How To Mix Paint For A Spray Gun

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Last updated: June 26, 2023

Learn the Steps to Mix Paint for Spray Gun in this Comprehensive Guide

How to mix paint for a spray gun.

Paint sprayers are designed to pump paint through the tip. The various paint sprayers on the market feature special nozzles designed to distribute the colorant in tiny droplets evenly.

That being said, the mixed paint must be thin enough to come through the nozzle as intended. This is where mixing paint for spray gun comes in. 

Unlike traditional painting methods that can work with any paint thickness, spray guns require a thinner consistency to let out the paint in suitable tiny droplets. This means you must know how to mix paint for a spray gun to use one successfully.

Read along to learn how to dilute the paint for a spray gun. 

Do you need to thin paint for spray gun?

Yes, thinning paint for a spray gun is necessary for a nice-looking, less bumpy finish. Mixing paint for spray gun helps ensure the paint is in the right consistency to come out of the sprayer in tiny, even particles that create the desired smooth finish. 

Most paint types are available as thick liquids that work properly with the mechanism of paint sprayers. 

How do you dilute the paint for a spray gun?

To dilute paint for a spray gun, simply add the recommended thinner –often water or a solvent such as paint thinner –in the ratio that the manufacturer recommends. 

Since the ratios vary with different paints and sprayer types, the best approach is to add a small amount of the thinner at a time and test it on a scrap piece of cardboard until you are happy with the test results. 

Here is a summary of what the process should look like for various paint types and sprayers. 

  1. Check the paint label for any specific guidelines, as various paint brands may have specific recommendations for dilution. 

  2. Select the appropriate thinner. The thinner will be water for acrylic or water-based paints and mineral spirits or some other paint thinner for oil or solvent-based paints.

  3. Pour the paint you need to use into a clean container.

  4. Add a small amount of the recommended thinner at a time and stir gently.

  5. Once the paint looks noticeably diluted, test it by spraying a bit of it onto a piece of scrap paper or cardboard.

  6. Stop thinning if the paint produces a fine mist or sprays evenly onto the test surface. However, continue adding the thinner if it produces a heavy spray or appears noticeably heavy. 

  7. Repeat the steps until you achieve the desired paint consistency.

Note: Instead of a clean container, you can pour the paint directly into the sprayer’s reservoir and add a little thinner at a time while stirring continuously and testing on a scrap piece of paper or cardboard. Ensure you clean the sprayer of dried paint from previous painting work before mixing the paint in the reservoir.

What is the ratio of paint to thinner for a spray gun? 

There is no fixed ratio of paint to thinner for spray gun. Instead, the appropriate ratio depends on the type of paint used and the type of sprayer involved. For instance, oil-based paints can be very thick, requiring a large amount of thinner. 

Thankfully, the manufacturer will typically include recommendations for thinning their products based on the viscosity of their paint. Always follow these recommendations for the best results. 

Usually, you can begin with a paint: thinner ratio of about 4:1. After testing the resulting thinned paint, add more of the thinner little by little until you have achieved the desired consistency. 

How to Calculate Paint Mixing Ratio for Spay Gun 

The standard way to calculate the mixing ratio for any paint is to divide the number of parts, paint or base, by the number of parts thinner. For instance, the ratio of 4:1 denotes 4 parts paint mixed with 1 part thinner. 

As already noted, do not keep the ratios strict when thinning paint. Instead, adjust them accordingly until you achieve the desired consistency. 

Here are the factors likely to affect the consistency and paint mixing ratio.

  • The weather conditions (cold or hot)
  • The spray gun used and the tip size involved.
  • Air pressure.
  • Humidity.

How To Mix Paint For A Spray Gun

How you mix your paint for a spray gun will directly affect the results of your paint project. 

Different paint types and paint sprayers will require different thinning methods, and knowing these methods will directly contribute to success in your projects. 

What you will need to mix paint for spray gun

We have mentioned that different paint brands and sprayers have different requirements for thinning paint for spray guns but with some similarities in the general approach to thinning these paints.

Similarly, while the requirements will differ from one process to the other, here is a general list of the things you will need. 

  • Paint thinner (water, mineral spirits).
  • Paint.
  • Paint mixing paddle or stirring stick.
  • Paint strainer or viscosity cup (optional).
  • Paint sprayer and sprayer tips or nozzles.
  • Scrap pieces of paper or test cardboard.
  • Face mask or respirator mask.
  • Safety goggles.
  • Hand gloves.
  • Plastic sheeting or old newspaper to collect paint spills.
  • Clean mixing containers as an alternative to sprayer reservoirs.

Mixing latex paint for spray gun

Latex paint is pretty thick, so you must thin it for use on any spray gun. Here are the steps for thinning latex paint. 

  • Open the paint can and stir it gently to mix it and make it uniform. 

  • Pour the amount you want to use into a clean container. Ensure you use a mixing container large enough to accommodate the amount you need to complete your project. 

  • Add a little amount of water to the paint and mix by stirring gently with a mixing paddle or stir stick. The amount of water should be approximately one part, while the paint is about four parts.   

  • Dip a viscosity cup or a paint strainer into the paint mixture and observe how the paint flows. If it’s still thick, add more water little by little and stir it continuously until you are happy with the consistency. 

  • Fill the spray gun’s reservoir with the thinned paint and test it out on a piece of cardboard or scrap paper. If the paint produces a fine mist or sprays evenly onto the test surface, you are good to go. Otherwise, return the paint into the mixing container and add more water.

  • Repeat the process until you achieve the desired consistency.

Mixing oil-based paint for spray gun 

Oil-based paints may be less thick than latex paints but require thinning nonetheless. Follow these steps to complete the process. 

  • Check the paint label for any specific recommendations on thinning ratios.

  • Prepare the mixing container by ensuring it is clean and dry, and pour the amount of paint you need into it.

  • Add small amounts of mineral spirits or the paint thinner recommended on the product label and stir with a paddle or stir stick to mix it thoroughly. 

  • Check the consistency by dipping a viscosity cup or a paint strainer into the mixture and observing how the paint flows. If it’s too thick for your spray gun, gradually add more mineral spirits or your selected paint thinner, a little at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency. 

  • Strain the mixture if necessary to remove any lumps or impurities.

  • Test spray the thinned paint on scrap material or cardboard to ensure the consistency and atomization are suitable for your desired application. 

  • Adjust the thinning ratio if needed based on the test results.

Mixing Acrylic Paint for Spray Gun

Acrylic paints are water-based and require more or less water for thinning, depending on where you are using them.

For absorbent surfaces, acrylic paints can consist of up to 50% water. However, water should be less than 30% of the paint if you are using it on other surfaces.

When thinning acrylic paint for use in a spray gun, ensure you mix one part acrylic medium or water to two parts paint. This ratio helps ensure the paint will not clog the sprayer.

  • Pour the amount of paint you need into a clean mixing container. 

  • Add water or acrylic medium a little at a time while stirring it continuously until you have a perfect blend consisting of approximately two parts paint and one part water (or acrylic medium).

  • Dip a viscosity cup or a paint strainer into the mixture to check the flow of the paint. 

  • Test spray the thinned paint on a piece of cardboard. 

  • Make any necessary adjustments to the thinning ratio based on the test results.

 Mixing Enamel Paint for Spray Gun

Finding the appropriate mixing ratio for enamel paint is challenging, making it the hardest type of paint to mix. However, it is best to work with a paint thinner from the same manufacturer as the enamel paint for the best results. 

Once you have identified the right thinner for your enamel paint, ensure you thin it to the consistency of milk for the best results. Here are the steps to follow. 

  • Pour a small amount of enamel paint into a clean mixing container or paint bucket. Enamel paint can thicken while you’re working, so we recommend thinning only a small amount at a time. 

  • Add a little amount of the thinner at a time and stir with a stir stick until you have achieved the consistency of milk. 

  • Add a few drops of wetting agents to the mixture to promote better adhesion to the substrate.  

  • Stir the paint mixture thoroughly and transfer it to your paint gun.

Mixing Water-Based Paint for Spray Gun

As you must have guessed, water-based paint has water as the base liquid in its formula, so diluting it requires using water.  

To thin water-based paint for use with a spray gun, follow the procedure below.  

  • Pour the amount of water-based paint you want to use into a clean mixing container. Ensure you use a mixing container that is large enough to accommodate the amount you need to complete your project. 

  • Add a little amount of water to the paint and mix it with a mixing paddle or stirring stick. Continue adding a small amount of water at a time and stirring continuously until the paint has approximately one part water and four parts paint.   

  • Dip a viscosity cup or a paint strainer into the paint mixture and observe how the paint flows. If it’s still thick, add more water little by little and stir continuously until you achieve the desired consistency. 

  • Fill the spray gun’s reservoir with the thinned water-based paint and test it out on a piece of cardboard or scrap paper. If the paint produces a fine mist or sprays evenly onto the test surface, proceed to use it on your project. Otherwise, return the paint into the mixing container and add more water.

  • Repeat the process until you achieve the desired consistency.

How to Thin Paint for Different Paint Sprayer Types

This section walks you through how to mix paint for HVLP spray guns, airless spray gun, and conventional paint sprayer. 

Mixing paint for an airless spray gun?

Airless spray guns are typically designed to handle thicker paints, such as latex or oil-based paints, without the need for significant thinning. However, it’s still important to choose a paint that is suitable for airless spraying.

When working with latex paint, you can use it directly from the paint can without mixing it with a thinner for a large airless spray gun. 

However, consider thinning the paint before use if you have a small airless spray gun system. Working with cheaper, smaller systems without thinning the paint may cause problems, and the paint may not come out properly. 

When thinning paint for Airless sprayer, consider adding about 20% water or thinning agent for the best results.   

Mixing Paint for HVLP Spray Gun

High Volume, Low Pressure (HVLP) paint guns are primarily designed for use with oil-based paints. You can also use the unit with latex paints, mostly for indoor spray painting projects.

Whichever the case, HVLP spray systems require significantly thinned paint to work properly. However, start with as little as 10% water or paint thinner, depending on the type of paint you are using. Then add more until you achieve the desired consistency.

Mixing Paint for Conventional Spray Gun

Conventional spray guns can work with any paint type, so they do not have a specific requirement for thinning their paint. 

Ideally, follow the thinning method for the specific paint and test it out with the paint sprayer until the nozzle produces a fine mist.

The important thing when thinning paint for use with a conventional sprayer is to use the appropriate paint thinner. The thinner can be water for water-based or acrylic, latex paints, and mineral spirits for oil or solvent-based paints.

By using the appropriate paint thinner, mixing the paint in small batches, stirring it thoroughly, and straining the thinned paint, you should get the best results. 

Factors to consider when diluting paint for use in a spray gun:

Now that you know how to mix paint for a spray gun, here are the things to consider to increase your chances of success.

  1. Consider the paint type. Acrylic, latex, or water-based paints will require the use of water for thinning, while oil and solvent-based paints require an alcohol-based or solvent paint thinner such as mineral spirits. 

  2. Consider the condition and porosity of the surface or substrate you are working on. For instance, when painting absorbent surfaces such as canvas, you can add up to 50% water to acrylic paints. But you must keep the water below 30% when painting other surfaces.

  3. Consider the spray gun type. Some spray guns require more dilute paints than others. Some, such as an airless spray gun, may work with the paint without thinning. So ensure you check the manufacturer’s recommendations.  

Guidelines when Thinning Paint for Sprayer

While knowing how to mix paint for sprayer will help you get the job done, following the applicable guidelines can significantly improve your results. 

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when thinning paint for sprayer. 

  • Use a viscosity cup to tell when the paint has achieved the desired consistency. 

Most paint sprayers come with a viscosity cup for gauging when the paint is thin enough. Using the cup can save you from having to pour the paint back and forth into the mixing bucket and the paint sprayer.  

  • Add a paint conditioner when working in suboptimal conditions 

Bad weather can significantly affect the results of spray painting. Adding a conditioner can help ensure you get the desired results in spite of the bad weather. 

  • Avoid using a fixed mixing ratio.

Different weather conditions affect the paint’s consistency. Therefore, adjust the ratio based on the conditions you’re working in.

  • Always use the right solvent.

Use a suitable acrylic medium or water for thinning acrylic paints, water for water-based paints, and an alcohol-based solvent or mineral spirits for oil-based and solvent-based paints. 

  • Use a paint mixer whenever possible. 

If you have access to a paint mixer, use it for the best results when mixing any paint type. The tool is designed to be most effective in mixing paint.

FAQs – Mixing Paint for Spray Gun

Below are the popular questions people ask about spray paint mixing. 

Can you thin latex paint with mineral spirits?

No. You should never use petroleum-based products like mineral spirits, acetone, denatured alcohol, or acetone to dilute water-based paints such as latex paint. Any product referred to as paint thinner is likely petroleum-based and, therefore, unsuitable for mixing with water-based products like latex paint.

How much do you dilute the paint for spraying?

The general rule for diluting latex paint is to mix the paint with at least 10% water. This equals a half cup of water for every 1 gallon of paint. While most paint types can work with this ratio, the desired consistency ultimately depends on the surface you are painting and the type of sprayer used. 

How do you mix paint with water for a spray gun?

To mix paint with water for a spray gun, add approximately half cup (118 milliliters) of water per gallon of paint and mix thoroughly. Then, run the paint through a funnel to check its thickness. You should know you have thinned the paint properly if it flows freely through the funnel.

What is the ratio of paint to water for spray gun?

The basic ratio of paint to water is 1 gallon of paint to ½ cup (118 milliliters) of water. However, this is just a guiding ratio, as the actual ratio that ultimately creates the desired paint consistency depends on various factors, including the sprayer used, weather conditions, and the paint type. 

When is the paint sprayer paint thin enough?

The paint sprayer paint is thin enough when it comes out the spray paint nozzle effortlessly, forming a fine mist as you spray. However, the paint requires more of thinner if it produces a heavy spray or appears noticeably heavy coming out of the spray nozzle.

What is the best paint to use in a spray gun?

Oil-based paint is the best type for use in a spray gun. This type of paint does not need thinning when using an airless paint sprayer, even though you must dilute it accordingly when working with HVLP sprayers. In contrast, thicker paints like water-based latex can clog the spray gun.

What is the best solvent for spray paint?

The best solvent for spray paint is lacquer thinner. Lacquer thinners are specially formulated to thin various lacquers, as the name suggests, and dissolve, soften, or dilute most paints even after they are dried and hardened. The solvent is highly effective at thinning spray paint.

Content Summary – How to mix paint for a spray gun

Most paints come in thick consistencies that are generally challenging to eject through the nozzle of a conventional spray gun. This makes mixing paint for a spray gun a vital part of painting with a paint sprayer.

Thinning allows you to create the appropriate consistency for the paint to come out of the spray gun tip in tiny droplets.

The right paint consistency also helps ensure even paint coverage by allowing for even distribution of the paint pigments coming out the nozzle of the spray gun, which underscores why you must know how to mix paint for a spray gun.

This article has shown you how to mix various types of paint for different spray guns. We hope this helps make your next spray paint project a resounding success. 

One response to “How To Mix Paint For A Spray Gun”

  1. Abubakar Avatar

    Am very pleased and I learned a lot about mixing paint

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