Paint Can Sizes – Calculating Paint Volume for Surface Coverage

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If you’ve ever tried to paint a room on your own, then you know that it can be a huge undertaking. Between laying down the tarps, using painter’s tape to cover up things you don’t want to get paint on, and assembling all the tools needed, it can be a headache. One of the most challenging aspects of painting that is seldom talked about, is choosing the right amount of paint for the size of your workpiece, or the size of the room you’ll be painting. If you purchase too little paint, you’ll have to make what you have stretch, and if you choose too much paint, you’ll have a container or two left over that you’ll have to store (and likely never use). This is why it’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with the different paint can sizes, the area they’re capable of covering, what their dimensions are, and even what paint types can be stretched out the furthest. This being said, we have prepared a short list of the different paint can sizes you could encounter, their dimensions, what area they’re capable of covering, and how much paint they’re likely to give you.



What Sizes Does Paint Come In?

Knowing what paint can size you need can save you valuable time and money, especially if you have a job that needs to be done quickly and on a budget. If you’re looking to save some time you should consider finding a paint can size chart. A paint can size chart typically displays the size of the paint can being sold, its dimensions, and what said paint can is capable of covering (more or less).

Paint Can Size Dimensions (Inches) Coverage (Square Feet)
¼ pint 2 1/16” x 2 ½” 12.5 sq. ft.
½ pint 3” x 2 7/8” 25 sq. ft.
1 pint 3 15/16” x 3 7/16” 50 sq. ft.
1 quart 5” x 5” 100 sq. ft.
½ gallon 5 7/8” x 5 3/8” 180/200 sq. ft.
1 gallon 7 5/8” x 6 5/8” 400 sq. ft.
5 quarts 9 ½” x 6 5/8” 500 sq. ft.
2 gallons 10″ x 9.25″ 800 sq. ft.
5 gallons 14 ½” x 11 ¾” 1800 sq. ft.

Types of Paint Container

You should always keep in mind that depending on the material you’ll be painting, and the viscosity of the paint being used, it will affect how far you’re able to make said paint stretch. Materials that are more absorbent will soak up the paint, which means you’ll likely need a second coat. Thicker paints on the other hand might lather instead of spread, limiting their reach due to their consistency.

If you’re not sure where you’ll end up or how to use this information, don’t worry about it. While it is possible to paint a space with exactly the amount of paint needed, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll pull it off without a hitch. Why? Well, most surfaces aren’t perfect. Concrete, stone, wood, metal, plastic, and even vinyl can warp over time, altering their surface area.

Estimate Paint Area Coverage

Besides warpage, materials can be damaged over time too. Little dents and recesses can form, and if you don’t fill them before you paint (which you definitely should) then they will eat up little bits of your paint, and if there are lots of imperfections, they’ll eat up your precious paint little by little. The point is that you’re not aiming for perfection here, but instead trying to be as accurate as reasonably possible regarding the volume of paint you purchase.

What Size Paint Can to Buy

Depending on the country and system of measurement, the sizes of paint cans can vary considerably. In the US, there are primarily six sizes of paint cans you’ll be able to choose from, even if you get a color custom-made. What sizes does paint come in?

Well, in the US, paint cans are available in six primary sizes that can be purchased both in-store and online depending on your preference.

Paint Can Size Chart

These sizes include 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.). However, if you’re a contractor you might be able to get your paint in larger volumes and possibly at a cheaper price since you’ll be buying in bulk. In this case, you’ll have access to two gallons (2 gal), five quarts (5 qt.), and even five-gallon (5 gal) paint cans.

Buying Paint in Bulk

Paint can size can also vary considerably based on the system of measurement primarily used in the country you’re purchasing it in. Since we use the imperial system in the US, these are the most feasible and practical to use, whereas in European countries (and anywhere else that uses the metric system) the volume of paint sold can vary considerably.

Another factor that influences the volume in which paint is sold is the type of container and paint being sold. After all, these days we have the convenience of aerosolized paints, which tend to be sold in significantly smaller volumes than conventional paint. Paint that is graded for use in paint sprayers can also be sold in larger volumes.



How Large an Area Will My Paint Cover?

As we mentioned previously, it’s virtually impossible to tell exactly how much space you paint will be able to cover due to variables outside of your control. However, it’s possible to get reasonably close to the volume of paint you’ll need by doing some simple measurements and some rudimentary math. There are also paint coverage calculators out there, but we thought we’d save you some time and show you much space some of the most commonly sold paint volumes will cover.

How Much Paint Do You Need


A Quarter-Pint of Paint

A quarter-pint of paint isn’t designed to paint an entire room, or even an entire wall if we’re being frank. A quarter-pint of paint is essentially what you’d buy a kid for their school woodworking project, so it’s not going to stretch too far in terms of surface area. However, this is essentially the intended application for this size of paint can.

Paint Can Size for Small Projects

If you have a railing that needs a bit of a touch-up, ceiling trim that was painted incorrectly, or a small wood crafting project that you’d like to be a specific color, a quarter-pint of paint is what you want. A quarter-pint is ideal because you have just the right amount of paint in the exact color that you want, without having to worry about having any left over. A quarter-pint of paint should cover around 12.5 square feet of space.


A Half-Pint of Paint

A half-pint of paint won’t allow you to do an entire home makeover, but that’s not really why it exists. Half-pints of paint are intended for small workpieces that will be painted by hand with a brush. This means that if you’re painting a small chair, or simply painting the trim around a doorway, the half-pint has your back.

Paint Can Size for Furniture

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 its 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.


A Pint of Paint

A pint of paint is about as capable of painting an entire room as a half pint is, but it is capable of significantly more coverage by comparison. Considering that a full pint is double the amount of paint contained in half a pint container, it should come as no surprise that it covers double the surface area. This, of course, depends on the type of paint you’re using too.

Smaller Paint Can Sizes

How much space can one pint of paint cover you ask? Well, since a half pint covers between 20 to 25 square feet, this one is capable of covering a total area of around 50 square feet give or take a few feet depending on the surface and paint type. You could cover a small ceiling like the one in a broom closet or a small accent wall if you work really conservatively with the paint you have.


A Quart of Paint

A quart of paint is a safe bet for any small to moderately sized painting project. This amount of paint should be way more than you need if you’re painting free-standing furnishings like a small desk, entertainment center, chair, or bedside table. In fact, you could probably paint one of each of these with a quart and still have some paint left over!

Choosing Size of Paint Can

However, if you’re looking to paint a full-sized wall then you might want to ration your paint well. Why? Well, while it is possible to paint most full-sized walls with a quart of paint you might find yourself wanting an extra pint or two. This might be because you want to do a second coat or touch up certain areas of the wall. A quart of paint covers roughly 100 square feet.


A Half-Gallon of Paint

You can get quite a bit done with a half-gallon of paint if you’re an experienced painter. Even if you’re not, you could do roughly two full-sized walls and maybe even a closet or two if they’re reasonably sized. A half-gallon of paint should be enough to paint a small-sized room and a few small-sized furnishings if you only intend on doing a single coat on each surface.

Paint Can Size for Touch-Ups

If you’re not going to be painting walls and ceilings and instead have a few wooden workpieces to paint, the half-gallon should be more than enough. You should be able to paint a few furnishings like a medium-sized couch, a dining room table, and some chairs, and still, have enough paint left over for a second coat. A half-gallon of paint is capable of covering roughly 200 square feet.


A Gallon of Paint

A gallon of paint is a lot of paint by any measure. If you’re painting a room in a moderately sized apartment building, then a full gallon of paint should be more than enough for you to cover all four walls and the ceiling if you’re feeling ambitious. However, you might need to make your paint stretch just a little bit if you’re thinking about doing the same thing in a suburban home.

Volume of Paint for Project

A full gallon of paint should prove more than sufficient for more medium-sized rooms, so if you’re painting spaces like a pantry, a walk-in closet, or a bathroom, you should be able to get away with it and still have some paint left over. This does depend on the type and viscosity of the type of paint you’ll be using though, but a gallon of paint should cover around 400 square feet of space.


Five Quarts of Paint

Five quarts of paint is a bit of a weird displacement, and it’s more of a niche paint volume. How much are five quarts of paint you ask? It’s around one and a quarter gallons of paint, which might seem a bit silly, but if you’ve ever painted a room and realized that you’re about to run out of paint just as you’re about to finish, you know how big an impact that little extra paint can have.

Paint Can Size for Larger Areas

You could think of five quarts of paint as more of a safety measure than anything else. If you’re painting a room that’s shaped irregularly, you might feel like you need to pick up an extra pint or two. In this case, you could simply purchase a five-quart can of paint and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you have more than enough paint should the need arise. Five quarts of paint should cover around 500 square feet of space.


Two Gallons of Paint

Two gallons of paint should allow you to comfortably cover the size of most bedrooms. If you’re renovating Two small bedrooms and are looking to splash a fresh coat of paint on them, two gallons should be more than enough, especially if it’s a moderately sized apartment in the city. Even if you’re using acrylic or oil-based paint, you shouldn’t encounter a problem.

Very Large Paint Cans

Alternatively, if you’re going to be painting a particularly large woodwork project this amount of paint would do as well. If you’re going to be doing a lot of small paint jobs over a long period of time with a single color, you could save yourself a couple of trips to the store and just get one of these bad boys, and it will probably be a bit cheaper too. Two gallons of paint should cover around 800 square feet of space.



Spray Paint Can Sizes

Not in the mood to use a brush and roller? Don’t feel like getting your hands dirty for a particularly small project? Well, why not use a can of aerosolized paint instead? Spray paint is a great way to get small and medium-sized paint jobs done quickly and effectively, so let’s have a look at some of the spray paint can sizes you can choose from should the situation demand it.

Choosing Spray Paint Size


Four-and a-Half-Ounce Spray Paint

If you have a small paint job to do and don’t feel like busting out the old brush and roller, you could use one of these instead. Being the smallest volume of spray paint around, these are a great tool to keep around the house for a little touch-up job or the odd project you might encounter. These spray paint cans should cover around seven square feet of space.

Various Spray Paint Can Sizes

Scenarios in these spray paint cans are typically used to include the painting of single pieces of furniture like chairs, tables, ottomans, bed posts, or bedside tables. They tend to be pretty good value for money too, so if you have any small paint jobs that need to be done quickly (or without brushstrokes) this might be exactly what you’re looking for.


12-Ounce Spray Paint

If you’re not a fan of painting conventionally then we recommend getting yourself a 12-ounce can of spray paint instead. These are usually used in instances where a medium-sized workpiece needs to be painted or a few small workpieces. Not only are these relatively inexpensive, but they leave less of a mess and apply paint more efficiently than a brush and roller.

Spray Paint Can Size

What could you paint with a 12-ounce can of spray paint? Well, if you have a few small workpieces that need painting like wood crafts, toys, or a window or two, this would be a good tool for the job. You could also paint moderately sized furnishings like two or three dining room chairs, or an entire dining room table if you’re in the mood for it. 12-ounce spray paint cans should cover around 20 square feet of space.


16-Ounce Spray Paint

If you really don’t want to use a brush and roller or don’t want to get yourself a full-on paint sprayer, then you could use a 16-ounce spray paint can instead. This is pretty much the biggest commercially sold spray paint can out there, and you can tackle all manner of painting projects with it, given that the surface is willing the accept the paint.

Spray Can Paint Sizes

What kind of projects would you use a sixteen-ounce spray paint can for though? Well, they’re usually reserved for large to medium-sized workpieces and/or surfaces. You could paint some cupboard doors, a dining room table, a bedroom door or two, and even a few small furnishings depending on the paint type.



What Should You Consider When Calculating How Much Paint You Need?

This seems more complicated than it actually is, and if you have a paint can size chart to help you, it’s even easier. If you’re going to be painting a room and want to know how much paint you need, all you need to do is calculate the surface area of each surface you will be painting. How do you do this? Simply multiply the length of the surface by its with. A good example is if a wall is 12 feet long and 12 feet wide, your square footage will be 114 square feet.

Calculating Paint Can Size Coverage

Next, you’ll need to calculate how much of that space you will actually need to paint. This means that you’ll need to bust out your measuring tape again and measure things like windows and any other built-in objects that won’t be painted but cannot be removed. Repeat the process by measuring the length and width of each object, getting the square footage, and subtracting it from the square footage of the surface you intend to paint.

If you don’t have a paint can size chart that displays the coverage of each paint can size, you can use the following rule of thumb. One gallon of paint covers around 400 square feet of space, so all you need to do is gauge how much paint you will need based on the square footage of the surface you intend to paint. Keep in mind that it’s always best to have more than you need when it comes to painting, even if it’s just a little bit.


Do Different Paints Cover the Same Area?

Technically, these paints should cover the same surface area as they’re all paint, right? Well yes and no. Depending on the viscosity and type of paint you use; some paints tend to give you more bang for your buck. Thicker paints tend to lather on more than paint, so you’ll have to thin them out a bit on certain surfaces, whereas thinner paints like latex-based ones will create coverage a lot easier.

Paint Types Coverage

However, thicker paints tend not to require as many coats as thinner ones. Because latex paint is water-based it tends to be absorbed into surfaces like wood and sheetrock. This means that even though you’ll get your initial coverage with one coat, you’ll likely need another coat or two to make it look good, increasing the amount of paint used. Oil and acrylic paints, on the other hand, don’t have this problem.



Now that you know about the different paint can dimensions, why these paint can dimensions are used, how much surface area these are capable of covering, and what kind of project they’re meant to be used for, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to work in a well-ventilated environment when painting, and to always wear the appropriate personal protective gear.



Frequently Asked Questions


How Much Surface Area Does One Gallon of Paint Cover?

A rule of thumb that any painter should commit to memory is that one gallon of paint is capable of covering a surface area up to 400 square feet. This is ideal for small to moderately sized rooms, or various small furnishings as well.


What Does One Gallon of Paint Weigh?

A gallon of paint can vary in weight depending on the density of the paint and the material used to make the container. Generally speaking, though, a gallon of paint can weigh anywhere between 10.5 to 12 pounds.


Do You Need a Primer to Paint Walls?

Yes, primer is needed to paint pretty much any wall surface, especially if you want them to look good. If you’re going from a darker color to a lighter color, the primer can help make the lighter tone have a stronger presence and prevent any dilution and/or absorption.