My Best Spray Painting Tips & Tricks
Hey everyone!!! Sorry for the radio silence around here on Monday. I know I said I’d give you warning when I was going to be out, but truthfully, the weekend got away from me and I opted to just the take day off instead of stressing myself out to get a post up. My next DIY frame project is taking more time than I expected (shocking, right?!?)…BUT…it is almost done so hopefully, I can show you NEXT Monday!
Today, I wanted to check in with a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. I finally got my pictures together…so let’s chat about one of my favorite DIY activities: spray painting!
Over the last 3 years, I have spray painted A LOT of things for our home. I hadn’t really used spray paint a lot before I got into DIYing; but now, it’s my go-to method for breathing new life into something old. Here are just a few of my favorite projects, done (almost) entirely with spray paint!
Porch table and chairs / Green high chair / Gold + wallpaper lamp
Green craft caddy / White dry erase frames / Elephant bookends
Striped USA magnetic board / White + gold lamps / Circle mirror
You can see more of my spray paint projects here!
I’ve found that more than any other painting method, spray painting is quick, easy, relatively inexpensive (depending on what you’re painting), and really gives superior finish, sheen and durability. However, it can also be messy, hard to control, and can leave you with less-than-desirable results if you’ve never done it before or have had little practice. Over the years, I’ve experimented with a variety of spray paints, techniques, and setups. I have pretty much fine-tuned my process for spray painting; a process that gives me great results every time with little-to-no mess. I want to share my tips and tricks with you today!
First, let’s chat paint choices! I haven’t tried everything out there, but I have tried most of what is available at your typical hardware store…and these are my go-to products!
Favorite Primer. Zinsser 123 spray primer comes out strong and fast. It covers SO well, and it dries super fast so you can get onto the next step rather quickly. I should buy stock in this stuff because I use it for almost every single project I do!
Favorite White Spray Paint. Rust-oleum’s basic White Protective Gloss Enamel is my favorite white, which I use more than any other color. It doesn’t lean blue-ish or grey-ish or yellow-ish, but it has a nice creamy white result. This spray’s coverage is awesome, and the finish is super strong even without a top coat.
Favorite Clear Coat. If the item I am painting is going to get a lot of up-close-and-personal use, I will always give it 1-2 coats of this clear gloss spray. I find this clear coat combined with ample cure time really produces excellent durability!
Favorite Brand. I use to be dedicated to Rust-oleum spray paints, but over the years, I have found myself reaching for Valspar more frequently. While I still hate their spray button (can’t it just be like a normal spray paint nozzle?!?!), I love their color selections…and the coverage with this stuff is so smooth and even. I like that the spray actually comes out a bit slower than other sprays, so drips are less likely. I also feel like these cans contain so much paint. Even when it feels almost empty, I get quite a bit more out!
Favorite Gold. A bit of disclaimer here because I have not tried every single gold spray paint out there, but this one…I really do love. You have to be careful with Krylon because their cans/labels look so similar to each other but the paint color can be wildly different. This Metallic Gold Foil leaves my items looking like shiny gold/brass with amazing sheen!
I am sure there are a million ways to successfully spray paint, but here what I do that gives me great results every single time!
Before I start spray painting, I turn my cans upside-down for a little while. I’m not sure this does much, but I like to think it helps pull some of the paint off the bottom of the can. When I’m ready to paint, I shake the can(s) for at least a minute, also upside-down. My son LOVES to help me shake up the paint, and we quite frequently dance to Taylor’s Shake It Off while shaking up our spray cans!m It’s become a thing. #truestory
I feel like I have tried every method out there for mess-free spray painting (probably not, but I’ve tried a lot!). We don’t have the luxury of a dedicated spray space inside a workshop or garage (oh, how I wish we did!), so in lieu of that, this is what I use…
Yep! My go-to spray painting system is a 2×4′ sheet of 3/4″ thick plywood…on a bucket…in the grass. Always spray paint over grass. Grass grows and gets cut…cement is a PAIN to clean and blankets and tarps fly up in the wind and get in your paint! Once you’re done laughing at my primitive setup, read on to find out why this one is a winner! 😉
First, almost nothing sticks to wood. I’ve spray painted on foam core, cardboard, newspaper, tarps and more, but when the paint dries and I go to lift off my object, shreds of the surface come with my project. Even when I can’t use my big board like this (which typically only works for smaller or single projects), I lay my item-to-be-painted onto scrap wood.
Second, having the wood board up off the grass helps keep bugs and dust from getting in my fresh paint, and more so, allows me to paint my object from all angles. Ideally, my board would be a bit higher, but this trash can is what we had, and it gets my projects high enough to be able to paint from below.
Third, this system allows me to rotate my paint surface very easily. Why rotate your paint surface? Because when you spray paint into the wind, you end up with paint in your nozzle and all over your hands, and you waste a ton of paint. I am constantly paying attention to how the wind is blowing and rotate my project so that I am always spraying in the same direction as the wind.
Fourth, painting on a wood sheet like this allows me to paint my project out in the grass and then move it as I need to. Whether it’s the end of the day, rain is coming in, or it’s especially buggy out, I can pick up my entire project and move it to a dust-free, clean spot to dry without having to touch any of my freshly painted objects!
I paint a lot of frames – picture frames, mirror frames, bulletin board frames etc. I honestly think I’ve spray painted almost every frame in our house! I like to place objects with long flat edges onto small pieces of scrap wood (on top of my large sheet of wood). This not only allows me to easily paint the edges, but then I can pick up the frames and move them to a safe area to dry without having to touch the newly painted surfaces. I just slip my hands underneath the frame’s edge and only touch the dry areas underneath! I can then place wet frames onto vases, cans of paint, or pots to dry…giving me space on my main board to paint more frames!
Now that you know what paints I like and how I set up, here is quick glance at exactly what I do when I spray paint an item:
I also wanted to include a few of my quick tips for spray painting in the cold. Most cans say they should only be used in 60-70 degree weather…and for optimal results, this is true. But I’m too impatient to wait for warmer weather these days, so I have come up with a system that allows me to spray paint in colder temperatures…down to about 35ish.
All that said, keep in mind that the temperature not only effects how the paint comes out of the can (clogs are more common in colder temps), but it also effects the smoothness of the paint as it sets/cures. I found colder temps sometimes results in a scaly/bubbly finish. If there is something that I really must have a super smooth, beautiful, clean, superior finish on, I wait until it’s at least 50 degrees outside to paint.
One thing that I recommend more than anything else is practice! Spray painting can be intimidating and messy, but with practice, you too can become a pro at breathing quick, easy and vibrant new life into your old and tired possessions with just a can of paint!
So tell me…do you like to spray paint? Do you have a tip or trick that you swear by? While I feel like I’ve perfected my system, I am always open to trying new things and I’d love to hear what works for you!
Hope you all are having a great week! See you back here Friday for my monthly project round-up 🙂 See you then!
12 Comments on “My Best Spray Painting Tips & Tricks”
I like using a spray handle. Saves my trigger finger and gives me more control. Thanks for the great tips!
How do you clean clogged nozzles. Do you have any tips for us?
Thanks for sharing this! I will be using this in the near future, as I have some spray painted projects to do 🙂
Great advice and post!
Lauren | LB Designs
I'm not going to lie, when I first saw this title in my feed, I was like, "meh, not going to be a very interesting post but I'll read it anyway" BUT!! I found this post super helpful, succinct, and pin-able. Definitely coming back to this next time I need to spray paint. Thanks Megan & good job! PS – Love the blog redesign. It's very classy and creative but still nice and minimalistic. 🙂
I love spray painting and your tips your spot on!! I never thought of painting on wood. I have a drop cloth that I use, but like the idea of an old piece of wood that won't get blown in the wind (very frustrating). Thanks for the great tips!!
Good tips! Typically I avoid spray painting because I feel like the mess/prep/cleanup is such a pain — but your tips about using the pail and board made a lot of sense. Maybe when it warms up I'll be willing to give spray paint a chance again 🙂
I love spray painting and your tips your spot on!! I never thought of painting on wood.
I liked that you talked about how it would be a good idea to sand down things you want to spray paint with 200 grit sand paper. I didn’t’ realize that the type of sand paper you use could have a huge effect on how the paint job turns out. It does seem like the type of spray paint you use could change the over all look of the paint.
Can you tell me if you have ever spray painted a mirror.. not the frame but the actual mirror. Here’s what I am considering:
I have a large mirror that has a frame BUT the frame is mirror also. All I want to paint is the mirrored frame antique white and then make it look distressed.
I am a little hesitant to try this because it was my grandmother’s and I do not want to ruin it.
Any suggestions on how to do this and what poroducts to use would be appropriated!
Thank you for this post! I followed your directions as closely as possible on a black standing mirror painting it gold. The results we great, and thank you for the tip of painting on a wood platform, the project sticking to things was always a pet peeve of mine! Keep following your dreams!❤️
I am so glad my tips and tricks helped you out with your project!!! Thanks for circling back and letting me know!
Have a great day!Megan
I used rustoleum spray paint to paint an old painted chair.. used rustoleum primer, then paint. All good. Waited 1 day between each coat. Then, spray crystal clear enamel, and the paint immediately wrinkled. Why??