How Much Should You Pay for a Can of Paint?

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated March 25, 2022
A pregnant woman painting a room
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Highlights

  • A can of latex interior house paint costs $15–60.

  • A can of exterior house paint costs $20–$80.

  • Primer costs $10–20 per gallon.

  • You’ll spend an average $0.75–$3 per sq. ft. on paint.

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Walking into a paint store—or even just the paint section of your local home improvement outlet—can be overwhelming. There are so many beautiful shades that it’s easy to start fantasizing about repainting your whole interior. Then there are different options for finishes and features. 

By the time you’ve made your decisions, you can no longer tell if the prices are reasonable for the selection. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn what you should expect to pay by the can for different paints, primers, and sealants.  

How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Can of Paint?

The price commanded by a unit of paint depends on a number of different factors, including quality, finish, and (most importantly) the type of surface the paint is designed for. 

Interior House Paint

The market for latex house paints is competitive, with different options available at a range of different price points per gallon can: 

  • Under $20: Big box stores and other mass retailers offer some paints at significantly low costs. The discount comes at the expense of quality, so expect a product containing solvents and large pigment particles. 

  • $20–$30: This is the standard range for consumer-grade home paints of average quality. 

  • $40–$60: For a little more money, you can get professional-grade paint made with finer pigments and higher quality resin, which makes it longer lasting and easier to apply.

  • $100 and up: If you’ve got the budget for a luxury finish, some designer brands or rarer pigments can easily boost the price per gallon above $100.

Exterior House Paint

The cost of exterior house paint varies by type.

Type of PaintCost per Gallon
Acrylic latex$20–$50
Latex$20–$50
Oil$20–$80

Chalk Paint

A popular component of the modern farmhouse decorating style, chalk paint is a decorative paint with a matte finish. It is most often used on furniture, but is suitable for walls, too. Expect to pay between $15 and $40 per gallon.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints adhere and penetrate surfaces better than water-based types—but they give off malodorous fumes and present some hazards to those working with them. A gallon can cost between $30 and $40

Spray Paint

A 12 ounce can of spray paint costs between $4 and $16, depending on the quality and the purpose for which it’s intended. 

Wood Stain

If you decide to stain rather than paint the wood surface in question, you’ll pay $10 to $20 per quart

Primer

A standard primer, which you’ll apply as a base layer for your paint, costs an average $20 per gallon can—but the price drops between $10 and $15 per gallon if you purchase it in five-gallon quantities. The price rises for primers designed for specialized purposes, like those that combat mildew, fire, or stains, to between $30 and $150 per gallon

Lacquer

If you’re remodeling your kitchen or painting furniture and want a durable, damage-resistant coating, you may opt for lacquer. It costs an average $30 per gallon

Shellac

Applied as a protective finish to furniture and other wood items, shellac costs $40 to $50 per gallon

Self-Priming Paint

If you wish to combine painting and priming into a single step, you can buy a paint and primer all-in-one for between $15 and $25 per gallon.

How Much Does Paint Cost Per Square Foot?

 A man pouring paint from a can to a tray
Photo: gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

While it differs depending on the paint and the surface to which it’s being applied, a gallon of paint typically covers about 400 square feet—or 200 square feet, assuming you’re applying two layers. With average costs between $15 and $60 per gallon, that works out to a cost between $0.75 and $3 per square foot

The Cost of a DIY Paint Job vs. Hiring a Pro

Painting your own home costs significantly less than hiring a local interior painter or an exterior house painter near you.  

Interior

Painting a 10-by-12-foot room yourself costs around $100 for materials plus your time, while a professional will charge between $200 and $800. Materials to paint your whole house will cost between $200 and $300. The national average price for a full interior house painting is $1,896, or $3.50 per square foot.  

Exterior

Materials and tools for a DIY exterior paint job cost between $500 and $1,000—and potentially higher if you’re using any specialized products. The national average cost to hire a professional exterior house painter is $3,737.

How to Save Money on Paint

6 painting supply costs, with a ladder averaging the highest at $100 to $300

The easiest way to find the right paint at the lowest cost is to shop online. You’ll have access to a wide variety of different dealers and comparison shopping is a breeze. Also, always make sure you’re calculating the area correctly so you know how much paint to buy.

The best way to save money is to have a contractor purchase the paint for you at a professional discount. It’s possible to handle some parts of a job on your own, so that you’re not spending money for a contractor to tape off a room and lay down tarp, but hire a pro to do the actual painting with lower-cost supplies. 

If you’re hiring a pro for a small or relatively simple job, you will pay less for a local handyperson than a professional painter.

House Paint Questions and Answers

Here are a few additional questions you may have about paint—and the answers.

How much paint do I need to buy?

To determine the amount of paint you should purchase for a particular coverage area, multiply the length of each wall by its height and subtract windows, doors, and any other areas you won’t be painting. To make things easier, use a paint calculator

How long does it take to paint?

Painting the interior of a single room will take the average DIYer between 6 and 10 hours. 

How much do other painting supplies cost?

In addition to paint, you’ll need some other supplies to paint a house yourself. These include: 

  • Brushes: $3–$20 each

  • Tape: $3–$10 per roll

  • Drop cloth: $5–$30 each

  • Tray: $2–$5 each

  • Rollers: $10–$100 each

  • House ladder: $100–$300

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