How To Thin Latex Paint For A Wagner Spray Gun? (5-Step Guide)

Looking how to thin latex paint for a Wagner spray gun? Great, you're in the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, we'll show DIY painters like you how to:

  • Test your paint's consistency
  • Get the tools you need
  • Thin paint the right way
  • And much more!
How To Thin Latex Paint For Wagner Spray Gun

So, before you do thin latex paint for a Wagner HVLP spray gun, I recommend you read...

What You Need To Know About How To Thin Latex Paint For A Wagner Spray Gun

There are two types of paint: latex paints and alkyd paints. Latex paints are water-based and thicker than oil-based alkyd paints.

That thickness is also referred to as viscosity, which essentially means how well your latex paint and oil paint will flow.

We're going to focus on latex paint today and why it is essential to dilute your latex paint to enhance its flow and consistency. Good flow is particularly important when using a spray gun for your painting projects.

If your paint is too thick, it will clog your spray gun's nozzle...and not just once but repeatedly. And it always seems to happen at the worst time, like after you just climbed a 3-story ladder or when you're in a hurry to avoid getting drying marks where you last painted.

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Each time your Wagner HVLP spray gun clogs it will take you 10-15 frustrating minutes to clean it out. So, do yourself a favor and thin your latex paints right the first time.

On the flip side, be careful not to over-thin your latex paint. If you do, you'll end up with a runny overspray mess on your hands (and everything else.)

Now, let's learn how to thin latex paint the right way...

Supplies You'll Need To Thin Latex Paint For A Wagner Spray Gun

  • Latex paint
  • 5-gallon bucket (or smaller if you need less paint)
  • Wooden paint stir stick (free when you buy your paint)
  • Cup of water (or Floetrol)
  • Mesh filter/strainer (or cheese cloth)
  • Funnel (optional)
Did you know: Latex paint is highly durable, won't yellow over time, and it's quite flexible.  This makes it a great choice for a long-term, high-quality paint job.

How To Thin Latex Paint For A Wagner Spray Gun: 5-Step Guide

  1. Check your latex paint's thickness
  2. Pour some paint into an extra bucket
  3. Add water (or Floetrol)
  4. Stir the paint and water until it passes the thickness test
  5. Pour the paint through a filter and into your Wagner spray gun

Step 1 - Check your latex paint's thickness

Before opening your can of paint, give it a good mix for 30-60 seconds. You can do this by either shaking it with both hands or by holding the can's handle at knee height and quickly moving the handle front and back in a short motion to swing the can. 

That step is more important with leftover paint that's been sitting for a long time. You can probably skip that step with new paint.

Either way, you'll now open the can and use your wooden paint stick. Begin by mixing the paint in a circular motion and up and down for about 10 times. The up-and-down motion helps mix any paint material that has settled at the bottom. 

After stirring, lift the stir stick out of the paint and note how the paint drips off of the stick. It will likely drip in one long stream initially for a few seconds and then start dripping on and off.

That's how you know your latex paint's too thick for your paint sprayer and needs to be thinned. 

An alternative to watching the paint drip off of the paint stick is to pour it into a funnel and watch the paint flow. You have perfectly thinned latex if it flows out of the funnel in one consistent stream. 

But I doubt that's the case, so let's start thinning... 

Step 2 - Pour some paint into an extra bucket

Begin by pouring your desired amount of paint into a 5-gallon bucket or smaller. 

If your Wagner spray gun will pull paint directly from a bucket, then you'll probably want to use a strainer during this pour. But most people with a smaller painting project just use a handheld sprayer, which is fine.

Step 3 - Add water (or Floetrol)

Now you'll want to mix in some water and stir. Typically, a 1/2 cup of water for every gallon of paint helps achieve the desired consistency.  

You can always add a little more water later, if necessary. And don't worry about adding too much water, because you can also add a little more latex paint later, if necessary.

We have noticed that higher quality latex paints tend to come a little bit thicker and may need a little extra water.

Some professionals prefer to use a paint conditioner, such as Floetrol, instead of water. It can give your paint job a smooth finish, but isn't critical. Floetrol is available on Amazon or in most paint stores.

Step 4 - Stir the paint and water mix

Stir the latex paint slowly as you add a small amount of water. Keep using the up-down-spiral movement with your stir stick, as we mentioned earlier.

As you stir the mixture, pull your paint stick out every 10 seconds or so to check how well the material comes off the stick. If you need your paint thinner, just add a little more water. 

Once your latex paint passes your thickness test, it is much less likely to clog your HVLP paint spray gun.

But let's test it to be sure...

Step 5 - Pour the paint through a filter and into your Wagner spray gun

Pour a small quantity of the latex paint mixture through a filter or strainer and into your airless paint sprayer.

Then test spray a surface (preferably a vertical surface) to see that the spray pattern and consistency of the paint is working well.  

If the mixture is still too thick, you may see a little bit of an "orange peel" texture. If the mixture is too thin, your paint will make drip marks and have a long drying time. 

The ideal consistency is when the mixture doesn’t drip and dries quickly. Then you can smile proudly, having perfectly thinned your latex paint for your HVLP Wagner spray gun.  

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Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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