What we came up with are the masterpieces you see above — suitcases painted with boy friendly themes. The purpose? They will be filled with toys, action figures, Nerf guns and games. Once they’re loaded up, the suitcases can be slid underneath a bed for storage. When the kid wants to play, he just pulls out the suitcase and grabs what he wants.
You can do the same for your own organizing effort — whether it be for a boy or a girl or anyone else. We certainly didn’t come up with the idea. We’ve seen suitcases painted with flowers, dolls, farmhouses and other themes. Some are used to brighten up a room as a decoration and others are just to add a little extra touch of creativity to an otherwise boring storage bin.
Ultimately, the point is that you get a less-ugly way to store stuff.
- Visit yard sales and thrift stores and keep an eye out for suitcases. You’ll want to buy an old-style plastic “clamshell” suitcase, not the fabric suitcases used nowadays. And remember you don’t have to buy an actual suitcase — any old plastic storage case with a slight grit to it will do. Typerwriter and makeup cases are good examples.
- If you can avoid it, don’t buy the big suitcases. They’re too big to be practical for this craft.
- Look for outside damage to the suitcase. Is it cracked? Does the closing mechanism work? Is the handle broken?
- We’ve seen suitcases go for as little as a dollar. Other people were charging $10.
- The interior of the suitcase isn’t really important. You’ll be using it for storage, not packing your delicates for a trip to Zanzibar.
- Take some hot water and dish soap and scrub down the outside of the suitcase.
- Open up the suitcase and smell it. Yep, you read it right! Smell it! If it has a musty stink to it, take it outside on a hot day (when there’s no rain in the forecast) and open it up and let the sun burn out the smell.
- Carefully clip out any unwanted interior pockets or flaps. We keep all of ours, but they do take up room.
- Think up an idea. What do you want to paint? What room is it going into?
- Paints — We used acrylic craft paints for ours. We recommend you purchase “opaque” acrylic colors. Typically, the small bottles, no taller than a coffee cup, cost less than $2 each. We used about eight colors.
- Paint brushes — Buy some really thick ones for applying a big splotch of color and some thin ones for detail work. We bought some sponge brushes too.
- Newspapers — Spread these out before you begin painting.
- Mod Podge — This sealant comes in big and little jars. We put four or five layers on our suitcases. It goes on really milky but dries clear.
- Permanent Markers — You can use these to add additional highlights to your dried paint, but before you apply the Mod Podge.
- Time — You will need about an hour between applying colors for the paint to dry. You’ll need even more time for the Mod Podge to dry.
- Wipe down the suitcase to remove dust and other debris.
- Paint a background. We chose a fiery look, which we did by painting a huge swath of yellow, and then added red and orange highlights.
- Allow the background paint to dry.
- Paint the primary color for the main image. We mostly chose gray for our primary color and stuck to creating a silhouette only. You can base your silhouette on web images or you can wing it.
- Allow the primary color to dry.
- Paint in a few details. On our dinosaur, we painted teeth. On our superhero, we added his chest emblem, bracelets and belt.
- Allow the detail paint to dry.
- Paint on the Mod Podge. This glue-like substance goes on very milky colored but dries clear.
- Allow Mod Podge to dry.
- Paint several more layers of Mod Podge, allowing drying time between each.
- You’re done!
- Don’t let your unprotected paint bump into things. You can see scratches on our T-rex.
- Use a permanent marker to create bubbly letters for names, paint them and then reapply the markers on the edges. The thicker the marker line the better.
- Use your background color to fill as much of the “canvas space” as you can. Then fill as much of the background color as you can with your primary image.
- Acrylic paint is permanent on carpet and cloth, so be careful.
- If the keys are included in the suitcase, lock it so that’s permanently open and hide the keys. It will still latch, it just won’t lock.
Your completed suitcase is ready for storage, play or display!
Did you try this for yourself? Send us pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll show them off in a later post.