Paint Can Sizes

Paint Can Sizes – How to Buy the Right Amount of Paint

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When it comes to home decoration and renovation, there is perhaps not a single endeavor more scrutinized and fussed over than the part concerned with painting the walls. It is likely that you have painted a wall or two in your lifetime, and if not, then you have seen someone undertake the task at the very least. Thus, you should know just how much effort can go into it. If you are an up-and-coming DIY homeowner looking to find out more about the portion of interior decorating that pertains to painting, allow us to afford you some broader knowledge regarding your understanding of paint can sizes. This may sound boring to the uninitiated, but only because you may not yet understand its value within the sum of the whole.



Paint Can Sizes

Interior wall painting is a multifarious task involving tarps, painter’s tape, dozens of brush or roller options, and an oftentimes messy workstation to clean nevertheless to top it all off. Painting involves all the headaches you could possibly muster in a single activity pertaining to the art of home decoration. And this is not to mention the paint itself; no other aspect of homemaking receives so much planning as the choice of color for the walls of a living space.

How to Determine How Much Paint You Need

But, it is often to the misfortune of homeowners with aspirations of beginning their personal journey through the art of interior decoration that even this singular feature of a much wider project can be its own can of worms. While we may not be able to fit all the minutia into a single article, what we can instead do is help you with one of the more functional aspects of step one, which if you are doing things the right way around should be buying paint. As you no doubt already know, paint is sold in cans, the volumes of which vary across a broad spectrum.

The paint in these cans will only cover as much surface area as is allowed before another needs to be cracked open, and you cannot really store it for all that long before the mixture begins to solidify. So, your most functional option is then to follow the old Marxist adage, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

If the metaphor is not too much of a stretch, we can perhaps at least all agree that, when choosing a can of paint to buy, one must consider the capabilities, limitations, and requirements of the product before its purchase. So, if you want to understand a bit more about paint can dimensions and how to pick the right one for the job, you have found just the sort of place where you would expect such seemingly mundane information to be explored in great detail.


Much To Consider

The supposed humdrum of paint can sizes attributes more so than you would care to guess to how challenging it can be to get familiar with the craft of paint. You could either purchase too small a volume of paint and find yourself with not enough to cover a space, or you could have the opposite problem whereby you buy too much and thus end up wasting material and running unnecessary costs. These are but the two most apparent reasons why you would want to know how to pick a suitable amount of paint for whatever your task might entail. Some things to consider include obvious matters such as the size of your room or canvas. You can start the whole process by first figuring out the measurements of the workspace you will be painting. From there, you need only apply some simple math in order to deduce how much paint you are going to need.

How to Calculate Paint Coverage

You do not want to find yourself in a position where you have to make a smaller amount go further with more thinning agent than usual or where you have to let extra unapplied paint dry out over time while the can collects dust. And while storing paint can be done in a way that mitigates the time it will take for it to harden inside the can, this requires very specific environmental conditions and takes up space within the household.

Understanding paint can sizes not only prevents these issues from presenting themselves but also teaches you about how much is needed to accommodate for the dimensions of a space, how much the paint can cover, and what paint options can be stretched furthest if necessary. Before we get into the gritty details of this topic, allow us to first present you with a tabulated list of paint can dimensions and their volumes. This paint can size chart is an easy reference point to visit should you wish to keep this information on hand.



What Sizes Does Paint Come In?

Time and money are often interchangeable resources for us, and you could save yourself both by buying the perfect amount of paint to fit the scale of an upcoming DIY project that involves paint. Having a sufficient yet not too copious amount of painting material will assist in expediting the amount of work time you expect to encounter from start to finish.

Imagine having to return to the store to buy more paint after not purchasing enough beforehand, or the reverse where you find yourself exerting more energy and thus time having to lug around an excessive amount of paint. Then there is the budget to consider; by purchasing just the right amount, you can avoid incurring unnecessary costs simply because you bought paint in volumes exceeding the scope of your task. It really sounds like simple sense, especially when written out, but you would be surprised how easy it may be to fall into these traps as an entry-level DIY enthusiast.

Paint Can Size Chart

The following paint can size chart and accompanying information will get you on the right track and inform your decisions in the future. The chart displays the type of paint and its dimensions, as well as a plus-minute calculation of the surface area it should be able to cover under ideal conditions.

Paint Can SizeDimensions (Inches)Coverage (Square Feet)
¼ pint2 1/16” x 2 ½”12.5 sq. ft.
½ pint3” x 2 7/8”25 sq. ft.
1 pint3 15/16” x 3 7/16”50 sq. ft.
1 quart5” x 5”100 sq. ft.
½ gallon5 7/8” x 5 3/8”180/200 sq. ft.
1 gallon7 5/8” x 6 5/8”400 sq. ft.
5 quarts9 ½” x 6 5/8”500 sq. ft.
2 gallons10″ x 9.25″800 sq. ft.
5 gallons14 ½” x 11 ¾”1800 sq. ft.

One thing to keep in keen consideration is that there are several factors that contribute towards the maximum degree of coverage achievable by whatever paint you choose. They include aspects of the paint itself such as the viscosity. If you are working with a paint with a thick viscosity, you may find that it lathers over the surface as opposed to spreading, which will reduce the spreadability solely on account of the denser consistency and how this would impair proper dispersal. The surface being painted is also something to keep in mind as the more absorbent or porous it is, the less area it will be able to cover. Absorbent surfaces, in particular, will often require more than just one coat of paint.

If this is your first foray into this sort of home decoration project, the golden rule is to lend yourself a fair degree of leniency. By this, we mean you should expect to experience a few hiccups here and there throughout the process and do not anticipate getting the ratios perfectly correct even after reading this article. Why would your paint volume calculations likely be imperfect? Because most walls are not perfect. Over the course of time, the surface area of most structures will change on account of several environmental factors. Surfaces that experience warping, which is a commonly found issue, include stone, wood, plastic, vinyl, metal, and concrete. Such a change in the topography of your surfaces will most definitely throw off the calculable volume of paint necessary to cover a space.

The warping of your surface area is not the only concern likely to affect the coverage of your paint, however, since there is also the chance that the surfaces you are working on have crevices, holes, recesses, and dents as well. While you should definitely patch these things up before you even start painting, you are likely to lose out on additional spreadability as these indentations consume any paint applied on or around them. What this ultimately informs us is that it is, in many ways, sort of impossible to purchase a perfectly accurate amount of paint for your walls. What you are instead aiming for is to get as close to the mark as is possible within reason. For obvious reasons, you would prefer to have more as opposed to less paint than needed.

Calculating Paint Can Coverage

At any builder’s warehouse or paint store, you are likely to find an incredibly varied assortment of paint can dimensions, with the units of measurement also differing among countries. In the States, however, we can narrow the array of paint can sizes to six primary quantities – these measurements still apply should you decide to have a custom color made. You have the option to purchase these paint cans either from a brick-and-mortar retailer or from an online store.

In accordance with the Imperial measurement system, the six paint can dimensions you can acquire from largest to smallest in the US are as follows:

  • A gallon (1 gal)
  • A half-gallon (1/2 gal)
  • One quart (1 qt.)
  • One pint (1 pt.)
  • A half pint (1/2 pt.)
  • A quarter pint (¼ pt.)

For contractors and businesses, however, there are several additional dimensions on offer should it be necessary to make a bulk purchase. For starters, we have two gallons (2 gals), followed by five quarts (5 qt.), and finally, we have five gallons (5 gals).



What Size Does Paint Come In?

Above is a breakdown of the various paint can sizes available on the domestic US market. Down below, you will find some further information pertaining to these denominations, such as how much surface area they carry and what sorts of projects they are most suitable for.



In most instances, a quarter-pint will be the smallest volume in which to purchase your paint. Needless to say, a single quarter-pint can is not going to cover a wall in its entirety, but this is not what you would use a quarter-pint for. These small denominations of paint are not intended for big projects, but instead as a means to touch up larger works and to paint small items. These paint cans are suitable for touch-up restoration projects or arts and crafts projects. If the task is a small one, a quarter-pint ought to do you just fine. For anything larger, however, this tiny amount will not suffice.

Small Paint Can Size

You are not going to find yourself painting a room with a single quarter-pint, let alone even a single wall. Although, you can use these tiny cans to redo, repair, or restore sections of a larger job that were painted incorrectly or that have been damaged by either time or the surrounding environmental factors. A quarter-pint will not go far on a bare wall, but it will do just fine in, for example, fixing up a ceiling trim. Depending on the qualities of the painted surface and the viscosity of your chosen paint, you should be able to cover roughly 12.5 square feet of area with a single quarter-pint of paint.



If you have home renovation in mind, a half-pint of painting material is not going to satisfy your desires. However, you would not purchase a half-pint for such reasons. Much like the aforementioned quarter-pint but to an obviously greater extent, half-pints are reserved for smaller projects. If you are hand painting furniture by brush, for example, you will most likely not require anything more than a half-pint of paint.

Paint Can Sizes for Smaller Projects

Although this may in some cases ultimately depend on the type of paint you use, you should for the most part not expect to incur any considerable costs when purchasing in half-pints. If you are working with a paint with a thick viscosity, such as oil and acrylic, you should expect to cover roughly 20 square feet of space. If instead, you are using a thinner, water-based painting mixture, you can stretch the covered surface area to about 25 square meters

Half-pints of paint are relatively inexpensive depending on the type of paint you intend on buying. However, the type of paint you choose can also affect the surface area it is capable of covering. A thin, water-based paint in the half-pint volume could cover around 25 square feet, whereas a thicker paint type like acrylic or oil could only reach around 20 square feet.


Full Pint

Much like with a half pint, do not purchase a full pint in hopes that it will cover so far as to fully paint an entire room. But if you need a bit more breathing room than what a half pint allows for, you cannot go wrong with doubling the dosage. It might not be able to paint an entire room, but it is capable of quite a few small to medium-scale projects.

A full pint of paint is the perfect amount for painting smaller walls and ceilings, and even furniture and cupboards. If your project matches the scale of your broom closet, you should be good to go with a single pint of paint. You are looking at around 50 square feet of coverage with a pint of paint. However, as is the case with all paint can dimensions, the exact amount of surface area coverable with a pint will be determined in part by the viscosity (and other properties) of the paint as well as the texture quality of the surface you intend on painting. If you know how to make a can of paint stretch, you can expect to just about cover the span of an accenting wall.


A Quart

With a quart at your side, you should have more than enough paint to account for most (if not any) small to medium-sized paint projects. Small desks, benches, chairs, bedside tables, entertainment centers, and other similarly sized free-standing furniture or decor can be covered most efficiently using a quart of paint. With these sorts of projects, you can expect to not have to work conservatively with your paint, allowing leniency with spillage and touch-ups. If you use your paint optimally for these projects, you might even find yourself with quite a bit left over for another project.

Types of Paint Can Sizes

If, however, you want to paint an entire wall on a budget, you can still make do with just one quart. The process might just require a bit of rationing and maybe some thinning agent. The real issue with relying on a single quart to paint a standard-sized wall rears its face once you try to apply a second coating. For most walls, a quart will only be able to cover the surface area entirely just once. If you are worried about not having enough paint left over for a second coat or for touch-ups, you might want to get yourself an extra pint or two. You should expect roughly 100 square feet of coverage from a quart of paint.


A Half-Gallon

If you have quite the head full of experience with painting or if you have quite the job to do, you might be better off with purchasing a half-gallon of the finest. This alone could go so far as to fully cover two entire standard-sized walls or equally as many regular closet units. In fact, you could stretch half a gallon over a small child’s room. Just note, however, that a half-gallon should only get you as far as the first coat before you run out of paint.

Consideration for Choosing Paint Can Size

If instead, you need to paint small to medium-sized workpieces, you will be able to perform this task on quite a few objects before hitting the bottom of your barrel. Medium-sized couches, for example, offer no compromising competition to the volume allotted by half a gallon of paint. The same goes for chair sets, dinner tables, and cupboards, all of which can be painted using a half-gallon with a fair amount to spare at the end of it all. With half a gallon of paint at your side, you can look towards about 200 square feet of coverage.


A Full Gallon

We are now approaching the realms of paint volumes more aptly described as a lot. A gallon of paint, for example, contains more than ample amounts of material to coat all four walls within a standard-sized room. If you know how to avoid wastage, you may even have enough paint left over to take things to the ceiling. You may, however, find the limitations of a full gallon of paint in spaces such as large suburban living rooms.

Paint Can Size Coverage

You should be able to apply multiple coats of paint to the walls of any medium-sized room. If you will instead be painting areas and objects such as pantries, bathrooms, kitchens, cupboard sets, and walk-in closets, you might find yourself with a bit of leftover paint after the job. With a full gallon at your disposal, the world may be your oyster up to roughly 400 square feet in any direction your DIY projects take you. As always, there will be factors, such as aspects of the paint and the quality of the wall, that will cause this number to either increase or decrease.


Five Quarts

To the uninitiated, the sum of five quarts may appear peculiar. However, this should be expected of a niche item such as this. If you are unsure how to quantify five quarts in your mind, you can think of it as round about a similar volume to one and a quarter gallons. So why the call for an extra quart of paint? For many veteran home renovators, the utilitarian value extracted from that extra bit of paint makes up for the additional cost tenfold. For the experts, especially those who work on larger projects, that little extra can go a really long way.

Determine Volume of Paint for Project

Although that extra quarter may sometimes turn out to not have been necessary, many professional and prudent painters opt for five quarts simply on account of the degree of safety it affords them. Rooms that have walls with irregular roofs and walls, for example, might demand more paint than expected and in such a case one might cheer the additional surplus of paint at their disposal. No matter the scale or undiscovered obstacles that lie ahead of you, having that extra bit of painting material allows you to account for every outcome. The amount of surface area that you can expect to cover with five quarts of paint is proportional to the metrics of all the other paints in this list. Thus, you should be able to cover roughly 500 square feet of space using five quarts of paint.


Two Gallons of Paint

You would be able to easily cover every inch of most bedrooms imaginable with two gallons of paint at your disposal. This also applies to two small bedrooms, which could be covered head to toe in whichever paint you choose if you had two gallons of material to work with.

Paint Can Sizes for Large Projects

If you live in the city and would like to paint multiple apartment rooms with a single can of paint, you might want to consider getting your paint in a two-gallon volume. When working with quantities of paint as big as this, you need not worry too much about the sort of paint you are using and how that may affect the surface area spreadability. Whether your paint is water-based or oil-based, you should not find yourself running out of material to work with.


Spray Paint Can Sizes

Maybe you are not too interested in working with rollers, brushes, or anything else that requires tact, time consumption, and a messy workspace. If you might prefer to keep your hands clean in your next painting project and reduce your work time, you should perhaps consider using spray paint instead. Aerosolized paint can be dispersed directly from the can for a quick and easy paint job. If you are interested in the paint can sizes that spray paint comes in, here is some information pertaining to the topic.


Four-and-a-Half-Ounce Spray Paint

The size of your tools should always match the scale of your task. If you have a small paint job to complete that would not necessitate the use of tools such as large paint brushes or rollers, you should just grab yourself a four-and-a-half-ounce can of spray paint. These are actually the smallest conventional cans of spray paint available on the American market, which makes them super easy to store and thus a useful thing to have around the house.

Small Spray Can Paint Sizes

If you expect to do a few touch-ups on certain areas now and then, you could keep one of these handy to simplify the job when duty calls. With one can of four-and-a-half-ounce spray paint, you can expect to cover roughly seven square feet of surface area.

You will find that these tiny cans of paint are commonly used to paint small to medium-sized furniture and other similarly sized singular decor features. When it comes to cost-effectiveness, these tiny spray cans deliver on all fronts, which is good news for anyone looking to keep their budget as un-costly as possible. With a can of this paint, you can say goodbye to brushstrokes – at least for the smaller things.


12-Ounce Spray Paint

If you are fond of bucking conventions and like to think smart but not hard, a 12-ounce can of spray paint is a surefire means through which to decrease the effort and work time necessary for a painting project. These work well with multiple small-scale projects or a few medium-sized pieces. The efficiency of its application method supersedes traditional methods, they leave much less mess to clean up, and – better yet – they are comparatively affordable.

Spray Paint Can Size Range

With a 12-ounce spray can attached to your hip, most small workpieces like toys, crafted items, windows, and half cupboards can be painted in multitudes. When it comes to medium-sized objects, you can expect enough coverage to paint three dining room chairs’ worth of surface area. Should the feeling overcome you, you could probably tackle your entire dining room table with a single 12-ounce can. Quantifiably, you have about 20 square feet of coverage deliverable from the nozzle of these spray paint can sizes.


16-Ounce Spray Paint

Are you a graffiti artist or a madman hellbent on avoiding any need for rollers and brushes no matter what the task? Either way, your aerosolized lust will be more than satiated with the 16 ounces of spray paint afforded to you for a can of this proportion. Just imagine the sheer amount of mania one could unleash with 30 square feet of coverage.

Any project, big or small, could eat your dust when you come to the party strapped with one of these bad boys. With a 16-ounce spray can, the scale of the projects you would be working on should scale between medium to large. Think of all the dining room tables, furniture, cupboards, and doors conquerable by such a behemoth.

Humor aside, however, before you waste money on this product you should make sure that the volume is actually necessary for the scale of your project and that the paint you plan on using will adhere to the surface area you are working on.

Large Spray Paint Sized Can


So, there you have it; a fair dissection of one of the less appreciated aspects of DIY painting at home. We hope that we have covered enough ground to fill you with information you may soon find a use for. We wish you the best of luck and encourage you to browse further into our website for more helpful guides on the many other aspects of home renovation.




Frequently Asked Questions


How To Open a Paint Can?

When it comes to opening up a can of paint, there are plenty of household items that could suffice. For starters, you can always grab a trusty screwdriver to pry the lid open. Ideally, you would want to use a flathead for better grip at the point of contact. Alternatively, you can use a putty knife to afford yourself a wider surface area for better grip and control. If you have a painter’s six-in-one tool lying around, even better – if you do not know what that is, refer back to the screwdriver.


What Size Does Paint Come In?

Paint cans come in all sorts of sizes according to whatever volumetric system applies to wherever you live. If you reside in the US, this would be according to the Imperial system. Typically, this would mean that your paint will come in the following sizes: a gallon (1 gal), a half-gallon (1/2 gal), one quart (1 qt.), one pint (1 pt.), a half pint (1/2 pt.), and a quarter pint (¼ pt.).

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