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How to Use Spray Paint: Tips for the Perfect Paint Job

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Learn how to achieve the perfect paint job with spray paint, whether you’re spray painting wood, plastic, or something else.

Spray paint has recently become a go-to for home renovations and DIY projects. It doesn’t create brush strokes and takes less effort to paint than other methods, especially on textured surfaces, but can also cause undesirable results and side effects if proper techniques are not followed.


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How to Use Spray Paint

Preparation

  • Ventilation: Working outdoors is the best option to maintain proper ventilation.
  • Temperature and humidity: Spray paint won’t stick well if the humidity or temperature is not maintained. For best results, spray painting should be done in warm and sunny weather with humidity below 65%.
  • Surrounding: cover the area you will be painting and its surrounding with newspapers or cardboard. If painting smaller items, create a small box in which it can be kept and sprayed. If using newspapers, make hold the newspapers in place with heavy items.
  • Safety: Always make sure to use protective gear such as goggles, gloves, and masks before you start painting to prevent the spray paint fumes from causing damage. I use a high quality respirator to avoid breathing in spray paint fumes and triggering an asthmatic reaction; you only get one set of lungs so don’t abuse them. Disposable gloves make for easier cleanup.
  • Storing Spray Paint: Spray paint should be stored properly, according to the directions on the container. This means not leaving them in a cold garage or basement where they may freeze or overheat. Ideally, you should only buy as much spray paint as you need for a project so you aren’t storing them for long periods.

If you plan to use spray paint frequently, you can consider purchasing a special tent to spray paint in. This allows you to work outdoors without having grass and leaves blowing up against your wet paint.

Painting

Cleaning

For an even finish, clean the surface you want to paint properly. Make sure to remove dust, grease, sticky residue, and dirt completely. Sanding the surface and then cleaning it with a brush also creates a rough surface that will help the paint stick better.

Primer

Priming the surface isn’t always necessary but it’s suggested for surfaces that are more porous like wood or glossier like plastic and for items that will stay outside, exposed to moisture.

Even if the spray paint claims to have a paint + primer, this is generally only for covering previous paint jobs. With unfinished wood, you want a primer as a base before using spray paint over it.

Primer can be purchased as spray paint. Make sure to shake the primer for about at least three minutes before using it. Apply an even coat and wait for it to dry before you start painting.

Paint

Shake the spray paint can for about 3-4 minutes to make sure that it’s mixed well. Shaking it too much has no side effects so make sure to shake it for a long enough time.

Always do a spot test on a scrap piece so you know how the paint works.

Apply one even coating and wait for it to dry completely before you apply a second coat. A second coat might not always be needed but will make sure the surface is coated evenly while creating a brighter color. You could also use a clean rag to wipe the surface before applying the second coating. Finish all the recoating within an hour or after 48 hours for best results.

Drying

Leave the painted object in a space with good ventilation and 65-85 degree temperature. It’s best to leave it out to dry longer than the instructed time on the spray paint bottle.

Spray paint usually dries within 7-8 hours but needs about 3-7 days to completely cure. If there is no indentation in the paint when poked with fingernails, it’s most likely cured.

Topcoats are not necessary but feel free to use one if you are looking for a different finish.

How to Spray Paint Evenly

  • Apply thin coats in many layers instead of fewer, thicker coats.
  • Make sure to start and end the spraying outside the object to prevent paint drips.
  • Use an even motion moving side to side, without bending the wrists for an even flow of paint.
  • Hold the spray can about 8 – 10 inches from the object to paint.
  • Do not hold the spray in one place for too long to avoid paint buildup.
  • Longer strokes are better than stopping the spraying every few inches.
  • If there is paint building up at the nozzle, wipe it clean.

If the final outcome is bumpy or has wrinkles, sand the surface again once it’s dry and then follow the mentioned techniques for a proper finish.

Types of Spray Paint

Different types of spray paint are available that can and should be used based on the material type and purpose. General-purpose spray paint can be used in most cases and on most surfaces. Lacquer and Epoxy ones are usually more durable and while Epoxy is difficult to clean, Lacquer is difficult to apply. For resistance to specific elements, High-heat spray paint and Rust-preventative spray paint may be used. Other types of spray paint that can be found are Enamel, Acrylic, and Oil-based.

Besides these ones, spray paint can also be found in different finishes like flat, glossy, metallic, chalkboard, frosted, satin, etc.

Types of spray paint to use for crafts, woodworking, and more!

Spray Paint on Different Materials

Spray paint for fabric

While regular spray paint can be used on fabric, it’s always better to use spray paints that have fabric compatibility mentioned on the packaging.

Fabrics with tighter weaves like cotton, linen, and silk work best with spray paint.

Priming is recommended for spray painting on fabric. For best results, use a fabric that is lighter in color than the paint and wash and iron the cloth before painting.

Spray paint for wood

Before spray painting on wood always remove any previous coats and sand the surface properly. Most general spray paints can be used with wood, but wood-specific spray paints can also be found.

Regular spray paints don’t usually seal the wood, so a sealant is recommended.

Spray paint for plastic

Since plastic surfaces are glossy and slippery, they should be sanded properly, and spray paints that are made specifically for plastics should be used.

Rustoleum makes a paint + primer spray paint specifically for plastic that I find holds up well. I’ve done quite a few projects with this product and you can read more about this on my post, Tips for Spray Painting Plastic.

Spray paint for metal

Preparation is a key step for spray painting metal. Any dust, grease, rust, oils, or dust should be removed properly, using sandpaper or wire brushes, before painting.

Spray paint will usually dry faster on metal than on other materials if the environmental conditions are adequate.

Magnets can be used to easily move metals objects around without touching them, during the painting process.

Spray paint for glass

For glass, it’s necessary to sand the surface and use a primer. To prevent drips and streaks use very thin coats of paint.


References


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How to use spray paint: tips for getting the perfect finish with spray paint!

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