Blog RSS
Podcast RSS

Geek Crafts Tutorial: Decoupaged Comic Book Shoes

This post was originally published on the old Anomalous Musings Blog in July 2012.  It is being republished here with some edits and updates.

Hi, I’m Sue. I’ve recently become obsessed with decoupage, and I am an Anomaly. Over the past couple years, geek fashion has made huge strides for women, thanks in no small part to geeky ladies on the internet speaking up and demanding apparel that isn’t just cut for men, as well as jewelry and accessories. And, just in case you hadn’t heard, Her Universe introduced new Doctor Who and Star Trek apparel earlier this month, in addition to their Star Wars and Syfy offerings. [2015 Update:  HU now also carried Marvel, Transformers, Walking Dead, and Nerdist merchandise.] But there’s still one department that seems to be lacking: shoes!

I’ve seen lots of photos and brief geek craft tutorials floating around social networking sites about using decoupage techniques (literally “the act or cutting out”, but actually “covering something in small pieces of paper”) to make your own nerdtastic shoes, at a relatively low cost. I love shoes – even though I wear flip flops or Toms 99% of the time – so I decided to give it a go, and share my process.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Shoes. I used the Hilari Peep-Toe Pump in black from Payless, $19.99 (discontinued), but you can use any shoe or style you like. The shoe’s material just can’t be anything too porous – think patent or faux leather.
  • A comic book, specifically one that you don’t mind destroying. I used DC Comics ST:TNG #71, $2.50 at the time of purchase… in 1995. You can use books or magazines, too, but the thicker the paper, the harder it will be to work with.
  • Mod Podge, glossy or matte, your choice. I got mine on Amazon at $8.07 for 16oz.
  • Really good scissors or an X-acto knife. I used scissors like a boss.
  • A paintbrush – bristled or sponge, doesn’t matter.
  • Some kind of sealer, like Thompson’s Water Seal. (optional)
  • Ribbon, the same color as the inside of your shoes, and hot glue. (optional)
  • Lots of time and patience.

Step 1: Cut up your comic book.

I know, I know – that’s like promoting sacrilege, but it’ll be worth it. Just don’t just do it haphazardly. Go through the book looking for the scenes, characters, speech bubbles, and lettering that you want to feature. I would recommend nothing much bigger than about silver-dollar-sized. If in doubt, hold it up against your shoes and see if it’ll lay flat. (I wound up with a bunch of stuff that was too big, because I didn’t actually look at the shoes while cutting).

It’s super important that your “featured” images are cut out exactly following their outlines, so they pop against a more scattered background. This is where the x-acto would come in handy. Or you can be awesome with a pair of scissors. The easiest way to do this is to go through your book, and rough cut all of the images you want to feature. Once you’ve done a complete pass, go back and do the more detailed cuts – seriously, you want to be as precise as possible for the best look. That whole process took about 2.5 hours one night while I was watching TV.

Geek Crafts

Once that’s done, snip of the remaining scraps into various shapes and sizes. You’ll need lots and lots of small pieces because of the contours of the medium you’ll be working on (shoes). I would recommend nothing more than an inch long. It’s up to you how much attention to detail you want to put into this stuff. In the TNG comic, I’ve got a lot more black (holodeck, star fields) than, say, a superhero comic, so I kept my scraps in 2 piles – mostly black and colors – so I could mix them as needed. I also set aside a few scraps that I really liked and knew I wanted to use somewhere they’d be seen on the shoes.

geek crafts

Step 2: Assess your shoes

What am I talking about? Well, shoes are shaped weird. Take a couple minutes and think about the best way to approach potential problem areas, so you’re not scrambling to do damage control later. For example, I had peep toes, so I knew that the area around the toe opening could be tricky. And my shoes didn’t have any kind of seam or trim around the top, so I’d have to completely cover those edges by folding them over and using a lot of Mod Podge to make them stay (because the inside was more porous).

Also, you don’t have to cover the whole shoe – you may have seaming that creates nice clean sections on your shoes, or a platform, or stacked or cone heels… Think about negative space and know what parts you want to cover before you start. Color can make a big difference here as well, because you don’t have to use black. I actually went looking for bright red or blue, but I couldn’t find the “right” color, so I went with the black, knowing it would work in “space”. I decided that I’d be covering everything except the heel and the part of the sole that stick out of the peep (there has to be a real name for that).

Finally, if you’re working on a super-shiny, slick, patent-like material, you may want to take the extra step of roughing it up a little bit with some steel wool or an emery board. This won’t affect the final texture of the shoe at all, it just gives the adhesive a better surface to grab on to. My shoes had a faux snake skin texture, so I skipped this step.

Step 3: The background.

It’s time to start gluing, using your scraps. I started at the heel; then covered the seams on the sides, and the area around the peep toe. Put a light coat of Mod Podge on the shoe AND on the scrap of comic book – this is actually super important. The moisture from the Mod Podge gets into the paper and makes it much more pliable and easier to fit to the contour of the shoe. Once the scrap is in place, brush another thin layer of Mod Podge on top of the scrap.

Because I had no seams or trim, I wrapped the scraps around the edges of the shoe, making sure I had plenty of glue inside to keep the paper edges flat.  Then I worked along the bottom edge, where the shoe meets the sole; the upper edge, wrapping the paper around the top; and finally the middle areas, where the pieces went down easily.

You’ll want to use the smallest pieces of paper in the areas with lots of contours.  The smaller the scrap, the less likely it is to wrinkle or fold.  It’s also helpful to keep your scissor or X-acto knife handy, so you can make sure all of your edges are straight, or cut any scraps down to fit the area that they’re intended for.

Because I was working with a lot of black pieces on black shoes, and the Mod Podge goes down milky white, I tended to alternate from one side to the other, letting the adhesive dry a bit after putting a couple scraps down, to make sure that I didn’t miss any spots.  You can even switch back and forth between shoes, working on both heels, then both toes, etc.  Or one whole shoe at a time (that’s what I did) – it doesn’t really matter.

geek crafts

Clearly, this is the step that takes the most time.  I had some interruptions, but I would estimate that I had both shoes completely covered after about 6 hours.

Step 4: Seal, and Rest.

Once my shoes were both covered and I was happy with the placement and alignment and color distribution, etc, I took one of my larger brushes and coated both shoes entire with the Mod Podge, making sure to do another pass along the inside edges as well. And then, I took a break to let the shoes dry somewhat. I like to try to find “natural” breaks while crafting to clear my head a bit and just rest, and you can come back to it fresh. Take a nap, go meet a friend for lunch, do some laundry. I ate some tiramisu. You can even let it sit overnight, if you want. And when you come back, you’ll have bright colors and a nice shine (if you chose the glossy Mod Podge, that is).

Step 5: Double check.

Before going on, take the time to inspect each shoe and make sure you didn’t miss any spots with either comics or Mod Podge, all your edges are straight, and that you don’t have any wrinkling or bubbling or tearing. If anything needs to be fixed or covered, now’s the time. You can pull or cut something off and do it over again, and cover up any imperfections.

Step 6: The featured images.

The application process here is the same as before, but I highly recommend laying out your images and making sure they lie flat against the shoe and you’re happy with the placement before applying the Mod Podge. This is the important stuff. This is also why it’s helpful if the background has dried – you don’t risk sticking or tearing while figuring out where you want to put things. They can be as crammed together or spaced out as you want – you’re the boss. Again, keep your cutting implement handy, as you may want to trim and image or fit something to an edge.

First, I looked at the top of the shoes, and knew that I wanted the Enterprise and Captain Picard to be prominent on the toe and “Star” and “Trek” to be on the heels, so those pieces went on first. Then, I set the shoes down, heels together, and viewed the outsides as if they were one big collage, so I could spread out characters, speech bubbles, and other images. Then then inside, toes together. Because this area is less likely to be seen unless someone is really inspecting your shoes, this is where I put the stuff that’s amusing to me. For example, in this comic book, Picard proposes to Crusher on the Holodeck, so you better believe that that speech bubble is on the inside of my left foot, and “created by Gene Roddenberry” is on the inside of my right. They’re gonna be your shoes – they should make you happy!

Here’s what they looked like when I had all of those larger images in place.

10 all on

Step 7: Sealing the shoes, over and over and over.

Just like before, when you’re happy, coat them completely with Mod Podge, including the insides if you had to do any wrapping. Not too thick, but it should certainly look like the images are covered in a white film (for the inside of a wrapped area, it should be a bit thicker). Now, leave them alone for 24 hours. Do the same thing the next day, and the next, and maybe even the next. Keep going until you can barely feel the edges of the paper through the Mod Podge – it should be nice and smooth. If in doubt, do another coat.

geek crafts

If you’re into super sparkly things, once you get a smooth surface, pour some Mod Podge into a separate container and mix with a little bit of glitter, then coat with that. Then, when it dries, do one final coat of Mod Podge, just in case.

Step 8: A final seal and some additions for comfort. (optional)

Mod Podge is technically a glue and a sealant, but it is also water-based.  So, if you skip this step, I would recommend that you don’t wear these shoes in the rain.  Additionally, the glossy formula Mod Podge remains somewhat tacky, even when it’s dry.  So grab some water sealer (like Thompson’s), stuff your shoes with newspaper or paper towels or similar so you don’t get gunk inside, follow the directions on the can, and give your shoes a good spray for good measure.

Also, if your shoes are like mine and you wound up just wrapped some of the scraps of paper around the edges of the shoe, you can use a little bit of ribbon and some [carefully used, because you don’t want too much of it] hot glue to make it look more “finished.”  Just glue a soft ribbon (maybe a velvet-faced ribbon) along the inside edge of your shoes, and you won’t have to worry about 1) rubbing from the paper, 2) ripping up the paper, or 3) moisture from your feet reacting with the water-based glue.

Step 9: Rock out in your awesome, new, custom shoes.

geek crafts

Now, go forth and decoupage!

You can use the basic techniques here to practically anything!  Be creative!  I’ve done bookends, [hardside] wallets, glasses cases, other shoes, travel cases, and even my coffee table!   The surface you’re working on will determine how large your pieces of paper can be – fewer contours mean less wrinkling, but beware of the air bubble!  And have fun!

About the Author

SueCo-Host/ Anomaly Supplemental
Sue is a trekkie, a tap dancer, a juggler, a sports fan, an amateur photographer, a Henson fan, a blogger, a theatre nerd, a reader, a board-gamer…and therefore an “Anomaly”.
More Info

Want more stuff like this?

Let me know!  Leave a comment on the blog or send an email to moregirlygeekz(at)gmail(dot)com.

I’ve made several nerdy crafts, and I’ve be happy to share my ideas, processes, successes, and failures!

More stuff from Sue