Custom Shoe Design: A Guide to Creating a Wearable Design

Custom shoe design is one of the single coolest ways to personalize your look. Whether you're designing shoes for a brand or for a personal event, shoe design is among the most 3-D approaches to apparel graphic design. The reason is shoes go all the way around. The design isn't just a picture on the toes, it's the use of color, shape, and print all the way around the shoe.

The best way to design custom shoes is with graphic design software that can simulate the shoe itself, show you the wrap-around design, and help you isolate the design surfaces you can work with. From there, you can create a truly creative shoe that interlaces each element to create the total shoe design.

Here's how to master wearable design with custom shoes you'll want to wear:

What makes a good shoe design?

Flowing wrap-around design

Shoe design is more than one surface, it wraps around the shoe. Great shoe design takes every surface into account, combing a color palette and aerodynamic sense of 'flow' in how the graphics work together.

Clever use of graphic space

  • Toes
  • Tongue
  • Side Panel
  • Heels

Use every part of the shoe. Toes are the most typical custom design, but you can also brand the sneaker tongues, pattern the side-panels, and even add cool details on the heel.

Right and left shoe design

Are your shoes unique right and left? Some custom art will have the shoes reflect or 'look at' each other. Some will use a theme variation between the shoes, with a slightly different picture or pattern for each. Or your shoes may be custom but elegantly identical.

Personalized color and style

Custom shoes feel custom, like shoes you can't get in any ol' store out of the box. Graphic design gives you the opportunity to create something truly unique, even if you are designing a new product line.

How to design your own custom shoes

Know your shoe design surface

Ready to tackle your own custom shoe design project? Start with your shoe. The shape and style of the physical shoe will influence how you design it. Canvas Converse-style sneakers give you tons of space to print, while Nike style sports sneakers may have specific panels on the toe, sides, and heel that you can design and print to customize the shoe.

Create a simulated shoe and flat layout

Simulate your shoe. Use a graphic design program to create a virtual 3D or nearly-3D simulation of the shoe itself. CorelDRAW offers detailed product production features that can help you simulate your shoe and see your design in action.

This will allow you to imagine and build your shoe as a 3D wearable design and not just shapes and images on a screen. Then pull the design surface from your simulated shoe to create your flat design layout, or 'net'.

Get creative with your graphics

Now do your thing. Shoes are a market where customers like unique designs and style preference has a wide variety. You know your audience, so it's up to you to create a design that rocks as wearable and stylish for the wearers of your custom shoes.

Test your graphics layout on the shoe

Once you have chosen a graphics layout, apply it to your simulated shoe. Adjust the pattern if it needs a better fit or change your elements to flow together.

Send to print

When you're ready, send your shoe design to print for your first glimpse at the real-world implementation of your wearable graphic design.


Making custom shoes is a matter of design, material, and method. Once you have the material and method locked down, it's all about your graphic design and the software you develop with. If you're on the lookout for the right software for your design projects, the simulation and wearable design potential of CorelDRAW has the potential to fulfill and go far beyond your expectations for modern graphic design tools.

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