Look What You Can Do With Film Canisters

If you find an old film canister in a junk drawer don’t throw it away. Instead repurpose it into a very cute and stylish gift box or Christmas Ornament.

I am collector of throw-away” stuff”.  Not junk, but honest to goodness – discards.  My friends and family know to give me their throw-aways, which are different than cast-offs. Cast-offs are unwanted items like furniture and lamps.  Throw-aways are bits and pieces of packaging, parts of items – stuff that seems useless once it’s original purpose is complete.

Throw-aways are what I can’t seem to say “no” to.  I love the challenge of coming up with some new use for these discards that will be Oooohhh… la la worthy.

Repurposing Idea for Film Canisters

Craft Ideas with film canisters

Recently, when I saw a bag filled with film canisters at a local camera store being thrown away – I had to speak up.  I couldn’t bear to see it tossed and asked the salesman, if I could please have them.  He handed the bag right over to me and asked what I was going to do with them.  I told him, I didn’t have a clue, but I will come up with something sooner or later.

These plastic film canisters are becoming obsolete, but can still be found at camera stores and where film is processed or maybe even in a junk drawer in your home.

What Can You Do With Empty Film Canisters?

Craft Ideas with film canisters

Prest-O Change-O ! Add some decorative paper, buttons, an earring, tulle, and some sheet music to the plastic film canisters along with some hot glue and you have…

Pretty mini- gift containers.

Film canister craft ideas

They make giving a gift… a little… extra special.

Gift Wrapping Ideas

Gifts that will fit into a plastic film canister:

Anything small – earrings, rings, and other jewelry (if the jewelry is on a hanging card, discard the card and place the jewelry into a piece of tissue paper), rolled up dollar bills,  a key to something big, like a car.

How to Turn a Film Canister into a Mini Gift Box

Film canister craft ideas

Vintage clip-on earring with the clip removed hot glued to the top.  Cover for Canister: A cut section of a Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog cover.

Gift boxes made with film canisters

A gold and pearl button on top of a larger black button glued onto top.  Cover for canister:  Scrapbook paper

Crafting with film canisters

Mother of pearl button with a tulle rosette and rhinestone button glued on.  Cover on canister:  Gift-wrap

Craft Ideas with film canisters

Black vintage button glued on top of black top. Cover on Canister: Sheet music

Film Canister crafts

Square button with a silver pearl button glued on top.  Cover on Canister:  Wallpaper scrap.

Don’t they make pretty little gift boxes?   They were practically free – only the cost of the materials I used to decorate them with – most of which were throw-aways, too.

Christmas Tree Ornaments Made From Film Canisters

glittered covered film canister becomes a Christmas ornament when you attach ribbon to the top

Apply spray glue all over a film canister and the sprinkle white or colored glitter over the surface. Let dry. Punch a hole in the center top and thread a ribbon through it and presto…changeo… you have one very cute gift box to hang on your Christmas tree for someone to find on Christmas morning.

How would you add your style to a film canister and what would you put in it?   I would love to hear your ideas?

Trash to Treasure: Used Film Canisters make the perfect small gift box. Add your own style for added charm.

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  1. Hi, Diane!
    I’ve been following you a long time, but somehow I missed this one. It’s really impressive! I love working with stuff like this, too.

    One thing I’ve been working lately with is “plarn” — plastic yarn. If I see a plastic bag with a nice color, I fold it lengthwise, and cut the folded bag into strips widthwise so they come out like long rings. Then I loop the rings together. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I’m sure you will understand. Then I crochet them into bracelets. They look really nice. Some of them look like leather. Wine store bags look particularly nice.

    Some of the BEST recyclers / re-users in the world are artists — and I know you’re one of ’em!


    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Helen – I love finding new ways to use stuff in ways other than they were intended to be used. I still have a huge bag full of the canisters hoping that one day I will find another use for them.

  2. Castwoody says:

    How to cover the container? Fold? cut ?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Belinda – To cover the canister, I just cut the decorative paper to size. I made sure to add a little extra to overlap the ends when the paper is glued and wrapped around the film canister.

  3. I use them for ear buds. They work great. I just need to decorate them and use them for stocking stuffers.
    Thanks for the decorating ideas.

  4. What about the testing strip vials that the patients with diabetes use.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Anita – I am not sure what those vials look like, but I think the fact that they are vials would be prefect to repurpose into a box to give a small gift in. Thanks for sharing your idea.

  5. I like to buy the pretty duct tape and put it around the container. About $5 in quarters fits in it so when we go to vacuum the truck after a trip, we always have a roll with us. I keep one in my bag too, old habit for pay phones but now it can be for anything.

  6. These are the exactly what I need for my daughter who ALWAYS takes off her earrings/ jewelry, tosses it in her purse, and looses a majority of them.


  7. Love your revamped film canisters! Very good idea! I spraypainted mine but I like the pretty paper instead. I filled mine with bubble stuff and made bubble wands!

  8. Miss Prickly says:

    Film containers are a great prize for teachers too. I teach a rocket science unit to fourth and fifth graders and we use these to make Alka-Seltzer rockets. The clear ones make the best seal.

  9. Michele Askeroth says:

    This is one of the coolest ideas to come along in quite a while. Only problem is that there might not be many of them around anymore. I think I might still have a few kicking around, but it would be so fun for stockings at Christmas! Love it!

    1. Hi Michelle-

      Thanks for the comments you sent my way. I found out from my local phootgraphy store, that they still get a lot of the film canisters. They told me that in our local high school the kids have to learn photography the old fashioned way first, before they can take a digital class. You may want to check out a photography store near a high school for the film canisters.

      My best- Diane

      1. I know these comments are old- so sorry : /

        Diane has a great suggestion, and it’s true what she wrote of high school photography students (usually…though the DSLR is still replacing film-using cameras, even in schools).

        Another, virtually identical “throw-away”-type item that you may find more of lying around, instead of film canisters, are those garden-variety, often orange-ish colored, empty plastic prescription bottles, gently cleaned, with the labels removed (and discarded with consideration for the types of personal information printed on them.

        The only significant differences between empty film canisters and empty prescription bottles are that film canisters sometimes have a bit more “give” and “flexibility” than the hard plastic prescription bottles; and, perhaps more relevantly, prescription bottles often have a plastic thumb-tab sticking out from the upper rim of the bottle, as part of a child-safety-cap mechanism.

        This may be undesirable; however, the bottles with child-safety-caps, with hard plastic thumb-tabs sticking out of the side of the pill bottles, near the top, may have thumb-tabs with small gaps of space in the middle, allowing for the possibility of looping ribbon, twine, yarn, etc., through the tabs. You may find creative use for this “hang-ability” option, offered by pill bottles without having to physically modify the bottles themselves.

        Hope this is helpful, not annoying ; P

  10. These are really pretty. At first, I won’t lie, I thought they were going to be really cutesy but I would love to give or get one of these. I loved that you showed all the different possibilities and uses of so many different fabric treatments. Now, I wonder if I have any of these babies in an old junk drawer somewhere? :)

  11. Cherry Kay says:

    Great idea for film cannisters. I loved the idea that the reader gave about putting quarters in them and giving them college students as a gift for doing the laundry. Those might be covered in instructions on how to operate a washing machine! Thank you for your kind comments on my latest post. Hope tha tyou’ll visit again and check out my other entries. Cherry Kay

  12. Fabulous idea!!! So cool! I hope you’ll stop by my PRETTY PACKAGES PARTY next week and share some of your beautiful ideas! Pick up a button for a little reminder!

  13. Becca Dulgarian @ Blue Cricket Design says:

    Diane I love this! How perfect for a re purposing lover like me! I’ll be featuring this link with full credit to you along with your button and an invite to come check you out on Aug. 30th! Well done!

  14. Billie Monster says:

    what a genius idea!

  15. Thanks for the inspiration. I love different ways to wrap gifts of cash, this is one I am saving for later.

  16. Funky Junk Interiors says:

    oh goodness.. this is so adorable! You’ve received the most views in this category (and I can certainly see why!) so I facebooked you. :)


    1. Thanks Donna- I am still getting the hang of fb. It makes me happy to see that my projects are inspiring to readers – it makes my day and makes blogging so worthwhile.
      My best – Diane

  17. I don’t know what I’d put in it, but I’m thinking! These are just to cute not to make!

  18. Pittypat Paperie says:

    OMGosh… cute, cute, cute! I am right there with you. My hubby never throws a little box or anything away until he sees if I can use it. I love to think of it as recycling, but I really just love making someting cute from “nothing”, lol.

    Hope you will stop by and visit me sometimes over at Pittypat Paperie.

  19. TRU @ TRU TALES FEATS says:

    They turned out so nice and stylish!

  20. Christine says:

    They came out super cute!

  21. Pretty Nice Thing says:

    I love this idea, hope it’s okay I am linking

  22. PeaceLoveTerri says:

    Such a fabulous idea!!

  23. Kaysi @ Keeping It Simple says:

    those are just great!!! I love this idea!

  24. Bridgette says:

    They are so pretty! My fav. is the music one! Thanks for joining us for another great Anything Related! ~Bridgette

  25. Brittany (aka Pretty Handy Girl) says:

    Oh darn! I used to have oodles of film canisters but through them away years ago. Wish I hadn’t after seeing you post. I do wrap scrapbook paper around ovaltine canisters and similar sized canisters to use as gift containers. But, who would have guested…film canisters…OMG too cute!


  26. what a great idea… they are darling!!!
    LOVE your blog :c )

  27. c.r.a.f.t. says:

    i love giving gifts in recycled things….lots of times i just uses boxes from the pantry :) great idea :) i’m going to feature you next Monday!

  28. I go to the camera store frequently, so I can salivate over my dream camera. I keep hoping on one of my trips that it will be on sale or I will win the lottery and be able to buy it outright without feeling guilty about spending so much money. Next time I go, I will tell him to check out this post. :) Thanks for leaving a comment.

  29. Wow.Brilliant idea.Love it.

  30. Cute idea!! good things come in small packages : )

  31. Love the cannister covered in Neiman Marcus paper – what a fabulous idea!

    1. Hi Kristina-

      I ripped the cover off of that NM catalog about 6 years ago and have kept it in my paper stash. I have used bits and pieces of it for different projects. It is a raised metallic card stock and so pretty. Neimans always creates great looking catalogs at Christmas. I have another one that I kept intact. I place it on my piano during the holidays. It is so festive and a perfect holiday decorating accent.

  32. Sydney @memorableminutes says:

    That’s so cute you decorate them and put gifts inside. I use them to store safety pins and change and stuff. I love film canisters!!!

    1. Hi Sydney-

      When I was in college my mom used to send me quarters to do my laundry in the canisters. Thinking of that, brings back fond memories.

  33. such cute ideas! I love to see original ways to use things in a different way than we usually view them. Great post!

  34. beachhouseliving says:

    Very clever and pretty too! I used film canisters for change and money, buttons, safety pins things like that. It seems like decades ago. I never would have thought about decorating them….I’m a big fan of the plastic cases my razors with the built in cream arrive in. I use them for vitamins to storing safety pins of course. They may just be in need of some decorating.

  35. Linda @ A La Carte says:

    What a very cute idea! My Mom saves quarters in them and then gives them to the great grands when they come to visit. That would be a great gift for a college student who has to use a laundromat!

  36. What a cute idea for this little guys!! Wish I would have saved all those cannister back when I used film now!!

  37. Creatively Melissa says:

    What an awesome idea! Love it! My Dad is a photographer and he may have a bunch of empty canisters….lol

  38. These are just darling, and so easy to personalize. Thank you for sharing your gift of creativity with us. I look forward to more!