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Beginner’s Guide to Painting a Shipping Container


Are you looking to give an old shipping container a facelift with a fresh coat of paint? If you’re a beginner, the task may seem daunting. But with the right preparation, tools, and know-how, you can have a great result.

In this beginner’s guide to painting a shipping container, we’ll provide all the information you need to get started. From the essential preparations such as cleaning and sanding the surface, to the best tips for applying a professional-looking finish, this guide will set you up for success. So, get your supplies ready, and let’s begin!

Essential Supplies and Tools

Before you begin painting your shipping container, it is essential to have all the supplies and tools you need. A few of the key supplies and tools you’ll need to ensure a successful paint job are a brush, roller, paint tray, sandpaper, and a cleaning agent.

Start by selecting the right paint for your shipping container. Make sure it is specifically designed for and compatible with the type of surface you are working with. Next, you’ll need to prepare the surface by sanding and cleaning it with the appropriate cleaning agent. Sandpaper helps to create a smooth, even surface for painting and the cleaning agent helps to remove dirt, debris, and oils that may be present.

Once the surface is prepped, you’ll be ready to start painting. You’ll need a brush and roller to apply the paint. The brush is great for painting tight corners and edges, while the roller is best-suited for large, flat surfaces. Finally, using a paint tray helps to make sure that you don’t waste any paint, as it allows you to contain the excess.

These essential supplies and tools will set you up for a successful paint job. With the right preparation and know-how, you can have a great result.

Proper Surface Preparation

Before you get started with the actual painting, proper preparation of the surface is essential for lasting results. The first step is to clean the surface of the container, removing any dirt, dust, and grease. If there is any existing paint, use a wire brush or a sanding tool to remove it. Sanding the surface also helps to create a bonding surface so that the paint adheres better. Make sure to use the right sandpaper grade (80-120) depending on the condition of the container’s surface.

Another important consideration is the temperature – painting in extreme heat or cold can cause the paint to dry too quickly or too slowly, which can lead to an uneven finish.

Be sure to check the weather before you begin, aiming for a temperature between 50°F to 90°F (10°C to 30°C). Finally, any holes or dents should be filled in with a suitable filler before you start painting. With these essential preparations in place, you’ll be ready to give your shipping container a new look.

Applying Primer

Applying primer is an essential first step to painting a shipping container. Primer creates a layer of protection between the surface of the container and the paint, providing a smoother, more uniform surface. Primer also helps the paint adhere better, resulting in better coverage and improved durability.

When applying primer, it’s important to use a brush or roller specifically designed for the job. A High-Volume Low-Pressure (HVLP) spray gun is also an option, however, it can be expensive and require extra safety precautions. Begin by masking off any areas you do not want to paint, such as windows or door handles. Then, shake the primer can thoroughly before applying. Use smooth, even strokes and don’t over-apply the primer. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step.

For best results, apply a second coat of primer. Once the primer is completely dry, you can begin painting your shipping container. With the right preparation and know-how, you can create a beautiful finish that will last for years to come.

Painting the Surface

Painting a shipping container may seem like a daunting task for beginners, but it can be done with the right preparation, tools and know-how. Before beginning, the surface of the container needs to be cleaned and sanded for the paint to adhere properly.

This will also help to ensure a professional-looking finish. If your container has rust, use a rust converter or rust remover to remove as much as possible. Once the surface is clean and rust-free, you can begin to apply the primer and paint.

Be sure to use a brush for the primer and use long, even strokes for the most even coverage. 

For the paint, use a roller for larger areas and a brush for smaller areas. Again, use long, smooth strokes for the best results.

Take your time to ensure that you have even coverage across the entire surface. Once the paint has dried, use a sealer or topcoat to protect the paint and increase its longevity. Following these steps will have you well on your way to giving your shipping container an attractive, professional-looking makeover.

Finishing Touches

Once you have prepped the shipping container and applied the chosen paint, the finishing touches can make all the difference to the overall look of the container. Applying a clear coat of sealant is a great way to ensure that the paint job is long-lasting and has a professional finish.

Before applying the sealant, make sure to give the paint one last light sanding to remove any dust particles and irregularities. Once the sealant has been applied, allow it to fully dry before you add any additional decorations to the container.

Adding unique and eye-catching decorations to the shipping container can be a great way to make it stand out. Whether you choose to add a mural, stencils, or unique artwork, the possibilities are endless. Make sure to use the right type of paint that is suitable for outdoor use.

If you are feeling creative, you could even paint the entire container in a bold and bright color scheme. Just remember to always use sealant afterwards to protect the paint from the elements.

Painting a shipping container is an enjoyable task that can help to increase the lifespan of the container. With the right preparation and finishing touches, you can transform an aging container into a vibrant and eye-catching piece of art.

Get creative and have fun with this project – the only limit is your imagination.

Clean Up and Maintenance

Before you begin the painting process, it’s important to carry out thorough cleaning and maintenance of the shipping container. This will help ensure that the paint will adhere properly and create a smooth, even surface.

First, give the container a good scrub with a brush and a mild detergent. If there are any tough stains, you can use a stronger solution. Rinse off the detergent with clean water, then use a dry cloth to wipe the surface until it is completely dry.

Next, inspect the surface for any scratches, dents, rust, or any other imperfections. If you find any, you may need to sand them down to create a smoother surface. It’s also important to check for signs of wear, such as holes or cracks, as these will need to be patched before painting. Once you are finished cleaning and sanding, you can start prepping the container for the paint.


In conclusion, painting a shipping container is not a difficult task with the right preparation, tools, and knowledge. Before starting, it is important to gather essential supplies and tools such as a brush, roller, paint tray, sandpaper, and cleaning agent, and ensure the surface is clean, sanded, and prepped. Applying primer is the first step in painting and helps with adhesion, coverage and durability.

Use a brush or roller for primer application and a roller for larger areas, and a brush for smaller areas, while applying the paint. Finishing touches such as a clear coat of sealant can improve the overall look and longevity of the paint job. Following these steps will result in a professional-looking finish for your customized shipping container.

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