Introduction: Paint Can (or "Paint Stripper") Costume

As a cosplay enthusiast, I enjoy treating Halloween like an unconventional materials episode of Project Runway in that I try to challenge myself every year to create something new from materials and accessories that I already own. This year, due to COVID-19, it was even more important for me to not go overboard because, well, I didn't plan on going anywhere, and I didn't want to shell out a bunch of money to make a costume that I was mostly going to loaf around in while drinking wine, gorging on peanut butter cups, and playing Among Us with friends from the comfort of my own couch. Halloween 2020 was definitely the year when I was "all dressed up with nowhere to go."

The idea for a punny "adult" version of this costume (Paint Stripper. Get it? Ha ha...) came to me first, as that's the direction my sense of humor tends to take, but this Instructable remains family friendly because turning a safe-for-work Paint Can into a NSFW "Paint Stripper" all depends on what kind of clothes from your closet you choose to pair with it.

Overall, this costume is very quick and easy to make, and for those of you who are sewing-challenged, a sewing machine can easily be substituted for a hot glue gun.



  • Scissors
  • Yardstick
  • Tape measure
  • Iron
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Sewing machine (optional but recommended)


  • Pop-up laundry basket with wire and mesh lid
    • Note: A piece of cardboard can be used as a substitute for the lid if you cannot locate one with a built-in lid
  • White fabric, preferably something thick and opaque, like duck canvas or vinyl
    • 2 yards for 60"W fabrics
    • 3 yards for 45"W fabrics
  • Glossy vinyl in your color of choice
    • 2 yards for 60"W fabrics
    • 3 yards for 45"W fabrics
  • Thread
    • White
    • Whatever color you chose for your vinyl
  • Spray Paint
    • Silver
    • Whatever color you chose for your vinyl
    • Glossy clear coat.
  • Coaxial cable or some other equally thick random wire/cord
  • (2) Bottle caps
  • Headband or hat
  • Jewelry wire
  • (1) 1/2 inch Binding screw (optional)
  • Metallic duct tape (optional)
  • Long fabric tube (optional)

Step 1: Make the Laundry Basket Wearable

To begin this costume, you need to customize a pop-up laundry basket so that you can wear it.

The first step of this process, if applicable, is to detach the lid from the rest of the basket [IMG 1.1]. If you have a nice sturdy lid that holds it's round shape, hang onto it. Otherwise, toss it.

Next, cut the mesh out of the bottom of your laundry basket, leaving the wire in-tact [IMG 1.2]. Boom! You now have a hole for your legs. Simple enough.

Finally you will need straps so that the laundry basket will stay on while you wear it. I was lucky in that my laundry basket had handles long enough to function as straps, but if you are not as fortunate, poke holes in the mesh of the laundry basket near the top wire rim and tie yarn or cord to the basket rim to form straps.

Test the fit [IMG 1.3], and if you're happy, it's time to turn your laundry basket into a paint can!

Step 2: Measure Your Laundry Basket

Use a tape measure to find out the height and circumference [IMG 2.1] of your laundry basket. For reference, my measurements were:

  • Circumference: 55.5 inches
  • Height: 20 inches

Once you have measured your basket, it's time to find some additional measurements that will factor in a one-inch seam allowance. We will be using these measurements to draw rectangles on our fabrics, so calculate the below based on the measurements of your laundry basket:

  • Length 1 (L1) = Circumference + 2 inches
  • Height 1 (H1) = Height
  • Height 2 (H2) = Height + 2 inches

In the next step, I will be referring to the measurements by their abbreviated form (e.g. L1, etc.).

Step 3: Cut Your Fabric

White Fabric

Draw and cut out a rectangle from your white fabric that measures H2 X L1 [IMG 3.1].

Colored Vinyl

Draw a rectangle on the non-glossy backside of the vinyl that measures H1 X L1 [IMG 3.2].

Note: I was working with vinyl scraps, so I could not draw a full rectangle. I recommend that you draw the rectangle, though, because it will give you a reference for the size of the paint can, which will help you draw the paint drips proportionally.

Within the rectangle, free-hand draw paint dripping from the top length-wise edge [IMG 3.3]. To keep the paint drips realistic and organic, vary their length and size. After you're satisfied with the shape of your dripping paint, cut it out.

Step 4: Sew the Paint Can Cover

Fold the top and bottom length-wise edges of the white fabric over an inch [IMG 4.1]. Press down with an iron to form a nice crease [IMG 4.2], and then either baste using your sewing machine and white thread [IMG 4.3] or glue down with your hot glue gun.

Retrieve your vinyl paint drips. With the backside of the vinyl facing the side of the white fabric without the raw folded edge, align the long straight edge of the vinyl with the top length-wise edge of your white rectangle and pin/clip in place [IMG 4.4].

Sewing Tip: Pins poke visible holes into vinyl. If you want to avoid holes but don't want to spend money on sewing clips, paper clips are an economical alternative.

Using thread that matches the color of your vinyl, sew the vinyl and white rectangle together along the length-wise edge using a quarter-inch seam allowance [IMG 4.5].

Sewing Tip: When sewing with sticky fabrics like vinyl, using a walking foot on your sewing machine helps the fabric feed through your machine smoothly.

Next, fold your fabric in half height-wise, and with the vinyl paint drips sandwiched in the middle and the raw folded-over edges of the white fabric facing outwards, pin or clip the raw fabric edges together [IMG 4.6]. Using white thread and a 3/4-inch seam allowance, sew along the raw edges [IMG 4.7].

Turn the fabric tube right sides out, and now you have your paint can cover for your laundry basket [IMG 4.8]!

Step 5: Attach the Cover to Laundry Basket

I found that the easiest way to stuff the laundry basket inside the cover was to collapse the laundry basket to it's flattened state [IMG 5.1]. Make sure the straps of your laundry basket and the dripping paint are at the same end, and once the basket is inside the cover, expand it [IMG 5.2].

Tip: Position the seam so that it's at an equal distance between your shoulder straps so that it will be at your back when you wear the costume.

After you're satisfied with where the cover sits on the laundry basket, it should be snug enough to stay in in place on it's own, but you can hand sew (or hot glue) [IMG 5.3] the cover in place if it looks like it may slip around.

While the cover will likely stay in place without being glued down, the drips of paint will flap around like cowboy fringe unless you pin it down, so I suggest taking a hot glue gun and attaching the paint drips to the white fabric at the ends with dabs of glue [IMG 5.4].

Step 6: Make the Paint Can Handle

When it came time to make the handle for my paint can, I scoured my apartment for rope and wires that would be the proportional thickness for the wire handle of a giant paint can. I eventually settled on one of the many coaxial cables I had stashed away. You can do the same or use something similar that you already have at your disposal.

After cutting the cable to a length you like (mine was ~39 inches) [IMG 6.1], fill two bottle caps with hot glue and placed the ends of the cut cable into the center of each of the glue-filled bottle caps [IMG 6.2]. After the glue cools, I spray paint the bottle caps and cable silver [IMG 6.3].

Once the paint dries, I bend the ends of coaxial cables inward at a 90-degree angle about an inch from each of the bottle caps [IMG 6.4] to mimic the shape of a real paint can handle. Then, glue the backs of the bottle caps on opposite sides of the giant paint can [IMG 6.5].

Woo! The body of the paint can is complete [IMG 6.6]!

Step 7: Build the Paint Can Lid

Every real life paint can comes with a lid, so my costume could not do without one. I began the construction of my paint can lid by utilizing the lid that came with my laundry basket. Not all pop-up laundry baskets will have the same sturdy wire-reinforced lid that mine had, so if yours does not, trace the circumference of your laundry basket onto a piece of sturdy cardboard or foam board.

Once you have your inner support structure, trace the circumference of the circle onto your colored vinyl [IMG 7.1] and on your white fabric [IMG 7.2]. Add at least a half-inch seam allowance to the outside of your circles, and then cut them out [IMG 7.3]. Then, with the laundry basket lid or cardboard circle sandwiched in the middle, sew the two circles together with their wrong sides together [IMG 7.4].

Sewing Tip: Use a zipper foot on your sewing machine to get sew closer to the edge of the inner basket lid or cardboard circle.

After your lid has been sewn together, paint the white fabric side of your lid silver [IMG 7.5].

Step 8: Crafting the Paint Splatter

If you were to wear a real paint lid on your head, of course some of the paint would drip down and get on your hair, so to create a similar--but far less messy--effect, place a bunch of hot glue sticks in the center of a piece of wax baking paper [IMG 8.1]. Cover the glue sticks with another piece of paper and use an iron to melt the glue between the pieces of paper until it is soft and flat [IMG 8.2].

Once the glue is malleable, take the wax-paper-and-hot-glue sandwich and press it against a curved surface, like a wig head or basket ball, until it cools into curved shape [IMG 8.3].

Tip: The glue will be hot, so use a towel or heat resistant gloves to protect your hands while you press and shape the glue [IMG 8.4].

Once the glue has cooled, use a Sharpie to draw a paint splatter onto the glue [IMG 8.5] and cut out the shape [IMG 8.6]. Paint the hot glue with your color of choice [IMG 8.7] and once the paint dries add a glossy coat on top [IMG 8.8] so that your faux paint splatter will still look like wet paint after it has dried.

Step 9: Assembling the Headpiece

There are many ways you can assemble the headpiece. For instance, you could attach it to a baseball hat or beanie. I, however, wanted to have the option to wear my headpiece with or without a wig, which meant making the pieces of the headpiece detachable so I could remove the wig when I wanted, and I used a binding screw to make it possible.

To begin, attach the post of the binding screw to a headband using wire. First wrap the wire around the screw post [IMG 9.1] and then wrap the rest of the wire around the headband [9.2]. Then glob hot glue over the wire so that it doesn't shift or move on either the screw post or headband [IMG 9.3].

Next, poke a hole in the center of you paint splatter and paint can lid [IMG 9.4], and then layer the pieces of the headpiece over the binding screw post in the following order (from bottom layer to top layer) [IMG 9.5]:

  1. headband with screw post
  2. wig
  3. paint spatter
  4. paint lid

Once everything is in place, insert the screw into the post from the silver side of you paint can lid [IMG 9.6] and lock everything in place.

Step 10: (Optional) Dancer/Stripper Pole

I wasn't initially going to make a dancer pole for this Halloween costume, but when the white fabric I ordered arrived wrapped around a cardboard tube that was the perfect size for a faux stripper pole, I couldn't not make one. So I took some metallic duct tape and wrapped it around the cardboard tube [10.1] for a cheap and easy dancer pole.

If you want a similar cardboard tube, ask the nice people at your local fabric store if they have any to spare. I suspect that the tubes just get thrown out when all the fabric on them is sold off.

Step 11: Pair Your Paint Bucket With Clothes and Enjoy!

Safe for Work

For family and work friendly events, pair this costume with a fitted T-shirt, either in white or the color of your paint, and some pants or opaque leggings. Bonus points if you have shoes the same color as your vinyl paint.

NSFW "Paint Stripper" Variation

If puns and/or dressing kind of sexy is your thing, replace the leggings/pants with a pair of booty shorts and fishnets or colored tights (I did both and layered). Pair the outfit with your tallest heels.

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