How to Properly Spray Paint to Avoid Spray Paint Splatter


Last updated: April 11, 2023

Professional painters spray painting techniques to help avoid spray paint splatter.

When spray painting, you may occasionally encounter mistakes that affect the paint job. One of them is paint splatter.

Splattering happens when a few drops of paint drip from the tip of your finger or the aerosol can onto the object you’re painting. 

Splatters are hard to clean off and can ruin the entire paint job if you don’t fix them on time. The good news is that it’s avoidable and doesn’t have to ruin your perfect finish. 

In this article, we will look at how to prevent paint splatter and what you can do to properly fix it in case you have to deal with it.

Why does spray paint splatter?

The two most common causes of spray paint splatter are pressure imbalance and improper spraying technique. When the pressure in the can is too low, the paint will dribble onto the workpiece. Too much pressure also causes the paint to squirt and splatter.

How Do You Fix Spray Paint Splatter?

Follow the steps below to correct splatter, blob, or nibs in your newly painted finish. 

Wait for the Paint to Dry

Once you notice a splatter on the workpiece, don’t be in a hurry to fix it – this can only make things worse. Allow the paint to completely dry then move on to the next step.

Sand the Area

You can now sand down the surface to remove the old splattered spray paint. 

For the best results, use wet or dry fine-grit sandpaper, something around 500 or higher. Sand the affected area until all the splatter or nibs are smoothed out. 

If you’re wet sanding, dip the sandpaper into a bowl of water and use it while it is wet. Alternatively, you can wet the surface, then use the dry sandpaper on it. The idea is to get the sandpaper wet without flooding the surface. 

For severe imperfections, you can start with a lower grit sandpaper, such as 200-300 grit sandpaper, to level the splatter. Then use 600-grit paper to remove the sanding marks and smoothen the surface. 

Clean (and Prime) the Surface

After sanding, clean the surface to remove dust and other contaminants that might prevent the paint from adhering. Use rubbing alcohol, turpentine, or any other cleaner, and apply it with a clean rag. 

Allow the surface to dry, then apply one or two coats of primer to the bare surface. Only use a primer if you took down the whole paint. Otherwise, if there’s still a layer of paint on the material, you don’t need to prime it.

Reapply the Base Color.

At this point, your prep work is complete. If you used a primer, allow it to completely dry. Then reapply the base color using the same techniques as you did before. 

Try to observe the instructions on the product label. Keep the aerosol can about 12 inches from the surface and paint in even strokes. 

You can always repeat the steps until you achieve the desired look. Allow ample drying time between coats and after the last coat. 

How Many Coats of Spray Paint Is Too Much?

It depends on the type of substrate and thickness of each coat. If you’re spraying light coats, you can use several coats until you get full coverage. In most cases, it will take 2 to 5 light coats or even more. 

Depending on the shape of the item, you can apply the coats at different angles to ensure everything is completely covered.

In general, more light, even coats are better than one heavy coat. But make sure you get all the coats within the allotted time. This can take an hour or two, depending on the paint. 

After the last coat, allow it to dry fully for at least 24 hours before handling. 

How to Avoid Splatter When Spray Painting?

1. Buy a High-Quality Spray Paint

To avoid any splatter, the first thing you should do is to use good quality spray paint every time. 

Cheap spray paints can pose many problems, which stem from the low-quality ingredients used in making the paint. 

Pressure imbalance or low pressure from the can is another problem of low-quality paints. It leads to paint not coming out smoothly causing splatter. 

Poor design of the spray cap can also cause splatter. 

2. Keep the Spray at Room Temperature

Before using the aerosol can, ensure it’s at least at room temperature. Colder temperatures cause the propellant to contract, resulting in less pressure inside the can. When this happens, some drops will come out of the spray tip that is not aerosolized.

So, whenever the ambient temperature is low (i.e., below 70 degrees Fahrenheit), it might not be a good time to spray. 

You can warm up the can a bit over room temperature by putting it in a bowl of hot water. This will raise the temperature and pressure. 

Don’t boil the water; otherwise, it might get too hot and explode. For an ice old aerosol, don’t put it into water immediately. Leave it for some time to slowly warm up to room temperature; then, warm it further with water. 

3. Shake the Aerosol Can 

Spray paint contains many different ingredients. It’s common for these ingredients to separate when the can hasn’t been used for a while. 

By shaking the can before use, you will get the content to mix well, which is essential for an even paint finish. This should be done with vigor for a full minute or two. Skipping this step can lead to a blotchy finish, paint splatter, spitting, and other undesirable outcomes. 

For most aerosol cans, as you shake them, you will hear a ball bouncing inside when the content mixes.

4. Test Spray

After shaking the can, don’t spray directly on the surface. First, spray a piece of cardboard or scrap plywood to test the spray pattern. Based on the result, you can adjust your technique and determine how far to keep the can away from the surface. 

I recommend maintaining a distance of at least 6 inches. 

5. Go Beyond the Edges

Next, as you transfer the can to the workpiece, don’t start or stop spraying directly on the workpiece. When you first push the nozzle, the paint may spit a little, and you don’t want that to go on the surface. So, start spraying away from the material and glide it over the surface in one smooth motion. 

Make sure you go past the edges to prevent heavy paint build-up on one spot that can run along the sides. 

6. Make Sure the Nozzle is Not Clogged

Before you start spray painting, make sure there’s no clogging in the nozzle. 

If there’s dried paint in the nozzle, it will prevent paint from flowing freely, which might result in splatter. 

Ensure you clean the nozzle every time you’re done using them. Either spray upside down to remove the paint junk or soak the nozzle in hot water or solvent to dissolve the dried paint. 

7. Spray at a Low Angle

Overspray is common with high-angle spraying. so going low angle would do the trick.

To spray at a lower angle, reduce the pressure on the nozzle or use a low-pressure spray. If you’re using a paint gun, set it to low pressure.

When you spray at a lower pressure, the can expels paint with less force.

In addition to using low pressure, you should keep the can in a vertical position when spraying. Horizontal spraying increases the risk of splatter.

8. Use Proper Technique

In addition to all the techniques described above, pay attention to where you place your finger. Ensure it doesn’t obstruct the flow of paint; otherwise, it will accumulate paint, which can drip onto the workpiece.

Also, get into the habit of wiping the nozzle from time to time if it builds up paint. This is common when you’re painting a lot. Wipe the nozzle with a rag, so it doesn’t drip on the paint job. 

Spray Paint Splatter

Proper Spray Painting Technique

Getting pro-quality results with spray paint doesn’t require many years of experience. All you need is proper spraying technique and to follow the right steps. Here’s what to do before you spray away:

1. Do a Rain Check

Before you start any painting project, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast. You don’t want to paint outside when it’s too hot or windy, as that could mess up your work. 

It is generally recommended to paint in temperatures between 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity below 85 percent.

Make sure the place is well-ventilated, especially if you’re spray painting indoors. The rule of thumb is that spray painting indoors is not recommended.

2. Prepare the Surface Adequately

Proper preparation is key to any successful paint job. The type of preparation will depend on the material you’re working on, whether it’s wood, metal, canvas. However, in most cases, you need to wipe off any dirt or debris on the surface and smoothen out rough spots with sandpaper. 

For cleaning, you can use mild soap and water. A rubbing compound can also be used to buff out scratches and prepare the surface for spray painting.  

3. Apply Primer 

Except you’re using a product that contains a primer, you may need to prime the surface before coating it with paint. 

Priming helps the paint stick better and ensures an even finish. Skipping this step can cause the paint to flake, crack or peel afterward.

4. Start Spraying Outside the Surface

Never begin any project pointing the nozzle directly at the substrate. The first push-down of the nozzle should be directed away from the object because the paint may spit. As you start spraying, glide it across the surface in a smooth motion. 

In addition, keep the can at least 10 inches away from the object. You can move closer but not too close. You can get an idea of how much distance is okay by doing a test spray on scrap paper or cardboard. This will enable you to know how much paint is released at that distance. 

5. Spray Vertically, Not Horizontally

Remember to shake the can a few times while spraying, and use long, light-fluid strokes. Keep the can vertical!

Blotchy paint or splatter is more likely to occur if you keep the can horizontal when spraying. 

6. Use Multiple Light Coats 

It’s always recommended to use multiple thin coats instead of a thick one. When you use thin coats, the paint will go on smoothly and is less likely to drip. The result will look much more professional. 

Wait at least 20 minutes between coats, though drying time may vary for each brand. 

7. Get All Coats Done Within an Hour or Two

Also, if you’re applying several thin coats, do so within an hour or two. Otherwise, wait for 48 hours before you apply another coat. Adding a new coat before the end of this waiting period can cause the paint to wrinkle

The instructions might differ for each spray paint. 

8. Let the Item Dry Longer

To ensure the piece dries properly, allow it to dry longer than the recommended time. Sometimes, the weather condition can significantly affect the drying time, and the item may take longer to dry. In some instances, the item may feel dry to touch but hasn’t fully cured. 

It’s advisable you wait for longer for the piece to completely dry. 

How to Create Splatter Effect With Spray Paint?

Although splatter often occurs accidentally, you can create a similar effect by layering several coats of paint on the target surface. The idea behind this is to create an appearance of depth on the surface by mixing different colors and splat techniques. 

To commence, you’ll need a flat surface. Then select your preferred color collection. 

For example, let’s say I want to create a realistic splatter effect with three colors – black, white, and red – on a piece of wood. I will start by layering on the white color. Next, I will add some black paint on top. Then, I will spray the middle layer of the black paint with the red color. I would have created a splatter effect. 

Most times, you won’t get the desired effect at the first trial, depending on your spraying technique. But as you practice more, it will get easier, and you will get more ideas. 

It’s up to you to experiment with different colors and decide what works for you. 

You can also create splatter effects with specialty aerosol can nozzles. Some spray caps, like needle caps, have a shorter straw than regular spray nozzles and can create thin lines that look like paint strokes. 

However, if you press the button halfway instead of full, it will create paint splatter. If you do this on black spray paint, you can create an ink splash or ink splatter effect. 

FAQs – Why Does Spray Paint Splatter?

Why is My Spray Paint Speckled?

Spray paint speckles commonly occur when you don’t handle the can properly or allow the full recoat window. Remaining on one spot for too long or spraying too close to the workpiece can also cause blotchy paint.

Why Am I Getting Lines When I Spray Paint?

If you’re getting lines when you spray paint, the nozzle is likely clogged or worn. Also, low pressure in the can or sprayer can cause lines and streaks. This usually occurs when the ambient temperature is too cold or when the pressure is set too low (in the case of a spray gun).

What Happens If You Apply Second Coat of Paint Too Soon?

Applying a second coat of paint before the base coat is dry can lead to poor adhesion, streaks, clumps, uneven color, and peeling paint. Most experts recommend waiting at least 2-4 hours between each coat of paint to get the best results. Sometimes, you may not need to wait that long, depending on the brand and material.

Why is My Spray Paint Can Dripping?

Spray paint often drips when you’re painting a lot. This occurs because of paint build-up in the nozzle. One way to prevent this is to wipe the nozzle with a rag every once in a while. Spraying too heavily or not shaking the spray can also cause drips.

How Do You Prevent Spray Paint Spots?

To prevent spots on your project, spray in short spurts instead of a constant stream. Spraying this way will also help you conserve paint. It’s also a good idea to prime the surface before spray painting. Not using a primer often causes uneven absorption of the color.

Content Summary – Spray Paint Splatter

Spray paint splatter is a common beginner mistake. Even though there are many ways to prevent it, sometimes mistakes will still occur.

So, the best thing you can do is to be prepared when it happens. That is why I have discussed both the causes and how to fix them. 

Make sure you wear proper safety gear anytime you’re handling spray paint. These include a mask, gloves, and goggles. Get rid of the splatter as soon as it occurs so you won’t have to repaint the entire surface.

If you found this information helpful in any way, please consider sharing it with others who may have similar problems. And if you have any more questions about spray painting to avoid splatter, please drop them in the comment box. We will try our best to respond. 

One response to “How to Properly Spray Paint to Avoid Spray Paint Splatter”

  1. Bobbi Martin Avatar
    Bobbi Martin

    Nice tip on warming the spray can

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