Everything you need to know about how to spray paint. Spray paint is an easy way to transform and spruce up any project. Check out all the tips and tricks you need to know BEFORE spray painting including safety, hacks and clean up.
Spray paint is like a magic wand of paint. Once you know how to spray paint, you can easily transform any object to any color with a can of spray paint.
You may have noticed I am obsessed a little bit with spray paint… I have spray painted a ridiculous amount of stuff and own a ridiculous amount of spray paint…
Here is all I have learned about spray paint… by researching about it (or by making mistakes) and I am sharing them with you. I have tried to answer every question on spray paint. So, bookmark this page so you can come back to it every time you have any question about spray painting!
Table of Contents
- Why spray paint?
- What surfaces can be spray painted?
- Spray paint safety
- Preparing to spray paint
- Must have spray paint accessories
- Before you spray paint
- Do you need a primer before spray painting?
- Best way to spray paint
- How long does spray paint take to dry?
- How to get spray paint off of hands
- Spray paint FAQ and troubleshooting
And if you find that I haven’t answered something, just leave me a note and I will be happy to help answer it to the best of my ability!
Why pick spray paint?
- It is so easy to paint all the nooks and crannies of little nick-nacks and turn them into gorgeous decor items.
- You get awesome and smooth coverage without the worry of brush strokes.
- It dries much faster than brushed on paint.
- If you want to paint something metallic, like gold or silver, spray paint is the perfect answer!
- It is easy and fast with barely any cleanup – if you follow all the tips below.
What surfaces can be spray painted?
Let’s see… everything?
Spray paint is so versatile… you can use it with wood, plastic, metal, fiberglass, tin, ceramic, mirror, glass, masonry, plaster, concrete, terra cotta, canvas, MDF, laminate, and particle board.
Of course, you don’t want to spray painted surfaces that come in contact with food for obvious reasons…
Now that we have decided we can spray paint virtually anything, let’s talk about the most important thing with spray painting –
Safety while using spray paint –
- Always wear a mask. And I am not talking about that simple mask – you need to wear a real respirator. Sure you could hold your breath while you spray but let’s be honest, it is not practical. Those spray paint particles sit in your nostrils and will race to get into your lungs when you decide to breathe. Do yourself a favor and don’t play games with your lungs.
- Wear safety glasses. Again, when you spray paint, there are millions of tiny particles launched in the air… please protect your eyes and wear safety glasses.
- Wear gloves. Not necessary but it helps keep your hands from getting spray paint on them. Nitrile gloves work best. If you do get spray paint on your skin, read on for a super easy trick on how to get spray paint off hands.
Spray paint preparation-
- Always spray paint in a well-ventilated area – preferably outside.
- Expect lots of over-spray. You definitely don’t want to do this in the middle of stuff you care about.
- Set up a paint booth. My favorite is the table top spray shelter or the large spray shelter but you can totally make a booth out of old cardboard boxes too. Just be sure to cover up all the cracks and crevices cause spray paint can get through every little space.
- Put down a drop cloth to cover the floor. But always put cardboard under the item being painted.
Useful spray painting accessories and hacks-
- Use a turntable. If you are spray painting small objects, a turntable helps easily move it around as you paint. There is a turntable specifically available for this purpose. I use a one from Ikea. You can also find it here.
- Elevate your projects. Painter’s pyramids are great for this. Also, you can use tacks or even little pieces of scrap wood (like I normally do, see below).
- Use a spray paint handle. Your fingers will thank you. The spray paint handle makes spray painting so much easier! It also helps in uniform coverage.
- Paint the underside first – If your project needs the underside painted, do that first. Then once dry, turn it over and paint the rest of it.
Before you spray paint
- Make sure the weather is neither too hot nor too cold. I live in Southern CA so I am blessed being able to spray paint pretty much all year round. But from experience, spray painting below 55F and above 90F is not a great idea.
- Make sure whatever you paint is clean and dry. No dust. No moisture. It can lead to cracking of the paint which really is a pretty cool effect if that’s what you are going for. There was one time I forgot to wipe down a part of my vase before priming it.
- Make sure the area where you are spray painting is free from dust and water. The spray can blow stuff around. So don’t spray paint in an unfinished yard. Ask me how I know!
- Shake it! Every. Single. time. You have to get the paint in the can to mix well. Hold the can upside down, and shake it for two minutes. You get nice smooth paint if it’s well shaken. Also, you get a good arm workout!
- Do a quick little test spray AWAY from your project. Make sure the can is spraying smoothly. Sometimes there can be particles lodged in the nozzle and you don’t want them on your project.
- Always make sure the spray part of the nozzle is facing AWAY from you. Of course!
Do you need to use a primer before spray painting?
- Not necessarily. It depends on the item being painted.
- Some spray paints are paint and primer in one. Those work mostly well for most hard surfaces.
- Two surfaces I always prime – glass and unfinished wood.
- If you are painting raw wood or other porous surfaces, you need a primer because the wood will drink up the spray paint and give you a blotchy finish. This one is my favorite primer
- If you are spray painting over a stained surface, you can have challenges with the stain seeping through. In that case, you need to use a BIN primer before you spray paint.
Best Way to Spray Paint
- Spray at least 8 inches away from the surface.
- Start outside your project, move your hand in a continuous straight line across until out of the project and then back again.
- Overlap the spray lines. Each time you spray left to right, make sure to slightly overlap the previous spray. This is important to achieve an even coat of paint and color.
- Make sure to spray in one continuous spray to avoid any uneven areas in the paint.
- Never ever stop in the middle of a spray line on the project. This will lead to pooling and dripping.
- Spray light, thin coats and allow them to dry before you continue. Doing lighter coats will also prevent dripping.
How long does spray paint take to dry?
- It varies based on humidity and temperature so there is no simple answer.
- To recoat, you can do so within about an hour – once the spray paint is dry to touch.
- To allow the paint to fully cure and be ready for use – it could be almost a week.
- Allow the project to cure in a well-ventilated area. There will be a lot of outgassing from the painted project and you certainly don’t want to have it inside your house during that time. For example, when I painted the kids’ furniture with spray paint, I left it out almost 10 days until I could no longer smell the paint.
How to get spray paint off of hands?
It is a simple 3 step process –
- Apply oil to hand or skin – any kind of oil works – vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil
- Rub it into the spray paint on your skin. You will see the paint start to dissolve
- Wash and rinse your hands with soap and water.
That’s it! It works every time to get any oil-based paint or stain off of your skin too!
That pretty much covers the basics of spray paint.
Spray paint FAQ and troubleshooting
Below are the most frequently encountered problems and questions about spray paint and how to troubleshoot them.
Do you need a clear coat on top of spray paint?
Not usually. If spray paint is allowed to cure well, it results in a very hard durable finish. If you need extra protection, I recommend this clear gloss spray. It is also perfect if you are trying to add a glossy touch to a matte finish.
Why is my can spraying chunky and uneven?
Spray paint cans spray chunky and uneven if you haven’t mixed your paint well. The only solution – shake shake shake!
Why is the spray paint cracking?
Spray paint cracks if the surface was not cleaned well and had dust or oils on it. Like my vase below where I missed wiping down a part of.
How to fix cracking spray paint?
Same way you fix spray paint drips – sand it down with a low grit sandpaper. Make sure to completely wipe away ALL the dust before repainting.
Can you spray paint furniture?
Yes! Absolutely!!! It might not be cost-effective to spray paint very large pieces of furniture though. In those cases, I recommend a paint sprayer but you totally can spray paint furniture. I have spray painted the Ikea Latt table and chair for kids, the kids play kitchen and many more projects.
I hope I have covered everything there is to know about spray painting. If you think there is something I missed or have a question, just leave me a note and I would be happy to answer!
Also, show me your favorite spray painted projects!!
Anika's goal is to inspire and empower beginners with woodworking, DIY, home improvement, and home decor ideas.
She wants everyone to unlock their creative potential and experience the feeling that comes with making something. Nothing feels better better than seeing something and saying "I can make that!"