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Paint Can Sizes (What you Should know)

Never run out of paint again with our handy guide on paint can sizes. From a one-quarter pint to a gallon, we cover all the standard sizes and their uses.

Piant cans with solid white outside, black and yellow paint brush and a paint roller with a yellow handle

When it comes to taking on a big home improvement project around the house, like painting, knowing the most common paint can sizes is the first step to determining how much paint you need. The size of the can and how much paint it holds can impact the cost and how much you need to buy.

As a general rule, paint cans are standardized across all major brands and available in several sizes to match closely with the quantity of paint needed for every painting project. The most common paint can sizes range from a small quarter pint size to the popular and most purchased gallon size. 

Choosing a paint color is fun, but it gets complicated when deciding how many gallons you need. There are more things to consider than color. Will one coat give me the paint cover I need? Or will I need two coats or more? We have broken down the formula to figure out how much paint you’ll need for your next project right here in our guide!

In our complete guide to paint can sizes, we’ll talk about the many types of paint can sizes and how to decide how much paint to buy. Read on to find out all the common types of paint cans, from the half-pint to the gallon, and which is the size you need for your next project.

What are the Most Common Paint Can Sizes?

3 cans of paint lined up from shortest to tallest

Knowing the common types of paint can sizes, dimensions, and coverages before beginning a painting project can help you avoid return trips to the paint store. Knowing the common sizes paint comes in ensures you have enough paint for your room or project. By understanding paint sizes and the amount of paint they hold, you can limit the amount of extra product and cut down on costs and waste.

Different sized paint cans are available for almost all types of paints. Most paint cans hold standard amounts of paint and are very close in size from brand to brand. How much paint you need will determine what size of can you should get. The most common sizes of paint cans are listed below:

Quarter Pint

The quarter pint is just 0.14 liters of paint, even smaller than the half-pint. This size is a tester or sample size for paint colors. The height of a quarter-pint paint can is 2.0 inches, and the diameter is 2.5 inches.

This size covers very little wall space. The coverage amount from a quarter pint of paint is less than 12 square feet, so it is not a good purchase for painting walls.

You won’t be able to paint much with 12 square feet, but a quarter pint is just the right amount for touch-ups or a sample of your new paint color.


The size of a half-pint of paint is tiny. It only holds about 0.28 liters of paint. The half-pint size is for touch-ups or small objects. This is an excellent paint can size to keep under the kitchen sink for quick access to touch-ups. The dimensions of the half pint are 3 inches and 2.88 inches in diameter.

One coat of a half-pint of paint will only cover 25 square feet of wall. As you can see, that’s not a lot of coverage. It’s just enough to do a little finishing work or a few last touches.

One Pint

A pint size paint can holds 0.47 liters which equal 1 pint. This is the perfect size for touch-up work. The height of a 1-pint paint can is 3.99 inches, and the diameter is 3.5 inches. One pint of paint can cover about 50 square feet of wall.

Since this size only covers a small area, the best way to use it is to fix minor problems, like when you chip a little paint off your wall. You can also use it for small projects like trim work or other small jobs.

One Quart

The one-quart paint can size is much smaller measuring 4.88 inches tall with a 4.25-inch diameter. It only holds about 0.95 liters which is not a lot of square feet. So consider this size for closets, crown molding, trim work, or a small paint project.

Half Gallon

Another common paint can size is 1.9 liters or a half gallon. On average, paint cans that hold half a gallon are 5.38 inches tall and 5.88 inches across.

A half-gallon of paint can cover approximately 200 square feet of wall space. Since half-gallons are so small, they are for painting small projects like chairs or tables. Half-gallon are available to be purchased in addition to the larger gallon size. Buying multiple sizes lets you purchase a smaller the exact quality of paint you need for your project.

One Gallon

The most common paint can is the one-gallon can size. Most cans you see lining the shelves at your local hardware or paint store are the 1-gallon size. One gallon cans measure about 7.5 inches tall and 6.5 inches across.

The average gallon of paint will cover about 325 square feet. However, higher-end brands can cover up to 400 square feet per gallon. The average size room is around 800 square feet. So for most rooms, you need more than one gallon of paint. You also need enough for two or three coats to get the paint coverage needed.

5 Gallon

If larger quantities of paint needed are more than four gallons, it is usually easier and cheaper to buy paint in a 5-gallon bucket. A 5-gallon bucket has enough paint to cover a large living room or bedroom or several smaller average size rooms.

How Many Gallons of Paint Do I Need?

6 metal paint cans, on lid on, others off, blue paint, red paint, yellow paint, green paint, turquoise paint

Picking out the perfect shade for your walls is fun, but the work begins once the color is decided. Determining the amount of paint to purchase is the next most important step for your painting project.

You will need a pretty good estimate of how much paint it will take to cover the room to decide how many gallons to purchase. Knowing the sizes of paint cans will help you make this decision.

On average, a gallon will cover 350-400 square feet of surface area. Most rooms will require a minimum of two cans or more in the gallon size.

How Much Paint do I Need Per Square Foot?

Paint cans with differetn shades of paint, paint color sample cards

Calculating the square feet of your room’s walls is the best way to know exactly how much paint you need. The first step is to find the surface area of the wall. Take the height and length measurements of your wall. Second, multiply the length and height together to get the square feet. Do this for each wall in your room and add the total together.

For example, imagine each of the four walls in your room is 8 feet high and 10 feet long. By multiplying 8 ft. x 10 ft, we know each wall is 80 square feet. Add the square foot of all four walls to get a total of 320 square feet of wall space that needs paint coverage.

Next, use the same calculation to determine the square feet of the windows and doors to subtract from the total. Subtract windows, doors, and other surfaces that aren’t getting painted. Knowing your room’s square footage and the various sizes of paint will help you get just the right amount.

An easy way to do the square footage calculations and get the right amount of paint you’ll need is to use this paint calculator provided by Sherwin Williams. They will even subtract windows and doors for you!

Will I Need More Than One Coat of Paint?

2 cans of one coat paint

Using the same color is usually the only time you will only need to apply one coat. If you are painting over a surface with a dark color, then you will apply additional coats. Dark colors almost always mean using more paint to get proper coverage.

Coverage is also helpful when deciding what size paint cans to buy. The maximum range of coverage you can get from a gallon is 350-400 square feet. Knowing the type and condition of the wall you are painting when buying paint will help you get enough for good coverage!

New walls or an unprimed or prepared surface will quickly soak up more paint. This is also true for textured surfaces, like orange peel or knockdown textured walls.

Some premium brands have a primer built in. These promise single coat coverage, and you can apply paint to the walls without an additional primer. Most walls take two coats or more to get the right paint coverage.

What are the Different Types of Paint Cans?

Three cans of paint, shiny white outside

Paint comes in various size containers, as well as two different types and styles of paint cans. These are usually metal or plastic containers.

Metal Paint Cans

Metal paint cans are the standard paint can material for water or oil-based paints. The high-quality tin-coated steel is the best material for most types of paints, and it is easy to store and transport. The largest metal paint can is the gallon can size. Because of the manufacturing cost, metal paint cans are not sold in larger sizes.

 Metal paint cans are often lined on the inside surface with epoxy to prevent corrosion with water-based paints. However, they are unlined to hold oil-based or solvent paints.

Plastic Paint Cans

Plastic is the most common alternate material for paint can sizes. At home improvement stores, plastic paint cans are in sizes for tiny samples or larger quantities.

For larger projects where 4 gallons of paint or more is needed, you will probably be purchasing plastic five-gallon buckets of paint. When you buy a lot of paint, the cans usually stop coming in metal. Instead, it comes in buckets made of plastic that have lids.

Contractors, professional painters, and landlords who typically buy large quantities buy the five-gallon buckets of paint. These are more cost-effective and efficient than buying huge amounts of larger cans of gallon-size paint.

Spray Paint Sizes

Close up of a box with lots of used spray paint cans, covered in paint

Spray paint, or aerosol paint, has its own set of standard paint sizes. Generally, spray paint comes in four standard paint sizes:

  • 4.5 fluid oz.
  • 6 fluid oz
  • 12 fluid oz.
  • 16 fluid oz.

Spray paint canisters use aerosol propellant; the coverage depends on the thickness of the paint and how heavy-handed you are when applying it. On average, the 4.5-ounce spray paint can size covers 7 square feet, while 16-ounce cans cover 30 square feet.

When deciding how much spray paint you need for your DIY projects, remember that thicker spray paint will cover a larger surface area with a smaller amount of paint.