Paint chip crafts are SO cute that it’s hard to remember that crafting with paint chips is not actually “upcycling.”
I know that paint chips are free. I know most hardware stores don’t even care if you take them (I once asked a paint dude at Lowe’s if they gave away or sold discontinued paint chips. He told me that companies rarely discontinue paint colors, and was all, “Just take the ones out here. They’re free.”). I know that when you craft with them, you’re making them into something else, which is a major part of what makes upcycling as great as it is.
However, upcycling also implies that you’re giving a useless, unwanted object new life. You’re removing it from the waste stream. And, unfortunately, paint chips aren’t useless–people use them to help them select paint colors. They don’t need a new life–their old one has purpose. And even though the people who use them are, yes, probably going to toss them in the trash afterwards, not make them into awesome bookmarks and scrapbook embellishments and garlands, if you take the paint chips before those people get to them, then the paint company is just going to have to manufacture more to restock the supply.
Sucks, I know. And I have zero room to cast stones about this. My kids’ regular “treat” when we go to the hardware store is getting to pick out a paint chip, and they have a ridiculous, beloved collection by now. I also once totally took a bunch of paint samples in order to make them Montessori-style color tablets like these when they were little, and it was SUCH a fun project–those candy colors! That glossy paper!
Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact substitute for paint chips, nothing that gives you that perfect combination of deeply saturated color with a glossy face on sturdy paper. Here, however, are some ideas for decent substitutes:
1. wallpaper samples. Wallpaper goes out of style more often than paint, so you’re more likely to be able to buy a discontinued wallpaper sample book from the hardware store. I do a lot of decoupage with wallpaper samples.
2. upholstery samples. Discontinued upholstery sample books are harder to come by, but they are gorgeous, and since I’ve never (yet) found a way to separate the fabric from its paper backing, the upholstery samples are best used as substitutes for paper crafts.
3. scrapbook paper. You can buy eco-friendly scrapbook paper! Play with backing it with cardboard and/or painting the top with a glossy clear coat to get a look that’s similar to a paint chip.
4. paint. Make your own paint chips with cardstock, paint, and clear sealant.
5. fabric. Sew or glue fabric to cardboard for a result that will also be pleasingly tactile.
6. eco-friendly paint chips. Source manufacturers that use recycled paper for their paint chips.
If you’ve got some ideas about how to collect paint chips ethically, or know of other good paint chip substitutions, I’d love to hear about it in the Comments below!
[Paint chips image via Shutterstock]