How-to Apply Swarovski Crystal / Rhinestone onto Shoes (Heels, Wedges)


A Little Weekend DIY:  Bedazzled Shoes

There was such an overwhelmingly positive response and requests for a how-to on my Swarovski-bedazzled wedding wedges–so here you go! This was the first time I’ve ever done something like this, and the more crafting experience you have, the higher quality your work will be, but even as someone who hasn’t done a craft project in years, like myself, the results were surprisingly satisfactory :) There was a learning curve, so I’ve included all the things I’ve learned in this guide.

I’m not at all an expert at this, and this was my first attempt. I was inspired by a pair of Gucci heels that I saw in Vegas last month. They were, quite possibly, the most stunning, jaw-droppingly gorgeous shoes I have ever laid eyes on. I’m definitely going to attempt creating something using the black crystals next. I thought I’d try it first on a pair of satin wedges (BP Fae, $59.95, also available in black) I picked up for my wedding. They weren’t too pricey, and even if they didn’t turn out perfect, you’d never really see them since the gown goes well past the floor.

What You Need

  • Pair of shoes
  • Flatback Crystals/Rhinestones (approximately 15-40 gross, depending on size of crystals/area to cover)
  • Adhesive (I used E6000, GemTac is also a good pick)
  • Tray (to hold the crystals)
  • Tweezers
  • Plastic Stick

I purchased all of my supplies from Dreamtime Creations. I had no problems with the service through them, though there are other crafting websites out there, too. This retailer happened to have a sale at the time, so that’s what made me go with them.

Step-by-step guide/my experience and lessons learned… 

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Clean the surface of the area you plan to cover.
  2. Uniformity or random pattern? That’s up to you – totally a preference, really. I like the look of various sizes randomly placed, so that’s what I did. If you want a more uniform look, you may want to apply line by line, rather than to a small area (like a patch).
  3. Start at either the edge of the shoe or the back of the heel. I felt the only area that needed real precision was the top and bottom edges, which I wanted to be even. I still used different sizes to create those borders, but you could choose one stone to make it easier for uniformity.
  4. Apply a thin layer of adhesive to a very, very small area. The glue sets fast enough that working in a 1cm x 2cm area was about as much as I could get through before it would lose its tackiness. You can still push around the stones here and there for sometime after it loses that tackiness, but applying the stones is so much easier when the glue is more viscous.
  5. Use tweezers to pick up stone by stone to place onto glue. The best method was to let go of the rhinestone just before it touched the glue, which would avoid getting glue on the tweezers. E6000 was very easy to rub off from the tweezers (and my hands), so it’s not a big deal if you get some glue on the tweezers.
  6. Use tweezers or a plastic stick to push and press rhinestone into place. I wanted a pretty tight pattern, so I used a plastic stick to get the rhinestones as close together as I could.
  7. Let set for 24-72 hours. This is based on the directions of E6000, which is the adhesive.
  8. Clean-up of any residual or excess glue can be done using acetone or rubbing alcohol. I suggest doing it on a few loose, extra stones to make sure there are no adverse reactions. You don’t want to saturate the area you’re working on, because it will dissolve the adhesive underneath the stone, too–you’re just looking to clean the tops of the stones of glue.
  9. Enjoy! :) Your feet will be SPARKLIN’!

My Experience & Lessons Learned

I used approximately 15 gross (just over 2,000 stones), and I used sizes 5ss, 10ss, 12ss, 14ss, and 16ss. The stones I used were Swarovski 2058 flatback rhinestones in Crystal AB. I actually bought 30 gross, and I have so much leftover! I would not advise using the same sizes I did, because they’re really unnecessarily small. I plan to use 10ss, 12ss, 14ss, 16ss, 18ss, and 20ss next time. I like having either 5ss or 10ss available to cover any odd spaces, because you can cram 5ss into nearly any area that you can’t fit the larger stones tightly together. I would buy more of the 14ss and 16ss stones and less of the 5ss/10ss and 20ss sizes. I liked the look of at least four various sizes together (I used 5ss mostly as a filler where junctures weren’t as tightly packed as I wanted).

I also thought that I’d need a ton of glue, so I purchased the 3 oz. size of E6000, but 1 oz. would have been fine. It’s a common enough adhesive for crafts that you can reuse it elsewhere, though.  I might try out Gem Tac next time, because it seems like it has a slower drying time.  For sure, I want to pick up a syringe, though, so I can get more precise application. I ended up doing patches of glue at a time, and I wonder if it would be cleaner if I was able to apply a dot of glue, then press the rhinestone onto it. It may not be as time-efficient, though – so we’ll see if the results are better and if so, if it’s worth the (if any) additional time.

I tried the “Magical Tray” for sorting, and it’s not very useful for this type of project. Apparently, it’s only good for sorting up to 12ss, and even then, it turned up only 70% of the stones. I plan to grab five cheap sorting trays so I can pull out the exact size I want for an area, rather than fishing around for next time.  This also makes it easier to return the stones back to their original bags if you have extras. I ended up with a general bag filled with a mix of all five sizes.

I bought Jewel Setters, which were plastic sticks with one side coming to a point and the other had a wax ball attached to it. The wax just didn’t work for me to pick up stones–too often, the stone was stuck to the wax ball. I did like the pointed end for pushing stones around, and I ended up using one stick (they came in a set of two) to fish glue out of the E6000 and spread the glue onto the area I was working on.  The tweezers I used were some that my fiance had in his tool kit, but they weren’t sharp or pointed (I didn’t want to scratch the stones, as all my brow tweezers are rather sharp!), and they had a good length to them, which worked well for this project.

This is not necessarily a cheap or quick project. I spent about $125 for supplies (most of that on stones)–it’s way, way more affordable than most other rhinestone-bedecked shoes, though.  It took me six hours (three and half for the first shoe, two and half for the other). I bought a pair of Enzo Angiolini “Show Me” shoes, which had black rhinestones over a black shoe, and while I’m a fan of the brand’s shoes overall, the craftsmanship and placement of the rhinestones left something to be desired–lots of extra space, some missing stones, and those were regular rhinestones and not Swarovski, and they definitely had less sparkle. I think if they had less space on the shoes, the regular rhinestones would have sparkled plenty, though.

I’m excited, though, and hopeful; I plan to do a pair of heels (3-4″) in Jet and another pair of shoes in Volcano. I’d love to do flats in Volcano, but finding a suitable pair hasn’t been so easy.  Hope you enjoyed this, and if you’ve done this project yourself, please chime in with any advice!