How To Spray Paint (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On October 22, 2021

Are you wondering how to spray paint like a pro?

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide you'll learn:

  • What supplies you'll need to spray paint properly
  • Proper techniques for spray painting
  • The step-by-step process for spraying paint
How to Spray Paint (5-Step Guide)

Spray painting is fast and efficient for changing the color or of a surface or staining wood.

So, before you do apply spray paint, I recommend you read this quick tutorial to help you do it right.

What Supplies Will You Need For Spray Painting? 

You won’t need much when spray-painting besides the paint, a paint sprayer if it’s not an aerosol can and masking materials.

Here’s a list of materials you’ll need if you want to have a complete set of spray paint materials fit for knocking out any job.

Spray paint/paint sprayer

The first step in spray painting is either buying a paint sprayer or aerosol spray paint cans. Check out our buying guide for the best paint sprayers on the market. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a good paint sprayer these days. 

Try a handheld HVLP paint sprayer for a quick solution to medium-sized paint projects.

Did you know: Most spray paints can be used on nearly any surface. This includes things like styrofoam, tin, ceramic, and even fiber glass!

Paint masker

A paint masker is crucial for completing larger paint jobs efficiently.

Masking paper/film

Find good deals on masking paper and film by shopping on Amazon or at your local paint store. Cardboard boxes laid flat work really well when painting small projects.

Drop cloth

A drop cloth helps protect the ground from getting paint on it. If you don’t want to buy an actual drop cloth, you could always use something like old bedsheets or blankets.

Masking tape

Using the correct masking tape for the job is important. Because tape adhesion is different on surfaces like windows, the white masking tape will sometimes leave them sticky. 

You’ll also need a more advanced painter’s tape for 2 and 3-tone paint jobs when masking surfaces that have been recently painted — you don’t want the painter’s tape to rip off the paint. 

Razorblade/plastic razor blades

Razorblade is an important tool for cutting masking tape straight when masking areas like windows. You might notice that they sell small razor blades at your location paint store designed specifically for cutting masking tape.

Paintbrush

There will always be spots that need a bit of touch-up when spraying large jobs, and that’s where you’ll need a paintbrush. We recommend an angled brush for hitting corner areas.

Paint thinner/lacquer thinner/mineral spirits

There will always be overspray when using a paint sprayer, and solvents help remove quickly remove the paint from unwanted areas. 

Paint thinner/lacquer thinner is also necessary when cleaning airless paint sprayers. The appropriate paint remover is a good thing to have around when spray painting.

Sandpaper

Sandpaper is almost always necessary for a great paint job. If you don’t sand the surface before painting, you risk paint adhering poorly or chipping off after just a short period of time.

Power sander

A power sander might help to speed up your painting project. There are a few different kinds of power sanders, including orbital electric sanders, dual-action rotary, vibrating palm sanders, and belt sanders. 

Stencils

Stencils help keep you inside the lines while spraying.

Read More >> What Are The Best Chrome Spray Paints?

How To Spray Paint  (5-Step Guide)

Below you'll find our step-by-step guide on how to spray paint effectively.

(You can click on any of the links below to jump directly to that step!)

  1. Select the correct spray paint for the job
  2. Prep the surface (sanding, cleaning, etc)
  3. Spray surface
  4. Peel masking
  5. Clean up/touch up

Step 1 – Select the right spray paint for the job

Using the correct paint for the job is crucial. For smaller jobs, a spray can work just fine, and for larger jobs, there is nothing more satisfying than saving a bunch of time by busting out the paint sprayer.

So, which paint type/paint color will you choose for the job? It depends on what you are painting. Here are the different types  of paint  and what they are used for:

Water-based/latex

Latex paint is the most common paint in today’s world of painting when it comes to interior/exterior. Wood stains are also sometimes water-based, but they tend to stay on the surface of the wood while oil-based stains absorb further into the surface.

Oil-based

Oil-based paint is most commonly used on housing projects. Oil-based paint is more toxic than water-based latex, and for that reason, it is used less and less by painters. Oil paints typically have a high gloss appearance that repels water well on exterior projects.

Oil-based stains, however, are still widely used across the world on wood projects because they tend to have the most attractive finish.

Stain/varnish 

Stain and varnish are used to change the color of the wood and protect it from UV rays and water damage.

Lacquer 

Lacquer is used to achieve a hard and smooth finish on wood projects like wood trim and furniture.

Polyurethane

Polyurethane is commonly used to paint modern-day automobiles, and it can also be used to seal in wood projects like flooring and furniture.

Search things like ‘best stain for pine’ when searching for the right paint for the job. We also recommend paints like Rust-Oleum when painting metal surfaces.

High-quality paint generally works better in spray paint guns. Cheaper paint tends to clog the gun and cause it to not last as long.

Use Amazon or your local paint/hardware store to buy all the necessary supplies for your spray paint job.

Read More >> What Are The Best Spray Paint Primers?

Step 2 – Prep the surface 

Prepping the surface is crucial and often takes a lot longer than the actual spray painting. 

Our advice? Buy a paint masker tool because it makes masking ten times easier. Simply connect the appropriate painter’s tape and masking film/paper to the paint masker, and go to town.

Sanding is almost always an essential step when painting. The best way to make sure you properly sand your project is by searching for the specific procedure on the internet. 

For example, when painting a car, you’ll want to use a higher-grit wet-sanding process, and when painting walls you’ll want to use something like a 120-grit piece of sandpaper attached to a sanding pole for the best results.

Always sand it properly before painting your project.

Step 3 – Spray the surface

Spraying starts with either shaking the spray paint can or prepping the paint gun for the job.

For spray paint: Remember to read the label on the specific spray paint product. Shaking spray cans thoroughly will ensure a more even paint job all the way down to the end of the can.

For spray guns

Some HVLP spray guns might require that you dilute the paint with water or paint thinner before spraying. HEA (high-efficiency airless) sprayers typically require a priming process, and handheld turbine sprayers connecting to an air compressor will need to be regulated to the correct PSI  before spraying.

Important: Straining the paint with a paint strainer will ensure that the sprayer doesn’t clog up. If your paint sprayer stops shooting out paint at any point, you may have a clog in the system that needs to be fixed using the recommended method specific to your paint sprayer. Thin coats/light coats always make for a quality paint job.

Applying the first coat of paint/first coat of primer 

After you have shaken up your can of spray paint or prepped the paint sprayer, it’s time for the fun part. 

Let’s talk about technique: Always hold the paint can or gun perpendicular to the surface you are painting at about 12-inches away from the surface.

When painting with a can of spray paint, it’s sometimes okay to spray spontaneously, but if you air painting walls you’ll want to use the 50/50 method. What’s the 50/50 method? 

The 50/50 method means that you spray back on 50% of what you just painted for complete coverage. 

So, you’ll start by spraying a complete line of paint down or across the wall, and then spray the next line of paint so that 50% of the first line is covered by a second line.

This makes painting fast and effective. If you’re not sure what we mean by the 50/50 method, pull up a YouTube video on how to correctly spray paint walls.

Did you know: Using a primer when you paint can actually save you money! This is because it creates a much better surface for your paint to adhere to, so you'll likely use less of it.

Before you start spraying, you might also want to test the spray painting tips out on an inconspicuous area to make sure it functions correctly.

How many coats of spray paint? It depends on the project. For example, painting drywall will take 1-2 coats of primer and 1-2 coats of paint. If you are painting a car, you’ll want 1-2 coats of primer, 1-2 coats of base coat, and 1-2 layers of clear coat. You should never hesitate to apply a second coat/recoat of paint.

Remember to add a topcoat/clearcoat when painting projects like cars for the best results.

Read More >> What Are The Best Respirators To Use For Spray Painting?

Step 4 – Peel the masking

Peeling the paint masking can be done immediately after the paint is applied if it can be done without falling on something like the carpet or another object that will be difficult to remove paint from.

Drying time depends on your specific project.

Step 5 – Clean up/touch up

Cleaning up will include cleaning the paint gun(if you used one) according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You must read the instruction manual carefully to avoid ruining your paint sprayer.

Chances are if you sprayed a room or larger area that there will be touch-up painting needed for completing the perfect paint job fit for a satisfied customer. Touching up spray paint is done with a brush, and touching up is simple. 

For touching up spray paint with a paintbrush, load the tip of the brush with paint, and dab the paint on the area that didn’t get painted.

You might also want to spot sparkle and spot caulk areas after spraying for perfect results, and paint build-up may require you to perform some finish sanding.

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Sprayers For Interior Walls?

Other Valuable Resources on How To Spray Paint

Don’t forget to use a respiratorsafety glasses, and gloves when spray painting to avoid physical injury.

Buy Paint Supplies Secondhand

Are you running short on funds but still want to get your paint project done? Try shopping for paint supplies on your local classifieds section, Craig’s List, and Facebook marketplace. DIY painting doesn’t have to be expensive. 

Ask Us Questions!

Don’t forget to leave us all of your home improvement/DIY project questions on our Pro Paint Page.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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