How to Paint a Cooler

Seven Parts:CoolerFill HolesSand CoolerPrimerDesign and TracePaintSeal

Painting plastic coolers has become a means of expression for summer events. Any cheap plastic cooler can be made into a work of art within a weekend of priming and painting. You can find out how to paint a cooler by using the process below.

Part 1
Cooler

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    Acquire a cooler.
    • Look for a beat up cooler at a thrift store or garage sale. As long as it seals at the top, paint can cover other superficial damages.
    • Buy a cooler at a box store, such as Walmart or Target. Plastic coolers range from $20 to $100.
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    Choose a cooler without wheels for the easiest painting. The more flat surfaces, the better, since you will be able to apply paint directly.
    • A cooler with a flat surface is better than a cooler with a ribbed surface.

Part 2
Fill Holes

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    Survey your cooler. If you have dents or an indented logo, you will want to follow this step.
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    Fill in the indentations with spackling paste and a putty knife. This paste is available at most home improvement stores, just like primer and other painting tools.
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    Follow package directions when using putty. Wait approximately 12 hours for it to dry.

Part 3
Sand Cooler

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    Use a heavy grit sandpaper to smooth the surface of the cooler. Sand all the surfaces that you plan to paint.
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    Follow up with a medium to fine grit sandpaper.
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    Hose the cooler down. Then, wash it with a mild soap. Rinse well and allow it to dry.

Part 4
Primer

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    Apply a plastic primer to the surface of your clean cooler.
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    Move the cooler outside. You will want to do all of the priming and painting outdoors.
    • For best results, try a primer especially made for uneven plastic surfaces. Look for Rustoleum Fusion for Plastic or a similar product. The spray paint allows for easy and fast application.
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    Allow it to dry well. Apply 2 coats, if recommended by the manufacturer.

Part 5
Design and Trace

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    Find a design on the Internet, if you do not already have one in mind. You can print out stencils and logos.
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    Buy tracing paper. Copy the design over to the tracing paper if you have printed out designs.
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    Hold the tracing paper onto the cooler and trace, leaving lines where you will paint with different colors. You can also draw freehand onto the cooler with a pencil, and use the lines to guide your painting.

Part 6
Paint

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    Buy acrylic paints in the colors of your choice. You can also buy a bulk paint, like Gesso, and mix your own colors.
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    Buy paint pens to complete small details and wording. Outlines and small illustrations are much easier with these pens.
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    Apply the paint to your cooler, making sure it is thick enough to cover the surface. Take your time to ensure you fill out the design completely.
    • Use blue painter's tape to form straight lines. Put the paint onto the primed surface. Then, take it off afterward and paint the outline of the tape.
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    Paint 1 side at a time. Do not tilt the cooler onto painted sides, while the paint is still curing.
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    Let the cooler dry for 24 hours when you have completed your design.

Part 7
Seal

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    Apply a coat of polyurethane sealer, such as Minwax Polycrylic. Make sure you apply an even coat.
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    Allow the coat to dry completely. Apply 1 to 2 more coats.
    • The care you take with sealing your painted cooler will determine how long the paint job lasts.

Things You'll Need

  • Cooler
  • Acrylic paint
  • Epoxy spackle
  • Putty knife
  • Paint brushes
  • Sealer
  • Sandpaper
  • Mild soap
  • Water
  • Plastic primer
  • Tracing paper
  • Paint pens
  • Blue painter's tape
  • Pencil

Article Info

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