How to Dye Satin Shoes using International Fabric Shoe Dye

At Manhattan Wardrobe Supply, we get asked how to dye satin shoes a lot. Dying satin shoes is different from dying clothes or sneakers. You can’t use regular dyes or process them by dunking them. Taking shoes to a shoemaker for dying can be expensive.  Can you do this yourself?  Sure you can, with just a few items and a little patience. We’ll show you how.

How to Dye Satin Shoes with International Fabric Shoe Dye by Manhattan Wardrobe Supply
Wardrobesupplies.com is lucky to be homebase for Anthony Hoffman, a well known shoe painter and dyer on Broadway.  In addition to Hairspray, Wicked and Shrek the Musical, Anthony also worked on Kinky Boots, a show that’s nothing without it’s footwear. Few people know shoe dying better than Anthony, and we are lucky to be able to share his master method.

International Fabric Dye is available in 20 colors. If you can use one out of the bottle, the process is really easy- you just need:

If you need to blend a color, you’ll need some additional supplies.

How to Dye Satin Shoes using International Fabric Shoe Dye by Manhattan Wardrobe Supply

How to Dye Satin Shoes Step 1: Choosing your shoe

Check the fabric content of your satin shoe. Alcohol-based dyes will not adhere to polyester satin. You must choose cotton or silk satin. This information can be found on the side of the shoe box, or in the description on the website where you’ve purchased your shoes. Also, in most boxes of satin shoes there is a sample of the fabric. Keep this handy for later — you’ll use it to test your dye.

How to Dye Satin Shoes Step 2: Preparation

  • Clean Shoes: If you are dyeing a used pair of shoes, you must clean them first with International Fabric Shoe Cleaner to remove dirt and scuffs. Use a low abrasive cotton t-shirt fabric or a rag. Work in a slow, circular motion, and allow the shoe to dry completely before dyeing. Make sure you clean both shoes even if only one is dirty and be sure to clean the entire shoe.
  • Choose the Color: Determine which color in the International Fabric Dye Chart best matches your color swatch. When selecting a color, consider a shade 10 degrees darker than the outfit, especially for the stage. Very pale, pastel shades on stage reflect light and color reads white.
  • Prepare staging area: Cover your table with something other than newspaper, like an old sheet or tarp. If your shoe should fall over, the print could transfer to the shoe.
  • Prepare the shoe: If you are using a new shoe, there is little preparation needed. If the outer sole is leather, and you don’t want dye to stain it, you can apply masking tape to it to protect it. Most outer soles are plastic, and will simply need a quick swipe with alcohol.

How to Dye Satin Shoes Step 3: Mixing the Color

  • You can either use a straight tint direct from the bottle, skipping the mixing process or you can mix the color you prefer. There are 20 standard International Shoe Dye Colors to choose from.
  • Select the color from the International Fabric Shoe Dye Color Chart. There are approximately 200 dye recipes in this book. Always test first on a manufacturer’s swatch of the same fabric as the shoe. Most shoes will have the swatch in the shoe box. Using an eyedropper (recipes do not always call for an eyedropper), graduated cylinder, universal lightener and dye, mix your color according to the recipe. Latex gloves should be used during this process, as you don’t want the dye to come in contact with the skin. It is also important to have your sample of the satin ready for testing. Allow the test swatch to dry to see the true color.
  • There is no great mystery in mixing color if you follow the directions. I do suggest having a container with lid handy to work from to keep the solution from evaporating, reducing the need to re-mix.

How to Dye Satin Shoes Step 4- Dyeing your Shoes

  • Circular Motion: Since you are dyeing using a alcohol-based emulsion, and not painting, you will want to work in a small area, and gradually cover the whole shoe. Try not to use the cotton dauber to brush in straight lines like you’re painting, but in circular motions spreading the dye. Working in a straight line  can cause a striping effect, which you will want to avoid. Try not to saturate the dauber with the solution when applying, so you maintain control of the dyeing process and minimizing runs which can cause striping.
  • Order of Dyeing: With latex gloves on, keep your hand in the shoe and try not to touch the outside of the shoe as much as possible, as touching the shoe can cause clouding or spotting. The order should be: heel, back, side, toe, side, inner edge. Repeat this process for a total of two “coats” of dye.  Don’t oversaturate the shoe.
  • Let It Dry: Let dry for 2-4 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can use a blow dryer, but be sure to apply the heat evenly.

Helpful Hints

  • Make sure to test the color swatch in the correct light before dyeing, such as daylight, inside light or night light.
  • Remember satin dyes are not waterproof and will come off if the shoes get wet.
  • UL in the Dye Chart Book refers to Universal Lightener.
  • TB in the Dye Chart Book refers to Toning Black.
  • When applying the dye, stop a small distance from the sole. The dye will flow into the sole by itself.
  • Do not allow the fabric of the shoes to be touched by anything while drying.
  • To store your dyed shoes, wrap them in tissue paper when dry and then place in plastic bags.
  • Always keep bottles tightly closed or capped after using dye.