Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes

Having shoes that perfectly match the dress was the ultimate touch of luxury for the fashionable Victorian (and Edwardian, and quite a few other eras!), so of course I needed a pair of Emily pink shoes to go with Emily’s pink dress.

This is how you dye fabric shoes.

Start with your plain, undyed dyeable fabric shoes: (yes, they really do need to be undyed, and uncoloured – shoes that are already coloured/dyed have almost certainly been treated with a surface finish which will make it very hard for them to absorb a new dye, plus the colour that they already are will affect the colour you want to achieve.)

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

I’m using a pair of 90s bridal shoes that I paid a whopping $8 for.

Try to determine if your shoes are silk, or synthetic (or, less likely, cotton or linen).  If your shoes are a natural fibre like silk, linen, or cotton, use a natural fibre dye.  If your shoes are a synthetic like polyester, you will need a synthetic dye.  Remember that satin is a weave, not a fibre, and satin can be either silk or polyester.

My shoes are silk, so I’m using the same iDye silk dye that I used to dye the fabric for my Emily dress, a 3/1 mix of iDye Pink and and iDye Sunny Yellow.

If you are lucky, your shoes will come with trial swatches, for you to try your dye colour on.  If they don’t, have a few swatches of similar fabrics for you to try your dye colour on – a selection of fabrics will give you a good idea of how your dye will look on a variety of surfaces (and hopefully your shoes!).

Mix your dye according to the stovetop instructions.  I filled my dyepot with water, brought it to a boil, added 3/4 a cup of vinegar, and then added the dye.  I stirred and simmered for 10 minutes to ensure that my dye was thoroughly mixed.

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

My steaming, boiling, very pink dyepot

DO NOT mix dye in a pot that you will ever cook food in.  There are lots of chemicals in dye that you do not want in you!  If you don’t have a dyepot, pick up a cheap one at an op shop.

If you want to dye your shoes a very dark colour, only use a small amount of water to the dye powder, to ensure that the colour will be saturated enough.

With the dye ready, try your sample fabrics and check that your colour is right.

As I was dyeing dress fabric at the same time, that got to double as my test.

My first dye mix, pure pink, was too blue pink, so I added a bunch of yellow to achieve a more coral pink.

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

The second, coral, trial sample on the larger blue-pink sample

You may want to blow-dry your fabric sample, or run it through the dryer to see exactly what it will look like, and to speed up the drying process so you can get to your shoe dying quicker.

With the correct colour achieved, I got to start on the fun part: dyeing the shoes!

Now, for fabric, you want to throw your fabric in the pot and stir like mad.  This is NOT how you dye shoes.

Nope, you paint the dye on.

Fill your shoes with wadded up white tissue paper.  I do not recommend using newspaper or coloured tissue paper as the printing ink & dyes can run and stain your shoes.  You don’t have to do this step, but it does help to keep the dye from seeping into the inside of the shoes (I skipped it).

If you want to paint your heels a different colour, mark them off with painters masking tape, slipping the tape as far as you can into the join between the heel and the shoe.  You will still need to be very careful as you paint not to get too much dye near the heel.

Using a wide, high quality brush, dip your brush in the dye, and paint your shoes using long smooth strokes.

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

Painting a layer of dye on

Paint each shoe with two full coats of dye.  Ensure that the dye colour is even across the shoe.

With two coats on each shoe, it’s best to let the shoes dry.

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

The shoes after the first two coats have dried

Save your dye – you don’t want to switch colours between coats – unless, of course, you decide the colour isn’t quite right in the first two coats, and need to adjust the tint just a little.

Once your shoes are fully dried, they will probably be just a little paler than you want them to be.

Heat your dye solution up again, and paint another two layers on.

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

Painting the 1st layer of the 2nd set of of coats

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

The front shoe has a full 3rd coat, the back only the dried first 2 coats

Tutorial: how to dye fabric shoes thedreamstress.com

Both shoes have 4 coats of dye

Set your dye solution aside, and let your shoes fully dry a second time.

When your shoes have fully dried from both coats assess them.  Are you happy with how deep the colour?  Has it fully covered and seeped into the shoes?  If so, yay, your shoes are done!

If not, continue to coat and dry until the colour is deep enough to make you happy.

Good luck!

When your shoes are fully dried, you may want to spray them with Scotchgard or a similar product to fix the dye and protect them from spotting.

Update: Thanks to all the people who are finding and using this tutorial!  If you have a question, please read all the comments as it has probably been answered there.

Please note that it is very difficult to dye an already coloured and dyed shoe, and that you CANNOT dye a shoe a lighter colour than the one it already is.  Nor can you dye a shoe or bag a colour that is across the colour wheel from the one it currently is.  A blue shoe cannot be dyed red – it will come out purple.   A green shoe cannot be dyed pink, it will come out grey or brown.  Do not attempt to bleach your shoes to remove a previous colour.  Bleach is a very harsh chemical and will seriously damage the materials of your shoe, significantly shortening their lifespan (if not ruining them immediately).

145 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Renee Blue says:

    I have shoes dyed by a cobbler (shoe shop) that went pretty good with a dress I wore for a wedding 7 years ago. Now I want to use the dress and shoes again, but the shoes seem to have become blue-er, like sky blue than the periwinkle dress that appears light purple now. Plus, someone at the past wedding spilled their drink and I see splash marks (lighter blue) on parts of the shoes. SO….. If I try to re-dye to a darker, maybe purplish color on the shoes, do you think there is any chance the splash marks would disappear? And….do you think that color would blend and even come close?
    Thanks.

  2. Savannah says:

    Can shoes be dyed again? I want to dye some apricot heels lipstick pink. Thank you.

  3. Kara says:

    dsw.comI need to dye some shoes dark blue by Saturday and it is suddenly very difficult to find Dyeables here in town. I was thinking of buying these shoes from DSW, that come in a light grey and attempting to dye them royal blue (or even a little darker). Think there is any hope of that color coming out right?

    http://www.dsw.com/shoe/lulu+townsend+mindy+sandal?prodId=273678&productRef=SEARCH

  4. Corinne says:

    Hi there! Thanks for the tutorial. I have Fuscia silk wedding shoes that I would like to just take down a few shades to a dark burgundy. A friend recommended I use black dye to do this – what do you think? Thank you!

    • Don’t use black dye, that will just dull them and give you a really weird shade – you’ll need some combination of red, blue & purple. Experiment with watercolour paints to see what colours turn fuchsia in to dark burgundy.

  5. Bmac says:

    I have some purple dyed shoes, I have never used them ! I want to dye them black! Is that possible! What dye do I get and where???

  6. […] Dye your shoes. This works especially well with fabric covered shoes. There are leather dyes available […]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP (66.155.8.232) doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP (66.155.11.238) and so is spam.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Hi, I have a pair of faux suede light grey 100% polyester shoes. I tried dyeing them with dylon hand wash but the dye just washed off after (originally I did not know they were polyester). How can I dye them purple. Thanks.

  8. Judy rankin says:

    Enjoyed your tutorial on how to dye shoes. I have a pair of bright white shoes from Walmart that have a webbing over the toes and a ” leather” around the sole. I would like to dye the shoes black but a navy blue would be okay too. Can I use the same process or would a Rit fabric dye work better? Thanks for the help!

  9. MRSVQBD says:

    Hi,
    I’m trying to dye my white satin shoes a champagne color. How can I achieve that?

  10. Leo says:

    I just bought some MEN shoes that are leather… They already have a print.. which are LEOPARD print.. the leather they utilized had synthetic hair… my guess so they can look like they were actually made out of LEOPARD skin. The black part of the spots on them, were not black, they were more like a dark brown. So I want to dye them BLACK. What should I use to dye these shoes that will not make the dye run or fade if I use those shoes in the rain or something. Also.. the sole and the heel part of the shoes is TAN and I want that BLACK as well… the heel feels like if it is wood, so does the sole. How do I dye the sole and heel black as well, same concept that will be PERMANENT.

  11. Jennifer Redfern says:

    Hello, I have brought some purple converse for my sons dance competition footwear. However, they aren’t the correct shade and are a lighter shade, more pink than purple. Can I dye them plum purple and what best type of dye should I use?
    Thanks

  12. thando says:

    hello there
    I have these grey boots that id like to dye black and I was wondering if it would possible to dye them black without a challenge of having a weird shade afterwards

  13. Linda says:

    I have a pair of pink dyed shoes that got wet when my niece got married a couple of months back. Could I redye the shoes or would the water mark stain still show?????

  14. Michael Herbst says:

    hi, I just got a pair of grey and black nike inflict wrestling shoes. How would I only dye the grey part vegas gold?

  15. Adelya says:

    Dear Dreamstress,

    I have Rainbow Club Christy satin shoes. Is it possible to paint them with Dylon handwash fabric dye? I would like to have a tea rose colour. Is it possible to get by mixing pink + yellow colours? Thanks!

    • Heather says:

      I was also wondering the same….

      I have white wedding shoes that I’m looking to dye black with the dylon black handwash fabric dye! I’m assuming it will be okay?

      Thanks

  16. Melanie says:

    Do you have any suggestions for using a light gold dye on white satin shoes? Light gold or “champagne” color. Or if that color dye is even available?

    I have a bridesmaid who needs to dye her similar shoes to match the same color as my other girls.

  17. Kyra says:

    Can dark pink shoes be dyed dark purple?

  18. Valentina says:

    Hi, I came across your post on dyeing fabric/shoes. And I got this very infectious idea to try dyeing this cute pair of shoes I got. They are a fabric oxford, medium blue roses on white background. They are very cute, but I think would be more practical if the background was more of a taupe color. Can I send u a pic of these to see what you think? I’m also not sure what king of material they have-it’s not silky like your shoes in the post, feels more like cotton?? (Almost like the type they would use on sheets? Same type of weave rather I guess). I would appreciate your input! Please email me so I can maybe send you a pic and see what you think. Thanks a million in advance!

    • I’m sorry, I really can’t give individual advice on dyeing shoes. I’m an extremely busy person, and can’t be much help without seeing things in person, which we can’t do over the internet. This tutorial is just that – a tutorial. You’re going to have to try out a few examples, experiment, get some experience, and then decide for yourself, And know that you’ll make some mistakes along the way, as happens as you learn most new skills!

  19. Christy says:

    I am currently dyeing a pair of shoes to match a dress I’m making for a show I am costume designing. I used RIT crystal dye mixed with rubbing alcohol (let crystals fall to bottom before painting) and a sponge tip brush. It is working out very well and I have a lot of control over the concentration of dye. Alcohol helps it dry faster and not saturate the shoe so it doesn’t loose it’s shape. Hope this helps anyone who needs it!

  20. Carol Fletcher says:

    I have a pair of purple satin shoes with matching clutch bag that were bought for my sons wedding and was wondering if they would be able to be dyed black, as we cruise quite a bit they would be worn much more than they are now

  21. Amanda says:

    I have Taupe color shoes can I make It lighter Taupe color as it is not matching my dress. it is Satin and what king of dye it is not silk. thanks

  22. Martha Inman says:

    Help! I need to find someone to dye a pair of satin shoe for me…I have searched the internet and cannot find a place to have this done. PLEASE help..or advise where I can buy the dye…I need a turqoise for
    a wedding. Thank you…M

  23. Joleen says:

    Can I die my silver shoes green?

  24. emma says:

    Hi can I dye silver satin shoes to ivory ?

  25. Nana says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I have a question about making the shoe lighter so it can show the different colour better.
    So I’m planning on dyeing a pair of fabric ankle booties like these but they’re beige:

    http://bestonmax.com/images/radiant/2013/TASTEFUL-RA-PURPLE-LEFT.JPG

    And I’m wondering if it’s safe to paint bleach and/or pre-dye onto the shoe first, and then paint the dye onto the shoes? And would yellow be able to show better if it was bleached/pre-dyed? Thanks in advance and have a wonderful day! :D

    • I DO NOT recommend bleaching before dyeing. Bleach will seriously damage all shoe materials and significantly shorten their lifespan. This tutorial is really meant for undyed shoes, as it’s hard to colour over previously dyed shoes.

  26. Carla says:

    Hello, I have just purchased a pair of Rainbow Club Dyable satin shoes. I wish to dye them navy blue, however they have diamonte and petals on them is it possible to dye these without damageing them
    Thank you for your assistance x

  27. Chasity says:

    I have a pair of mint green Vans shoes that are pretty faded. I am looking to dye them with fabric dye, but i would like to know if it would be a good idea to bleach them before i do. Would it make it easier to dye if they are bleached lighter?

  28. Susan says:

    Do you use fixative after dying silk shoes or try to seam set them in some way to prevent fading and bleeding?

  29. amy trevino says:

    I have a mint green pair of Badlgey Mischkas that are regularly $250 and I found them at Nordstrom rack for $96. I want to dye them a royal blue as my something blue for my wedding. I have no idea when I’d ever wear these as a lime green shoe but I cant seem to find someone that I can trust to dye them.

    There is a shoe hospital here in Austin that everyone is recommending me to but they have horrible Yelp reviews and warnings to not go there (not for dye jobs but for shoe sole repair, heel repair etc. )
    Was wondering how I could dye these since I am indeed dying them darker and they are not across from each other on the color wheel.

    Any suggestions or should I just give it a spin on the shoe roulette wheel and go to the austin shoe hospital?

  30. Dawn says:

    Hi

    I have a pair of dyeable wedding shoes that I bought at a thrift store for my daughters wedding. They have a couple stains on them and an ornament on the toe. They are off white. The stains are not real noticeable and I would just like to brighten them up a bit. Like using the same color of dye. Is that possible? Just wondering about the ornament as well.

  31. amy trevino says:

    Is there absolutely no way for me to dye these pale light pastel green shoes to a royal blue color myself? what color would I need to dye them to get them royal blue. THe fabric of the shoe is satin and chiffon wrapping. I just cant imagine having to pay full price for these shoes and add on top of that the price of the pale shoes I already have. Please help? any advice?

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