5 genius uses for leftover paint that'll prove you're sitting on a creative goldmine

If you've got leftover paint, try these small but effective decorating ideas that make a surprisingly big statement

a colorful living room with a painted door arch
(Image credit: Bianca Hall / French For Pineapple)

Trying to estimate the right volume of paint when decorating your home is never straightforward, but no matter the tips or tricks you have to get the quantity as close as possible, you're always going to end up with at least a little paint left over. 

Before you know it, your storage space is filled with half-empty cans and, while it's good to keep a little of your main wall color in reserve for small touch-ups, it's worth remembering that once open, your paint only has a certain shelf life. A good quality paint should last about five years after being opened before it's unusable. 

Of course, there are more ways to recycle leftover paint than ever before, but before you head down that route, consider if there are any small paint idea projects you could tackle at home to use up your surplus supplies. 

We've collected some of our favorite DIY projects which use just a small amount of paint to inspire you to clear your garage of those spare cans, while introducing a brilliant new design detail into your space. 

1. Add an unexpected detail 

a colorful living room with a painted door arch

(Image credit: Michael Wells. Design: Davide Casaroli)

If you're working with a largely neutral scheme, introducing a flash of color by painting an architectural detail can be surprisingly effective. This could be a feature alcove or a step, but it works particularly well around doors and thresholds. 

With leftover paint, you could design a creative door trim idea into your scheme, paint the edges of a door for an unexpected pop of color when the door is open, or try an idea like interior designer Davide Casaroli, who introduced a flash of turquoise around an arched door in this apartment. 'It was all about balancing colors,' Davide tells us. In this colorful scheme, the turquoise draws the eye to the hallway, while picking out a small highlight from artwork on the gallery wall. 

a dining room with a block of paint around a gallery wall

(Image credit: Bianca Hall / French For Pineapple)

Leftover paint is perfect for color blocking in your home, but creating a trendy geometric wall mural isn't to everyone's taste. So how can you introduce color blocking in a simple, yet sophisticated way?

Interior stylist and blogger Bianca Hall of French For Pineapple chose to use a color block to frame the gallery wall in her dining room. Not only does this paint idea introduce a flash of color into the neutral scheme, but it also works to group the individual frames together, as though a larger piece of art. 

3. Create your own stone paint 

a stone effect plant pot

(Image credit: Luke Arthur Wells)

One of my own favorite uses for leftover paint is to give vases and plant pots a small makeover if I tire of their color or finish. However, with the trend for organic modern style all about introducing textured finishes through accessories, sometimes a purely painted finish can feel a bit flat. 

There are a few tricks to try when looking to create textured paint that perfectly suits using up your leftovers. The first is the baking soda trick, whereby you mix your paint with a teaspoon of this kitchen ingredient to form a paste-like paint that has a brilliant texture when applied to a surface. My personal favorite? Creating a stone effect paint by mixing leftover paint or samples with a little sand. This creates a gritty finish that recreates the look of rough stone or concrete, as you can see from the wooden plant pot, above on the right, painted with a DIY stone effect paint. 

4. Decorate inside a cabinet

a mini bar cabinet painted with stripes on the inside

(Image credit: Luke Arthur Wells)

Every type of interior style can benefit from introducing something unexpectedly joyful, even if it's not visible at first glance of your room. That's why you should consider using leftover paint to introduce a new color inside millwork or cabinets, only revealing itself when the doors are flung open. 

For my own home, the obvious space to introduce this idea was in this small living room bar idea. It's only really used when guests are around, making for a surprise that can be appreciated at just the right moment. With just a small amount of Farrow & Ball's London Stone left over to paint the cupboard, I painted these chunky stripes to ensure the paint went far enough, while creating a more interesting design detail. 

5. Paint an on-trend checkerboard pattern 

a checkerboard pattern painted around a door

(Image credit: Mikhail Loskutov. Design: Tim Veresnovsky)

Checkerboard is one of the biggest interior design trends right now, whether it's in floor tiles, rugs or other textiles like blankets and cushions. However, it's also a relatively easy pattern to introduce with paint. 

This checkerboard door arch is one of our favorite DIY weekend projects, created freehand by interior designer Tim Veresnovsky to bring some character to his own dining room. However, this pattern could be introduced anywhere on a similarly small scale as a way to use up leftover paint. Why not try it as a pattern behind a picture frame or gallery wall? 

When it comes to making a good job of this project, follow our guide to how to paint a checkerboard floor, whatever the scale of your checkerboard design. 

Can I do DIY projects with leftover emulsion paint?

Whether you're planning a project with leftover paint or sample pots, more often than not you're going to be dealing with emulsion. This type of paint finish is what you'll traditionally paint all walls with, and it's the type of paint used in tester pots. 

If you're leftover paint project is for painting walls, matt emulsion is perfectly suited, but if you're painting furniture, millwork or anything that needs to be a little more durable, emulsion isn't always ideal. My top tip? Prime your project first with a quick primer (this will help your leftover paint go further, too) and then finish with a matt clear varnish, like this top coat from Amazon, which will make it more hardwearing. 

Luke Arthur Wells
Freelancer writer

Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.