Introduction: Easily Pour Paint From Small Cans

Picture of Easily Pour Paint From Small Cans

You can find all posts related to this project in full here on my blog.

We all know what a pain it is to pour paint out. I tried to google to see if there was some sort of life hack for this but found none so I made my own. I honestly don't even know why we still use cans shaped like they are. I get not using plastic because the metal is probably easier to recycle and more resistant (plus it keeps out light), but surely they could add better lids. This isn't so much a problem on big cans for me, so this solution doesn't work for them. With bigger cans you usually need to use large amounts at once and you tend to use the can all at once (say to paint a room) so controlling the amount isn't such a problem. But with small cans this works great and I'm sure you could modify this to something larger if you find a large enough bottle, or you could pour larger cans into smaller empty ones and reuse them if say you bought something in bulk but only use a small amount at a time.


Soda Bottle or any Plastic Bottle that has a Recycling 1 - PET or PETE plastic is resistant to most chemicals (mineral spirits, etc) you're bound to come in contact with if you're doing art/diy/woodworking (so paints, varnishes, turps, etc). Here's the PET specific chart because some of them are missing from the next link. If you're working with other types of chemicals you can check to see what plastic type is resistant to them. This is the most comprehensive chart I found. Great to keep on hand for reference. Keep in mind the substance will only contact the plastic shortly so even if it doesn't have excellent resistance this will still work.

Scissors/Razor Blade

Calipers (Optional) - Makes it easier to get the diameter of the opening right.

Silicone Caulk/Epoxy Glue (Optional) - To permanently glue it in place.

Step 1: Steps

Picture of Steps

First you're going to want to measure the diameter of the opening of the can. You're going to cut slightly bigger than that. You can just use the groove in the sealed cap for reference. If it fits that, it'll fit the can.

Then with the calipers it's easy to mark this line on the bottle but you could also just cut it by eye and adjust it as you go on.

Once it's cut clean the bottle, let it dry if whatever you're going to be capping does not mix with water.

Place it over the sealed can. It should fit snug against the cap/opening.

Now you can open the can and hold it in place and pour. If it's a glue or a varnish if you just let it get around the rim and leave it for a day or two it should seal by itself. I'd still suggest holding it, but you won't need to be as careful. You can do it with one hand like I did below and wipe the cap with the other when you're done. You cap it like a regular bottle and it's much easier to clean if it's a very sticky substance.

If you want this to be permanent you can glue it in place with some silicone caulk or epoxy glue or something. The can edge should be clean/dry when you do this so it'd be best to do this the first time you open the can. If the substance is very light sensitive you should keep this in a dark place or alternatively cover the plastic cap with a layer of paint or a dark plastic bag or something.

Step 2: Final Result

Picture of Final Result

And there you go! Easy cheap solution, and you can also then use the bottom of those bottles to hold your paint/varnish like so. And with some clean film you can get it to keep for a day or two if you have a small amount left over (depends on the substance). You can also leave your brush dipped in a little bit of turpentine or mineral spirits if you'll be using it for a few days straight and don't want to be cleaning it constantly. Basically it's a great endless supply of disposable containers.

If the cap on the bottle gets stuck you can also just un-stick the entire thing (if you didn't make it permanently) and just make it a brand new one.


maniacse (author)2016-04-26

Great idea, thank you for sharing!

NMCML (author)2016-04-25

Very good idea.

cheberisso (author)2016-04-25

Muchas gracias! muy buen aporte, es una ocurrencia sencilla y buena.

ronniewhamond (author)2016-04-24

Very good idea!!!!

I'd suggest sealing with a hot glue gun....

I probably would if it where paint, but regular varnish formed a stronger seal than I thought. In fact I recently had to take it off because I'd finished the can and wanted to reuse it for another and I had to use quite some force to dislodge it.

EmmitS (author)2016-04-24

Tip: never leave a paint brush sitting in water or solvent overnight. Stop painting for the day in time to give your brushes a thorough cleaning. I can't tell you how many really good brushes I've seen totally ruined when the painter left his brush sitting in solvent, then got called away for something and couldn't get back for several days. By the time He/she got back, the solvent or water had evaporated, leaving the brush hard and useless from dried paint. Several hours of hard work and soaking in acetone or lacquer thinner could remove most of the dried paint, but most of the time the bristles had been bent so badly out of shape that the brush was still useless. You would be amazed at how long even a disposable chip brush will last if you clean it up at the end of the working day. I have a 3" hog bristle brush that I bought in 1977, and its still in usable condition. The only reason that you should have to throw away a paint brush is because the bristles have been so worn away by friction against the surfaces being painted that they can no longer hold paint.

alansartlog (author)EmmitS2016-04-24

I usually only leave them if there's leftover varnish, and only maybe 4 days max, checking everyday. They clean just fine after.

dan.blake.7583 (author)2016-04-24

Even easier, slightly dent the side of the can near the top. This allows you to place the pour lower, and further in the receiving container., No spill, no muss, no extra parts.

Not sure what you mean but you've given me the idea of trying to cut it so that the caps closer to one of the edges next time.

fran=1 (author)2016-04-24

this is such a good idea,takes no time at all and if you measure right you only have to cut one bottle!!so that justs cost a nickel (deposit)now I have to make something so I can try it out.ha ha thanks frank

studleylee (author)2016-04-24

Great Idea!!!

DIY-Guy (author)2016-04-24

I like the idea of leaving the paint in the original can.
Though it did occur to me that pouring the paint into a bottle would also let me recap it with a screw cap. A funnel would help get it into the bottle.

burchettme (author)2015-12-14

Why not use this topper for pop cans where you drink a portion and save the rest for later. The seal would have to be tight to save the fizz.

alansartlog (author)burchettme2015-12-15

You mean those replacement caps for aluminium soda cans? They'd be the wrong size and wouldn't solve the pouring problem. Also they cost money and I don't think they even exist where I live. If you're having problems with paints drying getting a tight seal isn't too hard. I saw this online while searching for a solution, just put some cling film or plastic wrap over the opening THEN put the lid on, should prevent the paint from drying out.

burchettme (author)alansartlog2015-12-15

No, Alan. The cap would be the same cap as for the upper part of the plastic bottle. The plastic bottle top portion would be cut just like as for yours. The problem, as I see it, would be to keep the fizz sealed in the unit. Any ideas on how the top portion could be sealed to the pop can. The pop can could either aluminum or steel. With your idea the seal is created by hardening of the paint.

My thought is the whole top portion be injection molded of a stretchable plastic, like polyurethane, and stretched over the pop can like a rubber band.

The top would be threaded and would receive the threaded cap for a tight seal.

You might think that they already have a plastic, 12 ounce plastic bottle that is capped for later use. The thing is that cans of pop are much cheaper than the throwaway plastic bottles.

hippiechk (author)burchettme2016-04-24

Pour the contents from the can into the bottle & rinse & repeat.

MeghanM6 (author)2015-12-14

Great idea and so creative! However, there is something on the market that happens to be really cheap that will make pouring simple without all the work to make your own (though that's quite satisfying in itself). Here is an example but there are quite a few types out there:

spark master (author)MeghanM62016-04-24

My dad tried to patent that thing when I was 9-10 years old. Paint was oil based and a horror to clean. He made his out of a can lid and sheet metal, (he soldered it together). Years later a real cheapo unit that was made of plastic that is the front half of his or this type came out. I even have his prototype!

They work great. Even if I were to make one of these, I would PC-& epoxy it in place after drying. This nice thought.

just a thought

alansartlog (author)MeghanM62015-12-15

Thanks. I used something similar before for big cans when I lived in the states, but this type of stuff is unheard of where I live now, and the one I'd used a long time ago was still messy. Plus for this one it still looks like you have to take it out and clean it and you'd have to buy it at the precise size, etc. This is free, unlimited and honestly took me like less than the 5 minutes you'd spend going to the store to get one or digging it out of your garage when you need it.

animan (author)2016-04-24

Very clever idea! Another idea that I use all the time is I store ALL my paint in cleaned out laundry detergent plastic bottles, the smaller 52 load types. It is an amazing cap seal, and you can mix the paint by shaking it prior to use. I have paint saved and I tested it is fine after 15 years of storage!

ann.sor.9 (author)2015-12-29

I just pour the paint into an empty ketchup bottle, when I am done I enter the bottle up side down into a container filled with water. Then it is no problem to shake the paint to remix it.

TimB2 (author)ann.sor.92016-04-24

My glue bottle is much like a pointed ketchup or mustard bottle seen at Dollar stores. If you buy one, make sure it has a cap with it.

alansartlog (author)ann.sor.92015-12-29

That's a cool alternative for slightly smaller quantities. Does the lid not get messy and stuck at all? My craft paints which have a similar cap always get dirty and clogged. Maybe the secret is storing them upside down?

I'll have to see if I can find something similar to a ketchup bottle to try it with (maybe a shampoo bottle depending on the plastic). That'd solve the quantity problem. Only thing I eat that comes in a bottle is mustard (the lid of which I'm sure would clog), all other condiments I buy in bags. :(

ericCycles (author)2016-04-24


Hashem_Mehyar (author)2016-01-08

Genius ! much easier than the way I do it.

bigbrute2022005 (author)2015-12-20

Fantastic idea Alan. Thanks for sharing and keep the great ideas coming.

alanhoggard (author)2015-12-19

Why not just pour the paint into the soda bottle and store it in the bottle?

alansartlog (author)alanhoggard2015-12-19

Mmm maybe for large cans it might be worth the trouble of transferring the substance. But as I see it you'd have to get a funnel or if you don't have a funnel (like me...) you could use the bottle neck like I did and then you'd have to do the work of cutting it anyways. Plus regardless of whether you have a funnel you have to clean it (which if you need turps or something to clean it's a mess). My goal was avoiding any cleanup. And for small cans you'd have to find a small bottle that's the right size otherwise in the big ones paints and varnishes will likely dry up with time (maybe squeezing the air out will help?).

I did consider it, and it's one solution, but this was just easier for my purposes. My first thought why don't they just sell this stuff in bottles to begin with? But I realized like I mentioned it's because most of these substances are sensitive to light and deteriorate with it so they should be stored in a dark place (especially varnishes which is what I'm mainly using this for). It's similar to how some medicines, beers, etc. are sold in tinted/brown bottles. Most substances are light sensitive. If you'll be putting it in a bottle I suggest you keep it stored in a dark place or cover it in a black bag or paint it or something. My solution isn't exempt from this, but it's a smaller part you have to keep out of the light, just putting it under a shelf will do.

Prfesser (author)2015-12-13

At first glance I didn't think much of this but on reading it, it's INGENIOUS, using the paint/varnish itself to seal the top to the can. We use a lot of paint/varnish and this will be in my permanent file!!

alansartlog (author)Prfesser2015-12-15

Everyone I show this in person to is initially confused as to what it is, lol. They're like what's the big deal, then it dawns on them.

PS: Haven't tried sealing the edge with paint yet. Tell me if it works if you do!

ReverendN (author)2015-12-14

you got way too much time on your hands

alansartlog (author)ReverendN2015-12-15

I do, but in this case it took less than 5 minutes. It was more time to take the pictures than to make it.

lean04 (author)ReverendN2015-12-14

I think this takes no longer than 10 minutes and saves lots of time not cleaning the spillage. ..

Danoz (author)2015-12-14

That is brilliant, good job!

miguez (author)2015-12-12

Pretty brilliant, well done!

About This Instructable




Bio: Necessity is the mother of invention. | |
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