Wondering if you can paint old suitcases? Well yes you can, let me show you how! Painting old suitcases is easy and there are lots of ideas here for decorating with vintage suitcases.
How to paint my suitcases is one question I get asked often ever since I published this white suitcase nightstand. People want to know all the details, as if there is some deep dark secret that I could share. Questions go from what kind of paint do you use on vintage suitcases? How can I revamp a vintage suitcase? Can I spray paint old luggage?
And then people start to wonder, now what? What should I do with my old suitcases? Do you have decorating ideas and new uses for vintage suitcases?
Well I have all that and more. So come along for the ride and let me show you just how easy it is to give a suitcase a makeover and let me share some ideas of things to do with painted vintage suitcases.
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How to paint suitcases in five easy steps
- Find any old suitcase….
- Prepare your suitcase for painting with these three steps….
- Prime your suitcase this way….
- Paint it in your color of choice following these easy how to paint tips
- Let is dry and while it is drying do this….
Step 1. Find any old suitcase.
Go hunting in your garage or attic, take a thrip to the thrift store, ask around in the neighborhood. Old suitcases are easy to find. From vintage luggage made out of leather, to hard shell plastic suitcases from more recent years. All suitcases work well. It is just up to you which style you prefer.
Dings and dents are not that important. Nor are damages in the finish. I would stay away from the ones with too many stickers on, because those can be a pain to remove.
Step 2. Prepare your suitcase for painting.
First step with anything old and vintage is a thorough cleaning. Use something soapy for the first round and something degreasing for the second round.
Remove any stickers or tags. Then lightly sand the surface. Especially if you have hardcase acrylic luggage you will need to rough the surface up a bit. But this should be a quick step, no need for deep sanding.
Decide what to do about the hinges and handles. You can choose to tape them off and keep them in their original state but I usually prefer to just paint over them. Much easier and it hides rust and grime. If you want to make a stripy pattern, this is the time to apply painting tape for that.
Step 3. Prime your suitcase
I used spray primer on the first suitcase I painted. That worked fine. But it took a lot of coats to get a good layer of primer on the suitcase. These days I prefer a regular primer applied with a brush. It is easier to get into all the nooks and crannies that way.
Use one of those cheap throw away brushes though. Your brush is likely to get damaged, especially when getting around the old hinges and handles. Don’t waste a quality brush on a project like this.
Any primer will work, don’t worry about that. Just give it a very light coat.
Step 4 Paint your suitcase
When painting my suitcase in my color of choice (usually white, because I love white vintage luggage), I start by paint the bottom half. I let that dry and then turn it over and paint the remaining sides and lid.
It adds an extra step but painting a vintage suitcase is a quick job that doesn’t take a lot of time. You can do it in between doing other chores and painting jobs.
Before you start to paint the top part put something tall inside the suitcase so the lid can rest on it. That way you can paint underneath the lid edge too and you don’t run the risk of painting the suitcase shut by accident.
Step 5 Let it dry….
Let your suitcase dry thoroughly before stacking it, moving it or starting to put things inside. Paint needs much longer to cure than you might think and you don’t want your freshly painted suitcases to stick to each other if you stack them.
Bonus Tip 2
While your suitcase is drying wiggle and move the hinges, locks and lid from time to time – especially if you have painted over them -. If you keep moving them the paint will adapt and is less likely to crack. But even if that happens that is not a big deal, we are talking vintage beauty here and striving for perfection when painting something really old like this is pointless anyway.
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.
Decorating ideas for vintage painted suitcases
Once you’ve got yourself a painted suitcase there is a ton of things you can do with it.
- Stack ‘m and use them as a sidetable
- Put them on a matching little table to give that the height you need (like my nightstand above)
- Put them under the coffee table to stash magazines, books or blankets
- Place them high on a wardrobe to give you extra out-of-season storage space that looks good at the same time
- Organise your fabric or craft supples in them in your craft room
Check out my painted suitcases shine in my bohemian living room decor
Two similar painted small suitcases, a vintage one and a newish one, form a storage team in my new craft room
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.
So the answer to “How to paint suitcases?”, is simply: Just do it, have no fear ! Get it done!
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