How to Go From Thrift Shop Find To Cute Keepsake

Posted by Roxanne O'Brien
Learn how to easily dress up your thrift shop finds with a little paint!


  • Thrift store find - cat creamer
  • Martha Stewart Stylus
  • Various Paint Brushes
  • Acrylic Paints, 10 different colors (black, white, pink, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, turquoise, light purple and red)
  • Matte Sealer Spray
  • Toothpicks

My husband came across this little cat (it's a creamer I think) at a thrift shop. There is a funny joke between him and his brother where they buy completely weird or unusual things at thrift shops and give them to each other. This little gem didn't make it to my brother in law because he wanted it and my husband said, well, I'm keeping it! Yes, it's totally silly but it's hilarious that they do this. We even got gifted a gun rack this, we do not own a gun let alone many guns to necessitate a gun rack. (Name that movie!)

I had come across a cat statue similar to this that I had pinned on Pinterest and I knew as soon as I found it, that is what I wanted to transform this little kitty into. A Day of the Dead inspired cat! I'm obsessed with sugar skulls, so this is the perfect project for me!

For this project, I started out by washing the cat really well and letting it sit in my dish drainer for a few days to be sure it was completely dry inside and out.

I chose to use a selection of various colors of acrylic satin paints. I wanted this piece to have a matte look, not glossy. If you'd like a glossy look, you can certainly use a gloss sealer at the end to give it a nice shine.

I used black for the entire head and body and I painted each with one thin, even coat and set aside to dry.

I repeated the thin, even coats two more times for both the head and the body. Depending on how your paint is covering your project, you might need to add another coat or two. You want to make sure everything is covered nicely!

Here is the entire cat with the three coats of the black satin acrylic paint. You're probably wondering why I didn't paint the eyes (if you saw from the main photo, the eyes end up black). I left them open so I could see where the eyes were to paint the white face as you'll see in the next step. It helped with everything to remain in perspective and not blend in entirely.

Here is what the head looks like with two coats of the white painted on. As you can see, it definitely needs another coat or two since it's going over the black. I just freehand painted the face and the remaining elements on the cat. You can certainly trace your design out prior with maybe a white colored pencil or something subtle if you're more comfortable! I prefer to freehand.

I added the pink for the little flowers inside the ears and let that dry before I added in the darker pinkish purple color and the yellow dot inside the ear with the stylus tool.

I've gone ahead in this step and started to paint on some of the bones and elements! You can really get creative with this. I used my Pinterest photo for inspiration, but I had also googled up "sugar skull cat" in the search bar and ended up with some other elements that I loved. That's the beauty of redoing a piece like this - you can make it just how YOU want it to be! The sugar skull designs out there are just beautiful, colorful, and so vibrant.

For some of the elements you see here, I used the stylus and a smaller brush to paint them on. These were all two coats of paint and they are nice and solid.

I simply painted in stages waiting between each to let the coats dry and making sure I wasn't painting near an area where I needed to grip the cat to paint something else. Okay, it may have happened once or twice, but I touched up the areas! We all do it!

It's complete! I seriously am in love with the way this turned out and I will for sure be on the hunt for more thrift store finds to transform into sugar skulls!! I'm going to leave you with the desire to repaint something to match your style and decor. Oh, and a bunch of photos of this finished sugar skull cat to show you all the touches I added all the way around her!