I've made lots of money painting custom sneakers. I've sold tens of thousands of customized shoes to athletes and celebrities all over the world. In this blog post I'm going to tell you why you should not become a custom sneaker artist.
My intention is tell you the successes I have had, and also the failures. I want to share with you what I wish I had known ten years ago. Have you ever heard the quote: "The best time to plan a tree was 10 years ago, the second best time is today"? That applies to being a professional artist. Learn the skills now, so they can flourish over the course of your art career.
I have found that the rules of painting sneakers actually apply across other mediums as well. What I mean by that is prepping shoes takes a certain process that can be applied to painting other things. To prep a sneaker for painting, you'll need to look at the material of the shoes you're about to paint. If you're painting on leather, you'll need to use Leather Deglazer, if you're painting on canvas shoes, you'll likely need to use Gesso if it's a black shoe, or mix in GAC900 if it's a white shoe.
But how do you paint a guitar? How do you paint a denim jacket? How do you paint a car?
These mediums all take their own individual methods of prep and paint. Master these mediums and you will have expanded your horizons past just painting on sneakers. I personally feel that people pursue working with B Street Shoes because of the style of artwork. But I can tell you we get contracted a lot because people know we are experts in how to paint shoes, and they don't trust themselves to do it. That is where you can get that job. If you have a custom guitar portfolio, the next thing you know, you could be painting guitars for the biggest rock band. Know how to use urethane paint? You could be painting a motorcycle or car which almost always is a higher paying job than customizing sneakers.
Become a Custom Artist
In summary, you'll want to get good at painting many different things. You don't need to become a Jack of All Trades. Being in a niche is good. But the sneaker industry is changing, and you want to escape painting on another brand's shoes for your income. Have you ever wondered why Nike doesn't promote sneaker artists? It's because they want to control the branding 100% of the time. They don't want unreleased sneaker images floating around the internet. They want to make shoes, then sell shoes. No distractions from anyone that isn't in their branding department.