Paint Can Sizes 101 — A Must-Read Guide for DIYers

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Painting is not just about choosing the right color; it’s also about selecting the appropriate paint can size for your project. The vast array of paint can sizes available in the market might leave you wondering which is best suited for your needs.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of paint can sizes and dimensions, helping you make informed decisions and ensuring your painting projects succeed.

Standard Paint Can Sizes and Dimensions

When you enter a hardware store, the array of paint can sizes can be overwhelming. From the petite 1/2 pint to the substantial 10-gallon can, each size has its purpose. 

paint cans

Understanding the dimensions and capacities of standard paint can sizes will empower you to choose the ideal can for your project.

1/2 Pint Can

The 1/2 pint can is the smallest of the bunch, with dimensions of 2.88 inches in diameter and 3 inches in height. 

Despite its diminutive size, it can hold eight fluid ounces (approximately 237 milliliters) of paint. This size is perfect for touch-ups, small craft projects, or just a tiny amount of paint for detailing.

1 Pint Can

Slightly larger, the 1-pint can measure 3.5 inches in diameter and 3.95 inches in height. It can hold 16 fluid ounces (473 milliliters) of paint. This can size is suitable for painting small furniture items, trim, or projects where you need more paint than a 1/2 pint can offer.

1 Quart Can

For more extensive coverage, the 1 quart can step in. With dimensions of 4.25 inches in diameter and 4.88 inches in height, it can hold 32 fluid ounces (946 milliliters) of paint. This size is ideal for small rooms, doors, or other projects requiring moderate paint.

1 quart paint can

1 Gallon Can

The 1-gallon can is a staple in the painting world. Measuring 6.5 inches in diameter and 7.5 inches in height, it can hold 128 fluid ounces (3.79 liters) of paint. This versatile size suits medium-sized rooms, walls, and other projects that demand more paint coverage.

5 Gallon Can

When it comes to larger projects, the 5-gallon can take center stage. With 12 inches in diameter and 14.5 inches in height, it can hold a substantial 640 fluid ounces (18.93 liters) of paint. 

This size is commonly used for large-scale projects like exterior painting or significant renovations.

10 Gallon Can

The 10-gallon can is a behemoth of paint containers for commercial projects and extensive coverage. Measuring 12.75 inches in diameter and 18.5 inches in height, it can hold a whopping 1,280 fluid ounces (37.9 liters) of paint. 

lady painting wall grey

This size is rarely needed for residential projects but is a go-to for professional painters handling vast spaces. Understanding these dimensions helps you choose the right can size for your project, ensuring you have enough paint without excessive leftovers.

Choosing the Right Paint Can Size for Your Project

Selecting the appropriate paint can size begins with calculating the paint area for your project. Here’s a general rule of thumb for paint coverage per size:

Let’s illustrate this with practical examples:

  1. Small Room (100 sq. ft.): A quart of paint is sufficient for painting a small room.
  2. Medium Room (300 sq. ft.): Opt for a gallon of paint to ensure adequate coverage.
  3. Entire House (2,000 sq. ft.): Approximately 5 gallons are needed for a complete paint job.
spray painting

By considering the size of the area you’re painting, you can quickly determine the right paint can size, saving you both time and money.

Why 1/2 Gallon Paint Cans Are Rare

You might have noticed the scarcity of 1/2-gallon paint cans on store shelves. Several factors contribute to this rarity:

1. Industry Standardization and Consumer Demand

The industry has standardized around 1 gallon and smaller increments due to the prevalence of projects requiring at least 1 gallon of paint. Consumer demand for larger quantities further diminishes the popularity of 1/2-gallon cans.

2. Economic Factors

Producing 1/2-gallon cans costs as much as 1-gallon cans in manufacturing and packaging. However, the latter yields higher profits for paint companies.

3. Practicality

1/2 gallon cans are less practical in handling, pouring, and storage. Paint companies prioritize containers that are easy to use and transport.

a can of base paint

Spray Paint Can Sizes and Coverage

For smaller projects and intricate detailing, spray paint cans offer convenience and precision. Here are the available spray paint can sizes and their coverage capabilities:

Spray Paint Can Sizes and Coverage

Spray Paint Can SizeFluid OuncesCoverage (Approx.)
4.5 oz4.57 sq. ft.
6 oz610 sq. ft.
12 oz1220 sq. ft.
16 oz1630 sq. ft.

Factors such as paint thickness, application method, type, and brand influence spray paint coverage. Reading the label on the can is crucial to ensure it covers the desired area effectively.

Paint Can Sizes in Practice: Tips and Considerations

The dimensions of paint cans play a vital role in your painting experience. Here are some tips for using different paint can sizes effectively:

paint and paint brushes

Touch-ups and Small Projects

Opt for 1/2-pint or 1-pint cans to minimize waste for touch-ups and minor projects.

Furniture and Trim

When painting furniture or trim, a pint-sized can provide enough paint without excess.

Walls and Medium-Sized Rooms

A quart or gallon can efficiently cover walls and medium-sized rooms.

Large Projects

A 5-gallon or 10-gallon can is your best bet for extensive projects, such as exterior painting.

Consider your project’s scope, coverage needs, and practicality when selecting the right paint can size.


What sizes do paint cans typically come in?

Paint cans come in various sizes, including 1/2 pint, 1 pint, 1 quart, 1 gallon, 5 gallons, and 10 gallons.

What's the difference between a quart and a pint of paint?

A quart of paint is twice the size of a pint. Quarts cover more area and are suitable for larger projects.

Why isn't paint sold in 1/2-gallon containers?

Industry standards, production costs, and practicality have contributed to the rarity of 1/2-gallon cans.

What are the dimensions of standard paint can sizes?

Standard paint can dimensions vary from 2.88″ x 3″ (1/2 pint) to 12.75″ x 18.5″ (10 gallons).

What are the dimensions of spray paint can sizes?

Spray paint can sizes range from 4.5 oz to 16 oz, with dimensions varying based on the manufacturer.


Choosing the right paint can size is critical to any successful painting project. By understanding standard paint can sizes, dimensions, and coverage capabilities, you can accurately estimate your paint requirements. 

Whether you’re tackling touch-ups, small rooms, or large-scale projects, each can size serves a purpose. By considering project size, coverage needs, and practicality, you can confidently select the perfect paint can size for your next painting endeavor. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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