Derby Skates Makeover

I’ve been with my current derby team for over a year, but my skates still reflect the colors of my previous team. It was time for a change. So I went to MacPherson Leather Company, down in Seattle, and after consulting with the guy behind the counter, purchased some leather paint.

I was initially worried the paint would flake off, but the salesman assured me that the paint was super flexible after drying and took me over to a belt sample that he proceeded to wring like a towel you’re trying to clear of water. The paint held. Time will tell if the paint can stand up to the rigors of derby.

I bought the following:

  • Lincoln No. 10 Black suede dye and dressing. You need special dye to handle suede without clumping.
  • Angelus acrylic leather paint, in Light Green. This is the super flexible paint that won’t flake.
  • Angelus No. 600 Acrylic finisher. This is to protect the leather after painting it. The number determines the gloss of the finish. No. 600 is a satin finish.

This is the before picture of my skates. A nice pair of Antiks in my old team’s colors: blue and orange.


My new team’s colors are green and black. The first step was to color the blue suede with the black suede dressing.


I decided to leave the orange accents because: they are pretty; will pop against the green; and to honor the Sockit Wenches. They took a chance on me, and though it didn’t work out long-term, they still have a special place in my heart.


Next I used acetone (aka. fingernail polish remover) to remove the gloss finish from the smooth leather parts of the boot that I wanted to paint green. This step is necessary to make sure the paint adheres well to the leather. This gave the leather a bit of a chalky haze.

Then I used a brush to paint a thin layer of the leather paint. The green over black came out darker than I wanted, so I waited for the boot to dry and then painted another thin layer, this time brushing in the opposite direction than I’d used the first time. I switched direction in an attempt to obscure the brush strokes.

After the third layer of paint, the color was the bright green I wanted, so I let the skates dry overnight (waiting was hard!) and then brushed on a layer of the acrylic finisher to protect the paint.

Ta-daa! The finished skates, now in Tacokicker green and black.


Doing the painting in many thin layers gave a nice even look to the color, and I’d recommend that to anyone trying a similar project. Crossing the brush strokes with each layer helped, but if you get about a foot away from the boot, you can still see some brush strokes. (Though if we’re playing derby and your head is a foot or less away from my skate, brush strokes are probably the last thing on your mind…)

If anyone knows a way to paint acrylic paint onto leather without brush strokes, please drop me a comment and let me know how. I’d like to do more leather painting, preferably without brush strokes.

After this initial experiment, I’m of a mind to get some leather shoes from the thrift shop and steampunk-i-fy them with bronze and copper paint, rivets, and gears.