5 Tips for Better Sprayed Paint Results

Thursday, August 13, 2015 -
h5 Tips for Better Sprayed Paint Results

As time goes on, I find myself using a paintbrush much less, and spraying just about everything through a spray gun. I love the coverage and have decided you can beat a sprayed finish appearance wise. Although spraying requires more set-up and clean-up, most of the time the process is actually faster than brushing or rolling. On rare occasion I will be looking for a heavily textured, rustic look and I'll bust out a brush. For some looks (like high gloss lacquer), spraying is a requirement, but I have found I can achieve almost any style with a sprayer.  

Whether you have a paint/finish sprayer, are looking to buy one, or just find yourself using a shaker can from time to time, these 5 tips will improve you sprayed paint and finish results. 

1. Don't Skip the Prep Work

The first step to professional looking results is taking the time for prep work. Not the most fun part of the process, but critical for good results. Fill nail holes, knots, and defects with wood filler. If you are painting your project, smoothing a small bead of paintable caulk in the seams of intersecting pieces can hide small imperfections and take you finish up a notch.

2. Base Coat

For stained wood projects, your base coat needs to be a pre-stain conditioner. If you want to learn more about how I stain wood, watch this tutorial

If you are going to spend the time, money, and energy to paint a piece of furniture, you want it to last. There are a few products out there (ie: chalk-based paint) that advertise "no-primer needed". In many cases that's probably true, however, there are several situations where a good quality primer is still needed. I like to ere on the side of caution and almost always spray a coat of primer before I paint.

 Knot holes and dark or very red stained wood are notorious for tannin stains bleeding though multiple layers of paint and finish. I've tried every kind of primer known to man and the ONLY product I've found to stop tannin stains dead in their tracks is shellac. It's also a "must have" when spraying paint or finish onto MDF. Shellac is a pretty crazy stuff. If you're curious where it comes from, you can read my post I wrote about shellac.

3. Adjust Your Spray Pattern and Pressure

So your project is prepped and primed. You're ready to fill up a paint cup and start spraying, right? Hold your horses there pal! First, make sure you get acquainted with your paint gun and learn how to adjust your air pressure and spray pattern.

Too small spray pattern or too low pressure = blotchiness. 
Too much pressure = rough texture. 
Too large spray pattern = overspray, wasted product, and possible drips and sags. 

I rocked a $15 Harbor Freight, pneumatic HVLP paint gun for a few years. I definitely got my money out of it! Although it requires an air compressor, its a great little gun for small projects and getting your feet wet in the paint spraying world. I loved it, but in recent years I've upgraded to the *Finish Max Pro. I spray everything through it (paint, lacquer, shellac, etc.)

4. Protect Your Project From Wind and Debris

I can't tell you how many times I've prepped, sanded, and sprayed the most beautiful, even finish just to walk out 5 minutes later and find a stupid mosquito stuck right in the middle of it! Ahhh! If I was rich and famous, I'd have a cavernous workshop with a dedicated paint booth. Since I have yet to win the lottery, I've had to find a more practical solution. 

I've been using the * Spray Shelter from HomeRight lately. If I'm really worried about debris blowing into my finish, I'll turn the shelter with the door facing my block fence and almost nothing gets in. The white walls are pretty fabulous too. During the day the fabric works like a light diffuser and actually reflects bright, clear lighting, helping me see all sides of my project. 

5. Sand, Sand, Sand

Finally, the most crucial step in achieving a beautiful, long lasting finish is proper sanding. Sand before you fill holes. Sand after you fill holes. Sand before you prime. Sand after you prime. Sand between each coat of paint or finish. Sand, sand, sand.

Start with a low grit, and step your way higher. For a painted surface, I recommend working your way up to a 220 grit, and with a clear finish, I usually end up with at least a 320 or 400 grit. Put down the electric sander! For shaping and smoothing I'll use a power sander, but I always hand sand between coats of paint or finish.

I know, sanding sucks, but it makes the world of difference. To tell the truth, I used to absolutely hate sanding, but I've learned to almost enjoy it. It can be relaxing and kinda cathartic. I can see the difference it makes when I take my time and work my way up through the grits. In my experience, sanding is the best way to really get that "professional" look.

I hope these tips encourage you to spend a little more time and up your sprayed paint results! If you have any spraying questions, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email and I'll do the best to help you out! Happy spraying! 

* This post contains affiliate links and sponsored content. I have been compensated by HomeRight, but  all opinions and ideas are 100% my own.

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  1. These are great tips. That tent thing is sweet.

    I'm curious, do you recall what the specs were on your air compressor that you used for the Harbor Freight gun? I bought the same gun a few years ago on a whim and I'm not sure if my weenie little compressor is up for the job. I only used the sprayer once (with ugly results) and never tried to figure out whether the culprit was my total lack of skill or the compressor, or maybe a both.

    1. If you are going to be spraying a lot, CFM is more important than tank size. The higher the better. I would suggest finding a compressor with a CFM of at least 5 at 40psi. I know Harbor Freight sells a couple smaller ones with fairly high CFM (usually the black ones). If you don't have enough air, or if your air isn't flowing evenly, you can definitely end up with blotchy paint! Maybe try a larger compressor and try again. Have fun!

  2. Excellent tips, especially about the sanding. no fun but a fantastic finish takes time!

  3. There are so many projects I could use this for, but I think the first one would be the chair rail for my daughter’s bedroom.

  4. I usually ignore the tip 4: Protect my Project From Wind and Debris. Reading your post I realized the importance of this


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