Spray can production

How are spray cans produced? We found a nice video that shows the production process of spray paint at Montana Cans. This gives you a good overview of the steps that are taken in the factory. If we look at the stages represented in LCA, this video shows the birth of the spray can. So the view is from 'cradle to gate'.

  1. 01. Global production figures
  2. 02. Production process
  3. 03. Paint components

01. Global production figures

The worldwide aerosol production figures are staggering. Europe is the worlds leading region in producing aerosol products. With over 5.3 billion aerosols produced in 2020. The USA is the second-largest producer with over 3.75 billion aerosols produced according to the FEA, the European Aerosol Federation. The paints and varnishes aerosol products represent a relatively small amount of this European total with 5.68%.

This means that in Europe roughly 284.000.000 spray paint cans are produced. So far we have not found out which share is related to graffiti spray paint. However, for the purpose of informing all artists using spray paint cans. This is a crazy amount of cans, right?!

02. Production process

Paints are formulated according to their proposed use - primer, undercoat, special finishes (matt, gloss, heat resistance, anti-corrosion, abrasion resistance). The pigment powder is broken down into individual particles which are coated by and dispersed in the binder (resin) - known as 'wetting out'. Solvent is then added to give the required consistency. Each batch of ingredients is thoroughly mixed in large, stirred containers with the required additives. Amounts ranging up to 40 000 dm3 of paint may be made in a single batch.

03. Paint components

We have found some basic information that get's us familiar with paint, it's main components and information regarding the production of paint. The main ingredients or components of paint are[1]:

Pigment(s) - pigments give color and opacity to our paint. A white color is mostly made possible by using the pigment titanium dioxide (TiO2), red originates from Iron Oxide (Fe2O3), and yellow has a broad range of pigments that give it a yellow color (zinc, cadmium, bismuth etc)

Binder (resin) - a polymer, often referred to as resin, the resin forms a matrix and holds the pigment in place

Solvent (sometimes called a thinner) - either an organic solvent or water is used to give viscosity to the paint and improve the application. Water based paints are replacing some paints that use volatile organic compounds (VOC's) such as the hydrocarbons which are harmful to the atmosphere. Don't worry we will explain VOC's in more detail here

Additives - used to modify the properties of the liquid paint or dry film

Extender - larger pigment particles which are added to improve adhesion, strengthen the film and save the amount of binder that is used


The binder (resin) and solvent together are sometimes known as the vehicle. Depending on the type of paint and intended use, additives may include:

Dispersants - to separate and stabilize pigment particles;

Silicones - to improve weather resistance;

Thixotropic agents - to give paints a jelly-like consistency that breaks down to a liquid when stirred or when a brush is dipped into it

Driers - to accelerate drying time;

Anti-settling agents - to prevent pigment settling;

Bactericides - to preserve water based paints in the can fungicides and algaecides and to protect exterior paint films against disfigurement from molds, algae and lichen.


[1] The constituents of paint