Back before containers became a popular as a building material of sorts, a paint job was often a single colour and maybe a sticker with your logo on it. You had only a few colors to choose from and that was about it. With the rise in the popularity of using containers for everything from pop-up concession stands to elaborately designed buildings, many companies offer custom painting services that will paint your container exactly as you want it.

Some container companies have even gone so far as to provide graphic design services to help you figure out what your custom design is. Once you have worked out the graphic design, it is made into a series of large vinyl decals that are applied to your container. These decals are designed to last up to at least a few years without cracking or peeling. This approach allows for using highly detailed design elements, such as photographs, in your design. When the decals are ready, it only takes a few hours to apply to the container.

In some cases, the container company you are looking to buy a container from may not be able to provide the custom painting services you need. Take a look at other container companies to see if they offer the custom painting services you need. If you can’t find one in your area, then you may want to find another business to custom paint your container.

Or, you could just do it yourself.

If you already are a skilled painter or if you don’t mind spending some time learning how to paint a container, you can do this yourself, depending on how elaborate your design is. You might even have family or friends who would like to help. However, if you’re aiming for photorealism and you have never painted before, then you might be in a bit over your head. If you have a design that isn’t too elaborate, however, you should be able to tackle this and make it look great.

Types of custom paint jobs

  • Single Color–This would be in a custom color they may have to blend specifically for you.
  • Two-color–Two custom colors instead of one.
  • Logo–They would custom paint your logo on the container for you.
  • Branding–Create a design that uses your branding.
  • Design Elements–Decorative touches that include a broad variety of lines and shapes, usually painted on the top, sides, bottom and corners of an area.
  • Murals–Custom painting that covers one or more sides of the container, even completely wrapping around it.
  • Vinyl Decals–Large sheets of vinyl with your custom design printed on it. These are applied to the sides of the container with a weatherproof glue, yet allows the decal to easily peel off.
  • Custom Graphics–This can be anything from your logo to an elaborate mural. Custom graphics may be painted on the container or applied as a vinyl decal.

For the DIY-er

If you plan to do the custom painting yourself, or hire someone else to do it, you may want to have the container company prime the exterior of the container. Make sure the primer will work for the kind of paint you plan to use, however–an oil-based primer does not work for a water-based paint or coating.

Custom painting a container

Like any painting project, there will be several items you will need to get if you plan to custom paint the container yourself. If you plan to spray any paint on, you will need to wear the following:

  • Paper Coveralls–Sometimes called Tyvek, a cheap, reinforced paper coverall outfit designed to keep paint and dust off from you while working.
  • Paper booties–These will keep paint off from your shoes.
  • Safety Goggles–Prevents paint from getting in your eyes.
  • Dust Mask–If using latex paint, a dust mask will help keep you from inhaling sprayed paint.
  • Respirator–An airtight mask with filtering cartridges. I spraying oil or solvent-based paint, it is important to wear one of these to prevent you from breathing in the paint or its fumes.
  • Gloves–A lightweight pair of gloves will keep the paint off your hands. These can be latex, nitrile, or some other lightweight material that will allow you to properly grip the spray nozzle.
  • Hat–A ballcap or anything that will cover your head will do. It will help keep paint out of your hair.

If you plan to apply a white base coat on top of the primer, make sure you use a premium exterior paint; it will last much longer than any cheap paint. Also, you may want to consider renting a paint sprayer. You can paint an entire 40’ trailer in about 15 minutes, including the roof. Using a paintbrush and a roller, you will find it takes about 45 minutes. Regardless of how you choose to do it, you need to apply a single light coat to the entire exterior of the container and let it dry before applying a second coat. After the second coat is dry, take a close look and see if there are any thin spots where the primer shows through. If you find thin spots, you may want to apply a third layer. After that, let it dry completely.

While it’s drying, you can get the rest of the paint together along with brushes and water or solvent for rinsing out your brushes as you work. NOTE: When working with paint, make sure you thoroughly dry your brush after you rinse it out. If you fail to squeeze all the excess paint thinner or water out, it will thin your paint. The thinner paint may be more likely to run and may not adhere correctly to the side of the container. This can really mess up the work you have already completed.

Once all the painting is complete and everything is wrapped up, you can kick back and enjoy your truly unique container. The next task will be taking it wherever you need it to go and showing it off for everyone else to see!