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!

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).

139 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Rowenna says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve been itching to dye my white wedding shoes a zany color (now that the wedding’s four years past, it’s about time!). Any recs for your preferred dyes for synthetics?

    Love the coral-pink final product!

  2. Rae says:

    I’m curious how you mixed the dye colors, since iDye comes in that single dissolvable packet. Did you just open it up and sprinkle the dye in your pot/water?

    • I just snip open the dye packets, and sprinkle in, and then save the rest of the dye in a glass jar. The dissolvable packets are the one thing that actually bugs me about iDye. I feel they don’t dissolve entirely, and then little gummy bits can adhere to the fabric.

  3. Kara says:

    Love your site! I’m studying with City & Guilds at the moment. Love all things textiles. What’s the benefit of the hot dyes over the Procion cold dyes?

    • I’ve always achieved much better, stronger colours with hot dye over cold dye. It’s also much harder to find the cold dyes here in NZ, so it’s partly a matter of what’s available! If you have had good results with the cold, then by all means use them!

  4. Carmen says:

    Yo tiño algunas veces, con tinte en frio Dylon y tengo buenos resultados, pero son dificiles de conseguir.
    Gracias por este blog tan fantastico.
    Te sigo siempre.

    • Thanks Carmen! Good to know other people have good results with Dylon cold – it’s certainly more convenient if you can get it.

      (What follows is my translation of what Carmen wrote – hopefully I didn’t get it too wrong as my Spanish isn’t the best!)

      I sometimes dye with Dylon Cold Dye and have good results, but it is difficult to obtain. Thanks for this blog. It’s so fantastic and I follow it all the time.

  5. Isis says:

    They’re gorgous!

  6. Thank you for the tutorial! I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but at least it satisfies my curious learning side. :-)

  7. Carolyn says:

    Lauren (American Duchess) sent me the link to your site for this tutorial. I just received my “Georgiana” shoes from American Duchess and I’m ready to dye them. I must admit I’m a little nervous as these are not thrift store shoes, but you gave clear instrustions soooo here goes!

  8. Anna says:

    Hi! How to you fix the colour? Do you iron the shoes?

    /Anna

    • I’ve found that the colour is already very stable just as I have described it, but it you are really concerned about it, spray the shoes with a fabric protector, such as Scotchgard. The technique is for fabric shoes, which aren’t meant to withstand a tromp through the mud or a frolic on a wet lawn though!

  9. Julia says:

    Hi there – thanks for this!

    I have found the perfect shoe for my 5 bridesmaids but they are only in ivory so this is a great site (and bonus that you are from NZ!!)

    Can you pls tell me where you purchased the dye from?

    Cheers

  10. Maggie says:

    Hi there, I have a pair of dyeable white silk satin shoes and have managed to get some dylon satin shoe dye in ivory. However, it says on the back of the box that it is not suitable for silk! Dose this mean that I can’t use it on silk satin? I would really appreciate your advice. Many thanks, Maggie

    • If you are sure your shoes are silk (silk being a fibre, satin the weave) and the Dylon dye is for synthetic satins only, than it won’t work on the silk. I didn’t use special shoe dye for my shoes – just a regular fabric dye, and with a bit of Scotch Gard to protect against stains, and they are holding up really well.

  11. Angie says:

    hello, if you dye the shoes i just want to know if the form wont change, i mean become smaller?

  12. Heather says:

    I have dark brown/green shoes and I want to dye them black, will I have a hard time doing this ( cause your ad says to start with white or light colored shoes) ?

    • If they are dark brown/green fabric it should be possible to dye them black – just use black dye. The fact that they are a dark colour will actually help you – you don’t have as far to go from dark green/brown to black as you would from white. You’ll need to do lots and lots of layers. Be aware that black is one of the hardest colours to achieve with dye, so your shoes may always have a slightly greenish tinge.

      Good luck!

  13. Laura King says:

    Just an FYI, “Touch Ups” brand of dyeable shoes are a cotton/rayon blend, so RIT will work on them.

  14. ch says:

    this is great just what i needed! however my shoes are satin but i have nooo idea if its polyester or silk:( in that case what are my dyeing options? and another think im attempting to dye purple shoes black do u think that will work?

    • If you don’t know if your shoes are natural fibres or synthetic, first buy a dye for natural fibres. Follow the instructions and do a few layers on your shoes. If they make no impact in the colour, your shoes are probably synthetic. If they colour them, wait for the layers to dry, and then get a paper towel wet and rub an inconspicuous part of the shoe. If they dye comes off they are probably synthetic.

      Don’t try the synthetic dye first, because a dye for synthetics will damage natural fibres, but a dye for naturals will just not dye or not stay on a synthetic.

      For dyeing a dark colour black, just see my comment (above) with instructions on that.

      • ch says:

        I noticed you said chances are the shoe will have an undertone of the previous colour. If i were to dye a champagne colored satin do you think it would turn out darker black? or would you suggest sticking with the purple. also where do you suggest finding such dyes?

        thank you again for all your help!!

        • I’d stick to the purple to dye black. You can find fabric dyes at craft and sewing stores such as Spotlight, Michaels, Joannes, Hobby Lobby, as well as online and at smaller locally owned craft stores. Just call around in your area. Good luck!

  15. Michelle says:

    Hey there this is great thanks so much for posting it!!
    I have bought shoes and dye I’m just wondering if there is any prep that needs to be done to the shoes first?
    Or can I dye them straight out of the box?
    I saw a video online in Dutch and she used something like a chemical to rub over the shoes first. Any suggestions on that?
    Thanks so much :)

    • I’ve always dyed my shoes without any extra prep, but I also usually wear the shoes a bit while they are white, and then dye them.

      Perhaps she was rubbing the shoes with rubbing alcohol, to take off any protective coating that may have been put on them, or any chemicals left over from manufacture? I’m really, really guessing here though – to be safest I’d just dye them straight out of the box..

  16. kel says:

    Hello,

    i have a pair of champagne satin sandals i want to dye black. im assuming because i paid very cheap for them they prob arent a realll satin if that makes any sense. however, would u suggest dying it or not to bother? i really need them to be black

    • If you want them to be black, and they are cheap, just give it a try! They are real satin (satin is a weave), so the question is, are they silk fibre or polyester fibre, and that will determine the dye type you use.

  17. Ariel says:

    This is awesome! thank you!!!

  18. Ann-Ashleigj says:

    I have a pair of shoes that are an ivory satin, not specifically for dying. Can I dye them anyway? And I need to do the same with a pair of silver shoes, they will be going a darker gray! Will this work?

  19. Bailey says:

    I have a pair of champagne shoes that I would like to try and dye aqua. Do you think it will work? I’ve never tried doing anything like this before.

    • Hmmm…champagne to aqua might be a bit hard, as champagne has a yellow tone, and aqua is blue. Try to find some similar champagne fabric to test it on, and see how it goes. You may need to use a dye that is more blue than the final colour you want, as the yellow in the champagne will green it a bit.

  20. Holly says:

    I tried this with Dylon dye and the color came out great, but the shoes shrunk A LOT. Sigh. I think they were linen. I’m going to get another pair of shoes and them try again. At least I know the color works.

    • Wow! Thanks for sharing. That’s not something that has ever happened to me (but I’ve never tried linen shoes). The shoes may stretch out again with wear.

      • Holly says:

        The lining under the linen is leather. Maybe that’s why they shrunk? I’m going to try to wet them again, and use shoe stretchers in them.

  21. Dreamstress,

    I would like to dye shoes and a purse, to match a suit. Any suggestions?

    Thank you.

  22. Sue says:

    Many thanks.. been wanting to dye these shoes for the last 5 years and didn’t have a clue how to do them. Never thought about painting on the dye with a brush!!

  23. Evan says:

    Hi, I am dying a bunch of fabric shoes (like keds and knock off keds) for a production of “All Shook Up.” It’s an Elvis style musical and for the number Blue Suede shoes I told the cast they need to bring in a pair of “fabric” shoes so I can dye them . My question is this…

    Is it OK to dye a large batch of shoes IN a giant container such as a trash can or something like that? Just looking for the simplest solution to dye about 15 pairs of shoes.

    Thanks!!

    Evan

    • Hi Evan,

      I wouldn’t recommend throwing shoes in a large container and pouring dye over them – shoes aren’t really meant to be immersed in liquid, and it will weaken them considerably. If the shoes are all canvas shoes like keds, and they don’t need to be absolutely perfect, I’d recommend putting a dye solution in a spray bottle, and spray painting them with the dye.

      Beware that with keds the dye may rub off on the dancers socks or feet. For stage wear you may actually be better off painting the shoes with paint than dyeing them. Good luck!

  24. Patty says:

    I’ve been wanting some shoes I had dyed for a very long time but have had no luck finding a place to have it done. I have no idea what I put different in the search bar this time, but I ran across this and no longer own pink shoes and the matching bag, I am the proud owner of a pair of tan shoes with a bag to match.

    Thank you for simplifying what I had previously considered a daunting task!

    Patty

  25. Claire says:

    this is the perfect colour of pink/coral I’m after, how much of the pink and sunny yellow did you mix to water to achieve it? thanks, cx.

  26. Becky says:

    I have a pair of ivory satin shoes which I love, but I am wearing a white wedding dress. I would love to be able to wear these shoes with my dress. Can satin shoes be died or bleached white? Thanks

    • Hi Becky, unfortunately no, you can’t safely bleach shoes to a lighter colour. Why not dye them blue or pink or another colour to coordinate with your wedding, and have fun contrast-y shoes?

  27. AkCrimson says:

    Hello, I have a very important question for you! One of my bridesmaids has white satin shoes that have some small rhinestone embellishments on them. Will the dye ruin them? Do you know of a way to dye them without ruining the rhinestones?

    Also, I heard that if you are dyeing polyester satin, you need to soak the shoes in hot water first, and dunk the whole shoe in. Is it still possible to do the paint method with polyester satin?

    And lastly (sorry I am a worried bride!), if I have polyester satin, and silk satin, is there any way to dye them the exact same shade, since I would be forced to use different types of dye?

    Thank you so much for this!

    • Hi,

      Dyeing your shoes in this fashion should not damage shoes with rhinestones (unless the rhinestones are VERY poor quality and badly attached, in which case they are going to start falling off with any wear anyway).

      I have found the paint method to be successful with polyester satin – soaking shoes in hot water generally damages the shoe. The worst that can happen with the paint method is that the dye wont take, so you’ll end up with an undyed shoe, or a very pale-coloured shoe. Soaking the shoes may cause them to warp and fall apart, either immediately or as you wear them.

      I think it would be very tricky to guarantee the exact same shade with different dye batches, on different materials.

  28. annika says:

    Just wondering what you do to shoes that have been scotchguarded?

  29. kim says:

    i would like dye a shoe champagne on a light gray is that possible.

  30. Felicity Martin-Porter says:

    Thanks to your tutorial I now have the perfect shade of green shoes to wear on my wedding day. THANK YOU!! I would never have attempted dyeing them until reading this

  31. Lindsey Pryor says:

    What would you do if the shoes were open toed? How much of the inside would you paint? Also…any idea how to achieve a Tiffany Blue color? :)

  32. Ella says:

    Hi Dreamstress,

    I have my white silk wedding shoes arriving very soon and have some diamonties on the small bow on the front. Would it be hard to die the shoes and bow with these attached and how do I get around this problem?

    P.s. I am dyeing them a beautiful deep red!

  33. Kat says:

    dsw.comGreat information! So now I am trying to figure what what kind of dye I need. The shoes I want to dye are “satin upper” , and thats all I can get off the website. Do you think thats silk or poly?
    Here they are:
    http://www.dsw.com/shoe/lulu+townsend+chic+wedge+pump?prodId=225875&activeCats=cat10006,dsw12cat1190016
    I am planning to dye them an aqua color. I can’t wait to get started!!

  34. Kat says:

    Oh…and any advice on how to get a rich aqua, I call it Tiffany green would be great too!

  35. Kasia says:

    Hi,

    I know this is an old thread but I am thinking of dying my ivory satin wedding shoes ( sandals) navy blue. I am not sure how permanent the dye is though. I wouldn’t like to be caught in the rain in them and have streaks of blue dye running down my feet. And what colour should I go for to archive navy blue?
    Thanks heaps.

  36. janet says:

    I have been trying to dye pink coral satin heels to a black color. Do you what places might offer these service.

  37. chiko says:

    now i know this might be weird coming from a male but i found your website quite useful thank you for the tutorial dyed my grey shoes black :D

  38. Susu Whatley says:

    Can you dye a silver satin shoe royal blue. I have silver shoes I would like to wear in a wedding, but I would like for them to be blue.

  39. Gwen says:

    I have grey converses that I want to dye (one red and the other blue) how could I do that?

  40. Mhari says:

    Hi I’ve got some ivory shoes that I want to dye silver for my sisters wedding, will this be possible?

  41. Carrie says:

    I have white dyeable satin shoes (not sure yet if silk or polyester)…but I just want to know if they can be dyed to a silver colour? Would gray dye work if not too strong, or diluted?

  42. Jennifer says:

    Hi I have got a pair of gold shoes, is it possible to dye these silver? Also they are covered in little diamantes will the dye affect these? Would I have to paint around the jewels or can I just paint straight over them?
    Thank you

  43. Lorraine brown says:

    Hi I have a vintage christian louboutin clutch bag that is lime green gold colour and I am hoping to make it silver/gray colour.
    Would this be possible? And how would I go about it?
    Thanks

  44. Rachel says:

    Hi, I have followed your guide and the instructions on a dylon dye, but my satin shoes appear patchy and the salt seems to have settled on the surface of the shoe.

    Can I correct this in anyway? I have so far done 4 layers of dye.

    Thanks.

    Ra

    • Hi Rachel,

      Hmmmm…I’ve never had this problem. I’ve never managed to collect salt in my brush. Are you scraping your brush along the bottom of the pot or just dipping it in? I’d let the shoes dry, brush off any salt, wipe them down with a damp cloth to get off any accretions, and then re-start with a new batch of dye. This time don’t use salt, as you’ll be finishing your shoes off with scotchguard, so dye retention isn’t a problem.

      Hope that helps!

  45. Sandra says:

    Thanks…I NEED to dye my adorable bargain princess shoes and matching hand purse and had no clue on how to go about it until I found you!

  46. Tammy says:

    I abetting ready to dye my shoes but I dint know how much water I need. I have liquid dye, wine color. There are no stove top instructions on the bottle. I need to get this done this weekend. Please help. Also, on another site I saw to use a sponge brush. You say differently. Will a sponge brush be OK?

    • The more water to dye you use, the more pastel your shoes will be. Start with a little water (2-3 cups), stir, paint on some scrap fabric, and see if you like the colour.

      I’ve never used a sponge brush to dye shoes but it should be fine.

  47. Amanda says:

    Is it better to dye white or ivory shoes (satin) if trying to dye them fuchsia? Thanks so much!

    • It shouldn’t make any difference if you use white or ivory if you want to dye fuchsia, but if you are concerned, get some snippets of similar white and ivory fabric, and dye them, and see what you prefer.

  48. Jill says:

    Could (bottled) fabric dye be an option?

  49. Mikkirose says:

    Hey! I’m currently trying to put a costume together for a comic con, and I was wondering I am able to use this dye for clothing as well. That way I can get the colours the exact same. Would this work or not?

  50. Sarah says:

    Hey there!
    I got a pair of shoes dyed in a shoe store and they didnt get the colour right.. I was going for something like an aqua blue/green they returned my shoes in an emerald green. Do you think I should just mix a blue dye and go over the green to try and fix this? Ps they refuse to fix at the store and I need them fixed asap with little cost.

    • Painting over your shoes with blue may help, but at this point they can only get darker, not lighter, so at best you will only get a dark blue-green, not a pale aqua.

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