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.

By Jessica Bennett
Updated October 13, 2020
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Sample paint pots are typically used to test out a color before you apply it to the entire wall, furniture piece, or another surface. They 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 paint color, however, don't throw away those leftover sample pots. Besides allowing you to test-drive a color, sample pots of paint are also great for quick furniture updates, DIY wall art, and other small decorating projects that don't require a lot of paint. By repurposing the paint in creative ways, you can cut down on waste while taking advantage of budget-friendly materials.

Typical sample pot sizes range from about 8 to 32 ounces, and most cost around $10 or less. Before you begin a paint project with sample pots, measure the surface area you plan to cover and make sure you have enough paint to complete the job, factoring in whether you'll need multiple coats. When you're ready to start painting, consider one of these clever uses for sample paint pots to turn leftover materials into stunning decor.

Credit: Adam Albright

1. Paint Geometric Artwork

Grab some painters tape and a plain canvas to create modern art with sample paint pots. A spare sheet of plywood or a wood canvas works as a surface, too. Start by applying lines of tape at various angles across the canvas to form geometric shapes. Wrap the tape around the sides to ensure clean lines. Working one section at a time, fill in the shapes with complementary colors of paint. Apply a second coat if needed and remove the tape as the paint dries.

Get the Instructions for This Wall Art
Credit: Michael Garland

2. 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 for a striking effect. To ensure straight lines, use painters tape and a level to mark off the area you plan to paint. Be sure to calculate how much paint you'll need to cover the entire section before you begin painting.

Credit: Greg Scheidemann

3. Decorate Plant Pots

This quick DIY project is a great way to use up leftover paint samples. Dip your brush into a sample pot 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.

Credit: Adam Albright

4. Create a Message Board

Make this grayscale ombre message board with corkboard and paint. Cluster 12 corkboard panels above your workspace, then lay out all the panels, sides touching, on a protected surface in the arrangement you plan to hang. Use a dry-brush technique to paint across the panels. Put a small amount of paint on a brush, and apply in long strokes from left to right to create a gradually diminishing effect. Continue dragging paint until you achieve the desired look.

Credit: Adam Albright

5. Paint Dresser Drawers

Add pops of color to a dresser or desk with one pot of sample paint in a bright shade. Start by emptying and removing all 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. Apply a coat of clear wax or matte varnish for protection. Allow the paint to cure for a few days before reinstalling the drawers.

Credit: Adam Albright

6. 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, ensuring that not a single drop goes to waste. Use the accents to match other paint colors in the room, like on the walls or furniture. Apply paint with a small artists brush, and let dry before filling with trinkets.

Credit: Adam Albright

7. 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 edge of shelves; let dry. Apply two coats of a single color of sample paint, allowing each coat to dry. Top with a coat of clear wax or matte varnish for extra protection.

Credit: Adam Albright

8. Stamp and Stencil a Rug

Add a painted pattern to an ordinary cotton rug. Print our Aztec motif, enlarge to fit your rug, trace onto cardboard, and cut out the pattern with a utility knife to create a stencil. We placed our stencil in the center and each corner of the rug. Use a 2-inch stencil brush to lightly fill in the shape. Dip the brush in paint, wipe off excess paint on scrap cardboard, and dab it on the rug. To create the lines between the stenciled shapes, use painters tape to create 2-inch-wide strips with angled ends. After painting, remove the tape and let dry for several days before using.

Download Our Free Rug Stencil
Credit: Adam Albright

9. Update Curtain Panels

Tie a room together with leftover sample paint applied to plain curtain panels. Begin by ironing curtains and laying them on top of a work surface covered in kraft paper. Use a 1-inch foam brush to paint a row of irregular Xs, using the top brush edge as your stamp. We placed the first row of Xs at the top of the curtain panel, just below the rod pocket. We used a ruler to evenly space the rows 1 inch apart. Lift the curtain panel after completing a few rows so that the fabric and paper don't stick together while the paint dries. This paint treatment will hold up to a gentle wash with a mild detergent. Hang the panel to air-dry.

Credit: Adam Albright

10. Create Abstract Art

A homemade abstract masterpiece is easy with any level of artistic talent and a couple of pots of sample paint. Sand one side of a birch plywood panel and wipe away dust. Lay the plywood on a plastic drop cloth. Unscrew the nozzle from a spray bottle and put the tube in a dark paint sample. Hold the sprayer at least 2 inches above the plywood to get a good range of spray. After you spray the desired amount of full-strength paint, insert the nozzle in a jar of water and apply thinned paint to create a muted, misty look. Alternate between undiluted paint and water until you have the desired amount of your first color, then repeat the process with a second color. Allow the panel to dry flat to avoid runs or drips.

To hang the art, use a French cleat. Cut two 1×4s to a few inches shorter than your piece's width. Use a circular saw to cut 45-degree angles along one long side of each board. Screw one strip to the back of the artwork using three or four 1-1/2-inch screws; attach the other board to the wall. Position the strips so the angles lock together. Then attach two small boards to the back bottom of the painting to hold it out from the wall the same distance as the cleat.

Credit: Adam Albright

11. 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 to dry and let cure for a few days before using. Because sample paint is not permanent on glass, you can scratch or wash off as your style needs change.

Credit: 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 best results, deploy sample paint on properly prepped or absorbent surfaces. Avoid sample paints on high-use, moist, or outdoor projects. Get started by asking your favorite paint sources about their sample programs, or start with one of these national brands.

Behr: Packaged in a plastic container with a twist-off lid and opaque sides, Behr paint samples are available at The Home Depot. The 8-ounce pots are available in a range of sheens and cost between $3.98 and $4.98, depending on the type of paint.

Benjamin Moore: These sample pots feature an all-metal can with an airtight seal for longer storage. Available in the eggshell finish, the 16-ounce samples cost $10.99 each. Buy them on the Benjamin Moore website and retail locations that sell Benjamin Moore paints.

Sherwin-Williams: These 32-ounce plastic containers include a twist-off lid and molded handle for easy pouring. The satin-finish paint sample will cover about 75 square feet and costs $8.69 on the Sherwin-Williams website and in Sherwin-Williams stores.

Valspar: These paint samples come in a plastic container with a twist-off lid and are available in a satin finish. The 8-ounce pots cost $3.98 and cover approximately 4 square feet. You can buy Valspar paint samples at Lowe's locations and some independent paint retailers.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
June 30, 2020
Awesome ideas! Thanks for such great inspiration! Trip Summers - professional painter