Types of Spray Paint – A Comprehensive Guide

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Last updated: August 2, 2023

Painter’s Guide on the Types of Spray Paints for Your Painting Project

Types of spray paint

Spray painting is a great way to restore or repurpose old furniture or home decor or simply add beautiful color effects. However, to get a perfect paint job, you will need to pay attention to the type of spray paint you’re using. 

Ideally, you want to use something that is specifically designed for the surface you’re painting. Otherwise, the result may not come out as expected. 

Acrylic and oil-based spray paints are two of the most common types of spray paint popular among DIYers. However, there are other options you may not know about. 

This guide focuses on the different types of spray paint for different uses and applications. We will also look at the type of spray paint finish available to ultimately help you decide on the best one for your project.

What Are Spray Paints?

Spray paint is essentially a liquid paint container in an aerosol can. It is usually made up of two parts – the aerosol or can itself and the spray tip or nozzle. The liquid paint is dispensed by pressing down the nozzle. 

Spray paint is generally considered an alternative to traditional painting methods such as brushwork and using rollers. It is much faster and easier to use and allows you to cover large areas in less time. 

It comes in many colors, textures, and finishes like regular paint containers. Some brands come with built-in primers, so there’s no need to apply a separate coat of primer. 

Spray paint has many uses, from walls and furniture to graffiti and street art projects. 

10 Major Types of Spray Paint

1. Oil-based spray paints

Oil-based spray paint usually has a thick consistency and takes longer to dry than other types of paint, especially on porous surfaces. Sometimes, it can take up to 48 hours or a few days. 

But once dry, the paint is extremely durable and can withstand extreme weather changes and daily wear and tear. It also protects from rust and corrosion and doesn’t chip or flake.  

Depending on the material, most oil-based paints don’t need a primer and a lot of surface prep. They typically leave a gloss finish once fully cured. You may also find the color darker or more muted than other spray types. 

Because of the high VOCs in the spray paint, they are usually toxic and have a strong odor, so they’re best used outdoors. Also, you will need mineral spirits or similar solvents for cleanup. 

2. Lacquer spray paint

Lacquer spray paint leaves a hard, durable finish that can hold up against extreme temperature changes, including moisture and snow. It adheres well to the substrate and doesn’t crack, chip, or peel easily. 

It is pretty much similar to oil-based spray paint in terms of durability, but it has a thinner consistency and dries quicker. 

It’s not a popular option among DIYers and hobbyists, mainly because it’s harder to apply compared to other paint types. 

You will need to apply several coats (up to four or more) for the paint to show up. Also, you’ll often need to sand between each coat for better adhesion. 

Lacquer spray paint is particularly useful for projects that require an opaque finish.

3. Enamel spray paint

Enamel spray paints are well-known for their high durability and rapid drying time. They start to harden immediately after application and create a lustrous, opaque finish.

They are commonly used to paint outdoor furniture because they hold up well against the elements. They are also used for metals and automotive applications to prevent rust or restore faded parts. 

Most enamel paints are solvent-based and have a hard finish, making them perfect for hard surfaces. They work with most building materials and tend to resist heat, scratches, and stains. 

With good preparatory work, the project can last up to 5-10 years.

4. Acrylic spray paint

Acrylic spray paint consists of acrylic resin, pigment, and water. Due to its high percentage of water, it is often regarded as water-based spray paint. 

The paint is often compared with enamel, but they do not have the same composition. While acrylic is generally water-based, most enamel spray paints are oil-based. 

Also, enamel can last longer, is more resistant to cracks, and doesn’t fade. Acrylic, on the other hand, is far more flexible, making it more suitable for outdoor projects. 

Also, acrylic is generally less toxic, has a low odor, and is lightfast. It offers many vibrant spray paint colors, making it a popular choice for artists. It also works on many different surfaces, including canvas, metal, wood, plastic, ceramic, and more. 

Since it’s mostly water-based, acrylic is easy to clean and dries very fast, so you will need to increase your work speed. Check-out our comprehensive review on the best Acrylic spray paints to choose the best one for your project.

5. Epoxy spray paint

Epoxy spray paint consists of two parts – a resin (mainly epoxy) and a curing agent. The use of epoxy makes it more durable and tougher than regular paint. 

So, it’s commonly used on surfaces such as concrete to create a tough, hardened finish that is almost impervious and scratch-proof. 

Due to the high amount of polymers and adhesives in the paint, it is highly resistant to most chemicals, including household stains and cleaners. So, you might find it difficult to clean depending on the product you decide to use. 

Epoxy paint also has a high gloss finish and is typically water-resistant. Besides concrete, it can also be used for masonry and metal. Unlike oil-based paints, it has low toxicity. 

6. Frosted spray paint

Frosted spray paint is used to make items, such as frosted glass, to become semi-transparent. This makes it difficult to see through the glass while still allowing light to come through. 

The good thing about frosted paint is that it dries pretty quickly and doesn’t create a lot of mess. However, unlike the other paint types, it has a low resistance to flaking and chipping. It is also possible to rub off the paint job when it’s poorly done. 

The main use of frosted paint is to create privacy barriers, as seen in many windows that use frosted glass. 

7. Chalkboard spray paint

Chalkboard spray paint is exactly what it sounds like – paint that allows you to turn whatever surface you’re painting into a traditional chalkboard or blackboard. 

In other words, it is used to make a writing surface out of any item by transforming it and making it look just like a regular chalkboard, which can be written or drawn on. Once dry, the paint creates a flat, hard surface that is scratch-resistant. 

Chalkboard paint costs a bit more than regular paint and is mainly purchased through specialty paint companies.

The good thing is that you can use the paint on any flat surface – wood, concrete, drywall, metal, glass, etc. – as long as it’s convenient. It’s a common choice for children’s bedrooms. 

In addition, chalk spray paint is zero or low odor and doesn’t release harmful volatile compounds, which is why it’s safe to use around pets and young children. 

8. General-purpose spray paint

As the name suggests, a general-purpose spray paint can be used on most surfaces and materials. These include wood, fabric, glass, plastic, metal, wicker, stone, graffiti, etc. 

It usually works for both indoor and outdoor projects and provides long-lasting protection.

Most general-purpose spray paints are usually inexpensive and quick-drying with minimal dripping. They are available in different color selections, making them perfect for art and decorative projects. 

Some formulas contain paint and primer in one. 

9. Rust-preventive spray paint

As the name suggests, rust-preventive spray paint is used to protect items from rusting. It is commonly used on metal surfaces that are exposed to the elements. 

By applying the paint, you can control rust accumulation and delay corrosion. 

Like other paint types, rust-preventive paints are available in different colors and finishes. They typically have a glossy or sparkling metallic finish. 

They are commonly used in metal components such as motorcycles, car parts, and swing sets, as well as outdoor metal furniture and structures. You can also use them for wood, masonry, and wicker. 

10. High-heat spray paint

High-heat spray paint is typically used for metal parts that are exposed to extreme heat. These include stoves, radiators, engines, ovens, etc. They can withstand temperatures up to 1200 degrees. 

They come in a variety of colors and also provide rust protection for more durability. 

They are only meant to be used on the outside or exterior of an item. Do not use any electrical parts or parts that come in contact with food since this spray paint is not food safe.

The paint should be allowed to dry completely before heating up the item.  

What are the Types of Spray Paint for Plastic?

Plastic surfaces are usually difficult to paint because of their smoothness and nonabsorbent. However, it’s not impossible; all you need is the right paint, adequate prep work, and a steady hand. 

The main types of spray paint that bond well to plastic are oil-based and alkyd resin paint, as well as shellac products. Each of these requires a thinner or mineral spirits for cleanup. 

Avoid applying water-based or acrylic paint directly to plastic as they don’t adhere well and are likely to peel or flake off once dry. If you must use acrylic, then you need to prepare the surface adequately by sanding first and then applying a primer. 

Regardless of what plastic spray paint you choose, make sure it’s specifically formulated for plastic. 

What are the Types of Spray Paint for Wood?

Most general-purpose spray paints work, and oil-based spray paint work well on wood. They don’t chip or flake easily and usually retain their color for a long time.

Enamel spray paint is another great option, especially for outdoor wood projects such as trims, decks, handrails, windows, and exterior furniture. It is known for its high durability and provides resistance to dust, moisture, UV rays, snow, and other harsh weather conditions. 

Like oil-based paint, enamel paint is also resistant to fading and chipping. 

If you have any doubts about the suitability of the proposed paint for your wood furniture, you can always check the label. Most manufacturers will indicate what surfaces or materials the paint can be used for.  

What are the Types of Spray Paint for Metal?

For painting metal surfaces, you can use either water-based acrylic or oil-based enamel spray paint. The latter is the best option when you need the paint job to last much longer. However, it usually takes a longer time to dry.

In addition, oil-based spray paints tend to perform better at lower temperatures and will resist moisture. Sometimes, priming is unnecessary, especially if the product includes a built-in primer.

In general, the exact location of the item to be painted will determine what type of metal spray paint to use. 

For instance, enamel is great for outdoor metal pieces, but for objects that will be exposed to extreme heat, high-heat spray paint would be more appropriate. 

What are the Types of Spray Paint for Graffiti?

Since most graffiti projects are created outdoors, it makes sense to use oil-based spray paints. In fact, oil-based spray paint is a staple in graffiti and street art. And it’s for a good reason. 

Graffiti paintings need to survive and retain their appeal despite harsh environmental conditions. 

As you would expect, oil-based paints are extremely durable and do not chip or flake in the face of harsh climates. They are also long-lasting and do not lose color easily. 

You can also use acrylic spray paint for graffiti but make sure it’s specifically designed for that purpose. 

What are the Types of Spray Paint for Glass?

Different types of spray paint will work on glass, including general-purpose spray paint, water-based acrylic, and enamel spray paint. Whichever option you choose, make sure it’s specifically made for glass. 

Acrylic seems to be the more popular choice because it’s easier to clean and dry quickly. 

However, enamel is more durable, which is understandable since it’s oil-based. It takes longer to dry, which gives you more time on your project. 

Both acrylic and enamel paint are available in an array of colors and are highly resistant to chipping. 

What are the Types of Spray Paint for Fabric?

When painting fabric, it’s best to use fabric spray paint. Fabric paints come in a wide variety of colors and are typically water-soluble when wet and permanent when dry. They are made to work for different types of fabric. 

When fabric paint is not available, consider using acrylic spray paint. Acrylic paint also offers a huge color palette, depending on the brand. It is relatively flexible, colorfast, and permanent once dry, which makes it a good choice for fabric. 

Interestingly, most fabric spray paints are acrylic-based. 

To avoid blotches and bleed-throughs, it’s always a good idea to check the compatibility. You might want to use specific brands for specific types of fabric, such as cotton, denim, jeans, etc. 

What are the Types of Rustoleum Spray Paint?

Rust-Oleum offers various types of spray paint, including general-purpose and specialty paints. To find the best spray paint for your project, you need to consider the surface you are painting and the kind of appearance you desire. Some common options include:

  • Oil-based spray paint.
  • Water-based spray paint.
  • Acrylic spray paint.
  • Chalkboard spray paint.
  • Glitter spray paint.
  • Enamel spray paint.
  • Outdoor fabric spray paint.
  • Rust-preventive spray paint.
  • Multi-purpose spray paint, among others.

What are the types of black spray paint?

Black spray paint is simply a particular color of spray paint. So, all the paint types discussed earlier will also apply here. However, whether you’ll get the black color of any spray paint depends on the brand you opt for. 

Some products offer an array of colors, while some are limited to just one or two colors. 

Having said that, the two most common types of black spray paint are water- and oil-based spray paint. The water-based options are fast-drying and clean easily with soap and water. They are also low odor since they contain less VOCs. 

On the other hand, oil-based black spray paints contain a higher amount of 9f VOCs, which is responsible for their strong smell. As a result, you need to use them in a well-ventilated area. However, this type of paint is more durable than water-based paint.

What to Look for When Choosing the Ideal Type of Spray Paint for your Project

Durability 

Durability is a big deal if you plan to use the paint outdoors or in high-heat locations. You want a product that can withstand harsh temperature changes as well as moisture and UV rays. 

If you choose something that is not rated for outdoor use, chances are that it will fade or chip sooner, or worse, trap moisture, depending on the material. 

The type of spray paint also determines the durability. Oil-based spray paints are generally more durable than their water-based counterparts. 

Most manufacturers often use specific terms such as “long-lasting,” “durable,” or “outdoors” to indicate the durability of their product. 

Color

Spray paint comes in a wide array of colors to match different hues. This includes simple colors such as black and white, metallic colors, neutrals, trendy colors, and so on. In fact, you can think of any color, and there would be a spray paint to match that hue.

Notwithstanding, some brands may have a limited color selection, so it might not be possible to find the exact color you want. In fact, there are brands that have just one or two colors. 

At the end of the day, it all boils down to what color you like best, whether you need to recolor the item or update the existing color. 

Finish

Another important thing you need to decide is the type of finish you want. Like regular paint, spray paint comes in different finishes, ranging from flat to high-gloss. Of course, there are several options in-between such as gloss, semi-gloss, satin, and even metallic. 

The best finish for you will depend on your preference and the texture of the surface you’re painting. 

Glossy paints generally offer the highest shine and are easier to wipe clean. However, they don’t do a good job of hiding flaws on the surface. 

Matte or flat finishes do better at hiding imperfections on the surface as well as scratches and dents. However, they offer little to no shine. 

What are the Types of Spray Paint Finishes

Like regular paint, spray paint is often classified into different finishes based on the sheen level. Here are the most common ones you will come across:

  • Flat finish: A flat spray paint finish has no shine or reflects light, which makes it perfect for hiding imperfections on a surface. It is generally used where a matte look is desired. It’s best used for areas with minimal foot traffic. 

  • Semi-gloss finish: A semi-gloss finish has a sheen that is not too low or high (i.e., between matte and gloss paint). It’s often compared to a satin finish but has a higher sheen than the latter. So, it’s perfect when you need a subtle shine that isn’t too glossy. 

  • Gloss finish: Gloss spray paint has a moderate shine and offers high resistance to wear and tear. It is perfect for smooth surfaces such as plastic and is easy to clean. But it doesn’t hide flaws or imperfections on the surface.

  • High-gloss finish: High gloss spray paints have the highest degree of gloss. In other words, they are the most reflective and shiniest finish. As a result, they are very easy to clean and stain-resistant. However, unlike matte finishes, they do not hide flaws.

  • Satin finish: Also known as an eggshell finish, satin finish lies between semi-gloss and matte finish. In other words, it is flatter than semi-gloss and doesn’t reflect in low-light conditions. It is often regarded as silky or velvety and is commonly used in high-traffic areas. 

  • Metallic finishes: Metallic finishes are highly reflective, and that is because they are meant to look like metals. They are commonly used to add accents to surfaces. 

FAQs – types of spray paints

Is Spray Paint Permanent?

Most spray paints are made to become permanent once dry, but this doesn’t mean they will last forever. To increase the longevity of any paint job, you can apply a clear sealant on top or prime the surface beforehand if the paint doesn’t contain a separate coat of primer.

What Is The Most Durable Spray Paint?

What is termed as the “most durable” spray paint is subjective and depends on the item you’re painting and the level of preparation involved. In general, enamel and oil-based paints offer the strongest and most durable finishes.

How long does spray paint last?

This depends on a few factors, such as the paint type, material, and whether or not you use a primer. In general, with good prep work and the right spray paint, most paint jobs can last up to three years or more, depending on the environmental conditions. 

How many coats of spray paint?

This depends on the substrate. Generally, we recommend at least two thin coats of spray paint to get good coverage. Of course, you can apply more for additional durability. Remember to prep the surface and allow each coating to dry completely before adding the next one.

Is spraying cheaper than painting?

Spraying will allow you to cover large areas in less time which makes it less labor-intensive and somewhat cheaper. On the other hand, traditional painting methods, such as brush or roller painting, can provide a greater degree of accuracy if you know what you’re doing.

Conclusion

There you have it – the types of spray paint. We hope you found the article useful and have learned about the different types of spray paint. 

Remember, each type of spray paint is meant for a different purpose and material, so use them accordingly for the best results. Acrylic and oil-based paints seem to be the most popular option for DIYers, but they may not be suitable for every application. 

As you gain more experience, you will be able to understand how each paint work and make better decisions on how to use them in your projects. 

Let us know if you have any more questions about the different types of spray paint and finishes, and we will be glad to help. 

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