors aren't blending now... Should I have done it the same day? I didn't think it would make a difference.

    1. I'm certainly no expert since I've only done the one pair of shoes, however I think there could be two reasons why it may not have worked. The first is the reason you stated-- since I did the alcohol right after I finished coloring, the ink didn't have quite as much time to set so it moved around with the alcohol. The second is that the shoes you picked up may be treated somehow-- perhaps waterproofed or something to prevent them from yellowing (but again, this is just speculation). Even if you got the exact same pair of shoes that I did, stores change manufacturers all the time based on how low they can get the prices, so a product may look exactly the same but may also be made differently. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you, I wish I had better answers!

  12. How do you get the alcohol smell out of the shoes? Do you wash them or ???

    1. Hi! The alcohol simply evaporates out over a few hours and does not leave a smell when it is gone/the shoes are completely dry.


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