How To Get A Glossy Finish With Spray Paint


Last updated: July 18, 2023

Make Your Painted Surfaces Look Glossy with the Professional Painters Tips Outlined in this Guide.

How to get a glossy finish with spray paint

Spray paint comes in handy when you need to make home improvements on wooden, metallic, or plastic surfaces. Spray paint is inexpensive and readily available in ranges from matte to glossy. The features of the paint are detailed on the can.    

As a DIYer, it is frustrating to dedicate time, energy, and money to a paint job, and the finish looks flat. To avoid the ordeal, we have compiled helpful information on how to get a glossy finish with spray paint and achieve a “catalog finish” on your project. 

What is A High Gloss Spray Paint?

The high gloss spray paint category depends on its level of sheen and shine. High gloss spray paint has a sheen level above 80% and a glow mimicking glass-like surfaces. The higher the sheen levels, the better the shine.

High gloss spray paint is durable, tough, and resistant to elements and stains, which makes it suitable to paint furniture pieces, plastic surfaces, and automobiles. The paint comes in various colors, so you can pick one that matches your theme. Also, high gloss spray paint is easy to apply and remove.

Regular spray paint is available in matte finishes which aren’t as glossy as high gloss paints. High gloss paint provides an even, smooth finish than regular spray paint.

What’s The Difference Between High Gloss And Semi-gloss Spray Paint?

High gloss spray paint contains pigments that boost its shiny, sheen, and glassy-like appearance. It is good on noticeable surfaces like doors, trim, countertops, or cabinets. Also, high gloss paint is more pricy.

Semi-gloss spray paint gives a subtle sheen that is less glossy and best for high-traffic areas and cabinets. It is moisture resistant, thus a good choice for bathrooms, crown molding, and kitchens.

Can You Spray Paint A Glossy Surface?

Yes, you can. Spray paint allows you to get creative and adventurous. However, you’ll need to make a couple of considerations, such as:

  • You can spray paint a glossy finish over an existing paint job, but it peels off quickly. To prevent peeling, lightly sand the old paint and wipe the dust before applying the glossy finish. Sanding promotes adhesion, durability, and an even finish.

  • A primer will add to the longevity of the spray paint and act as glue between the two paint coats.

  • You can only use oil-based spray paint over oil-based paint and water-based spray paint over water-based paints. Manufacturers don’t recommend mixing these two formulas.

How To Get A Glossy Finish With Spray Paint

You can get matte, semi-gloss, clear satin, metallic, and high gloss spray paint. However, pick the high gloss cans to achieve a spray paint high gloss finish throughout.

How to get a glossy finish with spray paint

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to achieve a smooth finish:

What you’ll need

STEP 1: Prep your work area

Ready your workspace by spreading a drop cloth and tapping the areas you don’t want to get paint. It is best to work away from direct sunlight and draught to avoid messing up your project. 

Wear protective gear to avoid inhaling the toxic spray paint fumes and direct skin contact.   

STEP 2: Clean the surface  

Clean the surface with soap and water to remove grease, stains, and dirt. Rinse the surface with clean water and let it dry completely. Remember to remove any hardware present on the piece you are working on to avoid painting over them.

STEP 3: Sand the surface

Sanding helps you eliminate an old layer of stain or paint on the surface. You can also do corrective sanding if the surface has some degree of water damage. Sanding helps the paint bond better to the surface. Wipe off the dust with a tack rag or vacuum.

Sanding helps to smooth the uneven surfaces with splinters and crack if you are working on a wooden surface and remove the rust on metal tops.

STEP 4: Apply primer

After sanding, the next step is priming. The primer seals the surface with an existing paint coat and prevents it from peeling in the near future. Priming is necessary to attain a smooth finish on the glossy surface of your project.

Use enamel spray paint as your primer, as they are available in colors matching your spray paint. Also, the primer evens the surface for a smooth paint job.

When the primer dries, inspect the surface for any imperfections you might have missed. Sand the minor issues, add another primer coat, and let it dry.     

At this point, you can drill holes in your hardware to avoid messing up your paint.

STEP 5: Apply the base coat and let it dry

Once the primer is dry, it’s time to paint. For the first coat, you can use semi-gloss or high-gloss spray paint. Apply a thin layer of the paint in sweeping strokes. Maintain a constant distance from the nozzle to the surface and keep a steady hand for perfect coating.

Spraying horizontally, not vertically, prevents the formation of paint drips. Don’t be afraid to create an overlap while you avoid going over already-dried paint. Let the sprayed paint dry for 30-40 minutes or several hours.

STEP 6: Paint the top coat and let it dry

Apply the second coat as you did the base coat. Spray paint is quite erratic and needs touch-up before the final clear coat. Missing some spots or painting unevenly is common, but you correct the errors with the touch-up coat to ensure proper coverage.  

STEP 7: Apply a layer of clear gloss finish

A full clear coat of gloss spray paint upgrades your piece from basic to a professional finish. You can get clear coats in forms like glossy, stain, flat, or pearl.

Use the glossy clear for your next coat or project to get that glass-like finish on your surface. The high shine and sheen with a clear high gloss finish reflect light if you look at the surface from certain angles. Also, the coat provides extra protection on a smooth surface against scratches, abrasion, moisture, and heat damage.

STEP 8: Let it dry

It would be best to let the fresh piece dry overnight in a dry and well ventilated space. Because the surface is still tacky to touch, dust and other particles might stick to the wet paint, and you need to prevent that from happening.

Keep the painted item from direct sunlight, high humidity and other elements.

Tips On How To Get A Glossy Finish With Spray Paint

If you notice your clear coat isn’t as glossy as expected, here are tips on how to make a spray paint shiny:

Cut and Buff

A cut and buff elevate the shine of your paint job. First, to upgrade an average spray paint wet sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper. 

Then, apply the buffer to the clean coat and rub it gently. Finally, wipe off the excess with a lint-free cloth. Cutting makes the clean surface of the paint more vibrant, and buffing removes all its flaws, leaving it with a sleek radiant shine.

Polish the clear coat

Polishing is ideal for avoiding the orange peel effect on your paint job. The orange peel is the bumpiness and unevenness on a painted surface, making the paint easy to peel off. Polishing helps avoid undesirable outcomes on your projects.   

For the final gloss apply the polishing compound on the surface with a soft, lint-free rag till you achieve the intended level of shine.

Priming before painting

Priming with enamel spray paints helps you get rid of the bumps and cover the minor flaws on the surface. 

The primer promotes good bonding between the surface and the paint. Also, after priming, you can note the areas that need touch-ups and additional attention before you apply your spray paint.

Sanding the surface 

Sanding the surface is the best way to smooth the old paint while removing any that’s flaky and peeling. Apart from eliminating imperfections, filing and buffing helps remove the orange peel and restore the glow on your surface.  

Apply a base coat 

Applying a base coat multiple thin coats of a matching color to the surfaces helps the second and clear coat adhere better.

Reasons Why Your Spray Paint Is Not Shiny

Here are common mistakes made during a paint job and the reasons why you lack shine on one coat of your spray paint:

  • Spraying vertically results in paint drips that are challenging to cover up. The best way is to spray horizontally in sweeping strokes. Paint drips affect the outcome and shine of your spray paint.

  • Apply thin layers of paint as thick coats tend to crack. It’s better to apply 2-3 thin coats than one single thick coat to avoid cracks, as they are challenging to eliminate and you might have to redo the entire project. Thin coats bind perfectly and make the finish glossy.

  • Use high-quality spray paint to attain a high gloss finish on your surfaces low-quality spray paints will disappoint you.  

  • Ensure the paint is dried under moderate temperature and humidity in a well-ventilated area. Particles, moisture, and heat influence the shine of your project.

How Do You Make Spray Can Clear Coat Look Glossy?

Below are ways how to make spray paints glossy:

  • Shake the spray can thoroughly to ensure its contents mix properly for a shiny finish.
  • Apply thin coats about 6-8 inches away from the surface.
  • Paint at least 2-3 additional coat to get that glossy finish.
  • Let the paint dry completely before adding another layer.
  • Light sanding in between coats to remove spray paint drips and streaks.
  • Ensure the paint comes off the nozzle evenly for a consistent finish.
  • Add a layer of wax to make the final coat even glossier.
  • Invest in a spray trigger to avoid finger fatigue.

FAQS: How to Get A Glossy Finish With Spray Paint

Here are answers to the frequently asked questions to make your search easier:

Can I use a glossy paint in a sprayer?

Yes, you can purchase glossy paint, mix it with paint thinner, and load it into a high velocity low pressure (HVLP) sprayer. You will achieve better results with a paint sprayers as the paint comes out evenly.

What can I add to the paint to make it glossy?

High gloss spray paint contains pigments, binders, additives, and solvents in its composition giving it a shiny effect. To make regular spray paint glossy, apply a high gloss clear coat, or a high gloss varnish layer.

Why does my gloss spray paint look flat?

Your spray paint will appear flat if you don’t follow the above mentioned steps. You’ll need to clean the surface, and sand, apply a base coat and a top coat, and finish off with clear paint. To make the surface glossier, you can cut, buff, or polish the surface with wax.  

Can you make matte spray paint glossy?

Matte paint contains approximately 38-80% of pigment volume concentration (PVC), which makes the finish less shiny. To upgrade the matte finish, paint a glossy finish over it or mix the matte with gloss paint and load it into the sprayer.

Why is my spray paint not shiny?

Paints tend to dull with time and age. However, new spray paint can appear dull due to water, heat, and humidity. The environment where you store the painted surfaces as it dries must be well-ventilated, dry, and under room temperature with no humidity.  

Why is my gloss spray paint not glossy?

The dullness of gloss spray paint results from moisture and carbon dioxide in the air reacting with the curing agent in the paint. To prevent this from happening, add a layer or two coats of clear coat and get a glassy smooth finish on your project.

Can You Polish Spray Paint?

Yes. You can polish spray paints using a suitable polishing agent or automotive rubbing compound together with a rubbing cloth or pad. To achieve this, you need to wet sand the spray painted surface with a fine-grit sandpaper and then apply the polishing agent of your choice.

How to Get A Glossy Finish With Spray Paint: Bottom Line

To achieve a glossy, flawless finish with spray paints, you’ll need to buy high-quality paint, use the correct application technique, and paint under favorable conditions in terms of wind, sunlight, heat, and humidity.

Before commencing your project buy more spray paint cans that you’ll need to avoid running out of paint mid-project.  

If you work on large surfaces, rent a sprayer from your local hardware store. But if you plan on doing more spray painting projects, buy one and consider it an investment. A used spray painting trigger is a cheaper alternative.

As a DIYer, it’s all about trial and error. However, some mistakes are avoidable and easy to fix, and your spray painting skills improve with every attempt. Now you are equipped with skills to give your surface a professional glossy finish with spray paint.

Happy spray painting!

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