The holiday season has arrived, but after the longest stint of being indoors most of us have ever had, you may be running out of ideas for projects. For families who have been home schooling, you and the kids may be ready to puts the pencils away but need something fun to do on a budget.

This week’s Ark Pantry explores ways to jazz up everyday items with some simple but fun up-cycling techniques.

Looking back over projects from our time in Mongolia (see my previous blog post) I found this great new look for old tin cans by Oza.

Oza’s Story

Oza is a very creative lady who worked for us whilst we ran our arts and crafts business in Mongolia. She is married and has 4 children. She had been an English teacher before an illness meant she had to leave her job for a few years. Working for us was a stepping stone before she returned to work at the university when we left Mongolia.


Oza became a follower of Jesus, and was baptised in 2019, just 2 days before we left the country to come back to UK. It was a very memorable day for us.

A bit of Paint Know-How

I love paint of any kind, and there are certainly lots of kinds available but not all paints – even if they are all acrylic paints – are the same and it is helpful to choose the right paint for the job.

If the surface you are painting is non-absorbent, like our tins in this project, then it is much more difficult for the paint to stick to the surface, and, when your project is completed, the paint will easily scratch off.

Ever had that happen? It is really frustrating when you have worked so hard and then you discover scratches on your work.

There are fortunately a few things you can do to get around this:

Use a ‘multi surface’ paint:
This is the best option. For this project we used a multi surface paint that is formulated to stick to non-absorbent surfaces. The paint we used is made by DecoArt but there are other available.

Use a ‘multi-surface’ medium:
This is a good alternative it you have lots of colours of paint already and you don’t want to have to buy a whole new set of colours. It is an additive you can mix with any colour of standard acrylic paint to give it the adhesion properties you will need for a non-absorbant surface. It comes in a pot a bit like the acrylic paint pots. DecoArt make one but there are other brands available.

Try sanding the surface first:
Using a some sandpaper on the surface before you begin to paint may help the paint stick a bit easier. Try something like 120 grade on these tins. Keep sanding until the shiny surface is slightly dull.

Don’t use a brush: I would recommend using a piece of sponge rather than a brush, to apply the paint. Do this even if you use Multi-Surface paint. A brush (even a soft one) will tend to take off as much paint as it puts on. Using a piece of sponge (a piece of a kitchen sponge is ideal) with a dabbing motion will give a much better coverage. The first coat may look a bit bubbly at first but let it dry and then continue as described below and you should be fine.

Cover the tin first: If you prefer you could wrap some card around the tin, sticking it firmly and then paint and decorate the card.

Ok, lets go . . .

You will need:

  • tins – any shape or size 🙂
  • assorted colours of multi surface acrylic paint – (or use standard acrylic paint and one or more of the suggestion above)
  • pearlising medium (optional). This is an acrylic medium that you can add to any acrylic paint and it gives it a pearlised finish.
  • some fine sandpaper – 400 grade or finer is good.
  • a piece of sponge
  • a pencil
  • small stencils (optional)
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

What to do:

  1. First choose a base colour to paint your tin. We used white. Apply the undiluted paint using a dry sponge and a dabbing motion. It may look a bit bubbly at first but don’t worry. It will be nice and smooth when you have finished it. Allow it to dry thoroughly
  1. Using a small piece of sandpaper stroke the paint all over. DO NOT RUB or the paint is likely to come off completely and be very careful of those ridges. If the paint is tending to come off then just do the flatter areas. This light sanding should leave a nice smooth surface.
  2. Apply a 2nd coat of paint in the same way. Allow to dry.
  3. If you want to paint the inside of your tin now is the time to do it. Apply with a sponge in the same way and allow to dry .
  4. Time for the 3rd coat but this time use a variety of colours randomly down the tin, blending together to give a pleasing effect. If you prefer you could use a brush for this layer of paint. If you are using pearlising medium, mix it with the paint in a 1:1 proportion. Allow to dry.
  1. Use a stencil to draw a design on the tin, or you can draw it freehand.
  1. Trace over your drawn lines with hot glue. This will give a textured design on your tin.
  1. Optional: once cooled, you can paint over your glue lines in a contrasting colour. Oza here is painting over her lines with a wax Metallic Lustre but you can just use your multi-surface acrylic paint in the same way.

If you make yourself some upcycled tins then don’t forget to #ArkPantry so that we can all see.

Happy painting

Julie