How To Fix Spray Paint Drips


Last updated: September 7, 2023

Discover why spray paint drips and how to fix it in this guide.

Sample spray paint drips to display how to fix spray paint drips

Because paint is fluid, it can run, and sometimes drips are unavoidable. Nothing ruins your paint job quicker than odd-looking drips. You typically get drips when you apply too much paint to your project, and this often results in a paint job that looks sloppy, uneven, and amateur. 

The good news is that it’s not an unsolvable problem. In fact, it’s fairly easy to fix paint drips – wet or dry – as long as you follow the right steps.

In this guide, I will show you how to fix drips from spray paint so you can always create pieces that look fresh and flawless.

How To Fix Spray Paint Drips

You can fix drips while the paint is still wet or wait for it to dry. For wet drips, wipe with a cloth or soft brush. For dried drips, carefully scrape off with a razor blade or paint scraper, then sand the area smoothly. Next, apply primer and let it dry; then repaint the section blending it with the rest of the surface.

Why does my spray paint drip?

Drippy spray paint can occur as a result of several factors. However, the most common cause is over-spraying a section of the workpiece at any time. This usually happens when you focus the aerosol can on a spot for too long. The area gets overloaded with paint, and drips occur.

The same thing can be observed with a spray gun. If you don’t use the correct settings, the gun will release too much paint. In both cases, gravity pulls the excess paint, causing it to run. As the paint dries, it thickens into visible drips, resulting in a shabby, uneven finish.

Drips can also occur when you paint in a space that is too humid or cool. Try maintaining a temperature of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and moderate humidity whenever you’re painting.

Poor technique can also cause drips (sorry!). This may result from beginner mistakes like spraying too close to the surface, stopping the spray, or spraying at a very steep angle.

The good news is that drips can be fixed even after the paint hardens, but it’s usually better to fix them while the paint is still wet.

How to Fix Spray Paint Drips?

If you’re here, chances are you already have spray paint drips on your hands, and you’re looking for how to fix it. Follow the steps below to get your paint job to look perfect. 

Wait for the Paint to Dry

If you notice the drips when the paint has already hardened, it’s best to wait till it’s dry before trying to fix the problem. Don’t sand or scrape the paint while it’s still damp or tacky; otherwise, it may peel up, and you will end up creating a bigger problem.

Brush Off Drip

If you’re lucky to catch the drips while the paint is still wet, you can wipe it off with a clean cloth or brush. If you’re using a brush, ensure it’s soft so as not to ruin the paint job. We suggest dipping the brush or rag into a paint thinner before dabbing at the drip. 

If the drip doesn’t wipe off, it’s best to wait until it’s completely dry. Then move on to the next step. 

Sand the Area

Once the paint is fully dry, you want to sand the drip. But before you do that, scrape or cut down the raised portion. You can use a scraper or razor blade for this. Don’t scrape up, or you might end up scraping off more paint than intended. 

Lightly scrape down the drip so as not to disturb the surrounding area too much.

Once you remove the raised portion of the drip, level out the area with 220-grit sandpaper. Make sure to sand in the direction of the drip. Sanding in the opposite direction or back and forth can ruin the surrounding paint or lead to a bigger blemish. Focus on the drip alone; avoid the surrounding paint. 

Apply Primer

After sanding, graze the area with a clean cloth or towel. 

The next thing is to apply primer. This step is optional but is recommended if you sanded down the previous coat of primer or didn’t use a primer in the first place. Also, if you have any recessed area filled with glazing putty, priming will prevent any problem with the topcoat, such as blotchy paint or pinholes. 

Apply New Paint

Allow the primer to dry. Once it does, repaint the area. 

Apply one or two light coats, constantly moving the spray can back and forth to avoid the same problem. Allow the first coat to dry completely before adding the next one. This can take 30 minutes to 8 hours (or more), depending on the type of spray paint. Ideally, you want to use the same spray paint you used initially before the drip occurred. 

Once the paint dries, the area should look like it never had a blemish. 

Techniques/ Ways of fixing Spray Paint Drips

There are two main ways of fixing spray paint drips. You can either brush out the drips while they are still wet, or you can wait for them to dry and then sand them out.

The first method is preferred because it requires less work and will save you time. But you have to be fast enough to catch the drips early. This means looking out for any drooping paint or heavy portions while spray painting. You have to pay close attention because if you rush the job, chances are that you will miss the drip. Most drips are not so obvious until the paint has thoroughly dried.

For the second technique, you have to wait until the paint dries before attempting to remove the drips. This usually involves scraping the drips off, then smoothing out the area with sandpaper. Once this is done, apply new coats of paint, blending it with the rest of the surface.

Before adding a new layer, you must wait for each coating to dry completely. Not waiting long enough can result in more blemishes. Also, keep the spray can at a good distance (at least 8 inches) while repainting from the object.

How to fix spray paint drips on plastic

The method for fixing spray paint drips on plastic is the same as described above, except that you can skip primer. If you’re lucky to catch the drips while it’s still wet, you can wipe it off with a soft brush or cloth. Otherwise, wait until the paint is dry, then smoothen it out with a fine grit sandpaper and repaint.  

There are a few tips we want you to be aware of: 

  • To make the sandpaper easier to use, soak it in foam water. Once you do this, it will work like an eraser which is more efficient since plastic is normally smooth. 

  • If you’re removing the drips while still wet, rub them gently. If you apply too much pressure, the surrounding area might be affected, and then you will have to repair the entire surface.

  • Keep the aerosol can at least 8 to 10 inches from the surface while repainting. 

  • Be sure the facade is dry before you attempt repainting. You can park it with your fingers just to be sure. 

How to fix paint drips when the paint is still wet

If you’re painting in broad daylight, you may be able to notice drips as soon as they occur. If the paint is still wet, you can knock down the drips and even wipe it out with a soft brush. For brush-paint projects, ensure you stroke the brush in the direction of the paint. Brushing in the opposite direction will only create a bigger mess.

One way to be sure the paint is still wet is to softly touch the drip with a clean rag. If the rag gets wet, it means the paint hasn’t hardened. So you can fix the drip. As earlier indicated, gently stroke the drip with a clean, soft brush to remove it.

If the paint barely moves when you stroke it, stop right there! This is a sign the color is already hardening. In this case, you must wait for it to dry before attempting to remove the blemish.

How do you smooth paint drips

You can smoothen paint drips by using a fine-grit sandpaper. But before then, use a razor-shape tool to remove the raised portion.

Gently scrape it flat little by little. Don’t rush the process, especially when working on a wooden piece. You may end up slipping up and gouging the wood with the tool. The tool can be anything with a razor-sharp edge, such as a razor blade or a regular paint scraper. Keep it to the same level as the surface, and slowly scrap off the paint drip.

Be cautious of your safety. Since the tool is very sharp, you want to be scraping away from you and not towards you.

After scraping, you can sand the area with fine-grit sandpaper. Anything between 200 to 1000-grit will do.

How To Avoid Spray Paint Drips

Follow the tips below to prevent paint runs and drips in your project: 

Use High-quality Paint

Even when you’re on a tight budget, you don’t want to buy ridiculously cheap paints. The difference between a $2 color and one that is $10 or more is usually enormous. Most of the cheaper paints are usually watery and thin, which makes them prone to runs and drips. 

If you want to get good value for your money, opt for high-quality color, at least $6. Such paints are usually thicker and provide better coverage, reducing the risk of lines and drips.

Don’t Spray Too Close

One of the biggest mistake people make when using spray paint is spraying too close to the surface. This is wrong and will often result in drips because you’ll end up saturating the area with paint.

The best course of action is to apply a little less paint than you think you need. Most manufacturers recommend holding the can a good 6 to 12 inches away from the object. This ensures each coat of paint is thin, and we know that the thinner the coating, the less chance of drips occurring.

Spraying this way will also ensure you get even coverage, especially when you make even passes across the surface.

Shake The Paint

Before you start painting, give the spray can or sprayer a good shake for a minute or two. This gets the chemicals in the paint and propellant to mix well and form colloids. The colloid uniformly delivers the contents of the paint onto the surface or object. 

On the other hand, if you fail to shake the aerosol can, some chemicals will be separated from the propellant. In this case, the can will mostly expel propellant instead of the complete paint. 

Generally, most aerosol cans say to shake before use, but if it says do not shake, do not shake!

Practice Good Techniques

Using proper spraying techniques can also help you to avoid drips in your project.

To ensure the nozzle is working properly, spray the paint on a test object or into the air before spraying the main item. If the nozzle is clogged, it will spit out too much color. Replace clogged nozzles or clean with water. 

Spray in one smooth motion gliding the can across the surface. Make sure to go past the edge of the workpiece to avoid any buildups. 

Avoid continuous spray, as this can cause drips or puddles. Instead, spray in short bursts covering a small section at a time. 

Paint in a Warm Area

Changes in temperature and humidity can cause changes in the viscosity of the coatings. Sometimes, this can lead to runs. Specifically, you don’t want to paint when temperature is too high or low. The same goes with humidity; higher humidity levels reduce drying time and may cause the paint not to dry evenly. 

The best temperature and humidity are often written on the label of the product. But generally, you want temperature to be at least 60 degrees. 

How To Fix Spray Paint Drips

FAQs – How to Fix Spray Paint Drips

Can You Paint Over Paint Drips?

No! If you intend to paint over drips, allow them to dry, then lightly sand them to a smooth finish. Next, clean up the dust; then repaint the area. If you don’t intend to paint over the drip, then you must catch the drip while it’s still wet. In this case, you can wipe the paint with a clean cloth.

Can I Sand Down Paint Drips?

Yes, you can. We suggest scraping down the raised portion first to avoid disturbing the surrounding paint. Once this has been done, you can sand out the remaining blemish with fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit is recommended for most paint jobs).

Why is My Spray Paint Can Dripping?

If your spray paint can is dripping, the problem is likely from the nozzle. This can happen when the nozzle builds up a lot of paint. You can prevent this by wiping the nozzle occasionally. Likewise, you can remove the clogged nozzle and run hot water over it to remove the excess paint, or you can simply replace it with another nozzle if you have some extra supplies.

Can You Wet Sand Spray Paint?

Yes, you can. This can be done when you want to add a clear coat or topcoat. Wet sanding will remove any wrinkles or imperfections on the surface so the final finish can be spotless. You can apply a clear coat for additional protection, as is the case with exterior surfaces.

Will Streaks Go Away When Paint Dries?

In most cases, streaks won’t go away on their own when the paint dries. You will have to get rid of them. The simplest way to do this is to wait for the paint to dry, then sand down the streaks with sandpaper before painting over it. Besides streaks, sanding will remove ridges, bubbles, and other surface imperfections that make the paint job less perfect and uneven.

Should I Sand Between Coats of Spray Paint?

This depends on the nature of your project. Generally, sanding between coats is unnecessary except trying to achieve a flatter or silky-smooth finish. This may be the case if you’re painting a kitchen cabinet or some other furniture. But for something like a drywall project, this is not required. Generally, if the previous coating is flat and nice with no protrusions, you can just add the next layer without sanding.

How Many Coats of Spray Paint is Enough?

Most painting projects would need at least 2/3 light coats to ensure full coverage. You can add more depending on the nature of your project. It’s usually better to use multiple light coats of paint instead of one heavy one. Heavy or thick coatings can cause many problems, such as drips, blisters, bubbles, etc.

Summary – How to Fix Drips From Spray Paint

Spray paint drips can easily ruin the quality of your paint job, especially if you don’t notice them on time. Learning how to fix them is essential to ensure you get a smooth and even finish.

It’s usually easier to remove the drips while the paint is still wet, but if it becomes tacky, you’re advised to wait till it dries before sanding down the drips. Simply follow the steps described above, and you should get your project looking normal again.

To avoid drips in the future, try to learn proper spraying techniques and avoid applying too much paint at a spot.

Hopefully, you’ve learned all there is about how to fix drips from spray paint. Let us know if you have any more questions, or you can chime in your suggestions. Until then, happy spray painting!

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