Everything I know about Spray Paint!

Aug 24th, 2010

I get quite a few questions about spray paint, and I thought the most useful way for all of my readers would be to answer those questions publicly. So here it goes.


Why do you use spray paint!?!
I choose to use spray paint because I want my furniture to look like I bought it from a store instead of a refinishing project gone array. I have learned this the hard way. I have a lot of gallons of paint, and believe me, it is TEMPTING to use those. But, I have come to the conclusion that spray paint leaves a much more professional finish than brushing the paint on. I have brushed it on before….a LOT….I don’t do it anymore. Not even occasionally. Spray painting is much more time effective and my furniture ends up looking store bought.

Sidenote: If I had a super nice paint sprayer…I would definitely try using gallon paint, but brushing paint onto projects is long in my past. I hate the brush marks it leaves.

It is “thrifty-er” (is that even a word?…I think I made it up) to brush paint on because of the price of the spray paint. Why do you waste money on spray paint?
In my opinion this is a HUGE “no way” because for me time is money. Brushing paint on takes hours…ok lets be honest…DAYS. For me, I do projects all the time. If I had to wait for a project to dry several hours between coats instead of 10 minutes I would go crazy, and would get 5% of the projects done that I started. I simply use spray paint because of the time efficiency and the professional finish like I discussed above.

Why do you use Krylon? Do you suggest any other brands?
I use Krylon spray paint because of the nozzle. Their nozzle is by far the best in my opinion. Have I used other brands? Yes, I have. In fact I still do sometimes when Krylon doesn’t have the right color that I’m looking for. But, you have to have a “play it by ear” attitude when dealing with other brands. They tend to dry slower than Krylon, and sometimes they don’t coat as well. DO NOT BUY THE CHEAP $1.00 a can stuff. You will end up spending more money than if you buy less of the more expensive stuff. (Speaking from experience here). I have bought Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch 2X coverage on several occasions and have had a good experience.

What sheen of spray paint should I buy? 
I always buy gloss (not high gloss). I’ve had a lot of people wonder if their project is going to look too shiny when they get done. In my opinion, after you prime your project with KILZ, the sheen will not look overly glossy. I know that sounds weird, but that is what I have found. My projects seem to always end up looking more like a satin finish when they get done. PLUS, I want to be able to wipe off a project if my kids spill anything on them. If you use flat paint, you will not be able to wipe it off (again speaking from experience here).

Do you always prime your projects? 
Yes, in fact, I would say 95% of the time I prime my projects. I have found that the KILZ spray paint primer is by far the best. If you prime your project, the KILZ will seal it. It will help your project to have a better sheen and finish as a result.

Why does KILZ spray primer leave a sand-papery finish sometimes? 
I’m not sure. I have had several people tell me that if you shake the can for longer than two minutes than the sand papery finish doesn’t happen. I just take a high grit sand paper (220 grit) after I have primed a project and hand sand it quickly. It takes it right off very quickly.

I painted a project and the paint didn’t stick, do you know why?
Number 1: did you prime it? Number 2: was it metal or plastic, or some sort of material that the spray paint can did not say it was ok to paint it with? I bet it was either of these reasons…maybe both that made your paint so fragile and peel off.

Why do some colors cover better than others?
I wish I had a magic answer for this one. But, what I have found is that some colors are simply more translucent than others. A few of the translucent colors I have used are RED, NAVY BLUE, LIME GREEN, and ORANGE. These colors are going to need a LOT more coats than some of the more covering colors like: Ivory, Black, Blue Ocean Breeze (Krylon), Smoke Gray (Krylon), White, and Bauhaus Gold (Krylon). So, if you are painting a project with the more translucent colors described above, plan to buy at least twice as much paint.

After spraying a project do you seal it with a polyurethane after?
I have only done this on a few occasions. It simply depends if I think it needs to be protected. For example on all the dining room tables I have redone, I have sealed the top. I have used a poly-acrylic (or polycrylic I’ve seen it called both) because it is water based instead of oil based. This protects the projects that will have constant use and wear. Buy a small can of the polycrylic and buy a specific application tool sold specifically for it (a cloth or brush). Just make sure that you follow the directions  (on the bottle) on how to apply it.

How do you prevent the spray paint from dripping?
I use thin coats of spray paint and try hard not to get too much paint on the project. If you spray too much, this will cause it to drip. Check out the video found in my painting 101 post, and you will see the technique I use to spray paint. I am not perfect, and sometimes I have a drip here and there. I simply sand it off with a high grit sand paper and put another few coats of the spray paint to cover it.

How do you prevent your projects from looking stripey? 
The project will look stripey while you add the coats of spray paint. Keep spraying coats until the stripey look disappears. I think the best bit of advice here is to make sure you have enough spray paint to cover the entire project completely. Make sure you start your spraying off the project and continue across and end off the other side, then continue back across until you go back off the project. Your painting will look better if you do it this way. Glazing a project is also a great way to hide stripes. :)

How do you spray paint in your garage? Doesn’t this cause over spray to get all over your garage?
Spraying in my garage is the only way I can do projects during certain times of the year, and I try hard to make sure the entire area is covered with a drop cloth or plastic. BUT…sometimes the over spray covers the floor and items that are near. So, make sure your car and items that you don’t want dusted with over spray are not near by. I’m lucky to have a pretty large garage, so I have plenty of room for projects.

What do you use to spray your projects on outside? 
I use old carpet remnants to spray most of my projects on. I sometimes use paint drop clothes, but I’ve found that if I’m spray painting on the side of my house (in the rocks) my projects are more stable if I use carpet.

Have you ever gotten a can of paint that does not have enough pressure to spray properly? 
Yes, it drives me crazy when this happens. I take it back to the store and ask for an exchange.  They will only do this if the can is mostly full, so don’t keep trying to use it if it is defective.

Does it hurt your hand or finger after spraying a large project? 
Yes, in fact, it hurts pretty darn bad after you have held a spray paint can in spraying position for several hours. So, I have found that buying the store-bought triggers (that clip to the top of the can) can be helpful. Other than that, I’m not sure if there is a magic solution to this one either. I have just learned to be tough and grit my teeth.

Update 11/11/10
Why does spray paint bubble at times?
I have been getting this question a lot lately. I can only guess why the paint is bubbling based on why it has bubbled for me in the past. These are the reasons why I have had problems with this in my experience:
1. It is too cold. You need to spray paint between about 60 degrees and 85 degrees. Especially if it is “freezing” weather, your paint could literally freeze when it hits the cold air. I have seen this on many occasions.
2. It is too hot. If the weather is too hot, then the paint tends to dry too fast. If this is the case, it can bubble up also. Do not spray paint directly in the beating sun (especially in the summer) or your paint will bubble right up.
3. Your coats are too thick. If there is too much paint on the furniture, when it dries, it will cause it to bubble.
4. You are using a “cheap” spray paint (around $1.00 a can). This type of spray paint is much more apt to bubble.

What do I do if the paint bubbles?
Do NOT panic! :) Simply get a high grit sand paper (220) and lightly sand the bubbling after it is dry, and go over the area again with paint (no need to prime again).

Can you spray paint in extreme weather temperatures?
In my experience as described above in the bubbling section, it is best if you spray in an environment that is between 60-85 degrees. I don’t have this luxury a lot because of the climate I live in. In the summer, it can get to 120 degrees outside. The winter is much milder, but I have to have a “play it by ear” mentality with this. I still do projects in the garage in the winter, and I still spray paint in hot weather. I just stand the risk of the paint bubbling if I choose to spray paint outside of my recommended degree allotment. :)

How do you protect your lungs from the spray paint?
I always spray in a well ventilated area, and I hold my breath. I have tried masks in the past, but they drive me crazy. I try to spray paint outside in the fresh air as much as the weather allows.

Where do you buy your spray paint?
I buy as much as possible at Wal-Mart because the price is the best. Do NOT buy a can of spray paint at a craft store for $8.99 a can. Holy cow…that is a major RIP off. Krylon spray paint is $3.47 at my local Wal-Mart. Home Depot will also meet and beat competitor’s prices, so I often get KILZ spray primer there so I can save a bit of money since I buy a lot of it.

I’ll keep adding to this post if other items come up, but these are the most common questions I get on a daily basis. The main thing I’d suggest, is that you will get better at spraying your projects with practice. Practice helps you to experience the same problems that I have come across, and you will soon be an expert also!

spray painting furniture

Image Source

I am unsure of the original source of this photo. If anyone knows, please let me know in the comments below!


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