12 Genius Uses for Leftover Sample Paint

Stop throwing away extra paint. Put it to work with one of these clever DIY projects that use sample paint pots to dress up wall art and accessories.

People typically use sample paints to test out a color before applying it to an entire wall, piece of furniture, or another surface. These small pots offer a handy way to see your color choice in person and in the context of your room before you commit to the full paint job. Once you've decided on a winning color, however, don't throw away those leftover pots. In addition to allowing you to test-drive a color, the sample paints are also great for quick furniture updates, DIY wall art, and other small decorating projects that don't require much paint. By repurposing the paint in creative ways, you can cut down on waste, while also taking advantage of budget-friendly materials.

Typical sample-pot sizes range from about eight to 32 ounces, and most cost about $10 or less. Before you begin a paint project, measure the surface area you plan to cover and calculate whether you have enough paint to complete the job, factoring in the possibility you'll need multiple coats. When you're ready to start painting, consider one of these clever uses to turn leftover materials into show-stopping decor.

colorful stairs
Jay Wilde

1. Paint Stair Risers

Gather samples in a variety of hues to give your staircase a rainbow makeover. Tape off the tread and nosing of each step, as well as the surrounding wall, so the color covers only the stair risers. To ensure good adhesion, sand and wipe down the surfaces before painting. Use a small roller or a two-inch brush for precision, and remove the tape while the paint is still wet.

chalkboard paint backsplash desk
Helen Norman

2. Make a DIY Chalkboard

Transform basic samples into chalk-finish paint to create a DIY message board. Simply mix unsanded tile grout into latex paint and stir to combine. Tape off your wall space and apply the chalk-style paint with a roller or brush, allowing the paint to dry, and sand between coats. This leftover paint idea works well in a home office or entryway. Keep chalk nearby for jotting down to-do lists and reminders.

Abstract artwork in sitting area
Adam Albright

3. Create Geometric Artwork

Grab some painter's tape and a plain canvas to create modern art with sample paint. A spare sheet of plywood or a wood canvas also works. Start by applying lines of tape at angles across the canvas to form geometric shapes. To ensure clean lines, wrap the tape around the sides. Working one section at a time, fill in the shapes with complementary paint colors. If needed, apply a second coat, and remove the tape as the paint dries.

room corner with bright orange two-toned paint and papasan chair
Michael Garland

4. Highlight a Section of Wall

Sample paint pots likely won't cover an entire wall, but you can use them to highlight a certain area of the room with a two-toned look. This color-blocking technique works especially well in an empty corner or directly above a piece of furniture. Use a contrasting shade that will stand out vividly against the base wall color. To ensure straight lines, use painter's tape and a level to mark off the area you plan to paint—and before you start painting, calculate how much paint you'll need to cover the entire section.

diy painted plant pots wall shelves
Greg Scheidemann

5. Decorate Plant Pots

This quick DIY project is a great way to use leftover sample paints. Dip your brush in and paint over inexpensive terra-cotta plant pots. Cover the entire planter in a solid color, or get creative with patterns of stripes, swirls, dots, and other designs. Use a variety of coordinating hues for a colorful update to your houseplant collection.

robin's-egg blue wall desk vision board chair
Adam Albright

6. Create a Message Board

Make this grayscale ombré message board with corkboard panels. Lay 12 panels out, sides touching, on a protected surface in the arrangement you'll ultimately hang. Use a dry-brush technique to paint across the panels. To do this, put a small amount of paint on the brush, and use long strokes from left to right to create a gradually diminishing effect. Continue dragging paint until you've achieve the look you want.

side view white desk pink painted drawer sides
Adam Albright

7. Paint Dresser Drawers

Add pops of color to a dresser or desk with sample paint in a bright shade. Start by emptying and removing all the drawers. Sand the drawer sides, and tape off any areas you don't want to paint (like the tops of the drawer sides or the drawer fronts). Prime, let dry, then apply two coats of paint. For protection, apply a coat of clear wax or matte varnish. Allow the paint to cure for a few days before reinstalling the drawers.

lidded wicker baskets painted pink accents
Adam Albright

8. Spruce Up Plain Baskets

Use paint to add stripes and polka dots to small wicker baskets or other accessories. This trick works especially well when you have only a trace amount of paint left, so that not a single drop goes to waste. Use the accents to match other colors in the room, for instance, on the walls or furniture. Apply the paint with a small artist's brush, and let the baskets dry before filling them with trinkets.

teal painted bookcase lime green wall pouf
Adam Albright

9. Update a Bookshelf

Dress up plain white bookshelves with a quick color makeover. Use a brush or disposable foam roller to prime the face frame of a bookcase and front edges of the shelves. Once the primer dries. apply two coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry before applying another. For extra protection, finish with a coat of clear wax or matte varnish.

painted Aztec motif rug teal ochre
Adam Albright

10. Stamp and Stencil a Rug

Add a painted pattern to an ordinary cotton rug. Print our Aztec motif, enlarged to fit your rug, then trace it onto cardboard, and use a utility knife to cut the pattern into a stencil. We placed our stencil in the center and at each corner of the rug. Use a two-inch stencil brush to lightly fill in the shape. Dip the brush into the paint, wipe off any excess, and dab it on the rug. To create the lines between the stenciled shapes, use painter's tape to create two-inch-wide strips with angled ends. After painting, remove the tape and allow several days of drying before using.

white curtains painted x pattern
Adam Albright

11. Update Curtain Panels

Tie a room together with leftover sample paint applied to plain curtain panels. Begin by ironing the curtains and laying them out on a work surface covered in kraft paper. Use a one-inch foam brush to paint a row of irregular Xs, using the top edge of the brush as your stamp. We placed the first row of Xs at the top of the curtain panel, just below the rod pocket, and used a ruler to evenly space the rows one inch apart. To keep the fabric and paper from sticking together while the paint dries, once you've completed a few rows, lift the curtain panel. This paint treatment will hold up to a gentle wash with a mild detergent. Hang the panel to air-dry.

glass vases painted coral circles
Adam Albright

12. Embellish Glass Vases

Add subtle style to plain glassware, like these simple vases. Using the eraser on a new pencil, stamp polka dots on the bottom and up the sides of the vase. Allow the paint to dry and cure a few days before using. Because sample paint is not permanent on glass, you can scratch or it wash off.

various colorful paint sample pots
Adam Albright

How to Buy Sample Paint Pots

Most paint manufacturers sell color samples. While these little pots can be mixed to match thousands of gorgeous hues, they typically lack the additives that make full-price paint scrubbable, fade-resistant, and lustrous. For the best results, deploy sample paint only on properly prepped or absorbent surfaces. Avoid using these paints on high-traffic, moist, or outdoor projects. Check your favorite paint sources for their sample programs.

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