10 Smart Spray Painting Tips for a Great-Looking Paint Job

A few simple tips are all you need to get professional results with nothing more than a can of spray paint.

Spray painting
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is a great way to get a job done quickly, and this method will work on a variety of materials. But getting a smooth, even coat requires a touch of skill—and some of the most important tips aren't written on the can.

Start Smooth, Finish Smooth

A sprayed coating is smooth and reflects light in a way that makes surface flaws obvious. So, before you paint your item, sand it smooth and go over it with primer. That may mean applying several primer coats, with each coat lightly sanded before proceeding.

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Spin Your Work

Put the item you’re painting on a lazy Susan, then rotate it as you paint to ensure even coverage.

Get Your Hands Out of the Way

To paint small items, like fasteners, stick them through a sheet of cardboard.

For Bigger Projects, Use a Big Dropcloth

Don't waste time taping together newspapers that might fall apart as you paint. Instead, use a large plastic or cloth that provides plenty of backdrop for you to move the spray can past the object.

Do a Pattern Test

Spray a test shot onto a piece of plywood to see the spray pattern that the can produces. You can adjust your technique and hold the can closer or further from the target, depending on the spray pattern.

Use Tougher Products

When you need a high-gloss coating that resists rust and chemicals, take a tip from the auto-body industry and use a 2K (or two-component) spray paint. Like epoxy, the resin and solvents stay separate until you’re ready to paint.

Clean While You Paint

Another great cross­over from the auto-body industry is the scouring pastes that clean and abrade a surface at the same time. They’re especially helpful when preparing an irregularly curved surface for paint.

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Hide Knots with Shellac

To prevent sappy tree knots from bleeding through a top coat of varnish or paint, use sprayable clear shellac or a primer (usually white) that contains shellac. is a natural plastic that seals in odors and stains, including the sappy discoloration surrounding a tree knot.

And Hide Grain With a High-Build Primer

Grainy textures in wood tend to show through with most spray paints, leaving you with a still- rough and unfinished-looking surface. If you’re painting something like fir plywood, use primers and top coats labeled “high build.” They’re thicker and still dry quickly, so that you can apply multiple coats. If you really want to cover the grain, you can always use a thick coating such as .

Perfect Your Oval

Glossy surfaces and hammered textures show imperfections in a way that matte surfaces don’t, so make sure you apply paint perfectly to them. What does that mean? First, use a spray- can holder like , which holds the can in a pistol grip and permits a more natural sweeping motion as you spray. Also, make a few trial passes over a scrap piece of wood to determine how quickly to move the paint and how far away to hold it. The ideal positioning will leave you with a distinct and consistent oval of paint across the surface.

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Can-Gun1
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Don't Forget To Clean!

The smoother the surface of the item you’re painting, the smoother the coat of paint will be. After scraping and sanding a surface, don’t forget the most important step: Remove all dust with a vacuum, followed by a tack cloth.

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