Have no Fear: How to Paint Suitcases ~ 31 Days / Day 12

painted vintage suitcase becomes a bedside table via http://www.songbirdblog.com


Ever since I published this white suitcase nightstand there is one question that I get over and over again: how do you paint suitcases? They want to know all the details. As if there is some deep dark secret that I could share.

People let me tell you, there is nothing easier, no need to be afraid. But since I get the question so often I thought I’d better show you the process first hand.


Vintage Suitcases before Paint


Take an old suitcase. Don’t worry about imperfections, that goes with the territory. Remove – if possible -, stickers, tape and other ‘accessories’. Clean thoroughly. Prime.

When I did that first one, I used spray primer. These two babies got primed with a regular good quality primer and cheap brush. I personally prefer the second method because it is easier to get into all the nooks and crannies with a brush. But either way, just prime that baby.


How to paint suitcases

Here is that bottom one from the picture above covered in one thin layer of primer. I didn’t want to cover it too thickly because I liked that leather pattern and wanted it to stay visible. Since all the hinges were rusty anyway I just painted over those too. If you put a bottle or can in the suitcase when you are almost finished to keep the lid open slightly, you can paint that little edge underneath the lid too.

When the primer has dried just paint with your color of choice. The first suitcase got a coat of water based paint. These latter two got a coat of regular paint. I simply used what I had on hand. Just paint a thin, even coat.

It works best to do it in two steps. Bottom and sides first, let dry and then turn and do the lid.


Learn how to create this stack of painted white suitcases via http://www.songbirdblog.com


I think painting these old suitcases is just the easiest and most rewarding thing ever. They really come alive again. So don’t worry and just do it, there is no science to it.

And any suitcase works. These three all were made out of a different kind of material and they all took the paint very well.


How to paint vintage suitcases via http://www.songbirdblog.com


Stack ‘m and use as a sidetable, put them on a matching little table to give that the height you need, place them under the coffee table to add a bit of fun to your living room, put them high on a closet to give you extra storage space.


Paint vintage suitcases and stack them to create a charming sidetable via http://www.songbirdblog.com


Really if you have been thinking about painting a suitcase, just do it, don’t worry to much and don’t be afraid. Mind you if that suitcase happens to be an heirloom of your uncle Vincent that he carried with him when he came over on the Mayflower: Step away! leave that piece of history alone.

But if you happen to have a roadside find, a suitcase thrifted for a few bucks or that you dug up in your own attic, please go ahead have no fear and slap some paint on it. It is easy. It is worth it.


Painted White Suitcases 3


So the answer to “How do you paint a suitcase?”, is simply: Have no fear but just do it! and Get it done!


I am writing a series of 31 days to Get it Done! You can find all the posts in this series here.
On the first day I explained in detail what this series is about and what I am going to do, find that post and all the posts since then in order here.


I think you might like this too


If you liked this post enter your email address to subscribe to posts via email:


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Juanita D says

    Love your blog!! I am enjoying all of your projects. I too, am a procrastinator..and you have inspired me! Thank you for that!

  2. Pink Princess says

    Ik heb nog de koffer van mijn opi en omi waarmee ze altijd naar Canada gingen in de vroege jaren 60. Aan de ene kant denk ik: schilderen die hap…aan de andere kant…nee niet aankomen. Maar ja..NU staat ie gewoon ergens verstopt op zolder, gevuld met allerlei magazines (die ik dus ook niet meer lees duh). Dus misschien doe ik het wel van de winter, heb ik er meer plezier van, komt ie nog van pas enzo. Snappie♥

    Liefs van Marian

  3. Heaven's Walk says

    Great tutorial and beautiful job! What a great transformation! I cheated…..just spray painted my suitcases! lol!

    xoxo laurie

  4. LoeLaLoep (Heidi) says

    Oh, helemaal te gek! Wat leuk dat ik je site gevonden heb – ik ben ook helemaal dol van dit soort dingen :) Ik volg je nu via de mail.
    Kom ook 'ns op mijn site langs, als je zin hebt!

    PS: je schiet prachtige foto's!

  5. Steve says

    WOW! It seems like you were talking to me personally because I’ve been wrestling with the idea of painting a suitcase and now after reading your article I realize what am I scare of since I only paid a couple of bucks for it.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Leana says

    Love old suitcases – bought 3 from second hand store over a decade ago – but they are looking really tatty now, going to paint them this weekend and use as side table in my baby nursery

  7. Kelly Clayton says

    Feeling very inspired after just receiving a vintage suitcase off my grandma! However, what paint is best to use? I guess emulsion isn’t the answer!!

  8. tj says

    Love it love I’m in process of buying a trunk and it’s lovely but it’s green and I want it different colour so thks

  9. KimBerly Vee says

    Thank you SO much for sharing your technique! One Question for you: what do you do with the insides of the suitcases? Lots of times they are very musty smellling, or the lining is stained, or torn??

    • says

      Depends for what I want to use them for. Usually I try to clean it real well and use/ try every trick in the book to remove the odor. Google it there are lots of ways to do that.

  10. Janice Hobbs says

    Nice job on the paint and giving it that Shabby Chic look. Did you use chalk paint or regular paint after the primer. I have a beat up old leather suitcase that I’m trying to put some life into and I’m looking for some ideas.

  11. Hally says

    Forgive me if this is posted somewhere or if it’s been asked already, but can you still open and use the suitcases even after you’ve painted them? I’ve been wanting to do this for so long!

  12. kim says

    Hello, I want to make one of these suite cases for my daughter. Is there better choice of paint and primmer you use? I am worried about peeling and or sticking .
    Thank you

    • says

      No, I don’t think so. Just make sure you use a primer that is suitable for all surfaces (not just wood) and than take it from there. I use a really good primer and than just any old paint that is the right color.