The Infamous Archives: Vintage Paint

Vintage Paint: The Big Picture


Putting art onto the art supplies, this pioneer American brand chooses to target a domestic audience with its graphic-design flash.

Text and photos by the CMC Paint Nerds.

PlastiKote is not only one of the original brands that came in the first spray canister format, it is also one of the most overlooked brands. An American paint that also successfully marketed itself in Australia, the company has made many different lines of paint over the years and is currently a subsidiary of Valspar. For collectors, PlastiKote’s most significant contribution was its production of what have come to be known as “picture cans,” where individual labels were designed under one brand and the color of the can’s contents was depicted by an illustration unique to that color. PlastiKote was the largest company to employ such a tactic, and its picture cans are well regarded and tidily dressed. Colors such as Bittersweet generally had the namesake plant as the image, whereas others showcased a bit more of the creativity of the design team (if there even was one). Swift Red plays upon the old time U.S. image of a red wagon, while Alpine Blue featured a very 1960s spike-tread hiking boot.

In many cases, companies that made “picture cans” (which included Fuller/Fuller O’Brien, Big Bantam, Chase and Spruce) were minor players, making the cans and color ranges slow to be discovered. PlastiKote was the major exception: their picture cans were showcased in bright industry adverts such as this one. The can designs often used a large amount of white neutral space, making the color illustration even more prominent and adding impact to the color name identification.

Many efforts were made over the years to vary can sizes for smaller and sometimes more specific consumer needs. The three-ounce can still exists today and is marketed as a “hobby” or “touch-up” product. Nybco’s Big Bantam line seemed to market its paint as themed for nurseries or children’s effects. Colors included Tisket Tasket Yellow and this Little Boy Blue. Nybco’s bucolic designs for Big Bantam makes them one of the most popular “picture-can” series.
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Vintage Paint: Hunting Fever


An avid collector for over 10 years, Slyle 133 shares the highs and lows of his addiction with vintage spray paint.

I seem to get this question all the time, and usually, it’s followed by “Why? What drives you?”… ‘Cause I know what drives me. The collecting bug bit me early on, from old issues of TV Guide to baseball cards and, now, aerosol paint cans. It’s preserving a piece of history, disposable history. Originally, like most can collectors, I was looking for that one color to fill the void. I was in search of a Jungle Green, Avocado, Hot Pink or any of the other off-the-wall colors. I started at a point in time when there was no Belton, Montana — or, as I like to call it, “Yuppie” paint. I was on a hunt, determined to add a small bit of flavor to what I did.

Over the past few years, I have seen a lot of things change. Collecting paint to use is almost a thing of the past, and it seems now that some use their paint as a status symbol. Cans no longer go to the “crate” but up on a shelf, a trophy of some sort, a prized collectible. I’ve had people ask me, “What can I get for this?” and “Is there a price guide?” If this is why you collect, then just give up now. This is no way to make a living.
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