Spray Painting Guide and Expert Tips

Start with the spraying basics

Once you have followed our guide to help you set up your compressor, you are ready to start paint spraying. You need to begin by preparing the gun and thinning the material you plan to paint with. You must read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when you do this. In fact, we recommend that you go a step further and run a couple of tests before you start work. Just make a note of the thinning ratio and spray paint a similar surface before starting with the actual project. This will help you to get a smooth even coat.

The spray gun must be clean and properly loaded. You also need to adjust the airflow and fan pattern and set the compressor at the correct pressure. You can now use your system but before you start, you must prepare your surface. This will make a big difference to your end the results.

Prepare your paints and surface

You must make sure that the surfaces you plan to paint are totally free from dust, loose flakes and rust. You must wipe down all the surfaces with suitable thinners, or some kind of surface preparation. This removes all traces of grease and oil. You also need to strain your material before you fill the pot.

How to spray paint smaller items

Once you have loaded the strained material into the gun and you are sure the gun is properly adjusted; you are ready to spray.
It is pretty easy to use a spray gun but you will need to follow these simple guidelines. Spray painting takes practice! Don’t be surprised if you need a couple of attempts before you achieve a smooth even coverage. Once you are confident and competent, you are ready to spray paint expensive or delicate pieces of furniture.

  1. Maintain your spraying position – or the distance between yourself and the surface you are painting.
  2. If you have rollers or a turntable, this is a great time to use them. You can then move the work around while you stay the same distance. This gives you a more even finish.
  3. Sometimes you have to move the item by hand. In this case, try to find a position where you can reach as much of it as possible. For example, if you are spraying a pine chair, put it in an elevated position. This makes all the surface areas accessible without moving it.
  4. While you are painting, hold the gun perpendicular to the work surface at all times and at the same distance from the work for the entire “pass”. A “pass” describes the action of spraying from one end of the work to the other where a series of passes is needed to complete the entire piece. This can take a bit of practice to master so try it a few times on waste wood, cardboard or paper before you start on anything precious.

Getting a good finish – spray painting mechanics

Diagram showing spray gun distance fromworkTo get a good paint finish, you need to move your arm in a wide sweeping motion and keep your hand as still as possible. You should carry the gun in a straight line (“pass”) across the work. We recommend that you begin spraying about 6 inches before the work and 6 inches after the work and then release the trigger. This will help you get a smooth, even finish that goes right up to the edge of your work. After a few passes this will become second nature and the small amount of paint or other material that you lose will be insignificant.

Before you begin to spray larger items, adjust the gun to the widest fan you possibly can. This will reduce the number of passes needed to complete the work. Always remember that you need to hold the gun approximately 6 to 8 inches away from the work.

When you spray smaller items, you need to reduce the size of the fan and spray slightly closer to the work. You will quickly find the correct size of fan and the distance to hold the gun for each piece of work.

While you are spray painting, it is important to move the gun at the same speed as a brush stroke. Keep an eye on your work though. If the material is going on too light or too heavy then you need to increase or decrease the speed of the pass. Each pass should overlap the previous pass by approximately 50%, or 100% if the previous pass is a light tack coat. A pass should also follow the same direction as the previous one to avoid criss-crossing which will give you uneven coverage.

What should I spray paint first?

You are the best person to decide which order to paint things in, depending on the size and shape. As a general rule, you should:

  1. Always try and spray with the gun moving away from yourself and towards the open garage door, repellent fan or exhaust fan. When you are spraying outdoors, make sure you spray into the direction of the wind so your paint or other material gets blown away from you.
  2. Start with the least visible areas and work towards the parts that will be seen. This will create an even finish and allow you to work around spots that may already have been covered. For instance when you are spraying tabletops or kitchen cupboards it is important that the edges are sprayed first. In tight areas such as drawers more wrist action is required and in some cases “feathering” or spraying lightly is required. When you become more familiar with the equipment you will develop a feel for how the gun responds and become more adept at controlling where and how heavily the finish is applied.

We always recommend that you make a dry run of the entire process before you start spraying.