How to Paint A Cooler Like a Pro

Bob Thomas


Summer is around the corner, and it's time to gear up for outdoor fun! 

One essential item you'll need for your picnics and camping trips is a cooler.

Why not give your cooler a fresh new look by painting it?

In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of painting your cooler step by step, so you can create a unique and personalized design that will impress your friends and family.

Quick Summary

  1. Gather the necessary materials and tools.
  2. Clean and sand the cooler.
  3. Apply primer.
  4. Sketch out your design.
  5. Paint your design using acrylic paints.
  6. Seal the cooler with a clear sealant.

Materials and Tools Needed



The item you will be painting

Painter's tape

To protect areas you don't want to paint

Sandpaper (120-grit)

To create a rough surface for better adhesion


To prepare the surface for painting

Pencil or chalk

To sketch your design

Acrylic paint

To create your design


To apply the paint

Clear sealant

To protect your painted design

Gather the necessary materials and tools

Before you begin, make sure you have all the materials and tools you'll need to paint your cooler. Use the table above as a reference to ensure you have everything ready to go.

Clean and sand the cooler

First, you'll need to clean your cooler to remove any dirt or residue that could prevent the paint from adhering properly.

After cleaning, use 120-grit sandpaper to roughen the surface of the cooler.

This will help the primer and paint stick better. Once you've finished sanding, wipe the cooler down with a damp cloth to remove any dust.

Apply primer

Next, apply a coat of primer to the cooler.

This will create a solid base for the paint to adhere to and will help prevent chipping or peeling.

Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Sketch out your design

Now that your cooler is prepped, it's time to plan your design.

Using a pencil or chalk, lightly sketch your design onto the cooler. 

This can be anything from a simple pattern to a more intricate design or even a favorite team logo.

The sky's the limit!

Paint your design

Once you're satisfied with your sketch, it's time to start painting.

Using acrylic paint and various sizes of paintbrushes, carefully fill in your design.

Take your time and be patient – it's better to apply thin, even coats of paint and build up the color gradually.

Remember, you can always add more paint, but it's harder to remove it if you make a mistake.

Seal the cooler

After your design is complete and the paint is dry, it's time to protect your masterpiece.

Apply a clear sealant to the entire cooler, including the painted design.

This will help protect the paint from chipping and keep your cooler looking fresh and vibrant.

Maintaining Your Painted Cooler

To keep your cooler looking its best, it's essential to maintain it properly.

Here are some tips to help prolong the life of your painted cooler:

  1. Avoid exposing your cooler to extreme heat or cold: Extreme temperatures can cause the paint and sealant to crack or peel. Store your cooler in a cool, dry place when not in use.
  2. Clean your cooler gently: When it's time to clean your cooler, use a mild soap and water solution to wipe down the exterior. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbing too hard, as this may damage the paint or sealant.
  3. Touch up the paint as needed: Over time, your cooler may experience some wear and tear. If you notice any chipping or peeling paint, simply touch up the affected areas with acrylic paint and reapply the clear sealant.
  4. Keep the cooler closed when not in use: This will help protect the interior from dirt and debris and ensure that your cooler stays clean and ready for your next adventure.

By following these maintenance tips, your cooler should remain in good condition, and you'll be able to enjoy your personalized design for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. Can I use other types of paint besides acrylic paint for my cooler?

  A: Acrylic paint is recommended for its durability and versatility on various surfaces, including plastic.

However, you can also use other types of paint, such as oil-based enamel or spray paint, as long as they are designed for use on plastics.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and adjust your painting and sealing process accordingly.

Q. How can I add more texture or dimension to my cooler design?

  A: To add more texture or dimension, consider using paint markers, stencils, or even 3D paint.

These can create unique effects and make your cooler design stand out even more.

Be sure to test these materials on a small, inconspicuous area of the cooler before applying them to your final design.

Q. Can I paint the inside of my cooler as well?

  A: It's not recommended to paint the inside of your cooler, as it may affect the cooler's insulation properties and potentially contaminate the food and drinks stored inside.

Instead, focus on painting the exterior and adding your personal touch there.

Q. Can I add stickers, decals, or other decorations to my painted cooler?

  A: Absolutely! Stickers, decals, and other decorations can add an extra layer of customization to your cooler.

If you choose to use stickers or decals, make sure to apply them to a clean, dry surface and cover them with a layer of clear sealant to protect them from peeling or damage.

Q. How long should I wait for the paint and sealant to dry?

  A: Drying times can vary depending on the type of paint and sealant you use, as well as the environmental conditions.

It's best to follow the manufacturer's instructions on drying times.

As a general rule, allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours and the sealant for at least 48 hours before using your cooler.

Q. Can I repaint my cooler if I want to change the design in the future?

  A: Yes, you can repaint your cooler if you decide you want a new design.

To do this, you'll need to follow the same steps outlined in this guide, including sanding the cooler, applying primer, and painting your new design.

Just make sure to clean and prep the cooler properly before applying new paint.


And there you have it – a step-by-step guide to painting your cooler like a pro! With a little patience and creativity, you can transform your ordinary cooler into a unique and personalized work of art.

Not only will your cooler be the talk of the party, but it will also serve as a great conversation starter at your next outdoor gathering.

Remember, the design possibilities are endless.

Whether you choose to incorporate your favorite colors, patterns, or even a tribute to your favorite sports team, the key is to have fun with the process and let your creativity shine.

Suggested Products:

  1. Krylon Fusion All-in-One Spray Paint for Plastic: A top choice for its excellent adhesion to plastic surfaces and durability.
  2. Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover: This acrylic-based paint offers great coverage and is designed to bond to plastic.
  3. Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint: This versatile paint adheres well to plastic surfaces, providing a durable and vibrant finish for your cooler.
  4. Mod Podge Clear Acrylic Sealer: This clear sealer is essential for protecting your painted cooler and ensuring the design lasts.
  5. 3M SandBlaster Sandpaper: A high-quality sandpaper for prepping your cooler's surface, ensuring a smooth and clean canvas for your paint application.
  6. Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover Primer: This primer provides excellent adhesion for your paint and ensures a smooth, even finish on your cooler.
  7. Royal & Langnickel 12-Piece Artist Paintbrush Set: A variety of brushes in different sizes and shapes for applying paint and creating intricate designs on your cooler.
  8. Cricut Vinyl Stencil Sheets and Uni Posca Paint Marker Set: These tools can help you achieve more detailed and precise designs for your cooler, making it stand out even more.
  9. ScotchBlue Painter's Tape: Useful for creating clean, straight lines and protecting areas from unwanted paint.
  10. TRM Manufacturing Plastic Sheeting: Protect your work area from paint spills and drips with this plastic sheet, ensuring a mess-free painting experience.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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