SHOE TUTORIAL: Dia de la Abby: #84 Sugar Skulls and Marigolds Sneakers

Long ago, I used to sell shoes on Ebay. I still have a lot of left over stock. This included a pair of natural canvas sneakers by Sugar Shoes, in my size. The sneakers came with markers, for drawing on the sneakers. I loved painting the Skull with Tiger Lilies Shoes, and wanted to paint another pair of shoes. These canvas sneakers were a great "canvas" for this project. You can so this with any light colored canvas shoes that you have. The design will vary based on amount of fabric to paint on.

You all already know that I love Dia de los Muertos. I've been studying it for years, so it was the perfect subject for these sneakers. I used colorful marigolds and sugar skulls as my inspiration. You could use a different motif, if you like other things. That is up to you! This tutorial has instructions to recreate my sneakers, but below that are some additional steps you can use for adding shimmer and dimension. Ok, onto the tutorial!

  • Natural or white canvas sneakers - I used high tops that I've had for years, This would also work for knee highs, super high tops, low tops, slip-ons, or flats, with some change in design placement. It's the color and fabric that are important. You could use a canvas shoe that is a different light color, but you want to base coat your designs with white paint before adding other colors. Using an already white or natural canvas, means you can skip that step
  • A pencil - Used for plotting out your designs
  • Acrylic fabric paint in various colors - I use acrylic paint + fabric mixing medium, because it's a cheaper combo than normal fabric paint...and I normally have large bottles of acrylic paint on hand. If you prefer normal acrylic fabric paint, feel free to use that
  • Small paint brushes - I used a small flat brush, a small round brush, and a liner brush to paint these shoes. I like using small brushes, so I have better control of where the paint goes
  • Foam plate or palette - For mixing colors
  • Water - For thinning out paint and washing brushes in between colors
  • Paper towels - For cleaning brushes in between colors
  • Reference photos of marigolds and skulls - I've drawn many marigolds and skulls, so I often don't use reference photos. However, for this project, I searched for some images showing various colors of marigolds and similar flowers

If you want a little sparkle and dimension, you can use these supplies after you've completed my tutorial. I'll explain them more in the instructions.
  • Tulip Fashion Glitter Glue - To adhere glitter securely
  • Fine glitter - Choose colors that coordinate with the paint colors
  • Small flat back gems - You can get ones that need to be heat set with a special tool, or ones that need to be attached with a separate glue
  • E6000 and a toothpick - For adhering flat back gems
  • Dimensional fabric paint - There are various finishes and types...puffy, slick, glitter, pearl, beads, metallic. These can add instant dimension and texture to your work. You can apply it right out of the bottle, and smooth it with a small brush
  • Fine tip paint pens - If you aren't good with painting details using a paint brush, a paint pen will work too. You won't be able to mix colors, blend lines, or make very fine details, but they will work ok for a beginner

We'll be working on the shoes without the laces in. You will have to already know how to mix paint colors.

1) With the reference photos (should you need them) and a pencil, loosely mark out your flowers, leaves, and skull placement. I made outlines for the flowers and leaves, a skull with basic details, and large swirls. You'll add in details when painting. I tried to line up my shapes to cross over onto the tongue and around the back, so the design was fluid. My shoes had printed angles on the back, so I worked with that to add stylized flowers.

When I was planning out the 1st couple flowers, I included petal details. However, I realized that I wouldn't see them once I painted a base coat.

2) Put your paint colors onto the plate, and mix them to your desired shades if needed. If you are using acrylic paint + fabric mixing medium, this is the time to add that to your paint, following the instructions for ratio, on the bottle.

3) Using a small paint brush, fill in the flower areas. You might need two coats as a base. I originally did my base coat too bright. I repainted them with a few deeper colors, on the 2nd coat. I painted the leaves, flowers, and black background. I left the skulls unpainted until I'd finished the rest of the painting...base to details. Let each coat dry before adding more paint.

4) After you are happy with your colors and they are dry, move on to adding details. I finished one color of flowers at a time. Mix lighter or darker colors that contrast with the flower colors. With those contrast colors and the small liner brush, paint the outlines of marigold petals. You can look at reference photos, as a guide. They are wavy and wider from the center out, which is great for a free-form design. For some of the flowers, I made stamens for the center.

5) I mixed the colors again to be in between the base and petal outline colors. I used those colors and the liner brush, to shade the petals. This works best when the colors have a little water added, to make them more opaque. You don't want the brush to be dripping with paint though, so you can control where you place the paint. The nice thing about acrylic paint, is that any mistakes can be cleaned up with a paper towel, allowed to dry, and painted over. This is such a stylized design, that mistakes are easily covered.

6) Going back to the leaves and vines now. I had base coated all the leaves with a bright green. I mixed a darker green and used the liner brush, to paint on leaf veins.

7) I used that same paint and brush to paint on the vines. This is more fluid if the paint is thinned with water. I painted little leaves along the vines too.

8) After the vines had dried, I mixed a darker green to shade the vines and little leaves. This gives them visual dimension.

9) After all the paint had dried, I realized the vines needed more color. Using the left over paint, I dipped the end of the paint brush handle into the a paint color, and then onto the vines. This creates a dot. I used bright colors, so the dots would stand out well. I did dots along the angled strips on the back of the shoes too. To switch colors, I wiped the paint off the end of the brush, onto a folded paper towel.

10) Now for the skulls. Using the small paint brush and white paint, I painted a few base coats onto the skulls, carefully following the lines. I avoided the noses and eyes.

11) Using the black paint and liner brush, I painted the eyes and noses.

12) I mixed a light grey. Using the liner brush and the light grey paint, I carefully painted teeth outlines and the temple sockets.

13) Using the left over colors and the liner brush, I carefully painted the sugar skull details.

This is where I stopped for my sneakers.


If you want some sparkle and/or dimension, follow these optional instructions. Avoid doing any of these to the tongue of the sneakers, as that will get the most friction.

  • Squeeze a little bit of the Tulip Fashion Glitter Bond glue onto a clean plate
  • You'll be working in small sections
  • Use a clean liner brush to paint on the glue where you would like glitter to be
  • Hold the sneaker over a paper plate or folded piece of paper. Sprinkle the desired color of glitter onto the wet glue. If you have a big container, you can use a spoon to help with this Tap off any excess glitter onto the paper. Fold the paper, and pour the excess back into the glitter container it came from
  • Do this for each place where you want glitter. Work in small sections and with one color of glitter at a time
  • After the shoes have dried, you can use a fluffy paint brush to dust off any stray glitter

  • Decide where you want your small flat back gems to be on the shoes. Lay them aside in their design
  • Squeeze a little E6000 to the opening of the tube
  • Use a toothpick to pick up glue and carefully apply it to the back of one gem
  • Place the gem where you desire, on the sneaker and press firmly. If you have trouble handling the gems with your fingers, use tweezers
  • Do this for each gem
  • Let the shoes dry overnight before wearing them

  • Decide where you would like added dimension on your shoes
  • Carefully squeeze the dimensional paint directly onto your shoes
  • You can use a liner brush to blend out edges and smooth out bumps
  • Do this for each dimensional paint color you want to add
  • Follow the instructions on the bottles for drying time. It might be 24-48 hours before the dimensional paints are fully cured

This concludes my tutorial for my sneakers. You can use these techniques to create any design onto canvas shoes. I happen to love flora and skulls, but you might love a different motif. Get creative and make it your own! Happy makery!


  1. They're gorgeous! Enjoy wearing them.

    Thanks for the instructions!

    Trying to pin for reference!

    1. You are very welcome! I've pinned them here:


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