Why Does Spray Paint Wrinkle? Details and How to Fix!


Last updated: April 12, 2023

Get to know what causes spray paint wrinkle and how to prevent them.

Wrinked spray paint to show why does spray paint wrinkle

There’s nothing as frustrating as completing a perfect paint job only to end up with a wrinkled surface afterward when it dries.  So, why does spray paint wrinkle? 

This guide is dedicated to answering that question, including the possible causes of paint wrinkles, what actually happens, and what to do and not to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We also share some practical tips for fixing such problems when they arise. 

Why Does Spray Paint Wrinkle?

Several reasons contribute to spray paint wrinkling. The quality of the spray paint is a critical factor that determines the outcome of your spray paint job. The environment, temperature levels, type of surface being spray painted, and your overall spray painting skills can also cause spray paint to wrinkle.

Is It Normal For Spray Paint To Wrinkle?

When I was still an amateur spray painter, I encountered several incidents of wrinkling after doing everything I believed would get me the perfect smooth finish. I kept asking myself the same question you’re probably asking now: why does my spray paint wrinkle? 

By then, I didn’t know that in some cases, this is an everyday occurrence from improper application of spray paint, poor weather conditions, and poor quality paint. 

One quick way to diagnose the problem is to immediately wipe off the paint from the surface and start again if you notice signs of paint failing to stick or wrinkling. While this is an annoying experience, you’re likely to witness it more often if you’re an avid DIYer. 

One rule of thumb you must always pay attention to is cleaning the surface you want to spray before you start if you want the paint to adhere correctly and achieve a smooth finish. 

Again, take note of the environmental and weather conditions, as these also play a crucial factor in achieving a smooth, sleek coat. 

And that should be your ultimate goal with spray paint: create the smoothest possible surface, free from uneven patterns, wrinkles, or other blemishes. 

Why Does My Spray Paint Wrinkle on the Second Coat?

Spray paint can wrinkle on the second coat for several reasons, including applying several layers of paint, resulting in the undercoats not drying completely. 

Another reason is a dirty surface full of dust or using spray paint that’s not even recommended for that particular surface you want to spray. For example, using spray paint explicitly meant for wood on metal surfaces is bound to cause problems. 

Always ensure that the paint you’re using is compatible with the intended surface or item for painting. In addition, sanding down the surface is one of the spray painting best practices that should be observed.

Sanding helps the paint to adhere correctly to the surface. Once you’re done spray painting, allow it to dry thoroughly, then add a primer suitable for the spray paint you used. 

These steps are necessary to ensure the paint adheres perfectly to avoid wrinkling or uneven appearance.

Why Is My Rustoleum Spray Paint Wrinkling?

Rust-Oleum spray paint application is the primary reason it has a high chance of wrinkling. Too much paint application or too many coats will result in wrinkling. 

This particular spray paint is recommended for use on flat, not porous surfaces like metal or wood. 

Unless you are okay with a wrinkled surface, avoid using Rust-Oleum spray paint on metal or wood, as this is likely the possible outcome you’ll get. 

Otherwise, if you must use Rust-Oleum spray paint, use a primer to ensure the surface is resistant to scratches and damage.

Reasons Your Spray Paint is Likely to Wrinkle

Here are some common reasons your spray paint is likely to develop wrinkles instead of a smooth, clean finish.

Sometimes less is more, and all you need is a moderate application and not necessarily a thick coat of paint to achieve the desired results. 

Too thick a coating makes the top layer dry faster while the undercoat remains wet. Uncured paint trapped under the skin causes the dried top layer to expand, resulting in a web of wrinkles. 

1. Hot Temperatures 

Extreme temperatures not only catalyzes wrinkles, but also spray paint bubbles.  If you spray paint outside under the hot summer sun, you’ll end up with ruffles all over the painted surface. 

If you must do your paint job during summer, at least do it in the garage or shelter away from the sweltering heat, and don’t apply a too thick a coating. Instead, use the spray paint sparingly to achieve an even finish. 

2. High Humidity Levels

If your paint is partially cured, you should ensure it’s not exposed to high humidity levels, dew, or rain. Otherwise, these elements will cause it to stretch and wrinkle out. Check the humidity levels before spray painting and ensure it’s not more than 85%. 

3. Uncured Primer

The primer should be fully dry before applying spray paint coating. Otherwise, uncured primer is known to cause wrinkles on painted surfaces. 

While at it, ensure both the primer and paint are of the same brand and compatible to facilitate a smooth bonding and hassle-free process. 

4. Contaminated Surfaces 

Where there are wax, grease, and similar contaminants on a surface, they may prevent the paint from anchoring well. That’s why it’s recommended that you follow the three-step surface preparation, especially when working with nonporous surfaces like metal or wood. 

The first step is to wash the surface with detergent and water to remove all water-soluble dirt and contaminants. The next step is to use a wax and grease removal agent for a thorough cleaning before wiping it down with isopropyl alcohol. 

5. Working with the Wrong Materials 

Using different types of spray paint, primers, additives, and thinners that are incompatible with each other is a recipe for disaster. Besides wrinkles, it can also cause spray paint rubbing off.

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure compatibility with all the products you’ll be working with. 

Otherwise, you might just wake up to wrinkles on your painted items, and who wants to see their entire work backfire for merely failing to read instructions?

6. Too Much or Lack of Pressure

One common cause of spray paint wrinkling is using too much force and releasing too much pressure.  While a small amount of pressure is needed to spray, too much or too little of it can lead to uneven coverage on your painted surface.

7. Failure to Shake Can

This basic step is often overlooked and could be the catalyst for ruining your perfect paintwork. Most spray cans are made for use with solvents, meaning you must shake the can to avoid ending up with streaks. As you read the instructions, also be sure to shake the can for 60 seconds before use. 

8. Wrong Application Methods and Inadequate Dry Time

The application technique you employ when spray painting determines how it turns out on your item. If you apply too much paint on a particular area or in a single layer, you’ll just end up with perfect wrinkles. 

The fewer layers you apply, the better. Alternatively, even a single thick layer is enough to get that ideal finish. And if you’re applying a fresh coat of paint over an existing old one, leave sufficient dry time between coats, and you won’t have any wrinkles to deal with. 

9. Expired Spray Paint

Contrary to popular perception, spray paint does expire, and it’s another cause of wrinkles. Expired paints may produce different results than desired ones, especially when used in cold weather. 

How To Prevent Your Spray Paint From Wrinkling: 10 Pro Tips

Below are some ten professional tips that, if implemented, will ensure you don’t end up with wrinkles when working with spray paint. 

1. Always Work with Compatible Materials

We can’t emphasize this enough, but one rule of thumb with spray paints is to use only compatible products. Check the label of each paint, primer, thinner, and additive to determine which one can work together. 

For example, you should avoid mixing enamel paints with acrylic.  And even after reading the instructions from the manufacturer, always test each coating to determine if they’re compatible. 

2. Prepare the Surface Adequately

Contaminants like grease and wax may affect the adhesiveness of your spray paint on the substrate. This is another reason you should read and refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations on surface preparation before applying the primer.  

3. Don’t Rush, Be Patient

Spray painting is an art, meaning you should exercise utmost patience as you focus on the job. Again refer to the manufacturer guidelines for the ideal temperature and humidity levels. 

4. Allow the Premier to Set Properly

Following the instructions on the label, give the primer sufficient time to set on the substrate after applying it before you spray paint a new layer on top. 

Otherwise, you may think your spray paint is dry when it is only partially cured. In that case,  it may require a lot of time to dry, even up to several weeks, for the primer needs to expel gas. 

5. Clean Off the Dust

This is an important step that should be given priority. Get rid of all the dirt on the surface before getting down to work. You’ll be surprised at how such a mundane process can save you so many headaches in the form of wrinkles later on. 

6. Mask it Up

Masking is a significant step when working with plastic spray-paint projects. You can use masking tape to block portions of your project and keep wrinkles at bay. 

Place the required number of masking tape strips over the plastic substrate and spray paint on top of it. This way, you won’t have any paint spills on unwanted surfaces, and only specific surface sections will stay painted. 

7. Let It Dry In Between Each Coat

Spray paint is generally a messy job. Applying too much of it can result in numbness and lumpiness, and ultimately wrinkles. 

Suppose you notice signs of crumpines in between coats, give it at least 20 minutes to dry up before adding another layer. Waiting for a few minutes is better than dealing with distorted work and unnecessary headaches.

8. Blot with Paper Towel or Dry Towel

Most spray paints are highly volatile since they’re solvent-based formulas meaning they can get wrinkled up at the slightest exposure to moisture. We recommend blotting off any excess drops of spray paint with a dry towel after painting to prevent wrinkles.

9. Work Within the Ideal Temperatures

Once the primer is completely dry, it’s time to get down to the real task of spray painting. If you’re working outdoors, avoid direct exposure to extreme weather, hot or cold. 

Too much sunlight causes the paint to dry faster, while the undercoat may remain damp and uncured. Also, high humidity levels can prolong drying time, leaving you with a disappointing outcome.

10. Work with the Best Quality Thinners

If you decide to use a thinner or additive, follow the recommendations provided on the product label. Ensure you work within the temperature ranges for each product as specified on the label. 

Avoid using the wrong thinners if you want to avoid issues like when the substrate fails to absorb the thinner, which could result in wrinkles.

11. Apply Thin Coats

Applying thin coats is essential to avoiding wrinkles on the complete work. Several thin coats are better than one big thick coat. Just allow enough drying time between each coat for the best results. 

Why Does Spray Paint Wrinkle?

What to Do When Spray Paint Wrinkles On Wood

When your spray painting results in wrinkles, especially with wooden surfaces, you can sand it lightly to eliminate the unpleasant wrinkles. However, this method can work only on moderate wrinkles and if you’re not keen on a sleek, shiny surface. 

Otherwise, it may only work for some of your projects. If light sanding doesn’t work, consider removing the spray paint and starting over again using the most suitable primer and paint. 

This may be frustrating, time-consuming, and costly, but unfortunately, it may be the only solution to get everything right. 

Remember that you must clean the wooden surface, sand it, and allow it to dry before painting it, then leave enough time between coats to achieve the best possible outcome. 

What to Do When Spray Paint Wrinkles On Plastic

Here is another scenario where you must strip off the spray paint and start over again. For plastic surfaces, try this new trick to make things easier. 

Spread a damp towel over the wrinkled spray paint that you want to strip off and leave it for 10 minutes, then remove the towel and let the wrinkles dry out. 

The moisture in the damp towel can cause the paint to loosen up and spread evenly on the surface. This is an easier way to fix the problem than redoing it. It’s a trick that may or may not work, but you can still try it. 

If it doesn’t, take a bold step and start again, this time cleaning the plastic surfaces thoroughly, sanding, and adding a good primer. It’s one way to ensure the paint adheres perfectly and gains more grip on the surface, ultimately preventing any wrinkling incidents. 

Most importantly should only work with plastic-compatible products and be sure to leave ample drying time between each coat.

What to Do When Spray Paint Wrinkles On Metal

If you’ve recently applied spray paint on a metal surface and it developed wrinkles, you fix the problem with ease. You just need some fine sandpaper and more spray paint. 

Ensure the paint is entirely dry before you try to solve the wrinkly problem by observing the manufacturer’s recommended drying time. 

Once it dries, sand down the lumps and wrinkles using fine sandpaper for a smooth finish. If the wrinkles are extreme, consider working with a coarse sandpaper before switching to a fine one. 

Once you’ve achieved a smoother surface, a quick wipe with a damp towel will remove the dust and residues as you leave it to dry. 

Avoid spraying a new layer of paint on a wet metal surface and wait until it’s fully dry, then spray the sanded area for a perfect finish. 

How To Solve the Problem Once and for All

Prevention is better than cure. Knowing what to do to prevent your painted items from developing wrinkles can save you a lot of unnecessary frustrations. 

One straightforward way of avoiding wrinkles on your paint projects is by applying two layers of paint, not just one. You may not consider this optional, especially if the final outcome shows a perfect blend of colors. 

But if you’re keen on getting things right, just wait for the first coat to dry and add another. Be sure to avoid creating an unrepairable mess. 

FAQS – What Causes Spray Paint to Wrinkle?

Why does my spray paint look bumpy?

This happens when you stand too far from the substrate you’re painting, causing the paint to atomize before reaching the surface. The spray paint produces a grainy feel instead of a smooth finish. You can rectify this by sanding and redoing it while maintaining sufficient distance from the substrate. 

How do I get a smooth finish when spray painting?

Follow the standard procedures. First, ensure the surface is clean and dust-free. Next, use a primer and work with suitable paints recommended for that surface. Allow enough drying time between each coat. 

Can I paint over wrinkled paint?

if you are okay with a distorted surface or working on a unique paint job, not necessarily a household item or flat substrates like a car or wall. You should instead work to fix the problem by removing the wrinkles and applying a new layer of spray paint. 

Should you sand between spray paint coats?

Spray paint contains a sheen that reflects light and outlines scratches, nicks, and other surface imperfections. It’s a good idea to sand the surface before spray painting and apply at least two coats of primer. It’s also advisable to sand between each coat.

Can you put too many coats of spray paint?

This is not recommended because the chances of paint developing wrinkles are high. Excess coats of spray paint can result in selective drying of the top layer leaving the undercoat wet and uncured. Now that’s one sure way to end up with a bad case of wrinkles. 

What Causes Spray Paint to Wrinkle – Summary

If you’re asking yourself why spray paint wrinkles even on a second coat, there can be several reasons to explain it, making it impossible to understand what went wrong somewhere during the process. This can be frustrating if you believe you prepared the surface adequately to remove pollutants. 

Overall ensure you take your time with the project, take it slow but sure. Use only the best quality materials, especially those compatible with the surfaces you plan to work on. 

Most importantly, leave ample time for drying between coats, and you won’t have to deal with any wrinkles or lumpiness. These steps will be helpful when you want to avoid wrinkles and even when you want to remove them. 

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