How to Paint Dr. Martens

Hi, all!

I’m back on the blog with another fun DIY project for you: painting on a pair of Dr. Martens! If you’ve followed along on the blog, you know that I love, love, love Docs. They’re my go-to brand—rain or shine, summer or winter!

My absolute favorite pair, the Leona in Bone, have stood the test of time, but they’re starting to look a bit rough! I mean, I do wear them almost every day so of course they look worn in!

My recent purchase of another white pair of Docs got me thinking . . . I don’t ever want to throw my Leona boots out, especially because they’re still in decent condition!

Why don’t I just paint over the problem areas and call it a day?

I’ve drawn similar designs on my Vans before, so I figured painting my Docs wouldn’t be much different!

Today’s blog post is a step-by-step tutorial for you to paint your own pair of Dr. Martens with a design that really captures your personal style! Let’s get started!

Step 1: Supplies

First things first, make sure you have all the necessary supplies, which I’ve mapped out below! Now, you don’t have to use these exact brands, but if you don’t, I recommend doing your own research to ensure the brands you are buying are high quality.

What You Need

Folk Art Acrylic Multi-Surface Paint (satin finish)

Angelus Matte Acrylic Finisher

Paint brushes in various sizes

Pigma Micron Fine Line Pen (03)

Paint palette

Rubbing alcohol


Paper towels

Water cup

Step 2: Prepping Your Boots for Painting

I want to preface this by saying I did not pre-draw a design on my Dr. Martens prior to painting them. I tend to work better when I do things freehand, so that’s how I approached this project as well. You could use a pencil or marker to outline your design ahead of time, but that may require more paint to cover up the template.

Keep in mind, the more coats you do, the more opportunities for your design to get messed up.

Before you even pick up a paint brush, the first thing that you want to do is dampen a Q-Tip in rubbing alcohol and do a patch test on an inconspicuous area of your boots. The purpose of this is to remove any dirt, debris, or wax build-up from the leather that could affect how the paint lays.

Once you’ve completed your patch test, use the Q-tip to lightly brush rubbing alcohol on the areas where your design will be. You do NOT need to put rubbing alcohol over the entire surface of your boot! Just the areas you are painting!

Allow the rubbing alcohol to dry before moving onto paint.

Step 3: Painting Time

Next up, it’s time to gather your paint palette, acrylic paints, and brushes! Let’s talk brushes for just a second: I used the same size brush for my entire design. The brush or brushes you use are totally up to you and your comfort level. I prefer a thinner, sharper brush for precision, so that’s what I used.

I began my design with the most complex part first, which was the flowers on the sides of the heels. Each color I painted required three coats of paint for full coverage. After I finished the heels, I continued up the back, to the toe, then to the surface of the boot.

Please, please, please be sure to give the paint time to dry in between coats! Luckily, acrylic paint dries fairly quick, so while you wait for it to dry, continue working on the next design on your Dr. Martens and then go back in with another coat in five minutes or so.

Once you have three coats on all designs, let your boots dry overnight to ensure the paint is completely dry.

Step 4: Outline the Fine Lines

I love outlining paint. It’s my signature, which is why I did it on these boots! Definitely not a requirement, but I think it’s a great way to elevate your design. This is why it’s imperative that you let your boots dry overnight. The surface needs to be completely dry before you go in with the pen.

I outlined and detailed all of the designs with an archival ink pen. It only took one go-around with the ink pen, though I went over some areas a bit more for emphasis. In case you’re wondering, yes, this pen is waterproof and fadeproof! After you’ve completed your work with the archival ink pen, it’s time to let them dry once again! I recommend another overnight dry just to be sure.

Step 5: Final Steps Ahead

So, you have your Dr. Marten boots painted and outlined. Now what? To ensure the paint stays on the boot through rain, snow, and sludge, you have to set the color in place. The Angelus Matte Finisher is kind of like a matte nail top coat for leather. You use it sparingly, just overtop the designs you have painted on your boots. A little bit goes a long way! One simple swipe across your design will suffice.

Once you’ve applied the Angelus Matte Finisher across your designs, you need to wait the recommended 24 hours before you do anything else to your boots. They might seem like they’re dry in a couple minutes, but just wait the 24 hours!

Finally, once you have reached your 24-hour mark, it’s time to do a solid wax of your boots so they’re ready for whatever is ahead. I used Dr. Martens Wonder Balsalm. It’s a wax that you apply to the surface of the boots. It acts as a protectant, which is especially important since you did apply rubbing alcohol across the leather at the beginning of the project. You want to make sure that all the moisture is locked back into the leather before you go jumping in any puddles!

Once you have waxed up your Dr. Marten boots, you are good to go on your way! Yay!

You have officially painted your first pair of Dr. Martens! Doesn’t it feel great!?

Tips & Last-Minute Thoughts

  • You don’t need to use the same brand of paints, though I recommend it for all of your designs. What do I mean by that? I wouldn’t use Folk Art for one coat and then go in with Deco Art for another coat. Stick with one brand! Even if you have acrylic paints on-hand, just go and buy new ones. Who knows how long you’ve had those for and you want to make sure the paint is super fresh!
  • Angelus also has leather-specific paints that you could use for this, it’s just a bit harder to find them. I believe that Amazon carries them, but they didn’t have the colors I wanted for my design, which is why I opted for the Folk Art Acrylic Multi-Surface Paints!
  • Don’t rush! I know firsthand the excitement that comes with a new project, but seriously don’t rush with this. Rushing could lead you to mess up the design, smudge the paint, overdraw your design, etc.
  • Make sure to dry your brush completely before going back in with more paint. If there is any water collected in the bristles of your brush, it’s going to mess up your design. Use the paper towel to gently apply pressure to the bristles, removing any moisture.
  • Make sure to rinse your brushes well after applying the Angelus Matte Finisher! If you don’t, that stuff will harden the bristles of your brush to the point of needing to throw the brush out.

Well, that’s all I have for you today! A tutorial for how you, too, can paint your own Dr. Martens! I hope that this DIY was helpful and as always, please let me know if you have any questions!

Until next time,


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