How to Paint a Milk Can

Although milk cans are getting hard to find, there are still some of these mid-century treasures hanging out in antique shops. During the era of tole painting, every aspiring old-country painter had their own milk can on the front porch. Once you find your very own can, you can turn it into your personal memory of yester years.

Things You'll Need

  • Rust remover
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • White rust inhibitor spray paint
  • Tole Designs
  • Masking tape
  • Tracing paper
  • Stylus
  • Acrylic paint – several shades
  • Paint brushes sizes 4, 8, 12 and a grass brush
  • Stencils
  • Pounce
  • Acrylic finish spray

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Remove rust from the paint can by wiping on a rust remover product. Clean thoroughly and sand rough spots with fine grit sandpaper. Wipe down with a tack cloth.

In a ventilated area, spray 3 light coats of white rust inhibitor on the can. Allow spray to dry between coats. This will give you a good white base as well as a rust protector for your can.

Find the pattern you like for your can and enlarge it to fit the surface. Tape the pattern to the can with masking tape. Insert tracing paper beneath and use the stylus to trace the design onto the can. Remove the pattern and use your acrylic paints and brushes to color and shade your design.

Use a stencil pattern if you don’t want to tole paint your can. Tape it to the can and use the pounce brush to fill the cut outs until your can is finished. When you have completed your design, sign and date your work. Finish with several coats of acrylic lacquer finish to protect your milk can.


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