Paint Paint Paint (and more Paint)

By Kate Riley April 5, 2012

This is one of those projects inspired by a fellow blogger and one I’ve had on the back burner for a long while.  It was time I got my act together and cleaned up all the old paint cans in my house and rounded up all the colors in one post as well.  I’ll get to them in a bit, but first, can I tell you about my paint can issues?

Exhibit A:

kate paint cans before

If you think that’s bad, that is only half of my problem. The other half is in that neighboring closet to the left which is also filled with another dozen old paint cans so it was time to get serious.  I can’t help it – call me a paint hoarder, what can I say.

So what happened was this, I touched up a lot of paint last week but in the process it became clear a lot of the old gallons were looking pretty shabby.  I turned to this inspiring post by the talented Mrs. Limestone – the one where she took all her old gallons and reduced them to pretty little labeled quarts. I’ve been meaning to do this for like ever and finally took the time to do it.

Hello pretty paint cans all in a row.

pretty paint cans cg


How many of you have a bunch of paint cans around and they’re either half full or the rims are all cruddy?  Yeah, that was me.

gross rims


I know glass jars are another way to do this, but I happen to live in earthquake country so I chose the cans instead – they’re $3 each at Home Depot or Lowes but worth it to me for the organization and space saving they bring.

silver quart paint cans


I used the lovely labels already made up by Mrs. Limestone (download them here) – no need to reinvent the wheel when she’s done such an amazing job already!  I printed them out on full sheet labels and was in business.

brooklyn limestone labels


Many of the gallons on the shelves were condensed down to the bare necessities of just a quart for future touch up.  I love the tip about rubbing some of the paint on the rim to remind yourself of the color inside.

gallons to quarts


Before I got rid of the can (all of them are headed to the proper waste center) I copied the name, sheen, and if it was there, the formula too.  Of course you can always clip the formula off with scissors and attach that too to your new can before disposing of the old.

copy formula on label


Now all the colors for both walls and trim are condensed down to these boutique like labeled cans.  So so so happy all the paints from our home are finally organized!

labeled quarts of paint

And thanks again to Mrs. Limestone for her fantastic idea and beautiful labels too!

And speaking of all the colors in our house, who wants the tour?  I *finally* updated an old post which lists them all, plus the close color matches for all that pesky custom mixing I do, so if you’re curious, here is the full list with images of all the paint colors on my walls.

kates daughters room blue green gem cg


And for future reference, I’ve added a button to the sidebar too – just look for this (and thanks Stacy for the great idea on the button!)

paint colors kates home

There, I feel much more organized today.  Plus let’s face it.  I’ll use just about any excuse to play with my paints.  :)





  1. Great idea! I saw this on Pinterest also but didn’t think of using glass jars! I have a bunch of quart-sized mason jars that I don’t know what to do with – maybe they could work?

  2. Your color choices are nice; hoping this motivates me to do the same (someday!).

  3. How smart! I’m a major paint hoader, too – I bet there’s 50+ cans scattered all over my house & barn, and that’s after cleaning out a bunch of them last year! Love this solution, Kate – it looks great but works great, too.

  4. I’m new to your blog and am I ever glad I found it! This is a great idea. We have a cabinet in our basement full of partial cans of paint. It’s on my summer ‘to do’ list. Thanks and I’ll be visiting again soon. : )

  5. Love this!!! I NEED to do this…I have approximately 1 million cans of paint in my garage. Another “to do” item to add to my list!

  6. So glad you could use them!

    Not having that stack of old cruddy cans made me feel so much better. Almost as if I actually have my life together. haha

  7. I’ve been trying to “archive” my paint in quart cans for a while now … problem is, I still have many gallons taking up space in my laundry room because I can’t seem to finish painting my room(s) {yes, multiple paint projects at one time … anyone else with that problem?} to get to the point to archive!

    Anyway, to me, the $3 per quart can is a good value trade-off (even though I think they’re over-priced), since it would cost me much more more to purchase a replacement quart of paint; around here that would be $15 – 20 bucks.

    Gonna have to go get me some of those pretty labels, I’ve just been using a Sharpie marker to write directly on the can.

  8. What a great idea! The cans are so pretty now. I have the same problem and plan to do something like this as well.

  9. I am a faithful follower of your blog. I love your creativity, what you can do with furniture, and I am down-right jealous of your sewing abilities! I had to call you out on this one though, especially right after I read the “lego organization” post. Pouring used paint into $3 brand new paint cans for no other reason than for the way they look on a shelf in a work space!? This may be a sign of some serious OCD going on.

    Speaking of OCD, as a single Mom, I used to require that my little girls keep their play kitchen organized. Ya know, like the plastic meat could not go in the pretend cabinet, it would pretend spoil, it had to go in the pretend refrigerator. Also the pink and blue plates not only had to be put in the cabinet, they had to be stacked pretty, pink, blue, pink, blue, etc. My now, twenty-something girls still tell stories about how obsessed I was over organization and how they see it as how CRAZY I was.

    I am happy to report, that since then, I married a boy and then we had a boy of our own, the household has not been the same since! Now, I am happy if the dirty clothes are actually put in a hamper.

    I am living the dream of restoring furniture! Who knows yet, if that will ever put food on the table, but, that also makes me a paint-hoarder. I would love to someday use those labels that you put on the new paint cans, but I think I would put them on the existing paint cans instead of buying new ones.

    That being said, I love your blog, and I will continue to follow you and mimic your style and abilities, and giggle at your organization obsession!

  10. Wow Kate Your paint supply now looks, well actually quite glamorous.

    Bravo! I would much rather open one of these cans to start a project or do touch-ups!

    I hope you will Come and enter my amazing Cross Bottle Guy Giveaway!You will love it!

    Art by Karena

  11. I used Ms. Limestone’s templates a year or so ago and was thrilled with the results. The the commenter earlier – yes, it looks nice but really the whole point is to make room by getting rid of the large gallon containers that are crusted over with paint and barely close anymore with smaller ones that are clean! When I pull mine out to do touch-ups now, my life is so much easier.

  12. WOW! That is a great idea! I’ve not seen this anywhere before! It is now on my to do list (pinned I mean)! Anyway, I also can’t wait to see your home colors off to check that out now.

    Thanks for showing us this tip and sharing with us!!

  13. Lowes and Home Depot may have a run on these cans!
    There’s something about the rhythm of the silver shapes that I even love.
    Okay, now that’s on my “to do list”. Thanks! ? !

  14. Looks great, Kate! I noticed that you’re pouring your paint into the new cans without any kind of spout. Since at least one of your cans looked like it had rust on the rim, you may get particles into your smaller cans. Have you considered using a spout or a pourer like this one from HD for a little less than $1?
    I have two and find them to be invaluable. Attach to the inner rim and off you go.

    • Another great idea Simon, I didn’t consider it but yes, that looks like a great plan!

  15. ack! i have this very project on my to-do list!!! i was going to use old empty glass jars, but i love those perfect little tin cans! thank you so much for sharing!!! :-)

  16. I ask the paint clerk mixing the paint to please print me a second label. This label goes into a binder that holds all a paint schedule and various décor information from each room. I noticed when I bought my last 2 cans at a home improvement store that they no longer put the formula, but rather a barcode that only they can scan. So I have been keeping an extra paint chip attached to the pages as well. Happy Organizing!!!

    • Fantastic idea to have them print a second label, that is brilliant Marie!

  17. Love this! I am in the middle of what has turned out to be a very long-term painting project. I have a similar huge and messy pile of assorted size paint cans containing varying amounts of paint. What’s worse, they are stacked in my kitchen and have been for AT LEAST four years! This idea has inspired me to finally do something about it! THANKS!

  18. Does anyone have any tips to keep the rims from getting all rusty and cruddy in the first place? I have cans of paint that I really should strain through cheesecloth. I am careful to remove the excess paint but I have problems with big chunks of rust after a year or so.

    • Hey Nancy, I imagine that rust comes from the combo of exposed moisture and metal, don’t know how to prevent it, anyone know?

  19. Holy cow…what a beautiful thing to behold. My dh would think I’d seriously lost my marbles if I did this….but I don’t care. I’m so tired of all the weird cans in the garage…where they probably shouldn’t be. I love the simplicity of the tin. Gorgeous!

  20. Man … I can’t wait to try this! I just re-did a foreclosure and repainted every room in the house – as well as the exterior. Having my cans organized like this would make me happy happy! Yay!

  21. I checked out your whole-house paint tour. I’d love if you wrote about trim and ceiling paint colors. Do you keep it the same throughout your home or vary it based on the wall color?

    I could really use some advice on this! I am moving into a new home and starting from scratch on paint colors.

    • Hi Liz, all the ceilings in our house are the same white. I know it adds such a statement to your home to paint the ceiling a different color, I’ve often thought of it, but for now, the ceilings are all flat white paint, and the crown molding, baseboards and trim are all semi gloss and Kelly Moore ‘Swiss Coffee’. Hope this helps!

  22. Cute idea. May I suggest that you keep your pretty new cans looking as clean and legible as they do now, by not painting directly from the can?

    Professional house painters — and I am one of them — don’t paint from the can. We decant, and then we paint from an emptied, clean, recycled paint can. Or you can buy a reusable plastic work bucket wherever you buy paint.

    A few other paint facts: Paint has a shelf life. A small amount of paint in a large can can dry up. So, decanting into quarts makes sense. Good idea.

    Paints can freeze in a garage in some parts of this country, and then they spoil.

    Paint companies can change the formula for the base, so taking the formula of a 5-year old paint to the store and getting it made again won’t guarantee an exact match.

    Your labels will preserve some helpful info, but they don’t seem to indicate what the solvent base is, so when it’s cleanup time, will you know whether to use water or paint thinner? Perhaps in California, oil-based paints are illegal, but some states still sell them.

    Thanks for another helpful post, helping us all stay organized.

  23. Oh my gosh! What a great idea! And such a simple one too… Imagine! Thanks, I am going to do that with the gallons that are not quite full…..

  24. This is awesome! What a great way to free up some space. This may be a weird question, but what type of pen is that in the picture that you used to label the cans?

  25. All of your paint looks so pretty now :) I used her tags as well and it has made a huge difference with organization.. I used glass jars, some people mentioned the paint wouldn’t stay but it has been a year and they are still perfect. I love your new button too for the paint colors, thank you!
    Happy Easter .

  26. Ahhh I love how pretty all of your paint cans look now! This is such a good idea for storage, organization, and just trying to make everything look pretty :) Thanks for letting us know what paint colors you are using also!

  27. I saw this post as well a while back and loved it. My paint stash looks like your before picture and I hope to someday make it look like your happily-ever-after picture. There is something about those cans that I love – with or without the paint.

  28. This is incredible! What a difference new cans make!

    Although I have to say, that first photo with all of the messy paint cans piled up is actually pretty cool. It’s totally frame worthy! You should hang it in your paint closet as a reminder of all the work you did.

    • Hey good idea Jenny – a reminder of all the work done around here!

  29. Great idea! This would sure help tidy up the coupla dozen partial cans in my utility room.

    By the way, i can’t recommend enough those little half-moon shaped paint can spout guards that they sell at the home improvement stores for about a buck. Just be sure to attach to the INNER rim of your paint can. They keep paint out of the gutter and help ensure a good seal after use.

    And like Barbara said, I never use paint directly from the paint can. I either use a tray (w/ liner) for rolling or use a paint pail that fits nicely in one hand and has a little magnet to hold the brush when shimmying up & down the ladder.

    • Thanks Rob and Barbara, my professional painter friend uses those too, and he also paints from a separate bucket too, so great to know how the professionals work!

  30. I’m a paint lover / paint hoarder too. Just last week I bought a five gallon bucket and dumped all the half full cans of white paint into one bucket. I may never be able to duplicate the color—even though they are all “bright white”, but that’s half the fun of having a love affair with paint! Happy painting!

  31. My husband and I are about to start painting our new home and are back and forth about the brand to use. I see that you’ve used multiple brands – what have you found to be the best for coverage (we use lighter grays, blues, greens) on the walls? Thanks so much!

  32. Anyone who thinks you’re OCD doesn’t understand that it’s better to store paint with as little air space as possible, to keep the paint useable/not dried up & to minimize the formation of ‘skin’ on the top of the paint. It’s much better than storing in an old can that doesn’t seal as tightly, & should minimize the rust issues.

  33. This is such a good idea! I recently went through all of my paint that’s been in my garage and it was all ruined and unusable. So much money wasted! I kept it all in the garage and it froze and thawed so many times over the winter and formed a skin on top, some totally separated, and some just plain dried up. I will definitely be using this advice in the future! Thank you!

  34. I feel ya. I have a TON of paint cans. I had to build a workshop around them! I only wish they were as nicely labeled as yours. Another tip I have is that I also have a paint chip book (hole punched paint chips of every single can I buy on a keyring) so that I can always buy more if I run out (since it will have the manufacuter and color name/number OR you can have it color matched if the paint gets discontinued) Plus I have a quick and easy way to take all my house colors with me when shopping for stuff.

  35. What did you do with the excess paint left in the cans after transferring to the new cans? I don’t know what to do with the leftover paint or cans? How can I recycle paint properly?

  36. What a great idea. No one needs to store all those big cans and you don’t want to get rid of the extra paint in case you need to do touch ups. I am doing this for sure.

  37. I have this problem too and could definitely open a paint sample store. Lovely way to organize! Question though, how long is old paint good for??? Can you use it as long as it is not dried up or is there a set number of years?

  38. This is the first time I have seen your entire house. It is just lovely! Great job! :)

  39. Great idea!! I confess, I too, am a paint hoarder. My husband always looks at me sideways when I find a little sampler paint at Lowe’s on the mistint rack – “but it’s only $0.50 and I NEED it…” I recently did a purge on my paint collection and now will take it a step further with the smaller cans/labels – LOVE that idea! Melanie F – to dry up the leftover paint, buy a big bag of cheap kitty litter (not the clumping kind) and add it to the can. Leave the cans sitting out, lids off and it should dry up w/in about 24 hours. You can then put the lids back on and should be able to dispose of them w/your regular trash (latex paint only). Oil based paints have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

    • Ha, too funny Kat, I can so relate to the “I NEED this oops paint!” for a dollar! Great tip about the kitty litter for latex paints!

  40. Truly beautiful. I, too, am a paintaholic and have cans (large, medium, small and very small), old yogurt containers, plastic picnic plates topped with aluminum foil, you get the picture. I don’t even know if I could commit to the organization because the chaos feels so artistic. Oh, yeah, I’m just a bit crrrrraaazzzzzzzzzy. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  41. Great idea! Do you have any advice on how long paints keep? I would think they would last longer in the smaller containers with tight lids – but how do you decide when the paint is no longer usable?

  42. Preachin to the choir here! I have so many old paint cans. I use old chinese soup containers… They are really thick plastic with an air tight lid. But no where NEAR as cute or clever as these. Nice work!

  43. Wow Kate! If I EVER get to a point of having no other tidying in my home to do… this will be the “it” project.
    You sure know how to raise the bar on tidy and organized for rest of us dontcha’ ?

  44. Wow Kate, I love this. It is simply brilliant. All my paint tins take up the floor to ceiling corner shelves in my studio and I have been trying to ignore how messy they look. Now I know exactly what to do with them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  45. PS: A great idea would be to buy one of these cans when you buy a new tin of paint. Then you would have it on hand ready to decant the paint when the time came. $3 on top of a gallon of paint psychologically isn’t so much as buying 10 tins all at once …

  46. That looks really nice. Good thinking.

    I’ve taken to storing leftover paint in mason jars. I write the info on the top using a sharpy, and since they are clear glass you can easily see what’s inside.

  47. This is perfect! I am so impressed you did this. I have about 50 paint cans piled up in my laundry room and have been wondering how in the world I could make them more organized as well as prettier. What a great idea!

  48. This post SAVED me this weekend! I had no idea you could buy empty paint cans. We put in a new bathroom vanity which was shorter than the old one, and had to patch the wall. When hubby opened the old paint can, the rim was all rusted and there was no way to save the rest of the paint. I said “WAIT! I totally just read a blog about being able to buy paint cans at home depot.” Love, love, love!

  49. This is the most inspiring idea for storing paints I have read about since I finished reading “Painting Magic” many years ago. I was laughing to myself because in the first picture, I am thinking “how did she get a picture of all my paint”??? I have two storage closets in the garage that look alarmingly like this. And, to add to it, I am involved in selling CeCe Caldwell paints and now have all their colors too. I have a gift card to Home Depot and I am using it to invest in all those little quart cans, and then I am putting my kids to work to do the dirty work. I am so excited to tackle this closet. I really do dread looking in there for what I need, it is such an eye sore! Thank you for the reminder to update my house colors too. We recently repainted two big sections of our home and I won’t remember what the colors were if I don’t record them!

    Love your blog, always so inspiring. -K

  50. When you n’ hubby visit us in the South this summer, you are welcome to practice this on our paint cans. I’ll provide the work space, room & board, and rights to the photos free of royalty. Whaddya say have we got a deal? Have your peeps get with my peeps at xxx-xxx-4054 (Cell)

  51. When we first bought our current home, we did a lot of painting. I would save the lids of the used paint so that I had the paint formula & color on the reverse side. Love your method of organizing!

  52. Great idea! I really like the labels too. The old owners of our home left all their paint (which was a nice thought if we had kept any of the same colors) and those mixed with the dozen or so we’ve bought is getting a little aggressive. I will be condensing my paint like this too. Thanks for the post!

  53. A few years back I transferred all my paints to new containers as well. I was told to leave the lids off after I emptied the original cans out so the interior dries out. Then I left them for the recycle truck who took them all away.

  54. If you had your MyLowe’s Loyalty Card scanned when you purchased this paint, they can even print you new updated labels (with new Base codes included if the formula changed any) and you can stick these nice and new labels on your cans. New formula for same look on new labels. I LIKE!

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