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How to Spray Paint – Problems Solved and FAQ’s Answered

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Spray painting makes it fast and easy to paint or make over almost any item to give it a new life, but it can be tricky to apply if you don’t follow a few basic tips. Here you will learn how to get your spray paint problems solved.

Spray painting and paint cans. Text overlay on image says All your Spray Painting Questions Answered

The two great things about using spray paint to give a fresh coat of paint to just about anything is that the finish will be smooth and even with not a brush stroke in sight.

The other good thing about using spray paint over other types of paint is the ease of use on textured items, like wicker where there are a lot of nooks and crannies in the surface where paint needs to get into are much easier to paint with no paint build-up from trying to push a brush loaded with paint into.

Spray paint is not latex paint so it cannot be cleaned up with soap and water like latex.

In this post I am going to answer all your spray painting questions. If you have a spray painting problem and it is not addressed here, please leave a comment and will try to help you figure out what went wrong.

Spray Paint FAQ’s Answered 

Hammered Brown Spray paint from Rustoleum is the best spray paint to use on outdoor metal furniture.

The Most Important Spray Painting Tips Not to Overlook:

  • Setup a Good Painting Environment first to guarantee painting success. Lay a drop cloth down and use lifts to hold objects off the work surface. Painting lifts can be purchased at the paint store, but you can use any type of can or jar from your recycling bin or blocks of Styrofoam from packaging to hold your item off the ground.
  • Sand the surface using a fine-grit sanding block to rough up the surface a little so the spray paint has something to stick to.
  • Always spray outside or in a well-ventilated area like a garage with the door wide open. Wear a protective mask when you spray.
  • Shake, shake, shake the can for a minute, then shake it again for another minute and also while you are spraying.
  • For optimal paint adhesion and drying,  try to spray when the temp is between 65 – 85 degrees. Cooler is better.  75 degrees and no humidity – perfect. If you spray when it is very hot and humid out, it can dry to a grainy texture.
  • Use more thin coats than fewer heavier coats. Thin coats dry faster and adhere better. Sand lightly between coats and remove the sanding grit. Then apply another light coat. Continue this until you have the desired coverage.
  • Before adding another coat, use a clean soft rag to wipe the surface from any overspray, dust or debris that may have gotten on the surface between the coats. You can also use fine steel wool, or even a super fine sandpaper to knock down any overspray in between applying thin layers.
  • Long, light fluid strokes are the way to spray – and don’t forget to shake the can a few times while you are spraying. Keep the can vertical, if you spray the paint with the can horizontally the paint may spatter or come out blotchy.
  • You must get all the coats needed on the piece you are spraying within an hour. If you can’t get this done, wait 48 hours to apply a new coat. If you add a coat before this waiting period, you run the risk of the paint wrinkling.
  • Let the piece dry longer than the directions on the can state. Weather conditions greatly effect the drying time and the piece may feel dry to the touch, but may not have cured yet. When placing the piece back in your home to use, be gentle with it for a few days while it cures.
  • When spraying smaller items, place them on a drop cloth covered Lazy Susan. Turning the Lazy Susan as you spray will get an even coat on all sides.

How To Spray Paint FAQ’s Answered

How many coats of spray paint are needed?


The number of coats needed to get full coverage when spray painting any item is at least 2 light coats, perhaps even 3 applied at different angles to make sure you are getting everything covered.

More light coats are better than one heavy one, but be sure to get all the coats on within an hour.

How long to let primer dry before spray painting?


The length of time to let primer dry before spray painting an item can vary with each brand of spray paint. The ideal time is when the primer is completely dry.

If you used the recommended thin coat it should dry within an hour, but read the spray paint can label to make sure.

Drying time will take longer in hot and humid conditions.

How long should I wait until I can re-coat my piece?


Re-coat within an hour as mentioned above. If the temps are optimal between 65- 85 degrees you can re-coat about every 5 minutes as long as you are applying light even coats.

If the item is two sided, let the first side dry to the touch, then flip and paint. It should dry to touch in 30 minutes, to handle – 1- 2 hours, and be fully dry in 24 hours.

How long does spray paint take to dry?


When using spray paint to paint an item, drying time can range from 30 minutes to a few hours. This range in time depends on the weather and how thick you apply the paint.

For faster drying times, spray on a nice day with low humidity in the air. Also use only light coats as they dry faster and will also help the paint cure faster after you are finished spraying.

All paint takes time to fully cure – up to 30 days. What curing means is that that paint and underside of the paint takes time to become completely hard and durable. So even if your spray painted finish feels dry to the touch, it may not be dry on the underside – so be gentle with the item for a few days.

Why did the paint finish crackle or wrinkle when I re-coated?


Here is how to fix wrinkled spray paint that can happen after spraying an item with spray paint. A few different factors can cause the finish to wrinkle or crack when applying another coat of paint.

The most common – is applying the paint too thickly – which makes the surface of the paint dry too fast and not the underside.   When you re-coat, the solvents in the paint shrink and this causes the wrinkling.

How to fix spray paint crackle and the way to avoid it– spray only when the temperature is 65 – 85 degrees, apply only light even coats, and re-coat every few minutes.

Also read the back of the can. Some brands say you should get all re-coating done in under 30 – 60 minutes. After that, do not re-coat at least for 24 – 48 hours or the paint may wrinkle. Again…read the label for specifics.

Another reason it may happen is if there is wax or residue on the item that is incompatible with the paint.

Sand, clean well and dry your piece before painting. Use a primer and make sure the spray paint you are using is made for that specific surface.   Read the label.

I just spray painted my chandelier – it came out nice, but some of the sections are not smooth – they feel like sandpaper. What am I doing wrong?  Help!


Powder residue after spray painting happens when you paint outdoors when it is hot or in the sun. 

The paint spray dries before reaching the surface and it cannot level because of too rapid evaporation.  It can also be caused if you hold the can too far away.

It is better to spray in the morning or evening during the summer and keep the can about 8-16” away from the item as you spray.

If it is a chandelier or large piece that has to be sprayed in sections, block off other sections while you spray one section at a time with a piece of cardboard.

The Pieces That I Spray Paint Always Have Raised Blotches, Do I Have to Sand It and Start All Over?


When spray painting, after shaking the can for a minute and then shaking it again for another minute – hold can upright 8” – 16” from surface.

Press trigger or nozzle and begin covering the surface lightly in a steady back and forth motion, slightly overlapping each stroke and shaking the can a few times as you paint. This will give you a nice even finish.

You get blotches of paint when you hold the spray in one area for too long.  If you get blotches and want to sand it to start over.

Wait for the paint to completely dry. If you sand too soon you will create a gummy mess that will be hard to remove.  If this happens, use paint remover to remove the paint, clean well and start over.

How to Seal Spray Paint?


After the item you spray painted is completely dry, depending on the sheen of paint used, you can apply a clear coat over spray paint. If you use high gloss, semi-gloss and you want a shiny finish, you really don’t have to seal it.

If using a lower sheen you can seal with a water-based sealer like Minwax Polycrylic. It comes in a spray version. 

Most brand’s mention on the can’s label about how to seal and even sell sealers to go with certain formulas of their paints.

Can You Paint Over Spray Paint?


Yes – you can paint over spray paint as long as it is completely dry, not just to the touch but really dried and cured.

You need to sand the finish lightly with 100 grit sandpaper to provide something for the new paint to grab onto.

If you sand too soon after spray painting you will create a gummy mess.  After sanding, clean the surface well with a damp rag and let dry.

Then you can paint over the spray painted surface with any kind of paint.

What is the Best Spray Paint for Plastic?


When paint plastic or any plastic surface including outdoor plastic furniture including resin. It is best to use a spray paint formula that has been made just for plastic.

There are two brands that make plastic spray paint labeled specifically for plastics.
One is Krylon Fusion for Plastic or Rust-Oleum Specialty Plastic Primer spray paint.

The reason to use one of these spray paint formulas when painting over a plastic item is that they will bond to the very smooth and pliable surface and will not peel off.

How to Unclog a Spray Paint Can Nozzle?


If it is the Rustoleum brand with the fancy spray tops – they can’t easily be fixed. If the can is new then I would take it back to the store to get your money back.

Three Options to Unclog a Spray Paint Nozzle:

Before trying to unclog a spray paint can nozzle, put on a pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes just in case the nozzle moves as you work on it. You don’t want to get spray paint in your eyes.

1. After each use, clear the spray valve on the paint can by holding the can upside down and spraying off until only clear gas comes out.

2. If that doesn’t work, remove the valve and run very hot water over it to remove any paint.

You can also soak it in nail polish remover for about a half hour. Then take the end of a pointy toothpick or straight pin and put tip into the holes on the nozzle to clean out the paint.

Do both holes on the nozzle – the underside and the one on the side of the nozzle.

Important:  Only clean a spray paint nozzle when it is removed from the can. NEVER stick a pin into the nozzle when it is still on the can.

Place back on can, shake the can very well, really shake it so the paint is completely mixed and spray. If it doesn’t spray, hold the can upside down and try to spray.

3. If you have a few cans of spray paint in your paint supplies, try switching out the nozzles.  This usually helps get the can spraying again.

TIP: Before I throw out used cans of spray paint I save the nozzle. I place them in a baggie and store it so I have plenty when I need to change a clogged one.

How to Remove Spray Paint Odor on Newly Painted Furniture?


One way to reduce spray paint odor is by minimizing its curing time. Paint the furniture outdoors on a dry, moisture-free day, if possible. If you already painted the furniture, set it outdoors on a non-humid day.

Sunny weather helps even more. Place it outside in the sun, bring in at night so it won’t get moisture on it.

Do this for several days until the smell is gone and the paint cured. The air movement helps cure the paint and will cut down on the odor.

If unable to keep the furniture outdoors, store it in a garage for a few days, or in a well-ventilated spare room of the home.

How do you spray paint when it is too cold to go outside to do it? 


Create a no-cost collapsible spray booth to store in your garage.  This not only keeps the overspray from going everywhere, but it is also a place to spray paint when it is too cold to go outside.

Just be sure to open the doors while you spray and then close them when you are done.  Also remove your cars from the garage. Trust me… overspray happens.

You can find large boxes in the dumpsters behind retail stores.

How Do I Spray Paint Small Items and Cabinet Knobs and Hardware?


Place your item on a piece of foam. If your object doesn’t have a flat bottom, use toothpicks, Popsicle sticks, whatever to raise it up so that you can easy move the piece your spraying without actually touching it.

This way you can move the piece easily by picking up the foam and not the actual object to turn it around so that you get all sides equally covered with spray paint.

Pebble style foam that comes packed in boxes around TV’s and knock down furniture works the best as the spray paint doesn’t melt it.

STYROFOAM will melt if the spray paint is applied very close to the surface.  Using light coats of paint will lessen any melting of the foam.  I use my blocks a few times and then throw them out once they start melting away.

Tip for spray painting metal cabinet pulls and knobsuse styrofoam to raise items when spray painting

How Do You Use Chalk Paint in a Spray Can?


When using any brand of chalk paint that comes in a spray can, follow the same spray techniques as you would a regular can of spray paint. Keep the coats light, spray from about 8 inches away from the surface and follow the label directions.

Spray painting tips and tricks

How to Make a DIY Spray Painting Booth

  • Get a box to accommodate the item to be sprayed.  If you spray paint a lot, get a big box that will accommodate all sizes.  Use Duct tape to tape a few together to use when spraying larger items.
  • If you have an extra box or two – flatten them to make a large liner for the floor.
How-to-make-a-mini-spray-painting-booth

Small objects only need a small box.

Spray-Paint-tips-and-tricks

I also like to use a box top to place items in.  You can find these in the box stacks by the check out lines at Costco or when you buy cans of dog food in bulk.

This allows you to carry the item inside to dry where the temps are better. Then you can collapse the spray booth right after using and pull the car back into the garage.

No need to have to wait for it to dry before moving it.

Instant-knock-down-spray-painting-booth

To Store Your Instant Spray Booth: Simply open the bottom to make the box flat and store it vertically against a wall and out of the way until you need it again.

When you need it –  just fold up the bottom of the box by tucking every other flap under each other so the box becomes an opened top box again.

How to Spray Painting Large Items:

For more spray painting tips, see these posts:

Spray-paint-questions-answered

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349 Comments

  1. I am so confused over spray cans of Clear Lacquer, like which one is the best that will NOT yellow and hold up to anything and never chip, also which one will prevent you from being placed 6 feet under from all the fumes if you live in a small condo place. I don’t have a problem with the actual spray paints because I use my over head oven fan, kind of a unique trick and it works well, but not with the Clear Lacquer. Any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it very much, thank you! Kat

    1. Have you ever tried the spray version of Minwax Polycrylic? It comes in an aerosol crystal clear semi-gloss or stain finish. It hardly has any smell to it at all. Almost all spray lacquers -solvent or oil based will smell or will darken or turn what you are working on yellow right away. Polycrylic is water-based.

  2. What is the best surface to paint chalk board backing I used an old picture and painted over the glass. Needed something quick and it was handy . Love your blog thank you Tami

    1. Thanks Tami – You can paint it over any smooth surface. Painting on the glass works, and like you said is quick and handy, but if it gets a lot of handling – you may see the paint come off since glass is very smooth. The paint has nothing to adhere to. If it does come off (it may not) – run some sandpaper over the glass to rough it up and then repaint. I have painted right over fake oil paintings in frames that I find in thrift shops to create my chalkboards.

  3. Hi, I’m actually preparing my daughter’s beach themed wedding, and she wants to have candles along the aisle as she walks in. She is actually getting married on the beach in Laguna and at sunset, so I thought some candle light would be lovely. What do you think would be a good idea for candlelight on the beach that won’t either blow over or blow out? I also wanted to ask you, have you ever painted metal. I saw a silver metal tree that I would love to use for a wishing tree, but it’s the wrong color. Do you know if it would be possible for me to maybe spray paint it gold, because it is silver at the moment. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide, it would be much appreciated. =)

    1. Hi Nury – You can definitely spray the silver to gold. Make sure the piece is clean and dry. Then spray the gold over the surface, wait a few minutes then repeat until you have the coverage you desire. Let it dry. If it is after an hour and you see it needs more paint – wait 24 hours before applying another coat. This will lessen the chance of wrinkling.

  4. Where can I purchase ( walk in retail store ) the champion sterling silver spray paint? I’m in Plano Texas. Thank you!

  5. Hello,

    Instead of buying a new bedroom set, i would like to spray paint the one i have. But i want to use the “stone” spray paint.The set has a dark cherry finish. Is this a good idea? Do I have to sand it? Please help.

    1. Keria, I love your idea of spray painting your existing bedroom set. Paint is always a great savings if the piece(s) your painting is still sturdy and useful. But I wouldn’t suggest the “stone” paint. Even though bedroom furniture is in a room less used than, say a family room, that rough surface wouldn’t be fun to rub up against while your putting on bedding, or if you happen to be wearing a sheer fabric item that accidentally gets caught on the rough/stone finish. If you love the stone look, I’d suggest using it on some accessories (lamps, vases, etc.) in the room and using a smooth finish on the furniture in some color that appeals to your design.

      Depending on what your furniture’s finish is, you may not need to sand it. My hubby and I have spray painted several pianos with Krylon made for plastic spray paint. It worked exceptionally well! We used satin black for most but did one piano in creamy white. Just make sure the surface is really clean (wash with TSP), dry and dust free before you paint.

      Good luck :-) (Sorry I’m just chiming in now…I just got Diane’s blog back.)

      1. Hello-

        I painted a small desk and every place came out fine except the top. Some places on the top are fine but some feel grainy and now that it’s dry has a dry powder that wipes off when you touch it. We used a glossy paint and it’s glossy everywhere except the certain places on the top and they have a powdery residue. I think The top may have been laminate and not wood. We did sand the piece but maybe we missed spots? Can we just seal the top with something and be done?

        1. Hi Shelley – What happened to the top of your desk can happen with gloss paint especially when it is hot outside or is not shaken well enough. The hot air dries the paint before it even gets to the surface – that is one reason why it feels powdery. It can be fixed. You can seal it with a water-based sealer and be done. I would use Minwax Polycrylic. It comes in a few different sheens. Choose the sheen you want and use a good quality brush or microfoam roller with round edges to apply it to the top of the desk.

          If you want to repaint it, go over the top of the desk with 100 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface a bit. Remove all the grit with a tack cloth, then repaint when it when it is not so hot outside. Remember to wait at least 48 hours before respraying or you may get a wrinkled surface. Also shake the can very well and shake as you spray. It is very important so the paint mixes well.