Painting a Thrift Store Suitcase.




Several months ago our local thrift store was having a luggage sale. I personally prefer 'hardsider' suitcases, as they aren't easily crushed, torn or broken, so I jumped at the chance to acquire one for under five dollars.

The problem is, I've never seen a plastic suitcase that wasn't in some drab, sad color. (Quite literally my choices were; rain-cloud blue, beige, slightly darker beige, faded brown and 'greige' (a color I can only describe as being exactly between green and beige.) 

Luckily, Krylon makes a spraypaint designed to cover plastic, and I will walk you through the steps to jazz up that scuffed, otherwise throw away suitcase!

This would be just the thing to take on your summer vacation, or to pack your kids off to camp with their own, custom luggage (for under ten dollars!)

Some judiciously applied painter's tape could lead to stripes, plaid-- you're really only limited by your imagination.

You Will Need:
Krylon Fusion for Plastic (in color of your choice)
Masking tape
Old, cheap plastic suitcase

Step 1: Remove Old Tabs, Straps, Etc.

The suitcase had straps and clips to hold in folded clothes.
I cut the straps out, but saved the clips so I could re-use them.

(I replaced the straps with some heavy ribbon after I was through painting. Remember: every suitcase will be different, so your mileage may vary. Bits of elastic or even rope might be a  good choice, depending on your application.)

Step 2: Pull Out Liner and Dividers (if Any)

My suitcase had a mesh bag that snapped into the main body, and a flimsy cardboard divider.
Both were useless (not to mention dirty) so I took them out. (Were one inclined to replace them you could use the old pieces as a pattern, and re-make them out of whatever materials you want.)

Step 3: Clean

This is probably the most vital to your success.
Paint adheres more firmly to a clean surface, so really put your back into it!
I scrubbed it up once with dish detergent and water, then followed by wiping it down with alcohol.
If your suitcase had scuffing, 'pills' (little balls of plastic stuck to the surface) or a shiny finish, try sanding it with a fine grain (200) sandpaper, this will insure that your paint sticks.

Step 4: Tape and Paint

Tape newspaper over any parts you don't want to paint. (I rather liked the striped, inside portion so I saved it.)

Follow the instructions listed on your brand of spray paint. I used 'Krylon Fusion for Plastic'

I found it easier to first paint the inside, laying the case flat, then, after adequate drying time, closing it and repeating the process once more.

I managed to just use up one can of paint-- but only barely. Two cans would allow for more coats. (I only did two on each surface)

Following up with a clear sealer might be a good idea if it is going to see heavy wear, but I didn't bother (more on that later.)

Step 5: Results:

You should now be the owner of a new, fabulous retro suitcase; you hipster, you!

Mine has held up quite well, despite much abuse (it is nearly a year old, and has been used over thirty times.) It does show signs of wear here and there, and were I do do another one, I would invest the time and money in a coat of clear sealer. Still, even now, it looks a hell of a lot better than the 'before' photo.

Participated in the
Krylon Summer Projects Contest



    • Sew Tough Challenge

      Sew Tough Challenge
    • DIY Summer Camp Contest

      DIY Summer Camp Contest
    • Backyard Contest

      Backyard Contest

    7 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hello- I'd love to know what you would use for a sealer as I am doing a suitcase for my daughter. I looked at clear satin varnish, clear paints, etc. and was overwhelmed. Your thoughts?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Turned out great.. I had to laugh at the speckles of artist acrylics because so much of my own stuff has the same "disease" not to mention the "textured" floor from hotglue, plaster etc....


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Haha, I see your point, but avocado is a 'cooler' color, more green, and every time I see someone call something olive, they mean brown. I think it may have been a discolored/faded army green, but plastic does strange things when left to the heat and/or sun, so I shall never know for sure.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Some army greens are olive like the color of a green olive. My neighborhood was built in the 70s - lots of olives, avocados, and mustards. Lots of colors named after savory food. Now it seems to be a lot of sweet food names like chocolate and persimmon.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I like this!

    It's great to take old and overlooked items like this--that are still perfectly useful--and give them new life. Most items only need two things to be cherished once again... elbow grease and spray paint!

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I agree. I'm always amazed that spending an afternoon on something can make all the difference. People say 'time is money' but one's own time is one of the few free things we have at our disposal.