Upcycle Metal Food Tins Into Storage Containers




About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

I recently got a new craft area, and I've been working to make it pretty and functional. Add to this a cat that loves to eat any sort of thread or felt left out in the open, and I really needed some decent storage and quick!

And why overpay for horrible clear plastic containers when you can make your own? All it takes is a little time and spraypaint and BAM! Ugly holiday themed metal tins are turned cute storage tins. :D

I don't even want to show you what my craft storage looked like before.

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Step 1: What You'll Need:

  • spray paint
  • masking tape/painter's tape
  • metal food tins
Check your local thrift stores for metal tins - they seem to be everywhere! I went to the Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland, and they had a huge selection of them - I got four of them for $2.50.

Or wait until the holidays and dig in your neighbor's trashcans.

As far as paint, make sure you're using something made for painting metal. I'm using Rust-oleum because I've had success with it before. And the ultra cover stuff I'm using works really well. :D

Step 2: Wash Them Tins

Chances are they will still have little bits of crackers, cookies and popcorn left in them. Mine certainly did!

I just washed mine in the tub using a little dish soap and let them air dry outside. :)

Step 3: Paint the Base Coat!

I chose white for my base coat - it works well as a primer of sorts and makes the tins look nice!

I cut up paper bags to use as a painting surface, but did this in my backyard because it was super windy the day I did it, and I knew my landlady might not be too excited if I painted all over the back porch. :D

You'll want to do two layers for good coverage. Make the layers nice and light - don't hold the can too close or spray so long that you get drips!

Do one thin layer, trying to cover as much as possible and then go inside and watch an episode of something (might I recommend Downton Abbey or Doctor Who?) or jump in place/dance around for a while. Then go back out and do another layer. Make sure you get all the edges!

You'll want to let the base coat dry/set for at least 24 hours after the second layer before you add any additional tape or mask them for painting. :D

Step 4: Masking!

I can't give you any official designs or recommendations as I am the Queen of Winging It. I just went with it. I did stripes in a chevron style. :)

Make sure to press the tape down firmly, especially around lips and ridges that will probably occur around the edges of the tins. Also make sure to cut the tape with scissors instead of tearing it - this will help you get a cleaner design and make the edges of the tape easier to line up.

Step 5: Paint the Top Coat!

I chose yellow and green for my top coats - I wanted the tins to be cheery but not neon. :P

The top layer only needed one coat since it's going over a nice white base. I set the tins right side up because I thought it was silly to paint the bottoms with the top coat - ain't nobody gonna be seeing the bottoms!

Be use to use a light hand while spraying - streaks and drips are much more noticeable when using colors. Going too heavy with the paint can also cause the tape to raise and ripple.

Once they're painted let them dry for a while - I let mine dry overnight.

Step 6: Peeeeeeel!

Peel the tape off nice and slow!

You might find that you have some places where the paint comes off. I know I did! This is normal when you paint metal. :P If you'd like to fix the spots, spray some spray paint into a small container (I've used the cap of the spray paint with great success) and paint it on using a tiny brush.

I did not fix mine because I was feeling good about them, small paintless spots and all!

Enjoy your new and extremely cheap storage containers! Mine gave me enough room to get all my sewing accessories out of the way. :D

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    20 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I love this idea, because I like to save the metal containers, but first, they will rust even in the desert, and then who would want to give homemade peanut butter cookies in a short bread cookie tin. You have now made my problem into two gifts instead! When the cookies are gone, this tin could be used to store many different things. Of course, my husband would keep nuts and bolts in one, painted or not, but upside is different colors would look nice stacked on shelf and you could carefully paint contents on side. Thank you for this instructable. And as ericbosloor said, good use for all those colors of spray paint sitting around.


    3 years ago

    Metal tins are very useful as storage containers because of the durability of their material. However, the downside is that they will eventually rust over time so you would really have to keep them out of humid areas and not allow them to get in contact with moisture.


    3 years ago

    This is a wonderful way to keep you storage boxes at home looking good without having to go all out and buy new things. It would probably work on all my other storage containers at home too I think! Instead of having to worry about coordinating a bunch of different things, I should just get a can of spray paint ready and instantly make everything match!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Now this idea I can buy into since I have some spray paint cans that are just sitting in my garage. There always seems to be a fair bit of that stuff leftover from whatever I'm doing and this is a perfect way to finish the cans off!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    What a great idea! I kind of regret leaving behind one of these cookie boxes, un aware of its hidden potential...


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice project!
    very simple.

    a couple tricks:
    1. to prevent bleeds, after you've masked, paint again with the base color before painting with the top color. the base color will seal all the tape edges and any bleeds that do happen will be invisible.

    2. instead of using scissors to cut the tape use a razor scraper or a 5-in-1 painters tool. if you hold the scraper tight against the trim line and pull up on the tape, the tape will cut clean along that line. not sure if i explained that well.
    i talk about it in one of my instructables.

    Good idea.
    I'm just wondering did you have any troubles entering in this contest, It told me that it wasn't open for entries yet? Thanks for any response- Zaphod

    Nice idea! I'm a habitual collector of tins like these,
    but I've never thought of painting them to look nicer
    (or to use them year-round)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    These are a huge improvement!

    They could also be used as all-occasion gift boxes/tins!

    Few Bits

    7 years ago on Introduction

    You're right on, cheerful, but not neon! Well done:) I was just thinking last night that my office/craft area needs better storage containers, you've inspired me to look at objects differently.