• Stacia

Paint Me Cool(er)

Cooler painting in the south is as much as a staple as Saturday college football. It's as expected as the leaves changing color in the fall. So what exactly is it and why would anyone do it? I was first introduced to the idea of cooler painting when it came to out of town fraternity functions. When a guy asks a girl to a formal (or camping event), she in turn paints him a cooler. They are personalized for the guy and the event. But of course, we couldn't let the guys have all the fun, so sometimes we'll paint our own. Spring Break, Big/Little Revel, Game Day, or maybe just our desire to have a painted cooler means that the guys aren't the only ones with thes works of art. There are four major parts to ended up with a well painted cooler. Plan, Prep, Paint, and Protect.

Supplies: Cooler, Primer, Paint (various colors), Sharpies or Paint Pens, Sealent, Chalk, Pencils, Tissue Paper. Painters Tape, Plastic


This portion of the process starts as soon as you have a reason to paint the cooler. Is it for a particular event or a person to have? What are their favorite colors, brands, organizations, sayings, etc.? How big is this cooler going to be and what specific things might need to be taken into consideration when painting this cooler? Does it have a weird shape or an oddly placed handle? If you're looking for design ideas, I encourage you to hop on Pinterest and take a look around. You'll need to plan for each side of the cooler, the lid if you so choose, and the corners if you want any sort of transitional space from side to side. Planning the design now will save you time down the line.


Prepping your cooler starts with taping off the edges and covering any part of the cooler you don't want painted. Handles and wheels are usually what I try and tape off. If you arne't planning to paint your lid, you'll also want to cover/tape this.

Some people sand their coolers before painting them. However, I don't do that. I've painted them both ways and actualy found it easier to paint when I didn't sand it. However, that's 100% personal preference. However, you WILL want to prime the cooler using a plastic primer spray. My favorite is Krylon. I get it in white because it gives me a good, light base to work from. One large cooler can usually get a couple of coats from one can. Let it dry completely. It'll look similar to this:

From here, you can outline your design in pencil or chalk to make it perfect before you start filling in with color (you can also do this at any point during the paint process).


Then comes the fun (and time consuming) part of painting the cooler. Start by painting the background, then whatever designs you have decided on. You can use paint pens for detailed lettering or outlining. Sharpies can also work for outlining, so keeping those on hand will help you out.

What if there's a design you can't free hand, but REALLY want to use? That's where your tissue paper comes in handy. Start by printing the design you want to eventually get on the cooler. Lay the tissue paper on this design and trace it (the tissue paper should be light enough to see though). Then, take the tissue paper and tape it to the cooler using painter's tape where you want the design. You can then either paint in the lines or use a Sharpie and trace over the lines. When you lift the tissue paper, you will be left with a faintly painted design OR the lines of it in Sharpie (the paint or ink will bleed through the tissue paper). This will allow you to fill in the areas that need to be filled in, but you'll have exact lines.

I used this technique to paint the Shiner Bock logo on the side of this cooler:


You don't want all of your hard work to go to waste. While coolers will get bumped and scratatched during use, you still want to protect the work you've done. So, invest in a good sealent (I use Krylon plastic seal) and spray it evenly on your cooler. You'll need about the same amount of protectent as you did primer. Make sure to let the sealent sit for at least 24 hours on your cooler (or longer if the brand you use says to).

Finally, you'll be able to take the tape and plastic off of your cooler. What are you left with? A cooler just for you (or someone else). Below are a few of my own examples.

This cooler was painted for one of my friends in college. I used his two favorite brands of beer and included a tribute to his 2013 Summer Study Abroad in Ireland.

This Arkansas/Razorback/Fayetteville cooler was painted for me because I wanted one.

Never, ever underestimate the ability to include things in the corners. They are just as much a part of the cooler as the sides and the lid.

This cooler was actually a mini cube and perfect for summer days spent at the baseball field or taking road trips. It also had a cell phone slot in the lid, which I took as another place to decorate.

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