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How To Spray Paint – Tips & Hacks

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If you are looking for the ins and outs of how to spray paint you have come to the right place!

Spray paint is one of my favorite ways to quickly restore just about anything! It’s my go-to when I am decorating on a budget for sure!

I have transformed so many old-dated items (like this vase, or this round tray) into new gorgeous pieces using nothing more than a can of spray paint. 

Although spray painting is fairly easy, there are a few things that you need to know to ensure your project looks good in the end. 

I have made every spray painting mistake out there early on (drips, cracks, bubbles, etc) and here I will share with you what I’ve learned and how to spray paint the right way. 

How to spray paint

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Why use spray paint?

There isn’t much I have found that can’t be transformed by some spray paint. I love how it gets in all the hard-to-reach areas that you can’t get with a brush. (Not to mention no annoying brush strokes!)

Here are some other benefits to using spray paint:

  • Time Saver
  • Dries Quickly
  • No Brush Strokes
  • Affordable
  • Easy To Apply
  • Gets Hard To Reach Surfaces
  • Quicker Clean Up Than Paint

Buy The Right Product

Not all spray paint is created equal. You will need to find the right spray paint for the project you are doing and the look you are going for. Take it from me, you don’t want to use cheap paint.

If you are not sure what to use, you can ask someone at your local home improvement store. 

My favorite go-to spray paint for general purpose projects is Rustoleum 2x Ultra Coverage. It’s a paint & primer in one and has great coverage.

Spray Painting process

Once you have the best spray paint for your project, it’s time to begin. Spray painting is broken down into a few stages:

  • Conditions For Spray Painting
  • Surface Preparation
  • Spray Paint Application
  • Clean Up

Let’s start with preparing to spray paint and what you need to know.

spray paint nozzle

Spray Paint Preparation / conditions

Like many things, when it comes to how to spray paint; preparation is key. 

PAY ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER

Ideally, you should spray paint when it is between 50-90 degrees and humidity should be no more than 65%. 

Spray painting in extreme temperatures can affect how the paint dries and can destroy your project. Avoid painting in direct sunlight.

Always check the back of the spray paint can to determine recommended weather conditions. 

AVOID SPRAYING IN WINDY CONDITIONS

When the conditions are windy or dusty, you want to avoid trying to spray paint. This will lead to particles landing on the surface of wet paint.

SPRAY IN WELL VENTILATED AREA

I usually spray paint outside or in my open garage. You do want to make sure to cover any surrounding areas to prevent spray mist. 

If you must spray paint indoors, ventilate your room well by opening windows and doors. Also, consider using a fan to help keep air circulating as well. 

PROTECT YOURSELF

When spray painting, it’s always a good idea to wear a respirator mask to prevent inhaling toxic fumes.

Also, if you don’t want paint on your hands you should wear gloves. 

Related: 15 Ways To Remove Spray Paint From Hands

PREVENT OVERSPRAY

When spray painting, it’s inevitable that you will have some sort of “overspray”. This is caused by the mist that is created and can sometimes cause tiny particles to land on nearby objects. 

In order to prevent overspray, make sure to cover surrounding areas. 

The easiest way to do this is to use a spray paint booth or create your own by using a large cardboard box.

You can also cover large nearby items with newspaper, drop cloths, tarps, etc. 

woman holding white spray paint can

SURFACE PREPARATION

In order to ensure that your spray painting project looks its best, prepping the surface is key

Always make sure to clean the surface well, remove any loose paint or rust, and sand glossy surfaces. 

Mineral spirits or regular household detergents will usually work for cleaning surfaces. You can also use a wire brush to remove any rust. 

CONSIDER USING A PRIMER

I’m guilty of not always using a primer. If you are working with an item that has already been painted it is usually not necessary to prime it. 

However, if you are spray painting bare wood, metal or glass I would highly recommend priming it first. 

A good primer will help provide good adhesion which will create a smooth uniform surface. This will prevent any stains from bleeding through and also allow the paint to provide better coverage. 

PREP WOOD

If you are working with raw wood, it’s always best to sand with medium to fine sandpaper. Then, make sure to wipe clean with a tack cloth to remove all the dust. 

With previously painted wood, I don’t find it necessary to always sand, but you can if desired. 

Prep Plastic

When spray painting plastic, it is vital to prep the surface. It is recommended that you use an ammonia-based cleaner on old plastic, and paint thinner on newer plastic. 

prep glass

When it comes to prepping glass for spray paint, always lightly sand to scuff up the surface. This allows for better adhesion when it is not so slick.

For best results on glass, I always apply a spray paint primer to it first. 

finger on nozzle of spray paint can spraying orange paint

HOW TO SPRAY PAINT

Now that the conditions are ideal, and you have prepared the surface of your object it’s time to master the spray painting techniques.

  • Shake Your Can. Start by vigorously shaking your can for a minute after you hear rattling. Don’t skip this step! Your results will be better the more mixed the spray paint is!
  • Continue To Shake Can During Painting. You want to make sure you continue to shake the can during the painting process.
  • Test First. Sometimes the nozzle sputters a bit and needs a spray or two to get going. Always test on a scrap surface before starting your projects. This will also allow you to test your painting technique and the distance needed to achieve desired results. 
  • Hold Can 6-8 Inches From Your Project. If you spray too close to your project you will get the dreaded drippy results. If you are too far away it will be difficult to achieve even coverage. 
  • Start & Stop Off Project. You always want to begin and finish your spray pattern off of the object you are painting. 
  • Motion Matters. Make sure to spray in a steady, even, back-and-forth motion while slightly overlapping strokes. It’s important to always keep the can in motion while spray painting to avoid drips. 
  • Thin Coats. Spraying multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat is the best way to ensure a successful project. It will usually take 2-3 thin coats to achieve the desired effect. It’s tempting to want to get it done, but this is where most people mess up. If you try to spray it on thick, you will have to deal with messy, drippy paint. Don’t do it!
  • Come At It From Different Angles. Switch up the angle you are spraying from with each coat. This allows you to get into every nook and cranny.
  • Recoat After A Few Minutes. Generally speaking, you can recoat after about 5 minutes. Check the back of the can as some spray paints need longer. 
  • Let Dry/ Cure. Once you have achieved the desired coverage, it’s important to let it fully dry. Spray paint drying times can vary between material, brand, and type of spray paint you are using. It’s always best to stick to the dry time on the back of the can.

CLEAN UP

Once you are done, it’s important to clean your nozzle. Hold the can upside down and spray until there is no more pigment. Then, clean the tip of the can with a paper towel or rag.

This step is important to make sure the nozzle doesn’t clog for the next time you want to use it.

If you do have a clogged tip no worries – just pull off the tip and clean with mineral spirits or acetone. You can also switch out the tip with one from another can.

MISC TIPS, Hacks & accessories

Use a Turn Table. This turntable is great if you want to rotate your item to paint all angles at once. You can also use a lazy susan if you have one.

Elevate Your Item. Using scrap wood or painter’s pyramids is a great way to elevate your item and help you to reach the bottom to achieve clean edges.

Use A Spray Paint Handle. This is especially helpful for larger projects. The spray paint handle will not only make it easier, but you will have less finger fatigue as well as less paint on your hands.

Hardware. When it comes to spray painting hardware, I found it easiest to poke holes through cardboard (or an upside-down egg carton) to keep the hardware upright which allows you to paint the entire piece in one go.

Read Instructions Online. I don’t know about you, but the instructions on the can are always too small for me to read! I usually pull them up online to make it easier.

Speed Up Drying Time. Follow any one of these 12 tips to dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to dry.

Conclusion

Now that you know all the ins and outs, I hope you are inspired and ready to tackle your next project. Just remember, preparation is key and practice makes perfect.

Thanks for stopping by!

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