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6 Common Paint Can Sizes | & When to Use Each

6 Common Paint Can Sizes | & When to Use Each

When you start a painting project, it’s essential to know how much paint you’ll need. The next step is to buy the paint. But what are the paint can sizes? Don’t worry — we’ll cover this and more in our guide below.


Disclaimer: The information included in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal, financial, or DIY advice. We highly suggest consulting a professional before attempting any DIY home improvements or repairs.


Sizes of Paint Cans: A Summary

Switching a dated color for a more contemporary color can add vibrancy and beauty to any room. Painting your home is one of the cheapest investments you can make that adds value to your home.

To make a good investment, you must get the right size paint can. Paint cans are metal cans, sealed with a unique lid that can hold various volumes of paint.

The most common sizes range between a quarter pint to one gallon. Although these are the most common sizes, other sizes do exist. 

6 Most Common Paint Can Sizes

Standard paint can sizes next to brushes

Kobeza/Shutterstock

Now that we know the ordinary size range for paint cans, let’s go through the different volumes you can purchase. After that, we’ll let you know how much each amount of paint will cover. Always remember to recycle your old paint cans once you finish using them.

1. One Gallon

The one gallon (3.8 liters) paint can size is the most common paint can size. When you go to your local hardware or paint store, most of the cans on display will be the 1-gallon size. A gallon-sized paint can is 7.5 inches tall with a 6.5-inch diameter.

On average, one gallon of paint will cover 400 square feet with one coat of paint. Since the average size room has 800 square feet of wall, most people need two cans to paint an entire room.

2. Half Gallon

The half-gallon (1.9 liters) paint can size is another common paint can size. Half-gallon paint cans measure 5.38 inches tall and have a 5.88-inch diameter.

On average, half-gallon paint cans cover 200 square feet of wall area. Since these cans are so small, they are often purchased to paint small rooms, like bathrooms or laundry rooms. 

3. One Quart

The one quart (0.95 liters) paint can size is one of the more often forgotten sizes. Since its size is in-between the more popular half-gallon and pint sizes, many people don’t even realize they can purchase a quart of paint.

The quart paint can is 4.88 inches tall and has a 4.25-inch diameter. One quart will cover approximately 100 square feet of wall area. 100 square feet is a tiny wall area, so consider this size for closets, trim work, or other small projects.

4. One Pint

The one pint (0.47 liters) size is the perfect size paint can for touch-up work. A 1-pint paint can is 3.99 inches tall and has a 3.5-inch diameter. One pint covers approximately 50 square feet of wall area.

Since this size covers such a small area, its best use is in touch-up work, like when you chip some paint off your wall. Alternatively, you can use it for trim work or other small projects, too. 

5. Half Pint

The half-pint (0.28 liters) paint can size is extremely small, which means you should only purchase it if you need to do touch-ups. Half-pint paint cans are three inches tall and have a 2.88-inch diameter.

A half-pint of paint will cover 25 square feet of wall in one coat of paint. As you can probably tell, that isn’t much coverage. It’s only enough to do either a small amount of trim work or do some final touch-ups.

6. Quarter Pint

The quarter pint (0.14 liters) paint can size is even smaller than the half-pint, so it can’t cover that much wall area. Quarter pint paint cans measure two inches tall, and it has a 2.5-inch diameter. 

A quarter pint of paint will cover approximately 12 square feet of wall area.

12 square feet isn’t even the wall area in a small closet, so you won’t be able to do much painting with it. But a quarter pint is perfect for touch-up work and when you’re choosing a paint color.

Other Paint Can Sizes

Various paint can sizes in all colors

Sebastian Duda/Shutterstock

Aside from the regular sizes listed above, paint cans do come in other sizes. Some additional sizes of paint cans include:

  • 1.5 gallons (5.7 liters)
  • 0.75 gallons (2.8 liters)
  • 1.5 quarts (1.4 liters)

Non-Can Paint Containers

People like contractors, professional painters, and landlords may need larger cans of paint. Most of the time, paint stops coming in cans when you purchase large quantities. Instead, it comes in plastic buckets with a lid.

Large-scale painters use these plastic buckets because they come in various sizes. Some of the most common plastic bucket sizes for paint are:

  • Two gallons (9.1 liters)
  • Four gallons (18.2 liters)
  • 5 gallons (22.7 liters)

Things to Consider

When you’re buying paint, you need to consider two key components. The first is the area of your room, which will determine how much paint you need. The second thing to consider is how much primer to use.

Determining How Much Paint You Need

Determining how much paint you need is the essential first step in painting. The calculations are simple, but they can get confusing when you factor in windows, doors, trim, and any other surface that you won’t paint. 

Essentially, you need to measure the length and height of your room and then calculate the area. But, if you have any windows or doors, you need to subtract their area from the total. Let’s go through an example to make this clear.

Calculate Total Square Footage

Let’s say your room has four walls, each 15 feet in length and 9 feet tall. The room has three windows that measure two feet wide and three feet tall. The room also has a door that’s three feet wide and 6.7 feet tall.

To start, calculate the total area of the room. Since the room has four walls that are all the same, we can multiply 15 by 9, and then multiply the product by 4. That gives us a total area of 540 square feet.

Now we can calculate the windows and doors. All three windows are all the same size, so we can multiply three by two, and then multiply the product by three, which gives us a subtotal of 18 square feet. For the door, we multiply three by 6.7, for a subtotal of approximately 20 square feet.

Subtract Windows and Doors

Now that we have our subtotals, we can subtract the windows and door from the total area. 540 minus 18 and 20 gives us a final area of 502 square feet. As you can tell, we didn’t factor in trim, baseboard, or crown molding into the calculation.

These factors change from house to house, so doing the calculations yourself is the best way to ensure proper results. To measure the area of any trim, multiply the length by the width.

The key thing to remember about trim is that it isn’t included in your wall paint calculations unless they’re going to be the same color as the wall. So in your calculations, treat trim like you would the windows and subtract it from the area.

Choose The Paint

Once you have the total area of your room, you can choose the right amount of paint. Remember, most paints require two coats to ensure proper coverage and vibrant colors. 

So, if a gallon covers 400 square feet and a quart covers 100 square feet, you would have enough paint to paint our example in one coat. For two coats, you would need to double that amount. 

If you’re having trouble with any of these calculations, you can use this handy coverage calculator from Sherwin-Williams.

Primer

Priming is an essential part of any home painting, especially if you’re painting over a darker color with a lighter 1. Sometimes called an “undercoat,” primer helps new paint stick to the wall, as well as increasing durability and helps to protect the material underneath the paint.

When you’re using primer, use the same calculations as above to figure out how much you’ll need. The one difference is how many coats of primer you’ll have to use. 

If you’re painting over a white wall or another light-colored wall, you should be able to get away with only one coat of primer. The single coat will help the paint adhere better, but since the color underneath is so light, you don’t need to worry about it seeping through.

If you’re painting over a dark color, like red or green, you’ll need more coats of primer. On average, darker colors require two or three coats of primer to ensure the color underneath doesn’t show through the new paint.

Frequently Asked Questions

Several standard sized spray paint cans on a colored background

New Africa/Shutterstock

Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about paint cans and how much area paint will cover.

What are Spray Paint Can Sizes?

Spray paint, sometimes known as aerosol paint, generally comes in four sizes:

  • 4.5 fluid ounces
  • 6 fluid ounces
  • 12 fluid ounces
  • 16 fluid ounces

Spray paint coverage depends mostly on the thickness of the paint and how you apply it. Some spray paint is thicker than others, meaning it can cover a larger area with a smaller amount.

Whether you spray from a distance or very close to the material also changes how much coverage spray paint has. On average, 4.5-ounce spray paint cans cover 7 square feet, while 16-ounce cans cover 30 square feet. The other sizes will cover an area between those numbers.

Why Don’t Paint Cans Come in Larger Sizes?

Metal paint cans don’t come in larger sizes because of cost. Metal paint cans aren’t cheap to manufacture, thus, the manufacturers consider larger sizes a waste. Plastic pails are much cheaper to produce, which is why manufacturers have chosen them for larger sizes. 

Do Oil, Acrylic, and Latex Paint Cover the Same Area?

Oil, latex, and acrylic are the three most common types of paint people use in their homes, although latex paints have become the most popular in recent years due to their lower toxicity

When it comes to coverage, all three of these types of paint cover the same area. For each, a gallon will cover approximately 400 square feet of wall area. 

They also require the same number of coats. Although some people believe oil-based paints only require one coat, they’ll still look better if you use two coats. That way, every space on your wall looks pristine and has better protection. 

So, What Are the Standard Paint Can Sizes?

Now that you know the different sizes of paint cans, you can go out and choose the proper size for your painting project. No more worrying about not picking up enough paint or getting too much!

When it comes to choosing the right size can of paint, remember that a gallon will cover 400 square feet. From there, you can purchase the right amount of paint for any job by choosing among the many different sizes of paint cans.

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