How to Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step-By-Step DIY Tutorial

01
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How to Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step-By-Step DIY Tutorial

Pair of red, glittered sneakers with white shoe laces and trim.
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to make these glittered sneakers. It's a quick, easy, and affordable DIY project -- and you can do them in any color you want. Image © Desirée Stimpert

Like home renovations before it, DIY fashion has really come into its own over the past several years. It's no surprise. Not only can you save a ton of money, but at the end of a project, you'll have a brilliant, custom item to add to your wardrobe.

Making your own glitter sneakers is one of the simplest and most affordable projects you can tackle, and the results are spectacular. For example, I did the shoes above in well under 2 hours -- and that includes having to stop and set-up photos.

I'm beyond thrilled with the result.

Before I started, I did quite a bit of experimenting, and in the end, I came up with the method that worked best for me -- even though there are plenty of other ways to accomplish the same effect.

In this tutorial, I'm going to walk you through the steps I took to achieve the look above. I've included plenty of photos, and lots of notes that should answer any questions you might have along the way. I've also provided some additional information at the end about how and why each decision was made.

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Time Needed: 60-90 minutes for glittering. Plus, shoes will need to cure for 48-72 hours before being worn or exposed to moisture.

Ready?

Let's get this party started...

02
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Dark red canvas sneakers, paint brushes, wedge sponges, q-tips, glitter vials, adhesive, plastic knives, plastic bowls with lids.
Here are most of the supplies you'll need to complete this glitter sneaker project. You'll also need masking tape, and you may need nail polish remover (non-acetone). Image © Desirée Stimpert

You don't need a lot of supplies to glitter your own sneakers. In fact, if you're into crafts at all, you will probably already have a lot of these things lying around the house.

There's also a bit of wiggle room on some of these supplies. I'm going to tell you exactly what I used here. But I'll explain a bit more about why I selected each of these items as we go, and at the end of the tutorial.

To Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers, You'll Need...

  • Canvas sneakers
  • Masking tape (not pictured)
  • Small disposable bowl with lid
  • Plastic knife, craft stick, or other disposable stirrer
  • Tulip Fashion Glitter Bond
  • Approximately 1/3 (.35) ounce of fine glitter
  • Q-Tips
  • Wedge-shaped, cosmetic applicator sponges
  • Non-acetone nail polish remover

03
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 2: Protect Your Shoes

Red canvas sneaker with masking tape covering rubber sole.
Don't make the same mistake I did. Apply masking tape to your soles and toe-caps BEFORE you being applying glitter. Image © Desirée Stimpert

For this project, I used new sneakers and, if at all possible, I'd recommend doing the same. I just think it made it easier, because I didn't have to worry about whether or not they were clean and lint-free.

If you want to use a pair of shoes you've already worn, just make sure the uppers are really clean to begin with, otherwise the adhesive and glitter may not adhere properly.

My shoes were wine-colored. You could use shoes that are white (or another color), but I think the reason mine came out so intense is because of the burgundy shoes and a combination of red and pink glitter.

I am so happy with my end result that If I were to do, say, a blue pair tomorrow, I'd definitely use blue shoes to start with -- but, again, it's a matter of personal preference.

Step 2: Protect Your Shoes and Laces

2a) Remove Shoe Laces: Set aside.

2b) Apply Masking Tape to Soles and Toe Caps: Run a piece of masking tape, along the top edge of the sole and around each side of your sneaker. If your shoes have toe caps, you will also want to run a piece of masking tape along the edges of the toe-caps, where they meet the vamps.

Important note: I nearly listed masking tape as an optional supply, but honestly, it's not. I started my shoes without applying masking tape around the soles and toe caps, and I was immediately full of regret.

Nobody hates masking things off more than I do. But, seriously, it is like three pieces of tape per shoe -- and it will only take about 10 seconds, total. However, doing so will save you tons of frustration and time at the end of the project.

Trust me, cleaning the glitter and adhesive off of rubber is slow, tedious, and irritating.

Mask, mask, mask!

04
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 3: Prepare Your Glitter Mix

Three images, showing glitter being poured into bowl; adding adhesive to glitter; and the final mix.
After mixing your glitter colors together, you'll want to add your adhesive, then stir until well-blended. Image © Desirée Stimpert

Now it's time to prepare your glitter mix.

You'll want to use a small bowl with a lid -- preferably disposable. The lid will enable you to shake the glitter without getting it all over everything, and it will also allow you to store the glitter/adhesive mix for a while, in case your project gets interrupted.

Step 3: Mixing Your Glitter and Adhesive

3a) Making a Glitter Blend: For a single color of glitter, you can just pour 1/3 of an ounce into a small bowl.

If you're using more than one color of glitter, you'll want to combine all of the glitter into one bowl, and mix well, before adding the adhesive.

Your total glitter weight should be about 1/3 of an ounce (.35 oz). For reference, each of the small vials in a Martha Stewart 24-color set is .37 ounces.

Since I combined two colors of glitter (red and pink), I poured half a small bottle of each into a small plastic bowl, put the lid on, and shook vigorously, until the glitter was very blended.

3b) Add Adhesive to the Glitter Blend: The blend I applied to the shoes was about 1 part glitter to 2 parts adhesive. So, I added 2/3 of an ounce (.65 oz) of Tulip Fashion Glitter Bond to my glitter.

Instead of weighing or measuring my glue, I simply removed the precision applicator tip from my bottle of adhesive; and squeezed big dollops of glue on top of the glitter.

I continued until I had covered the layer of glitter in my bowl with a layer of adhesive. The Tulip adhesive is very thick, and it was pretty easy to tell when the layer of adhesive was about twice the height of the glitter layer.

This made it really simple, but if you have an ultra-sensitive scale, feel free to weight it before mixing.

3c) Mix Well: Stir until glitter and adhesive are thoroughly blended. Be sure to scrape glitter and glue from sides of bowl while blending. Your final mix should be about the consistency of hair conditioner. The color will be rich, but it won't look especially shimmery at this point.

05
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 4: Applying Glitter to Shoes

Left image shows glitter mix being sponged onto sneaker, right image shoes the mixture being spread onto the uppers.
After applying a small amount of glitter/adhesive mix, you'll use your sponge to spread the glitter across the shoes' uppers. Image © Desirée Stimpert

We're ready to start laying down glitter!

Step 4: Applying Glitter to Sneakers

Take the rectangular end of your cosmetic wedge and scoop up a bit of your glitter/adhesive mixture.

Avoiding any side eyelets and the rubber sole of the shoe, dab the glob of mixture onto one side of the shoe. It's better to start with a small amount on your first go, but after a couple of times, you'll get the hang of how much you need to spread around.

As long as you've taped everything off, you can do an entire side a shoe with about 2-3 scoops, so this part goes really quickly. I tried to avoid getting too close to the eyelets, but if you have a really steady hand you can get a little closer.

Now, go ahead and repeat the same process on the other side of the shoe. We'll do the fine detailing around the eyelets in the next step.

06
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 5: Detailing Around Eyelets

Left image shoes glitter/adhesive mix being applied around the eyelets of sneaker; right image shows glitter being wiped from shoes' eyelet.
You can use a q-tip or a small paint brush to apply glitter around the eyelets. If any glitter mix gets on the eyelets, it's easiest to clean it off right away. Image © Desirée Stimpert

At this point, you should have one sneaker with two, mostly-glittered shoe sides. Let's go ahead and deal with the detailing, before moving onto the tongue.

While I've tried to stress the importance of using masking tape on the soles of your sneakers, I didn't tape over the eyelets, because I felt that would have been too tedious and time consuming. Instead, I just applied the glitter very carefully around them.

First, I tried using a small paint brush, but that was a bit messier than I would have liked. In the end, what worked best for me was to use Q-Tips. You should use whatever works for you here.

Step 5: Glittering around Eyelets of Shoe

Using a clean Q-Tip, scoop out a bit of your glitter/adhesive mix and place it near one of the shoe's eyelets.

Use the Q-Tip to spread the mixture around the eyelet. If any glitter gets on the eyelet, it should remove fairly easily, as long as the adhesive is still wet -- so, act quickly. You can either remove it with your finger (that's what I mostly did), or you can use a new Q-Tip to clean the eyelet off before proceeding to the next one.

07
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 6: Glittering the Tongue

Picture of glitter and glue mix being sponged onto the tongue of a red sneaker.
Once the sides are done, apply glitter/glue mix to the tongue in the same way, then spread for full coverage. Image © Desirée Stimpert

Now that the both sides of one shoe are done, you may want to go ahead and do the sides of your second shoe before moving to the tongues.

That way, if you would run out of glitter (you totally shouldn't run out), you can mix up a new batch before applying it to the tongues, and even if the tongues are slightly different shades than the sides of the shoes, at least both of your shoes will match each other.

This is really being overly cautious, since I had plenty of glitter mix left over, but it's better safe than sorry.

Step 6: Apply Glitter to the Tongues of Shoes

Pull the tongues of your shoes out as far as you can.

Using the flat, rectangular end of your cosmetic sponge, apply and spread the glitter/adhesive mix to the tongues of your shoes, the same way you did with the sides.

Since your toe caps (if there are any) should be taped off, is fairly straight-forward, and should move very quickly.

If you have trouble getting in the tight areas, you can either switch to the thin end of your applicator sponge, or apply to those spots with a Q-Tip.

Once the tongues were done, I used the flat edge of my sponge to also run a light coat of mixture along the top edge of the shoes all the way around. This is optional, but I thought it gave a nice, finished look to the shoes.

Now, that you're done applying the glitter, you'll want to let it set for at least a couple of hours. I let mine sit overnight. Store your glitter/adhesive mix, with the lid on, and leave your masking tape in place.

Go back after several hours, and inspect the shoes. Do you see any spots that are light or low on glitter? If so, you'll want to apply more mixture to those areas. Go slow and use a light touch, so as not to disturb the areas you've already covered.

When you're happy with your coverage, let the shoes dry again for several hours before proceeding to clean-up.

08
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 7: Cleaning Up the Shoes

Left frame shows q-tip being used to remove glitter from white rubber soles; right frame shows paper towel wiping off nail polish remover.
If you use masking tape, this step may be unnecessary -- which is good, because removing glitter glue from rubber is not easy, or fun. Image © Desirée Stimpert

If you masked off your soles and toe caps like I begged you to do, then you should have relatively little clean-up to do.

But, if you did happen to get glitter on any of the eyelets or rubber parts of your sneakers (like I did), the following advice should hopefully get everything tidied up.

Step 7: Removing Glitter and Adhesive from Shoe Soles

If you only have small specks of glitter here and there, you can probably just use your fingernail to scrape them off.

If your mishaps are a bit more substantial, then you may need to go chemical and use nail polish remover. I used the non-acetone variety.

You may want to test this first on a small inconspicuous spot to make sure it doesn't cause any damage to the rubber on your soles.

First, tip a clean Q-Tip into your nail polish remover, then rub it, gently, back and forth over the stained rubber. It may take several applications to get off really stubborn spots.

Be careful not to touch the nail polish remover to your glittered uppers.

After all spots are removed, take a damp, soft cloth or paper towel and wipe off soles and toe caps, to remove any residual nail polish remover.

You can use the same method to clean any glitter spots off of the shoes' eyelets.

You're Done!

And finally, let sneakers cure for 48 hours before wearing or exposing to moisture.

If you haven't already started your project, you may want to check out these FAQs and notes for additional tips and information.

09
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Make Your Own Glitter Sneakers - Step 8: FAQs and Final Notes

Close-up image of final glittered sneakers. Red with white shoelaces.
The final shoes are so shimmery, and have lots of dimension. I can't wait to try them in other colors. Image © Desirée Stimpert

I found that glittering my sneakers was one of the most enjoyable and simplest DIY projects I've ever done, and I am so happy with the final result. The only thing I didn't enjoy about the whole project was removing glitter from the rubber parts of the shoes, but if I'd been as careful as I should have, that step wouldn't have even been necessary.

I'm hoping that, if you followed the steps in this tutorial, that you found the instructions easy to follow, and that you're now the happy owner of a brand new pair of sparkly sneakers. I'm providing extra notes below to answer any questions you might have, and to provide additional tips for success.

What kind of sneakers work best for glittering?

The steps provided in this tutorial should work for any canvas sneakers. Converse, Keds, store brand... it shouldn't matter, as long as the uppers are made from canvas, and don't have any odd coating on them.

I used PF Flyers 'Center Lo Re-Issue' in burgundy. I chose these shoes for several reasons: 1) I love the style and the burgundy color was exactly the shade I wanted; 2) I was able to pick them up at 6pm.com for less than $16; and 3) I find them really comfortable. They have nice, thick, removable insoles.several reasons.

Can I use another kind of glitter?

I'm sure you could use just about any brand of glitter for this project. But I'd stick with a fine glitter for use with these instructions. I plan on trying out some chunky glitters down the road, but I don't know whether or not the ratios and techniques will be the same for coarser glitters.

There wasn't any particular reason that I went with Martha Steward brand glitter, in terms of performance. I just happened to have it on hand, because I really liked the color selections, and I got a lot of variety for a very good price. (A set of small vials of 24 colors cost me only $15, after I applied a 50% off coupon at Michaels. You can also find it on Amazon.com for about this same price.)

After seeing the result, though, I'd highly recommend it this brand of glitter for any project.

I don't have Tulip brand adhesive, can I just use Mod Podge, or some other glue?

There are probably lots of brands that would work, but I can only recommend what I used here.

If you look around, you'll see that a lot of people recommend using Mod Podge to glitter canvas sneakers. If that's what you have on hand, or if that's what you're most comfortable with, then by all means, give it a go, using the method I describe. There is photographic evidence all over the web that shows it should work.

After a bit of research, I decided to try Tulip Fashion Glitter Bond -- a product I'd never used before. The reason I went with this adhesive, because it is supposed to be permanent after it's cured. (So far, so good.) I don't know how well Mod Podge would hold up.

By the way, the same company also sells glitter, but I haven't used it yet.

Do I have to mix the glitter and adhesive, or can I apply the glue first, then sprinkle the glitter on?

I didn't see any instructions on Tulip's official site for applying glitter to large areas of fabric, so I kind of winged it. But, for other projects, the manufacturer does actually recommend daubing the adhesive onto the fabric first, then sprinkling the glitter on top of it.

I tested this method on a different pair of sneakers, and the finish looked great. It was ultra-shiny and very smooth. But, after several days of curing, glitter would still come off when I ran my hands across the shoes.

I believe this is because I spread a thin layer of adhesive over the shoes, then sprinkled. So the glitter didn't bond as well as it would have to a thick patch or thread of glue. So, for this particular instance, I decided to kind of mix together methods I've used for previous glittering projects, using these new materials. Thus far, it seems to have worked out really well.