Old Milk Can Makeover (Tutorial)

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I never knew I loved an old milk can.

Until I found this one.

Pretty and kinda cool, huh?

Before…..not so much.
Milk Can Before - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

Although I do know some may love it just like this!

Do you remember it?? It was one of my ‘thrifty finds’ in this post here.
A little worse for wear but I had visions of what it could be….even if I didn’t know what they were when I bought it.

Now on to the tutorial…

Old Milk Can Makeover

First,  I lightly sanded any loose pieces of the chippy paint away.
Then applied a base coat of a latex I had mixed up from some sample containers I already had.
I wanted the underneath to be a teal color to match my kitchen where this was most likely going to end up.

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-First Coat Teal-Latex - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

I painted it with latex first because I wanted to seal up the underneath a bit.
I also wanted a layer of paint that would not wipe off with water.  (I’ll tell you why in a minute)

Next, I painted one coat of  Pure White Chalk Paint over the top of that.
I did one coat because I didn’t really want full coverage.

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Layering Technique - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

Here’s why I wanted the latex underneath…

After the top coat of chalk paint dried, I took a slightly wet paper towel and wiped the can down all around, “distressing” it.
I wanted only the white to come off and reveal the teal underneath.
This technique works wonderfully if you don’t want to go to the base material whether it’s wood or metal.

And is very easy!

You can also do it with all Chalk Paint but for this I really wanted more of a clean look without the metal showing through.

Next, I worked up some wording with different fonts on my computer and printed it all out.
(that’s another little sign project that was in the works in the background……
….I’m always working on several things at once! )

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Graphics - artsychicksrule.com

To transfer the image, I shaded the entire backside (where the print is) with a pencil.

You can see all kinds of ways to transfer graphics right here >>> How To Transfer Graphics

Then taped it to the milk can where I wanted it placed.

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Graphics Transfer - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

I took the same pencil and traced over the entire graphic…even the straight line.
The shading on the back transferred the image everywhere I traced.

Just like carbon paper.

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Graphics Transfered- artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

Next comes the painting “in the lines” by hand…

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Painting in Graphics - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

It’s really not hard.
You don’t even have to be super careful because it will get distressed in the end.

Finished, but before distressing. (I used Graphite-Chalk Paint to do the graphics. As I’ve said before you can use any kind of paint for this)

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Before Distressing 2 - artsychicksrule.com

A little distressing….or a lot. ;)

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Distressed - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

Up close…… I went back in with the white after painting in the black (and before distressing) to get those details on the letters.

Milk Can Redo with Graphics-Up Close Graphics - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

I sealed it with a coat of Minwax Polycrylic in Satin.
I actually liked the way it looked unsealed but I really didn’t want to have to worry about splashes, stains and such.

Like this graphic??? See my other project with it here!  And another one here!

Old Milk Can Makeover- artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

Want to download the free printable?

If you are already a subscriber, you can click here, enter your password (it can be found near the top of all my emails to you), and download this or any other graphic I’ve created over the years. (over 100!)
If you aren’t yet a subscriber, you can click here or the pink box below to become one to gain access.


Who knew this old milk can could end up like this?

This was originally going to the shop when I purchased (as are so many of the things I find) but it stayed with me.
(as many of them do!)

Want to see even more ideas on simple updates with Chalk Paint (that aren’t furniture??) 
Check out this post, here!

PIN this milk can to save it for later!

Old Milk Can Makeover TUTORIAL - artsychicksrule.com #milkcan #paintedmilkcan

I am sure there are some of you out there that probably loved it as it was when I found it.
But it was a little too rustic and distressed for me.
It was the real thing…aged naturally. I just created a different style of aging that I love.

Even if it was not ‘natural’.

What do you think? Like it better before or after?

See you next week when I share this sideboard makeover!

UPDATE!!! You can see it now, here!!

Have a wonderful weekend!



    1. Thanks Sharon! :) I’m might be a little smitten with it!lol ;) Hope you have a great weekend too! :)

  1. Looks great Nancy! I have an old milk can on my back porch…getting more rusty by the day…..I need to salvage it while I can! it was my husband’s grandmothers so I really shouldn’t let it get ruined!!! You’ve inspired me!

    1. Thanks Lorraine :) Yes, yes, no more rust!! Paint it something pretty…I’m just so surprised that I love this milk can so much. My style of decorating was quite a bit different a few years ago and I’d probably never had a milk can like this in my kitchen! Can’t wait to see what you do with yours!

  2. Ohhhh, girl! Another wonderful act of magic! I was just telling my daughter about you this afternoon. She was fascinated by your creativity. Yup, yup, yup…a magician is what you are! Hugs, Annette

  3. Awesome job!! I absolutely love it! I wish I still had my milk jug. I’m so envious of yours. I sold mine at a yard sale never knowing then how popular and expensive and hard to find. I won’t tell you how much I sold it for. Anyway, thanks for the great tip on transferring the image, I never knew you could do that.

    1. Thanks Bev! Yes, I am out all the time thrifting and it’s the first one I’ve come across. And I almost walked right by it. My first thought was “for the shop…I’m sure someone collects these”!! So funny because I quickly fell in love with it, even in it’s sad before state, and knew it would stay with me.
      You are so welcome on the transfer info. It really is such an easy way to get graphics onto something! Hope you have a great weekend!! :)

  4. Nancy! You did an amazing job! Saw this on Pinterest and immediately re-pinned. I have two white milk cans I bought last year at a garage sale and I want to spruce them up. Definitely doing something like this! Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thanks so much Jeanine! And thanks for the repin too. :)
      Oh that’s great you have two, lucky you! ;)
      Thanks so much for stopping by…I’ll have to hop over and see what you do with yours!

  5. Nancy, this looks amazing! You did an incredible job on the transfer painting and the tutorial is fantastic!!! This looks really incredible, fantastic job! Thanks so much for sharing this great project, am pinning and have a fabulous weekend.

    1. Thank you Cindy :) It was a fun one to do! Especially considering I had not even planned to keep it originally…now I love it!
      Thanks so much for the pin!!
      Hope your weekend is going great.

  6. I LOVE the milk can…and I just happen to have an old one here! I am going to copy yours with a red undercoat of paint instead of teal! Can’t wait to do this!! THX for sharing!!

    1. Hi Vickie, thank you so much!
      Really? That is so great…would love it see it after you’ve finished it!

  7. I love it! It turned out soooo well!! Thanks for the tip about penciling in the back… great idea. I just did a sign and used a sharpie to fill in the black lines instead of hand painting. It sanded off nicely when I distressed my sign too, so you can’t even tell it was a sharpie! Thanks for sharing your fab tutorial and your beautiful work!
    Krista @thehappyhousie

    1. Hi Krista! Thanks so much!:) Yes, I love the sharpie trick too. I’ve done that on one piece I did but I always end up back with the paint. ;) I’m a paint girl I suppose! But the sharpie does work great too!! Thanks for stopping by…I hope you have a great week!

    1. Hi Amy :) Thanks so much! I just love to do graphics on things. :) Pretty soon my house will be covered with signs and such!! ;)

    1. Thank you Shannon. :) Wow, coming across lots of you that already have old milk cans! That’s so great!!

    1. Hi Jessie
      Thank you! It sat for a little while until it all came together in my head! ..they usually do. Sometimes I get it right the first go round…sometimes not! lol

  8. Love how the lettering and cows came out. Looks great and of course, you make it look so easy.

  9. O MY!! I really love this. I have one on my front porch that is just pianted black but this has inspired me to jazz it up a bit!!


  10. Wow Nancy, that is just the cutest thing EVER! Thanks so much for telling us how you transferred the graphics, I’ll have to try it! May I ask where you got the cow graphic? It’s just adorable, I love cows!

    1. Thank you Teresa :) I found the graphic online, I don’t remember exactly where now!! The wording I made up in a program I have with different fonts I liked. Hope you have a great weekend!

  11. WOOW Nancy
    that´s a really great tranformation…… good job :)
    and do not miss….


    it is FUN :)
    Håkan ( The Roseman)

  12. Fantastic project, I adore it! I just bought a milk tank to do similar to this when I found your tutorial…so perfect walk through for me!

    One question though, are there any similar alternatives to the chalk paint to rub off for that distressed look? Chalk paint is a bit more than I’d like to spend on something like this.

    1. Thanks Kenny :) The Chalk Paint works well with the rub off method I used but Milk Paint might work too…although maybe a bit more of a “chippier” look than you area after? Regular latex paint would need to be sanded lightly off to reveal the underneath color. I did it this way (chalk paint on top of latex) just for that reason. I knew the latex would stay in tact underneath which is what I wanted. But you could get a similar effect with two different colors of latex and very fine sandpaper (and a light hand)
      Hope that helps!

  13. Now I know what I am doing tomorrow – saw one of these at my mother-in-laws “scrap pile” out at the farm!!! It will be mine!!!!

  14. Can you tell me where I can get the graphics or stencil for your cream can. Thank you very much. Happy 2014 from Quebec Canada.

    1. Hi Joanne,
      I’m so sorry, I created the graphics when I did the can. I don’t have them anymore. It’s pretty simple though, with any type of word program. I may try to recreate them and if I do I will update this post.
      Happy New Year to you!

  15. I was wondering if you could just decoupage the image onto the can? Kind of like the projects where you decoupage a photo printed on copy paper onto a piece of wood and rub it off or even just do the photo transfer. I do NOT have a steady hand and the only thing that would keep me from doing this is the process of transferring the image by pencil! lol. I’m not that talented, but I do like to fake it! Next best thing, right? I love your projects! I’ve been looking at them all morning!

    1. Hi Patty!
      Oh, I don’t see why not? You sure could. There are several ways you could do it too. I used a product called “waterslide decals” in this post–>
      or you can do it the regular way with paper. :)
      Thanks so much for the sweet words Patty!!
      Hope you are having a wonderful week!

      1. Hi Mary-Lou,
        Hmm, if you get a lot of sun on the cabinets you could possibly get yellowing from any poly finish. I have not had any trouble with that with the Varathane yellowing. I know there are newer ones out that promise no yellowing but I don’t have any experience with them.
        The counter top is from Lowe’s and is 10 years old. It has held up great. Here is a link to it –> http://www.lowes.com/pd_239107-466-4550K-01-36X096-000_0__?%22cagpspn=pla%22
        Hope that helps!! :)

  16. I love it!!!!
    I have an old milk can from my grandfather’s dairy farm. Over the years it has been every color under the sun, and is now sitting in my garage waiting for it’s next face lift….thanks. White/Shabby Chic, perfect and love your process. The best idea for me, though, was the transfer you made. My sign will have the name of the farm and a cow transfer below it, like yours. great ideas. Thanks again,

    1. Thanks Paula! :)
      Yes, that sounds great! Would love to see a photo of yours when you are done!!
      Have a great weekend!!

  17. I just recently found an old milk can at a rummage sale for $2.00. I am also addicted to redesigning/reinventing/salvaging pieces and returning them to their former glory. Out of all the images I viewed, yours just popped. It still looks vintage and has a fantastic appeal! I just wanted to say amazing job on bringing this piece to life!

  18. I was wondering where you found the picture of the cows? I am to that stage but can’t find anything I really like except the one you painted. Of course I am partial to what you have it is perfect for the milk container! You are so talented.

    1. Hi Melody,
      I have no idea now, sorry! It’s been awhile and I don’t have it saved to my computer.
      Thank you! :) I am sure you can find something similar (or maybe even the same one? ).
      Good luck!

  19. This gives me a great idea. I have a “cream” can that my dad used when he sold milk and cream when I was a little girl, which was YEARS ago (I’m 74 years old now), and that his name on it.

    1. Hi Brittany,

      I’m sorry, it’s been so long since I did that project, I could not tell you. I found it online but have no idea where at this point. Sorry!!

  20. I love how you stumble on some rusty old thing and see it for what it could be. Yet another really great makeover. I always love seeing them!

  21. What a great makeover! Love how it turned out. You did a great job on the stenciling, and image. They fit perfectly for the milk jug. You got yours at a really good price,I don’t see very many around, and if I do they are pretty expensive.

    Thanks for sharing your transfer method! Sharing!

  22. Nancy,

    Love your work and read your tutorial. I have no artistic talent, unsteady hands and little patience. Is there a price I could pay you to make this for me?

    1. Thank you Susan! :) Unfortunately I don’t do commissioned work as my blog here keeps me very busy. I’m so sorry I am unable to accommodate you in this.

    1. Hi Hope!

      It was painted metal that had oxidized and worn off. I used regular latex on the base and Chalk Paint on the top. :)

  23. Hi:
    I just saw how great your milk can turned out, so you’ve inspired me to tackle mine.
    What can I use to remove a decal and what grade sandpaper did you use?
    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks, Megan! It’s hard to say because I don’t know what the decal is on there with. You could try Windex. If that doesn’t work you could try something more heavy-duty like acetone, etc. And gosh, I did that one so long ago that I have no idea what grade sandpaper I used. It really won’t matter that much though. Use just enough to get the loose paint off and smooth it out. (if that is what you are after) :) xo

      1. Hi:
        Thank you so much for replying. The decal was of a eagle that has been on for about 50 years since guess.
        If you’d like, I send you a picture when it’s done.
        Have a Happy Valentines Day!

        1. Yes, that would be great! You can send it to my email here (it’s on the “contact me” page here on the blog) :)

  24. I have two milk cans and do not know what to do with them as far as placing them in my house. I have one on the front porch that I put seasonal flower decorations in but I do not know where to put the other. I do not have a place in the kitchen. Any ideas. By the way love this look on it.

  25. You’re right, I did like it in its original state, and I would have bought it too! But I love the update, so much nicer and prettier! I have a few of these myself and they are good candidates for updates! Thanks Nancy!

  26. I’m so jealous! My husband brought home a milk can, complete with lid, about 15 years ago and I immediately wanted to paint it and do something similar. Unfortunately, my hubby absolutely refused to let me saying it would ruin its authenticity. So it’s shoved, unloved, into a corner because it is a ugly rusty brown. The funny thing is he could care less about it but would have a fit if I turned it into a decor piece I would actually love to display. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. But seeing yours sure does make me sigh!

  27. I grew up on a ranch and we had milk cows. These are 10 gallon cans, and once filled w/milk they were sealed with a metal lid and put into a large trough with cold water to keep them cold until the milk truck would come and collect them to take to the creamery where it was processed into cheese and butter. The cans were numbered with a unique number just for that person so they knew whose milk was whose.
    I have one that was left in the garden of our home when we bought it. I need to salvage it and make it pretty again. I’ve seen bar stools made with old tractor seats and milk cans for the bottoms and some have horse shoes welded on them for a foot rest.
    I love what you have done to this one. I may have to try something like this. I also have the milk strainer that goes on top to pour the milk through to clear out any “foreign” matter….Thanks for your inspiring makeovers, they are terrific.

  28. Hi Nancy! So cute. I have been wanting a milk can to makeover. I think I would is daisies and flowerß.

  29. Uhhhhh oh!!!!!! Hate to be the party pooper…..I liked the can before. I have one also in all it’s glorious chippy, rusty self!!! The graphic is very fitting and cute……looks new made to look old like from Hobby Lobby…sorry!!!!! BUT it is YOURS and you can do whatever you need to do to make it work at your home. You did ask…….sorry ‘)

  30. Thanks for sharing this post again. I did not see it when you originally posted. Your makeover of this milk can reminds me of a milk can one of friends painted for me many years ago. She painted it an antique gold and painted an American Flag with other images. She was quite a talented artist. I kept that milkcan for many years and after moving many times, it somehow has been lost. Your beautiful makeover will be quite a treasure for someone for many years to come! Thank you for posting. Have a great weekend!

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