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Cooler Crafting for the Uncreative


Photo by Megan Rohrbach


With spring formals right around the corner, cooler painting season will be in full swing in no time. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, many college women paint a cooler for their dates to fraternity formals. Cooler painting takes a lot of time, creativity and patience. It is not for the faint of heart.


So many women are creatively gifted and are able to paint unique miniature works of art on the side of a cooler. If you are less creative, like myself, seeing these beauties can become infuriating. Recreating these masterpieces is an impossible task. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help any crafter make her best attempt look something like a work of art.


Saving money while creating something beautiful is the name of the game. The first tip to cooler making is to get all of your supplies at the cheapest place possible. My favorite choice is Walmart. Everything you need is there, and costs affordable prices.


Start with the cooler. I recommend something large but without wheels. The wheels are the hardest thing to paint around, and unless you already have experience, a cooler with wheels is not the best way to start your cooler painting journey.


Once you have your cooler, it is time to get the supplies to prep your cooler. You will need sandpaper, primer and a sealer. Any type of sandpaper should work fine. Make sure you have enough because you will run through it quickly. Typically one packet is enough sandpaper to get through one cooler and have some left over. Next you will need a primer.


I suggest a white spray primer because it will give a nice, blank and clean base coat. Any brand will work. Finally, you will need something to seal your paint and give it a glossy finish. Some people will say that you need several products, but Mod Podge will work just fine for multiple reasons. You can find it in water proof and in a glossy finish.


Once you have your main products, it is time to move on to the fun stuff. Walmart has endless amount of paint options so you do not have to worry about not finding the colors you want. Naturally you will need paint brushes. I recommend getting a variety of large and small brushes for different types of detail. The final piece you might need is optional. I like to use tissue paper to trace letters and pictures onto the cooler instead of free handing. It is inexpensive, and is worth the purchase.


Once you have everything together, it is time to start sanding! You will either need to sand outside or lie down towels to sand inside. If you know someone with an electric sander or have one, use that. It will save tons of time. But they are expensive and not worth the purchase if you plan on only using it once. Sand your cooler until the glossy finish is gone.


Next, take your cooler outside and start priming. You will need to prime until your cooler is completely covered. The cooler will need to dry for at least 24 hours before you start painting.


Once your cooler is completely finished, the fun part begins! Pinterest is full of ideas for coolers and if you are still lost, think about your date’s favorite things: sports, shows, food and quotes. Those are great ideas to get you started. A great trick to making your cooler look professionally painted is by printing out a logo or an image and Mod Podging it to the cooler. Not only is Mod Podge a great sealant, but it also works great as glue.


Once your cooler is completely painted, it is time to seal! Take your largest paint brush and slap on a couple of clear coats to your masterpiece. Once that dries, your cooler is set and ready to go.


Cooler painting is fun but can be intimidating if you are sure about crafting. However, with a few tips and tricks your cooler will look fabulous.


Happy crafting!

Megan Rohrbach is a senior at the University of Kentucky. She is majoring in print journalism and minoring in criminology. Her dream jobs include working for the FBI, book publishing and writing for a women's magazine. When she's not in class or writing, she can be found watching her favorite Netflix shows, taking lots of naps, raving about the Ohio State Buckeyes and trying out a new makeup look. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @themegmeg37.