How to Paint a Fraternity Cooler (Tutorial)

5:24:00 PM

I'm pretty sure that the fraternity painting tradition is purely meant to incite misery. The first cooler I ever painted took the entirety of my freshman year spring break. Luckily, I have a super artistic sorority girl friend named Emily who came to my rescue from that point forward.

Throughout my hours slaving over painting a cooler and learning from the best (Emily), I've refined my skills and, in honor of my final mountain weekend this coming weekend, I've compiled some tips for you here. 


1. Purchase the cooler. You do not need to buy an expensive cooler. This is the one that I've used for both coolers that I've made and it's only $15.88 at Walmart! It's best to pick a cooler with very simple lines that isn't slatted or particularly decorative. This one's a great size and has worked perfectly well. I'd also recommend against selecting a wheeled cooler if it's your first try because wheels = super hard to paint around.

2. Sand away! While you can accomplish this with sanding paper, I'd recommend an electric hand sander because it gets the job done much faster. You want to sand the cooler to create a rougher surface to make sure that all of your work sticks.


3. Prime. You'll want to use a primer that's meant for plastic, like this one. A spray paint primer is great because it's quick and easy. Be sure to use painter's tape to tape off the areas that you do not want to be sprayed with primer. You want to be sure to both sand and prime your cooler because it's a really sad thing when the paint starts chipping off immediately. 

4. Paint. Once you've planned out what you'd like to do on each side of the cooler, I'd recommend you spray paint as much as you can. It dries very quickly and has much better lasting ability than acrylic paint. Once again, be sure to use painter's tape to protect the areas of the cooler you don't want sprayed.


5. Now the fun part! Once you know what you want to paint, buy up a bunch of colors of inexpensive acrylic paint, trace out your design with a pencil, and get to painting! I'd recommend getting an inexpensive set of several brushes like this set to make sure you have a good variety. 

6. Mod Podge is your best friend. I'd highly HIGHLY recommend sealing the entire cooler with mod podge to make sure that your designs aren't immediately ruined. Another super neat thing about mod podge is that you can actually design and print different graphics and images to mod podge  onto the cooler! I'm not artistic, but ask me to Photoshop something and I've got you! I've pointed out in the images below the things that were mod podged.

Bonus Tip: You may want to add a lock to the cooler to protect the items inside. These can also be purchased at Walmart and can be screwed in with a regular screwdriver as the plastic is fairly malleable. 

Below are some images of the coolers I've done! They can be a lot of work, but they also make a really great keepsake. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions! 

Sailboats, Chi Psi Letters, "Carolina Cup/March 2014," and Vineyard Vines logo all Mod Podged!

Coors Light Mod Podged


Definitely my favorite cooler! Triangle and "Chi Psi" lettering Mod Podged. Wood effect was painted.


Maps Mod Podged

Favorite side! The plaid was all hand painted.

Mountain Weekend side entirely Mod Podged


Happy painting!



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