Shoe Dying

DIY, Wedges, Topshop, Dye, Dying, Colour Change, Buckles, GladiatorDIY, Wedges, Topshop, Dye, Dying, Colour Change, Buckles, GladiatorDIY, Wedges, Topshop, Dye, Dying, Colour Change, Buckles, Gladiator

One of my favourite things to do & possibly one of my worst habits is dying coloured shoes black. These chocolate Topshop wedges were another eBay buy, another attempt to integrate more non-black shoes into my wardrobe. They’re dark I thought, not far off black, I’ll definitely wear those. They’ve been sitting on my shelf collecting dust for months, so it was time I gave in & just dyed them!

I also have a strange habit of ‘rescuing’ ugly coloured shoes from the sale section & turning them black. It probably has something to do with them always being cheaper too, but, yes, I am one of those people who treats inanimate objects as if they have feelings… ‘Don’t worry poor shoes, I will take you home & give you a makeover, then you’ll be beautiful!’…

Whenever I mention that a pair I’m wearing are dyed, I always get the ‘Oh, I daren’t do that’ ‘What if you ruined them?!’ kind of remarks. Honestly, it’s one of the easiest things you can do & you can’t really go wrong at all. Get a cheap pair from eBay & have a go, I promise you’ll soon be addicted when you see how easy it is! It’d be pointless me doing a step by step tutorial, it’s literally : clean, apply dye, wait, second coat, condition… so I thought I’d just share some tips / advice I’ve picked up along the way.

Tips for dying leather shoes…

#1 : Don’t try to dye synthetic shoes. Just don’t, it’s not worth it. I know there are dyes specifically for this type of shoe, but they are basically paint – it will peel & flake. Same applies to using a dye that promises to dye shoes to a lighter colour then they were originally, these are also paint.

#2 : Get the right kind of dye. There are types for normal leather, suede, nubuck. You can use a normal leather dye on suede, but sometimes it can make it a bit ‘crunchy’.

#3 : Always clean the shoe first. If you have deglazer or a dye prep use this, if not, just give them a really good scrub with a toothbrush, lots of water & a little washing up liquid. Your aim is to strip off any coating the leather may have had applied & to make sure there’s no muck or oils on it. Make sure to thoroughly wash the washing up liquid off if you use this, your shoes should be soaking wet.

#4 : If you can see any glue residue, usually around the edges of the sole, the dye won’t be able to penetrate the glue, so you need to clean it off. A cotton swab & some nail polish remover will usually do the trick.

#5 : Some dyes will dye the stitching, others wont. I usually use ‘Punch Leather Dye’ & this will dye stitching too, the suede version doesn’t though, so always test this on a hidden part inside the shoe to be sure.

#6 : You won’t be able to change the colour of any zips, though you can get these replaced by a cobbler.

#7 : If the shoe has a wooden, plastic or similar heel, the dye will stain this, so always use a few layers of masking tape to cover it.

#8 : Be realistic! Dye is very runny & really messy. I would have liked to have kept the inside of these that lovely tan colour, but even if I’d been super careful using a tiny little brush, it would never have been neat enough to look decent, so I just dyed everything.

#9 : Even if the box says one coat is enough, always do at least 2 for a really nice even colour.

#10 : ALWAYS use a leather conditioner or cream after letting the shoes dry for 24-48 hours. The chemicals in the cleaner & dye are really drying on the leather & you don’t want to end up with cracked & hardened leather after all the time spent dying them.

Filed under: DIY


  1. Posted 18.06.2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m so, so glad I clicked on your comment in Liv’s blog, your blog is awesome!

    I’ve never tried to dye shoes before so thanks for these tips as some of mine could do with a spruce up.

    Becky | x

  2. Posted 18.06.2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    love this shoes…so rock !!
    visit my blog on and my fb page on hope you like it!!!

  3. Posted 18.06.2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    these are great tips on how to dye leather shoes. i agree with the synthetics, it won’t take the dye well.

  4. Posted 18.06.2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Great tips and the shoes look absolutely perfect! I once painted red shoes with shoe paint, but that did not turn out well. X

  5. Posted 19.06.2012 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    i’ll have to try this!

  6. Posted 19.06.2012 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    wow this is very nice! great job! thank you for the comment on my blog, you look amazing too with straple dress!

  7. Posted 19.06.2012 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    I’ve tried it once and I loved the result! But great idea on buying shoes on sale and dying them the colour you want – why didn’t I of that! :) Some great advice, Steph! Some questions though.. #5 Stitching, is this also dependent on the type of thread that’s used? I’ve noticed that synthetic threads don’t take any/much colour, might try Punch leather dye if it works. #6 As for zips I used a fabric marker in black (I dye my shoes black too – haha) which worked for me! I just let the ink bleed into areas the felt tip won’t get into.

    PS. LOVE the gladiators!!

      Posted 19.06.2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Oh yeah, totally depends on the type of thread. Cotton dyes really easily, synthetics not so well. The punch leather dye has dyed every type of thread I’ve used it on though, it has even dyed zips (just the tape on the metal ones, which is synthetic, not the plastic zips)… I think it must be really full of chemicals! Ha!
      I’ve done the marker for zips too, I’ve also used it on stitching that didn’t dye, but it takes soo long! I don’t have the patience for it any more! :P

  8. Posted 19.06.2012 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    I might need to track down your brand of dye. I dyed a pair of heels myself but either I didn’t strip out enough of the original pale pink or my dye wasn’t strong enough as the leather has lightened over time to a very dark blue!

      Posted 19.06.2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Oh, that’s so annoying! Yeah, the Punch one is the best I’ve tried & it’s the cheapest! I’ve used it on a pair of mustard yellow boots, which I didn’t colour strip first (I never do, I’m too lazy!) & they are a perfect black & haven’t faded at all :)
      I would say though, really make sure you properly clean them first & with a deglazer if you can. Some leathers have a really tough coating applied to keep them looking nice & this really ruins attempts to dye it if it’s not totally removed. I dyed a pair of Vivienne Westwoods a few years ago & it took me 3 attempts of cleaning, dying, being unhappy with the faded result, stripping & cleaning again – till I got them to a proper black!

  9. Posted 19.06.2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    This is such a great idea… I have a black shoe addiction as well. LOL


  10. Posted 19.06.2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    i have that nasty habit too where i buy shoes that aren’t black thinking they’ll go well with my wardrobe but they just end up wasted and unworn. i would’ve dyed my non-black shoes a long time ago if not for the fact they’re made from synthetic materials :( those turned out quite well! even better than the original color.

  11. Posted 19.06.2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I’ve never been brave enough to do this to a pair of shoes – but I must say I think these look a lot better black. Besides, a girl can’t have too many black shoes, right?

  12. Posted 19.06.2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  13. Posted 19.06.2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Woww, love it!! That colour is great!


  14. Posted 19.06.2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    bookmarked! such a cool DIY :) xx

  15. Posted 20.06.2012 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    Beautiful DIY, way to get creative!

  16. Posted 20.06.2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    LOVE your blog, awesome and original!
    I think the wedges look better in black , so way to go :-D

  17. Posted 20.06.2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    You clever cookie! They look SO amazing black. I want some! Outfit post with them plllleeease? x

  18. Posted 21.06.2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I really need to try this, I have loads of shoes which I don’t wear because they aren’t quite the right colour!

    Maria xxx

  19. Posted 26.06.2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Well done, love the result!!

  20. Anthia
    Posted 13.12.2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink


    have you ever tried dying leather a dark brown? I bought a gorgeous pair of tan leather boots on e-bay and discovered that the left and right boots are a slightly different shade. very annoying!

  21. Kate
    Posted 27.10.2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi Stephanie,

    I’m so glad I came across your blog. I am planning to dye a pair of sand-colored Burberry knee-high nubuck boots black. I purchased them about 8 years ago on eBay. The post was misleading as the boots were clearly a window display pair that had faded badly in the sun on one side and also been stained a bit by wear. I have been too nervous to dye them and they’ve sat in my closet for far too long. I’m finally going to try to get some use out of them!

    Anyway, I bought two bottles of Dylon suede and nubuck dye in black yesterday. It is being shipped from the U.K. to the U.S. (where I live). This seems to be the best dye on the market for nubuck, would you agree? The shipping was incredibly expensive so I’m hoping I don’t need to order another two bottles (four total) to get a knee-high pair of nubuck boots black. Do you think this will be necessary based on the surface area? I did have these boots cleaned professionally about 6 or 7 years ago and they have not been worn, so I feel good about the prepped surface. Thanks to your blog, I also just bought a bottle of nubuck conditioner (also so expensive)! I hope this is worth it, but these are Burberry boots, so if I can finally wear them, there will be some payoff.

    Please let me know if you think I will have to use four bottles of Dylon, thank you!

    • Posted 27.10.2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      That’s so annoying about the boots. I’ve had similar happen to me with eBay so many times too, it’s so irritating!

      I agree that is definitely the best dye to go for, that I’ve tried out myself anyway & I’ve tried a lot! Especially with them being Burberry & an expensive pair of shoes, you want to make sure you get the best so they come out looking good.

      Don’t worry about ruining them, just take your time with them & they will turn out fine! Be sure to tape any heels & the inside .etc that you don’t want to dye too or just use a tiny paintbrush near those areas. Also, be aware that the dye won’t dye stitching or zips, you can always use a sharpie marker or fabric marker to colour these to match but I would only recommend that if you have a very steady hand & a lot of patience! Though, sometimes contrast stitching can look really nice! :)

      Even though they have been cleaned, I would still say it’s best to clean them yourself too, with just a little water & soap. Nothing too harsh, just a light clean. I say this mainly because some places when they clean them will put a finishing spray over the top – this is to repel water/dirt .etc so they stay looking good for longer, but obviously this does the same thing to the dye too, meaning it can’t penetrate the leather as well as it should & could mean a very patchy colour.

      I’m not sure on the bottles. I think 2 will definitely be enough to do them both with 1 or 2 coats, but they may need a 3rd or 4th coat to get a fully even black colour (as they were so light to begin with) – I would use one bottle per boot & see how the colour turns out when dry. If it’s a little patchy or not dark enough, you could either order more dylon, or just get a different brand that you can pick up locally to save yourself some money (as the dylon will have put a good base down for it & so the extra will just be to even the colour).

      Also, the conditioner is 100% worth it. It really makes all the difference!

  22. Sarah
    Posted 03.03.2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi Stephanie,

    I came across your post because I have some leather shoes I want to dye black, which is something I’ve always wanted to try…your post makes it sounds like it could be do-able so fingers crossed!

    Do you buy your Punch Leather Dye online? I can’t find it in black anywhere : ( and my shoes are burgundy so the stitching really needs to dye too. Any help would be appreciated. Love the blog : )


    • Posted 10.03.2014 at 2:14 am | Permalink

      Hi Sarah,
      It is definitely do-able! Just requires the proper prep & a little patience :)
      I usually buy it from my local cobbler, but I think you can buy it online too. If you have any old, family run type cobblers near you it may be worth checking there. If not the Dylon version (for actual leather though, not the paint version) is very similar. If the worst happens & it doesn’t dye your stitching too (this is very dependent on the thread used as well as the dye, so you won’t know for sure until you try, or test on a small un-noticable area first) you can always use a black sharpie marker to very carefully colour in the thread, it will look just like it’s been dyed black, but it’s pretty tedious as you have to be careful not to get it on the leather too.
      Hope that helped! :)

  23. Theresa
    Posted 10.06.2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    I have a pair of white sandals I want to dye, my question is about the insole. It is a crazy pattern of bright colors very different from any color I want to dye the shoe. Obviously with a sandal the insole will show. Can I dye the insole and will it rub off onto my feet? Thanks!

    • Posted 11.06.2014 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Hi Theresa! I’ve dyed the insoles of a few pairs of mine with varying success, one pair had hardly any colour transfer & a second pair completely stained the bottom of my feet! I used the same brand of dye for both, so I can only assume it’s to do with the what kind of material the insole is or if they’re leather the type of treatment they’ve had .etc
      On the plus side, although that one pair really stained my feet the colour came off very easily with soap & water, and it didn’t fade the insoles at all. After a while of wearing them eventually they stopped staining my feet anyway. Sorry I can’t be of more help, I think it’s one of those things you’ll just have to try & see, and worst case scenario they may stain your feet for a while?

  24. A Adams
    Posted 03.09.2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Is there any way you can dye a black leather pair of shoes Navy blue?

    • Posted 03.09.2015 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately not, as that would be a lighter colour than black. Your only options are a paint or bleaching/colour stripping and then dying, but I wouldn’t recommend either of them if I’m honest.

  25. penny
    Posted 22.04.2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I bought the wrong dye :-( I wanted leather dye but bought suede & nubuck,
    Can I still use it? Will it work?

    Reminds self to actually read the packaging next time :-)

    • Posted 24.04.2016 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      It should still work, but in my experience the colour can be a bit patchy on leather. I guess you could try, and the worst that can happen is you have to buy some leather dye to go over it again to get an even colour?

  26. Posted 06.05.2016 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    ‘Don’t worry poor shoes, I will take you home & give you a makeover, then you’ll be beautiful!’

    So cute!! I smiled when I read that.

  27. Carol
    Posted 16.07.2016 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Recommend: go to Target and buy their Up n Up 100% acetone nail polish remover to clean your leather and rid it if all the excess leather preservatives and coatings. (Not “regular” Sally Hansen or other brands of nail polish remover in the typical curvy bottle–these won’t work as they are only a % of pure acetone. Make sure you get % acetone. This also removes your nail polish much quicker than the other, and will also remove super glue from your fingers. Protect all surfaces, as it will also remove furniture finishes upon contact. Work in a workshop or cover things carefully with plastic, cardboard and newspaper. Use a cotton ball and clean the shoe very well, then let dry. Your surface will be well-prepared for your dye.

  28. K
    Posted 12.09.2016 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    I have brown synthetic boots I want to dye black for my Halloween costume is there a way to do so

    • Posted 12.09.2016 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      You would be able to cover them with dye for synthetic leather, however, this is more like a paint and will start to crack and flake off after a while. If you only need them for one night for Halloween though, I’m sure they would look fine for one wear!

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