The Right Way to Open a Can of Paint

Pop open a can of paint like a pro! With the correct tools and technique, you'll keep mess to a minimum and make it easier to store your leftovers in between coats.

By Jill Lawrence O'Hara and Bob Vila | Updated Dec 30, 2020 11:43 AM

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How To Open a Paint Can - With a Screwdriver


Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to open a can of paint. It’s not that opening a paint can is particularly difficult or complicated—but it can be tough to do without damaging the lid in the process. Because not all paint projects can be completed in a day, especially when you factor in multiple coats, you want your lid to keep the leftover paint fresh until the job is finished. A little care in the very first step of your project can do just that!

How To Open a Paint Can - The Easy Way


Properly opening a can of paint begins at the time of purchase. Before you leave the paint store, be sure to ask for a 3-in-1 painter’s tool. Many companies supply this handy piece for free with paint purchase, but if not, it’s worth buying one of your own. One component of this multifunctional tool—the square end of the blade—is specifically designed to remove paint can covers without causing damage.

If you choose to forgo the 3-in-1 paint tool in favor of an instrument you already have in your toolbox, consider the flathead screwdriver.

Most homeowners start their DIY projects on the wrong foot by opening their paint can using a flathead screwdriver like a lever. While this method does pop the top, it also often distorts the rim and dents the lid, which makes pouring paint and resealing the can a problem. But a flathead screwdriver is fine to use, if you use it properly.

How to Open a Paint Can

  1. Position the flathead between the lip of the lid and the rim of the can.
  2. Gently break the seal by levering the handle down, then pause—don’t continue prying the lid open.
  3. Instead, holding the screwdriver in position with one hand, use your other hand to rotate the can and slowly drive the lid open. Remember, you’re not prying the lid up; you’re moving the screwdriver forward around the circumference of the can to lift the lid off evenly and gently.
  4. Once the lid is free, remove it slowly, and stick it inside a sealable plastic bag to avoid making a mess.
  5. Next, dab a drop of paint on the side of the can to indicate the color of the paint inside.
  6. Finally, use a hammer and a finish nail to puncture at least four holes along the inside rim well to allow any excess paint that pools up to drain back inside. This technique—used by professional painters—will prevent the paint from dripping down the sides as you work and hindering an even seal when you close up the can.

With that can of fresh paint opened successfully, you’re ready to get to work on your paint job. At the end of the day when you’re calling it quits, you’ll be able to replace the lid and seal it tightly, all because you opened the can of paint correctly in the first place.