I’m Bringing Bedazzling Back

Or how I make my sparkly sneakers (featuring detailed instructions & GIFs)

Back when I was kid, inexpensive hot glue guns were all the rage. Using hot glue guns, everyone could stick shiny stuff on other stuff and a whole generation of bedazzlers was born overnight.

Bedazzling used to be cool.

Like high-waisted jeans, this bedazzling fad faded over time, to the point where it became the butt of jokes. But like the recent return of high-waisted jeans, I think it’s time to bring bedazzling back. And for me, my favorite thing to make sparkly is my shoes.

the first pair of shoes I bedazzled, to match the Trailhead logo (I work on Trailhead)

Because Sparkly Sneakers are Fun

I love wearing sneakers, and if you follow me here on medium, you know I’m experimenting with wearing the same outfit every day. Although I rock the same look daily, I do vary my shoes. That means my colorful, sparkly sneakers are one of the ways I can have fun with my clothes.

I find that putting 3,000 individual swarovski crystals on my shoes ups the fun factor.

I also speak somewhat regularly at events, and my sparkly shoes have become something I’m somewhat known for. In other words, my fun shoes have become part of my personal brand.

Why I’m Writing This

I get asked a lot about my shoes — where I bought them, and once I share that I decorate them myself, how I do that. Since I was in the middle of making a new pair, I decided to document my process and share it with everyone, so that you can join me in bringing back bedazzling, to your favorite kicks or anything else that needs some extra sparkle.

Instructions for Bedazzling Your Sneakers

  1. Choose your shoes
  2. Buy supplies
  3. Bedazzle
  4. Let the shoes dry for 3 days
  5. Enjoy

Step 1: Choose Your Shoes

This is an important choice. You should pick a shoe type that you love. My favorite shoes are New Balance — they’re comfortable, and you can get them in custom colors, using their online design tool. I like the New Balance 574.

look at all those colors you can choose

You don’t have to do New Balance. Although I’ve never tried bedazzling Vans or Converse sneakers, or any other sneakers for that matter, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work.

The point is, you should pick a shoe you love.

A quick note on color: In general, when you’re choosing a shoe, I find that a shoe with one or two colors makes the biggest impact.

Step 2: Buy Supplies

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 pair of shoes, preferably 1 or 2 colors max
  • 2 tubes of E-6000 glue — clear, and you should try to find the kind with a pointy nozzle
  • 6 wax sticks
  • ~3000 swarovski flat back crystals, sorted by size and color
  • paper towels
  • a plate, preferably a solid color
  • 1 color chart for crystals
here are all my supplies, laid out and ready to go

How to get swarovski crystals

Choosing the right color and size for your crystals is important. I order my crystals in bulk from rhinestonesupply.com.

Once you have your shoes in hand, you’ll want to pick out your crystals.

Do not try to match the crystal color online — it will vary too much on screen.

I highly recommend spending the ~$20 to order a color chart. You’ll get a single sheet with all the colors on it.

a color chart is essential

Once you choose your color, you’ll need to order your crystals. A few ground rules:

  • Don’t order anything smaller than 16ss — trust me on this, anything smaller is tiny and hard to work with
  • Don’t order anything larger than 30ss —again, trust me on this
  • You’ll want to order mostly 20ss and 16ss — and 20ss is my favorite
  • Decide how much of the shoe you want to cover

For the blue and green shoes I purchased, I chose Emerald and Light Turquoise. I then ordered:

Emerald

  • 4 gross of 16ss (576 crystals total)
  • 5 gross of 20ss (720 crystals total)

Light Turquoise

  • 5 gross of 16ss (720 crystals total)
  • 10 gross of 20ss (1440 crystals total)
  • 2 gross of 30ss (288 crystals total)

That is 3744 crystals total. At the end, I had exactly enough green, and some extra of the blue, and I covered almost the entire surface of the shoe.

Also, I wear a women’s size 10 shoe. If you wear a smaller shoe size, you might need to order less.

A quick word on budget

I spent about $150 on shoes and $350 on crystals. The glue and wax sticks are around $20. So this is about $520 for a pair of shoes, which I recognize is a lot. Keep in mind I wear the same outfit every day, so I don’t spend money on new clothes, and I usually make a new pair of these shoes once a year.

If budget is a concern, I recommend ordering less crystals and covering less of the shoe.

For example, you could just cover the logo, or just cover the toe and heel. That’s a great way to save money and time, and still have a very fun shoe to wear. You also could forgo buying a custom shoe, and instead buy a regular shoe.

A lot of people ask me if they can use cheaper crystals. Of course you can, but I find that swarovski crystals are much better at picking up the light and therefore bringing the sparkle.

Swarovski crystals are better at bringing the sparkle.

Again, covering less of the shoe will still look amazing, and a non-custom shoe is another great way to cut down on costs.

Step 3: Bedazzle

It takes about 3–6 hours per shoe, depending on how much shoe area you decide to cover. You’ll want to lay out all of your supplies, and organize your crystals in small containers by color and size.

clockwise from upper left, these are the light turquoise crystals, size 16ss, 20ss, and 30ss

Make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area, and on a surface you either don’t care about getting glue on, or that’s covered with something like newspaper.

Sprinkle a small amount (30 crystals or so) of each size on your plate in piles. Lay out your glue and wax sticks, and start with one of the shoes.

You’re going to be working on a single square inch of the shoe at a time. This is a painstaking effort, so put on your favorite music or movie to keep you company while you work. Or use the time to meditate.

Start with the glue. Outline 1 square inch of the space on the shoe. Fill it in with glue.

outline the glue in 1 square inch, then fill it in

Once the glue is on, you’ve got to move fast, because it will start drying right away.

Using the wax stick, pick up a crystal and drop it, flat side down, into the glue. A light touch works best. The wax will immediately stick to the shiny top of the crystal.

pick up the crystals one at a time, and drop them into the glue

Repeat until you have filled up the square inch. Now, as you’re dropping these crystals into the glue, they’ll start moving in ways you don’t like. This is the nature of the glue, which spreads and moves as it dries.

Just flip that wax stick around and use the pointy end of it to adjust your crystal placement.

unleash your inner OCD with adjusting your crystals in the wet glue

You’ll want to wipe the end of the wax stick with a paper towel once you’re done.

Once you’ve got everything where you want it, just tap down all the crystals with your wax stick. Again, a light touch is best.

tap tap tap

If you get some spilled glue on the shoe, just scrape it off. The pointy end of the wax stick is great for this.

Keep repeating, one square inch at a time, until you’ve covered the whole shoe.

Make sure to take breaks, and again, be sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area. The glue can be intense.

Step 4: Let the shoes dry for 3 days

The day after you finish gluing, your shoes will look dry right away. But you’ll want to wait for at least 72 hours for maximum hold.

After 3 days, your shoes should be ready to wear.

Step 5: Enjoy

Everything is more fun when you’re wearing sparkly sneakers.

here are the shoes I just finished for Dreamforce ‘16

View some of the shoes I’ve created

Thanks for reading.

Did I inspire you to give bedazzling a try? Let me know what you’re going to bedazzle next.