Rustoleum's New Cap and the Demise of American Spray Paint

Rustoleum with a dreaded female cap

Spray paint dates to about the 1920s, but in its familiar form, the history of the spray-paint can begins in the early 1960s. By the early ’70s, it was an art medium in the hands of New York kids, who quickly figured out that swapping out the factory nozzle for one from a can of oven cleaner could give a fatter, cleaner line. They also found that nozzles from cans of spray fixative could give a narrow, clean line perfect for detailing. By the mid-’90s, enterprising graffiti writers had figured out how to bulk-order these specific spray tips from their various factories and resold them to other graffiti writers. I remember going on little missions in the early ’90s to find oven cleaner tips — which meant taking the tips off these cans in the store, then carefully keeping them in a film canister (remember those?) full of nail polish remover between uses to keep them free from clogs. It was a pain in the ass, and when I first managed to send 20 bucks to some dude in New York and got a big sandwich bag full of nozzles in return, it was both a revelation and a time saver.

Then, there were the paints themselves. In mid-’90s Europe, spray paint companies very logically looked to graffiti writers to guide their product development. European spray paint brands, such as Belton and Montana, really paid attention to graffiti writers, eventually sponsoring projects and even gave star graffiti writers their own signature color of paint. Graffiti writers knew all these nuances of spray paint — coverage, overspray, color intensity, compatibility with other brands — and all of those other details that no weekend warrior out spray-painting his metal deck furniture is ever going to see, but will benefit from.

The two main American spray paint companies, Rustoleum and Krylon, on the other hand, have always played blind to graffiti. While Belton and Montana each have several hundred colors, Rusto and Krylon have kept their color palettes to about a dozen or two at a time, forcing graffiti writers to shop at out-of-the-way discount stores to stock up on colors only available for a season or two. Since you can’t mix spray paint colors without a lot of fuss, this is annoying. Krylon, a onetime favorite, has been so watered down that it’s simply useless. Along the way, they switched to a “fan” spray tip — the worst for any kind of artistic use — and even worse, fixed the fan tip to the can so that it couldn’t be removed. One of those details that graffiti writers really pay attention to is nozzle quality and the compatibility of the valve (where nozzle meets can) to accommodate a variety of nozzles for various effects. Krylon simply removed itself from the artistic-use market with this one move.

American graffiti writers are fiercely loyal to Rustoleum, however. Rusto is legendary as the thickest and most durable of all spray paints. It’s not for finesse: The thickness of the stuff precludes detail work, but there’s nothing that’ll last like it. Recently, graffiti writers on forums like and elsewhere were circulating photos like the above with horror. Rustoleum is busily making a switch to a “female” cap — one where the little post between nozzle and can is connected to the can, not the nozzle. It’s a small detail, but it’s one that they wouldn’t have made if they had listened to the people who know their products best.

European spray paints took awhile to arrive in U.S. markets, but they’re here now and easy to find. American graffiti writers who would go through hundreds of cans of Rusto in a year are now doing the same with Belton, Montana, or new arrival Ironlak. These European spray paints can cost twice as much as their American counterparts, but artists are artists and they’ll pay the cost to make their work. American graffiti writers certainly aren’t happy about having to pay more, and they are basically a patriotic bunch who would rather buy American, but when one company races to make things easier and another harder, the choice is clear. It’s a shame that these once-proud American companies, both based in Ohio, have put on such a clinic in business suicide, but that’s what happens when you willfully ignore your customers.

38 thoughts on “Rustoleum's New Cap and the Demise of American Spray Paint

  1. HoaX

    These are some of the most moronic comments about art I’ve ever read!! Most of u wouldn’t recognize art if it took a shit on your smug faces!! There is a huge difference between some punk kid scribbling his name and a real writer laying down a wicked handstyle. And no, most all graffiti writers do NOT steal they’re paint. Yes there are a lot of people that do rack but compared to all the writers out there, it’s a very small percentage!! You can’t steal European paint. It isn’t sold at hardware stores. People shouldn’t comment on things life the graffiti culture that they obviously know nothing about!!!


    why would a non graffer even bother with this page? thats like the KKK watching black porn. let me bust my tag nut bitch!
    ive pretty much only fucked with the basics, rusto and krylon would have been my free choice of paint but they tottally suck. now that im 18 im probably gunna troll the walmart brand on the cheap, since im shit i really dont think i should be blowin 2-3 hundred on montana(German) i fucking love the gold, hate the black, wanna fucks with the white maybe. 
    anyway id like that dude who said all this new paint pussies up the new wrighters, fuck its definatly true, therefore fuck alll spray it either costs a bitch or it looks like one, imma start jizzin on mutherfuckin walls and throwin sparkle glitter on that shit. 
    FUCK EVERYONE  fuck all your mothers, you are the ones that are the ball lickers.
    Also if your no good, just remember theres space somewhere else than another persons mark, unless you can do better, dont even think about it. and FUCK TOY hater, gatta start somewhere, thats like beatin up freshmen. 

  3. Flip

    Yeah, I bought a bag of rusto fats and german thins a few years ago. I just bought a bunch of rusto 2x, because I’m in Ohio and that is all that is available. Well I can’t use my caps as you’ve mentioned. I’m scouring the net trying to find an answer, or paint I can go buy that will fit my caps. Sucks, because Rusto American Accents were my sh*t in the late 90’s/early 00’s.
    IF anyone reads this post and has a solution to offer my problem, please respond! I’m trying to go out today to solve this.

  4. KID SEX

    My favorite kind of paint has always ben Rusto. The only time I ever paid for paint is when i would switch labels. Get each Rusto can for 89 cents. Until they figured out a way to mess up the label when peeling it off. So now i rack all my paint. Buying paint is a waste of money. I would not say graffiti is art. Not completely..some pieces are..murals..well done characters are..stuff like that. But bombing is a whole diff thing. I honestly dont care if people like it or not..talkin about tax payers this and that and the city wasting alot of money to clean it up. Good!! F*** the city and F*** the people living in it. Im on probation and the law has me paying all these BS fees for no reason, telling me i cant drink, do drugs and i gotta put up with alot of their sh*t. So f*** it..imma go paint and make the city clean after my sh*t.

  5. Fungelic

    I started painting my art with Krylon and Dutchboy and just recently since teaching my son tried Rusto, I have to say the new caps suck! They constantly clog and build up the out rim of the cap which makes for big drips and large splats of paint to hit the art piece complete messing it up, I am going back to my originals… Thanks Rustoleum!  and by the way I have never stolen a can of paint in my life.

  6. Iking

    This article is the truth. I used Valspar for their color selection and I have never stolen it. Valspar just recently switched their valves to that new crap and it is no longer usable. I wrote them a letter asking why they changed and got no reply. We have a big Jam going down this week on a wall in NC that the owner of the property initiated and there will be a lot of paint thrown down and most of it will be Montana, Ironlak, and Molotow. I am trying out the American made Evolve for the first time.  

  7. Ace

    so far I kinda like the new rusto caps, no longer being able to use an orange dot sucks, there’s no other feeling like a blast from a rusto fat cap, but I always had trouble with any other cap besides a stock or rusto fat. NYs just never seemed to fit quite right and Germans would clog within 5 min of use. the new caps shoot well and there’s plenty of female caps to try out on the new rusto.
    I’m sticking with Rusto until something proves to be a true hinderence

  8. PurplePorpus

    to leave a nude magazine in public is indecent. to paint a nude portrait and hang it up is art…
    you really need to check yourself before you start calling graffiti non-art. because vandalism is a crime is not a reason to say that graffiti doesn’t take formal elements of art (contour, color, composition) into question. graffiti is design, and design is a form of art. if you draw letters on paper, it is calligraphy or art…the venue does not denote the artistic talent. i speak for talented graffiti though…people who spent years in a sketchbook…not scribbling obscene words on windows and buildings.

  9. Bart

    The real reason Rustoleum is transitioning to the new valve is the almighty dollar. The male valves and stock caps that fit them are designed to spray twice as much paint as the old style in half the time hence the 2x on their label. Causing the consumer to use more paint faster obviously equates to more profit for big business. As far as clogging goes, this is now a far bigger problem than it was before. The bonus cans are the worst as they often malfunction/clog internally which cannot be remedied with a new cap.
    These days big corporations only seek to maximize profit so all product modifications reflect this. 

  10. piddlydiddly

    Word MoeFunk. Like the way you see this. I still love the old stock caps. Just saying- you take away an incentive to buy a good product and you give people a reason to steal a crappy one.
    Rusto had my heart, but I don’t want to pay for a crappy valve.

  11. MoeFunk

    if you’re an old school writer, you have been recently spoiled by all the thin, fat or german caps. But c’mon fellas, we were rockin stock caps back in the day and most of us havent forgotten how to use them. this will put all the new kids to the test. rusto and krylon are still rackable and although belton, molotow, montana or evolve are worth the money spent… you’re better off learning how to use what you have available son.

  12. Pingback: PRO-Keds pro-mote graffiti lifestyle – sort of? «

  13. Onli

    Oh shut up about the vandalism you damn conformists, graffiti is as much about the rush you get from breaking laws as it is the art and talent. Grow some nutzzz and live on the edge for once.

  14. I'm So Philly

    Forget Rusto…they despise their customers & Krylon is wattered down to the point where it’s useless. For GREAT spray paint that offers excellent coverage, controlability, awesome color pallettes and cap change-ability check out
    They stock Belton Molotow, Montana Colors and Evolve paint, 20+ styles of spray caps/tips/nozzles and a slew of other high quality graffiti art supplies.

  15. smarter then you

    stop destroying public propety and use paint in the right way . its not art it is a crime thats why there are laws against it and you get arrested. like racking paint thats right just steal it why buy it right. fucking losers.

  16. MIkey Terror

    The fact that it’s a crime doens’t preclude it form being art. In fact, in comparison to neutral gentrified art of museums and galleries, one can say that with graffiti, the crime constitutes the art.

  17. King of the yakidy yack yard

    i grew up on the good old lead based rusto. i dont paint as much as i used to but i still swear by Rusto.  However, the new cap situation is disheartening.  A real writer will make due with whatever he has true indeed, but not being able to throw a orange center (fat cap) on a can of rusto severely stunts its ability to be the supreme bombing tool it has been for the last 30 years. all that said, the wise thing to do is hit up every walmart in your area and scoop up all the remaining male cap rustos on the shelf and just sit on them. remember what hapened to jungle green.

  18. Webmaster General

    Well, whatever the reason for switching the valves was we have the caps that work on these cans. $5.95 gets you 20 spray can caps that either spray thin or fat (wide) for the new Painters Touch Rustos or New Valve Rustoleum. Peace!

  19. c4

    ive used plenty of rusto post and pre the male can….
    people just want to have something to talk about, the fact is, with the proper (noted above) caps these new male cans are considerably better, they offer more control and less clogging, people should be thanking rusto, most of the available “graffiti” caps would only make a rustoleum can explode…
    stop being a baby and start painting maybe youll realize that it is better rather than just listening to toy bloggers, rustoleum is a solid product, this really changes nothing and only proves how pussy internet writers are.
    only if people who blogged actually painted…

  20. whatever

    real graffiti writers do not buy spray paint. It is stolen, by the case, hundreds of cans at a time. This is a key part of graffiti culture. Rustoleum is hardly losing any business by switching caps..

  21. Vickie

    Design Master can be used in place of Krylon or Rustoleum. It has the same nozzle as always and comes in many colors.
     It can be found at Michael’s stores and if you have a tax id number you can get it from a flower wholesaler at a very reasonable price.

  22. richie valens

    The graffiti world always innovates and updates. There already has been an assortment of female caps to fith the painters touch and now the rusto cans. As far as detail work is concered. I have found the new female valve with these caps to be a smoother and cleaner line than the previous valve. Im serious, these new female caps make the Pt and rusto cans feel like european paint. Check em here

  23. Dooder 1984

    Nah, some graffiti is vandalism when it isn’t well thought out and it has no meaning. If you can find meaning in it (which I supposed you could with anything actually) then it could be legitimate art.

    A well properly planned Bomb or Throwup always looks better than the typical toy scribbles all over the place that show no artistic line quality or anyhthing like that.

    You can’t deny a proper hand scrawl or handstyle tag isn’t an artistic mark being made. It’s all in the holder of the can or writing tool to make it Art or Vandalism. I think art with no meaning is vandalism?

  24. Justin

    @Tyler: I agree. Graffiti is painting, and therefore an art form per se, but its application is vandalism. Most graffiti artists are not much more than animals marking their territory.