Introduction: Can Art: a Way to Recycle Some Tin Cans

Picture of Can Art: a Way to Recycle Some Tin Cans

We all use some canned foods from time to time.  And we all probably use empty cans for one purpose or another.  This instructable shows how to decorate cans to be used as organizers for pencils, pens, paint brushes, etc.  It's a simple thing to do, and children would especially have fun making their creations.

Step 1: Collect Some Cans Destined for the Recycle Bin

Picture of Collect Some Cans Destined for the Recycle Bin

Size doesn't matter, regular 14oz, is a good size, but all can be used.  I prime the can with a good primer as a binder for the glue to be used.

Step 2: Make Styrofoam "Tiles"

Picture of Make Styrofoam "Tiles"

I use the hotwire machine to do this.  These instruments are available on line, or see my instructable:" Making The Mighty Goliath."  See pictures for procedures.

Step 3: Glue Tiles or Pattern to the Can

Picture of Glue Tiles or Pattern to the Can

We want to make this tiled can look like a ceramic work of art, so carefully place tiles, gluing them no more than 1/8th inches apart.  The empty spaces will be grouted as though they were real ceramic tile.

Step 4: Grout the Can

Picture of Grout the Can

Using regular non-sanded or sanded grout, mix up a batch for your project.  Apply grout with a gloved hand, or use a spreader tool.  Force the grout into the spaces between tiles so that there are no pockets of air, or missed places in the grout lines.  Let dry for 20-30 minutes. Picture from another instructable, but clearly shows the grouting procedure.

Step 5: Remove Excess Grout

Picture of Remove Excess Grout

After this initial drying period, remove excess grout with a damp, almost dry sponge. The object is to leave a hazy layer of grout over tiles, but leaving grout lines intact and even with the surface of the tiles. When dry (overnight) the tiles can be cleaned up, again using a damp sponge.  Project can be sealed with a grout sealer if wanted, but is not necessary for these projects.  I have used acrylic varnish (water based) and it appears to do a good job and leave a nice shine.

Step 6: Other Possibilities

Picture of Other Possibilities

Names, words, designs, messages, images can all be cut from your foam material and applied as shown.  Other possibilities would be to get some stone "gems", sea shells, metal objects, etc.


toscas3 (author)2013-07-04

con que pego venecitas al tergopol

Aunt Cheery (author)2011-12-28

I recently came across this site and am intrigued by many of the projects. I had to retire early due to health problems and have a limited budget. But I have gobs of craft materials and plenty of craft foam. The "mosaic" cans are wonderful! Is there a problem if I use the project idea to teach at my senior co-op apartments? It'll fit into everyone's budget! Thanks for the great idea.

Creativeman (author)Aunt Cheery2011-12-28

You are welcome, and thank you for your interest. You are entirely free to use any and all of the ideas's a fun thing to do, and can keep some people busy for a while, anyway...good luck!

nicnacnoo (author)2011-12-03

Wow this is brilliant. Love it and can't wait to try make one or two or three!!
Santa please send a hot wire machine in my direction!

kilbia (author)2011-08-26

This is amazing! And I'm guessing the lid in the finished product is the lid from the original can, similarly decorated?

hav2sing (author)2010-07-11

Love this AND the craft foam instructable (which I found first). Thank You!! Love your instructables!!

lieancei (author)2010-06-27


AutumnElayne (author)2010-05-09

Going to do this project at the art camp I'm teaching this summer. Thank you!

sunshiine (author)2010-03-07

Just recently I was wondering how I could make something lovely out of a can.  Your tute will help me get started!  thanks!

scoochmaroo (author)2009-11-16

What type of styrofoam do you use for your tiles?  Would the colored "fun foam" sheets they sell work or are they too thin?

Creativeman (author)scoochmaroo2009-11-17

Hey, scooch:  I thought about this, and decided to try the works pretty well!  I had a sheet of black and green  so used those as "tiles"'s easy to cut, and stick on as they have glue backings.  I wasn't happy with the grout removal, but managed to scrub most of it off.  The solution to that would be to varnish the foam before cutting into tiles, and applying to the can (or other round piece). So check it out and see what you think...all kinds of applications come to mind, here come some more 'ibles!  I cut out the "S" from the foam, and the adjacent green tiles are foam, as well as the black.

komecake (author)Creativeman2010-02-17

  Coooooooooooooooool. :)

scoochmaroo (author)Creativeman2009-11-17

Wicked!  Saves a step in painting, since you can get so many colors, but I guess it adds that step back when you have to varnish it. I just couldn't figure out what foam you were using or where to get it!

Creativeman (author)scoochmaroo2009-11-16

I think it is just foam: EPS, only...styrofoam is a brand name (Dow). The fun foam is rubber, I believe and can't be cut with the hotwire.  But they might work, maybe I'll check it out!. Cman

scoochmaroo (author)Creativeman2009-11-16

Where did you procure the foam?

Creativeman (author)scoochmaroo2009-11-16

Most building supply stores, specialty insulation stores, etc.  I got a lot of usable foam from packing materials when I was still working...Still have several boxes to be cut up for art work! Cman.

komecake (author)2010-02-17

  This is so cool! I don't have any foam or grout, but I DO have plenty of scrap pieces of material and I have e6000. WOOT. I'm so going to do this. I've been wanting a pencil holder for my desk. This is an awsome idea. Thank you so much. *runs to grab tomatoe soup can out of the trash*

teralcor (author)2010-02-05

looks amazing, very creative stuff.

bushra (author)2010-01-26

wow!!! its rilli kewl i ll  try :D

toyzine (author)2010-01-13

Very Creative :D Love it all.

chaitanyak (author)2009-12-21

 these look awesome!! will give it a try soon :)

Creativeman (author)chaitanyak2009-12-21

Thank you. Good luck! Cman

barberok (author)2009-12-04

 what fonts are you using?

Creativeman (author)barberok2009-12-05

Bookman old style, I think....Cman

Howi (author)2009-11-29


I would suggest using foamcore for this - it's Styrofoam sandwiched between paper/cardboard (sometimes plastic). It can be cut with a stanley knife - might make it easier, and no need for a hot wire cutter (though I do love my hot wire cutter :) ).

Creativeman (author)Howi2009-11-29

Thanks for the comment.  However, I don't think foamcare would work at all. Remember, this is grouted like tile, and is very wet for the period of time that the grout is drying....and the foamcore would be much too difficult to cut into small squares. Clman

Howi (author)Creativeman2009-11-29

 it's very easy to cut into small shapes, I used to do it all the time making models. Usually the paper is wax-coated, as it is designed to be painted/used in crafts, so the grout shouldn't be a problem. Worst case you can give it a quick coat of watered down PVA to seal it.

Creativeman (author)Howi2009-11-30

I would like to invite you to do this and post a other words "show me"! Thanks for the comment. Cman

whiteoakart (author)2009-11-30

I really like this.  It looks just like ceramic tiles and is quick and easy.

Another possibility for the 'tiles' is craft foam, those thin sheets of neoprene-like foam inexpensively available at any craft shop.

My only issue with styrofoam is that it does not react well to some paints and sealers.

whiteoakart (author)whiteoakart2009-11-30

Oh, I spoke too soon. I see this has already been addressed.

Creativeman (author)whiteoakart2009-11-30

Thanks for the comments. Cman

alittlestranger (author)2009-11-30

what a great idea, i love this! :)

Thank you! Cman

porcupinemamma (author)2009-11-29

groooooooovy! :0) Thanks!

Thanks, mamma. Cman

scoochmaroo (author)2009-11-16

You've been added to the Crafts for Christmas guide!

Creativeman (author)scoochmaroo2009-11-16

Thanks scooch! Cman

jrnuerge (author)2009-11-15

Hi Creativeman, I love your idea for recycling tin cans and want to share an idea I saw in Berlin last month.  Someone framed a piece of art with coca-cola cans!  They were about four cans deep all around and looked awesome!  I am going to do a collage of four photographs with different cans on each photo for a great focal point.
JR Nuerge

Creativeman (author)jrnuerge2009-11-15

Thanks jrnuerge!  Hard to visualize the coke Cman

morrisonarts (author)2009-11-15

I am not wise in the ways of Styrofoam.  Wondering if you're purchasing thin sheets of the stuff or cutting thin sections of packing material.  Any special paint? 

Creativeman (author)morrisonarts2009-11-15

I save styrofoam....packaging mainly. But I buy some every now and then. I cut it all to size on the hot wire.  Use only acrylic (water base) paint...other stuff dissolves the foam.  good luck. Cman

morrisonarts (author)2009-11-15

And by the way - THANKS!! This is a wonderful project.

About This Instructable




Bio: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.
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