Mixing Paint for Spraying

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What You'll Need
Paint strainer
Paint sprayer
Sprayer tips
Test board
Safety goggles
Face mask
Adequate ventilation in the work area

It’s important to know how to mix paint correctly if you’re going to use a paint sprayer for application. As powerful as paint sprayers are, they won’t spray paint effectively unless the paint is made thin enough to run through the nozzle of the sprayer.

Alternatively, paint that is too thin yields poor coverage from using the sprayer. Finding the perfect balance is vital when mixing paint.

Step 1 - Type of Paint

What you use when mixing paint will depend on the type of paint you’re using. Latex paints are easy since they can be thinned with just a little water. If you plan on using an oil-based paint, you’ll need mineral spirits to thin it. Funnily enough, mineral spirits are also sold as paint thinners.

Some paints can also be thinned with other products, but you’ll need to look on the can for the manufacturer’s recommendations as it can vary by brand or paint type.

It's important to note that some paints can not be thinned, though if this is the case, it will say so on the can.

Step 2 - Safety

Since oil-based paints can emit toxic fumes, you should always wear a face mask when you’re working with them as well as safety goggles to protect your eyes when spraying the paint.

The environment you’re working in should also factor in your safety considerations. If you are working in a tight, enclosed space, the face mask alone may not cut it, so you may need a respirator or ventilator to avoid fumes and maintain good airflow.

Step 3 - Straining Paint

Even the best-shaken paint can still contain lumps that will clog a sprayer almost instantly. The first step in mixing paint is to pour it through a paint strainer into another container. The strainer will catch all of the lumps, leaving you with a much more usable liquid.

Step 4 - Testing

Before mixing the paint with the thinner, test to see how it sprays. Put a little in the sprayer container and spray it onto a test board. If it already sprays well, meaning it comes out in a fine mist and gives good coverage, then you won’t need to thin this paint at all. However, if you notice that the flow is slightly interrupted, you will need to thin the paint.

Step 5 - Mixing

Add a little water or chemical thinner of choice (depending on which type of paint you have) to the bucket of paint and stir thoroughly. When mixing paint, the recommendation with latex paint is to add in 1/4 cup of water for every 1 gallon of paint. Put some in the sprayer and test it again.

For oil-based paint, start with a smaller amount of thinner as this product tends to work more aggressively than water. You don’t want to over-thin the paint with your first addition.

Step 6 – Adjustments to the Nozzle

You can also experiment with different spray tips on the paint sprayer when you’re mixing paint. Always test the paint and spray tips on a test board before you cover a wall. Continue experimenting with thinner until you achieve a good consistency and excellent coverage.

Step 7 – Sprayer

There is a spectrum of quality for paint sprayers on the market. If you’re using a cheap or poorly made sprayer, you’ll have problems regardless of how well you mix, as poor manufacturing means the sprayer may never work properly.

If you have quite a large area to spray, it may be worth it to rent an industrial quality sprayer.

Step 8 – Clean Test Materials

After experimenting with different tips, clean them thoroughly in mineral spirits before you go to spray the actual wall or ceiling. Don’t expect perfect coverage with a single coat of paint. It’s much better to use two to three thin coats of paint, letting each one dry before spraying again.