How to Spray Paint (Almost) Anything!
How do you spray paint? Why do you spray paint? So many questions! I have the answers.
Spray paint is one of my favorite DIY tools. If it’s above freezing in my part of the world (Minnesota) then I’m spray painting something. I spray everything from plastic, to ceramics, to raw wood, finished wood, metal, and glass. You name it and I’ve spray painted it.
If you’re new to spray painting then consider this a quick overview of how to actually use spray paint. Because let’s face it, if it’s the first time you try anything, it can be intimidating.
How to Spray Paint 101
The first thing you need to be aware of when you’re spraying paint is what surface you’re covering. You will want to be sure that you’re using the right kind of spray paint for the right surface. That’s why I love Rust-Oleum 2X spray paint. No, I am not sponsored by Rust-Oleum but I really love this product. It’s a primer and paint in one and covers like a dream. The best part of this paint is that it works on all surfaces.
Make sure if you’re not using 2X that the paint you buy is for the type of surface you are trying to paint.
Prepping A Surface for Spray Painting
Most surfaces will require some kind of preparation before you apply any kind of paint. You want to scuff up most glossy surfaces so the paint has something to bite into. You can use a scuff pad or a high grit (120 should work) sand paper.
Once you have scuffed up the entire surface take a damp cloth and wipe the dust created by scuffing up the piece.
If you’re painting something electrical (like a lamp) you want to cover the bulb sockets and plug ends to protect them from getting any paint. Paint is highly flammable so it’s a good habit to get into even if you think you won’t be getting paint near the electrical bits. You cannot predict where over spray will go so just do it. It’s a small inconvenience to save your home from burning down. Just saying.
Let’s Spray Some Paint
Every spray paint can in existence says to use in a well ventilated area. I’m just going to flat out say take it outside. Unless you’re using a spray tent and a respirator you can’t possible spray paint in your home without getting over spray (aka the paint that lands somewhere other than you project) everywhere.
So let’s assume you’re outside.
Place the piece you want to spray on something to raise it off the ground. Otherwise you will be painting your piece to the ground.
I put my pieces on saw horses with 2×4’s on them but you can use an old card table or just 2×4’s on the grass. You’ll still get overspray on the grass if you put the 2×4’s on the ground but it will keep grass from sticking to your project.
Best practices for spraying paint says to stay 8 to 12 inches away from the piece you’re spraying. I’m usually in the 6 to 8 inch range depending on the wind speed outside. For some reason out the country where I live the wind is always a factor so when the wind is high I’m a little closer to the piece I’m spraying. If I wasn’t closer; no paint will make it on my project. You’ll understand what I mean as you start to paint.
For now start at around 8 inches. Don’t crack out a ruler or anything just get in that 8 inch range.
Start On the Bottom
I recommend starting with the bottom of the project. There will be people who want to fight me on this. The reason I say to start with the bottom is that most of the time you don’t care how perfect the bottom of your piece is. Here’s what tends to happen; especially if you’re excited about painting. Even though you should wait until your piece is completely dry before turning it over and painting the top of the piece. Most people will wait until it is dry to the touch, which isn’t actually dry. The paint will still be soft when it’s dry to the touch so the piece will stick to whatever it’s sitting on.
Your project won’t be glued down but in several places the paint will stick and then when you finally finish painting, after it’s dry you go to pick it up and some of the paint stays put.
If you started on the top your project is now damaged. You’re frustrated. You now hate spray painting.
Let’s avoid that. Start with the bottom. Wait for it to dry as long as your excitement will allow before moving to the top of your project.
You will want to start spraying off your project and sweep across. Stop spraying on the other side off the project. Spray painting are short bursts of spray on and off.
Ladies, think of it like when your use hair spray. You want to keep that stuff moving so you don’t get a concrete patch on your head.
You want to keep spray paint moving so you don’t get drips. If you stop moving paint will puddle and drip and again you will hate spray painting. So let’s just keep it moving.
Take A Second Pass
After your first coat is dry to the touch it’s time to give the piece a second coat IF NEEDED. I know I shouted that part but sometimes people don’t listen. Sorry, I know you’re not one of them.
Why would you put a second coat of paint on a piece that doesn’t need it? If the first coat completely covered everything then you’re done. Yes, it does happen (especially with 2X) that my projects need just one coat of paint. Sometimes if there are a lot of nooks and crannies then there might be so quick touch up spots that need attention. For those is the same process as above but localized to just the area that wasn’t completely covered.
Let it Dry!
How long does it take for spray paint to dry? That depends greatly on the weather and number of coats you used. clear as mud I know.
If the weather is sultry when you’re painting (humid/muggy however you want to describe it) then your spray paint will stay sticky longer. This is the same for any paint actually.
Ditto if your weather is rainy.
If your weather is warm and dry then I envy you. Your project will dry in a few days.
For the rest of us well it can take awhile. Some of my projects are still soft after a week of drying during the humid months.
Just to be clear that is not just with spray paint. Any paint in these conditions will take awhile to dry.
For paint to cure completely you’re going to want to wait at least a week or two. Especially, if you’re painting something like a tabletop on which you will be placing things.
You’re A Pro!
Congratulations you are no longer a beginner! Once you complete your first piece of painting you’re now a pro. If you’re curious about how to paint on things like ceramic, metal, or fabrics then check out my other tutorials! I’ve got you covered.
If you have questions I am always happy to answer them. The only reason I write these posts is to help you learn to do what I do. Unfortunately because I’ve been doing this so long some things you might be struggling with I might not realize because again I’ve been doing this forever. 😉
So don’t be shy.
I promise I never think questions are silly or stupid (unless you’re deliberately trying to be silly in which case touché).
I hope you’re spray painting projects are successful! Tag me on Instagram @svcase with your projects! I love to see what you’re working on.