Friday, December 11, 2009

How to decorate a paint can

Several years ago I decorated a paint can for every female member of my family and filled it with a present for Christmas. The cans turned out so pretty but, you know, you do it once and you can't give that same gift again so I haven't had a chance to make one lately. I put together one this morning to show you all one of my absolute favorite ways to wrap a gift. This is a very basic can decoration, you can see at the bottom of this post some of my more elaborate cans. Once you put one together you can let your imagination go wild and really get creative. I've found the cheapest place to buy these empty paint cans is the hardware store and places like Lowe's and Home Depot. Try not to pay more than $3.00 or you're paying too much. This particular can I won at a crop and it didn't come with a top so I just went with that but you can even decorate the top and hang a decorated can opener from the handle.

The biggest obstacle on a can is the knobs for the handle. Remove the handle (it takes a twist to pull it out and to put it back in later).

Measure your can for exact inches but my can here was just under 7 1/4 inches tall and I cut two pieces of matching paper 11 inches long (by 7 1/4) so they would wrap around easily. You will need a circle punch. Lay one paper against the can as if you were attaching it and estimate where the knob will meet with the paper then punch a hole in the paper in that area. Then take your second piece of paper (11 by 7 1/4) and lay it exactly on top of the first and punch an identical hole.

Back when I used to make these my best option for sticking the paper onto the can was double sided tape. Since these don't need to be archival you can use that or glue dots will work. Tombow might work okay but I used it on mine to attach paper to paper instead of to the metal. Wrap the tape pretty close to the top edge and bottom edge and then several strips around the rest of the can, you do not have to cover every bit of the can.

Here around the knob you need to leave a space but still keep the tape close to where you think the hole will lie.

The nice thing about the can is it has two perfectly straight lines to place your paper in between. Line up your paper and SLOWLY lay it down making sure the hole fits around the knob. You want to move slow so that you can keep from having air bubbles and wrinkles. That tape will stick well so there won't be a ton of chances to get this right so be careful.

Once you're attached the first piece of paper, start the second lining the hole up with the knob then keep it straight all the way around. Once you get to the end, let the papers overlap and put on your adhesive right on the edge so it lays very flat. The seams barely show, especially if you use stripes like I did.

Cut 2 pieces of coordinating paper 11 by 4 inches. Wrap it around about an inch up from the bottom. I actually found it more difficult to put this piece on than attaching the big papers to the can. Again, if you use stripes it's easier to line up everything together but it's up to you. I have found that the papers that work best on these cans are the ones that are too "loud" for your regular layouts. This is a much more subdued pattern than I normally use.

Cut another 2 pieces 3 inches by 11 and wrap them around the center of the last strips. I actually meant to cut this so these stripes go the opposite way but didn't so I just went with the stripes exactly the same as the other paper. Now is the time to decorate. You can stamp on little circles and attach them around the can or you can do buttons all along the edge like I did. It's up to you. Attach buttons with glue dots, great way to use up extra buttons.

I added a big ribbon and a used tombow all around the top edge to keep it in place.

This next step is up to you. I like to decorate the handle, if you like this look put the handle back on and cut a bunch of coordinating ribbons and mesh about 4-5 inches long (you can always trim later). Just tie them on, one knot only, about 20 or so.

You can keep the handle up or let it drop to the side.

For this particular "topless" can I was able to really show off the tissue paper. Imagine this with a loaf of homebaked bread or some cooking utensils or art supplies.

Depending on the paper you use you could fill your can with toys or fishing supplies or even tools.

Here are a variety of cans I've made in the past. See how I've attached a tag with the recipient's name and used those old "quotable quotes" vellum embellishments to decorate the front.

You can really decorate over the top on these and imagine how they can be then again used by the recipient as a gift wrap again or as a decoration in their home.

If you use a top you can close it tightly and just attach a paint can opener to it with a ribbon. Most paint stores will give you these for free.

Make sure you decorate the top if you use one.

Here I used muslin cloth for the "ribbons" since I wanted a really homey look for a wonderful teacher. I would love to see your artwork if anyone tries one of these.


  1. I LOVE altering paint cans too. They are so much fun. Yours are beautiful.

  2. Those cans are amazing

  3. your paint cans are amazing ! really amazing : )