Give your old paint can a makeover to create the perfect summer lantern.

How to Decorate Empty Paint Cans

by Anne Goetz

Paint cans are large, and they make interesting repurposed containers after you've used up all the paint. Easily turn old, empty cans into bright summer lanterns just by adding a little glossy spray paint and a pretty paper template. Clean and save the paint lid to act as a cover when the summer rains come beating down. Use your DIY paint can lanterns to light the way to your next evening barbecue or line them down the steps of the deck leading to the beach.

Turn your paint can upside-down over a paint tray liner and leave it overnight to drain out any excess paint. Wipe the inside of the can thoroughly with paper towels to remove excess paint; then soak the entire can in hot, soapy water and scrub it with a brush to remove all the paint and the paper label.

Dry the can thoroughly and then sand it gently all over. Buff with a soft cloth to remove dust.

Apply several coats of high-gloss spray paint in a bright, summer color. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly between coats.

Poke holes in the can using a hammer and sharp nail in a pleasing design. Tape a paper template in place on the side of the can to use as a guide if desired.

Pour a few inches of sand in the bottom of the can and nestle a votive candle inside. Line a retaining wall or walkway for your summer party with a series of punched-hole paint cans.

Items you will need

  • Paint can
  • Paint can lid
  • Paint tray liner
  • Paper towels
  • Scrub brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Soft cloth
  • Spray paint, high-gloss
  • Hammer
  • Sharp nail
  • Paper template
  • Sand
  • Votive candle


  • Tap the lid back onto the can gently before using the hammer and nail to poke the design. The lid will give the can more stability and help keep it from bending. Keep the lids to cover each can after use to keep rain from wetting your sand and candle.

About the Author

Anne Goetz shares her parenting and career experience with North American Parent, Hagerstown Magazine,, and a variety of other online and print publications. A mother of two with a degree in communications and a long history in management, Goetz spends her spare time hiking, camping and blogging. She is the author of the site, An Unedited Life: The Ultimate Blog for Freelance Writers.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images