My 3 Monsters: Custom Painted Drink Cooler

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Custom Painted Drink Cooler

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

I got this weird notion about a month ago that we needed a cuter cooler.  I know.  Who EVER thinks that?  Like, ever?  Well . . . .me.  I think about things like that.  

"Wouldn't it be grand," I thought, "if we had a really awesome painted cooler?  Maybe with a monogram or something so it would never get lost on picnics or camping trips.  'Cause we go on so many of those -- picnics and camping trips, I mean.  Awwww, yeah.  Life would be preeety sweet with a cuter cooler."  That's how people who decide to make painted coolers talk to themselves. 

Now, I thoroughly realize how frivolous and unnecessary a cute cooler is when a regular old red or blue or orange cooler actually gets the job done.  I also know that using a Sharpie to jot your name on your plain old red/blue/orange cooler will quickly solve any issues of picnic cooler confusion.  But I am in love with the way ours turned out.  I couldn't be happier with it.  In fact, it has sat in our front entryway for about three weeks, waiting to be photographed, but also being admired by me.  It's too cute to just be stashed back away in the garage.  I think a painted cooler adds just the right decorative, fun touch to a pool party or back yard barbecue.  I can't wait to fill'er up and get to entertaining.

There are a few steps that you'll need to follow if you want to make a painted cooler that will hold up to regular use.  It's easy, but labor-intensive.  You want to make sure that your hard work will go the distance and last for summers to come.  

Step 1:  Spackle

You can get a cooler just like this one for about $20 at Target or Walmart.  I think mine was from Target.  I wanted to remove all brand-names from my cooler to have a really fresh canvas for painting.  If your cooler has raised writing on it, you can sand it off in the next step.  If the brand name is indented you will need to fill it with spackle and allow it to dry completely.

Step 2:  Sanding / Prepping

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

You want to sand the finish of your cooler down so remove as much of the shiny-ness as you can.  I used my palm sander with heavy grit sandpaper and sanded, and sanded.  Then I sanded some more.  I tried to remove as much of the branding from the lid and front of cooler as possible.  It just takes some elbow grease and patience.  Sand the spackle smooth, too, if you used that.  Once you have as much of the finish removed as you can, use a fine grit sandpaper and go over the whole thing again to smooth it out as much as possible.

Once you are finished {or completely fed-up} with sanding, clean the cooler really well to remove ALL the dust. Tape off any areas that you don't want to be painted.  My handles removed easily with screws so I just took those off instead of taping them up.  You can see in the picture I taped off the lip of the cooler lid, but then I decided to just paint the whole thing black.

Step 3:  Painting

Spray paint your cooler with a paint formulated to bond with plastic.  I really liked Krylon Fusion spray paint.  It went on really smooth and bonded FANTASTICALLY.  I think I used 2 cans.  First I made sure the whole thing was evenly covered with color and then I just kept adding light coats of paint until all the paint was gone.  I wanted to have a really good solid base coat.

Allow the spray paint to dry for 24 hours before adding your detail painting.  Here is where you can go crazy with it.  You could use a stencil to create an all-over pattern or hand paint a beach scene.  Whatever your heart desires.  I was kinda' conservative and used white acrylic craft paint with a circular foam brush to dab on polka dots.  I measured out the pattern and marked it with chalk to keep it all uniform.  Then I sketched out the monogram and painted that on, too.

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

Step 4:  Sealing

Use a CLEAN brush to paint on 2-3 coats of Mod Podge to seal and protect the paint.  If you use a brush that has any paint still in it, your Mod Podge will not dry clear or may have streaks in it.  I used a brand new foam brush for each new layer.  Allow the Mod Podge to dry for about 24 hours, then spray with a clear acrylic sealer.  

Remove all the tape and screw your handles back on.  Use an X-acto knife to slit the Mod Podge all around the lip of the lid before you try to open it to make sure you don't mess up the finish the first time you open it.  {Ask me how I know that . . .}

How to have the cutest cooler in town!  Custom Painted Cooler project at /

I am IN LOVE with this cute cooler!!!  I can't wait to see Brent and the boys take it to the Father & Son camp out with all the men from church next year.  {Hee hee!}  We may need to make another, more manly version with a sports team logo or something for them.

Wanna know something crazy?  I'm not the only one who wants a cute cooler!  While I was dragging my feet, putting off photographing my painted cooler for three weeks, Stephanie Lynn from Under the Table and Dreaming was making a fabric-covered cooler that is very similar to mine.  Great minds think alike {if I do say so myself!} 


  1. Danielle Miller20 July, 2013

    Good Morning! I wanted to let you know that I featured this fun craft today in my "What I Bookmarked This Week" post - stop by and see!

    1. Thanks! I am so flattered. I'm heading over to check it out now.

  2. YAY~ I am so happy to see this tutorial. I blog at & am planning my husband's 30th {surprise} bday party. I am renting out several suites at the Hardrock & having a casino night, but there will be appetizers/drinks in the rooms before dinner. I want to personalize coolers for each of the couple & fill with bottled water/crown & coke/champagne for them to take home or drink when they get back to their rooms. I will like my post back to you when I get it done. His bday isn't until April, but I figured I better start now since I am clueless & have so many of these to make.

    1. That sounds like an awesome party!! The coolers are pretty easy to make, but thay are a little time consuming. Good idea to get a head start!


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