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10 Things You Need to Know Before Spray Painting

You've most likely never heard of Bonnie Seymour, but she did you a huge favor. In 1949, she suggested that her husband try putting paint in an aerosol can. He did, it worked, and painting got a whole lot easier. Here are some key tips for success with Bonnie's brilliant invention.

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Plastic Paint Works!Family Handyman

Plastic Paint Works!

Conventional spray paints just won't stick to plastic. Now paint manufacturers offer paint just for that application. These paints don't just stick; they fuse with the plastic surface to form a super-strong bond. Krylon Fusion for Plastic and Rust-Oleum 2x are two common brands.

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Light Coats and Patience Prevent RunsFamily Handyman

Light Coats and Patience Prevent Runs

The only sure way to avoid runs on a vertical surface is to spray paint on a light coat and give it a little drying time before the next. That's hard to do if you spray paint the surfaces in random order, but easy if you have a strategy. How to spray paint: Start by coating each vertical surface. Spray paint lightly to avoid runs. Then hit the horizontal areas before starting the second round. Repeat each round in the same order. That way, each surface will get maximum drying time before you return to it. If any vertical surface still looks wet, stop and remember this: An extra five minutes of drying time now is better than sanding out runs and respraying later. Elevate your work (inset) Don't set your project directly on a workbench or newspaper; the paint will glue it to the work surface. The best way to prop up wood furniture is to drive screws into the legs.
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Overlap 50 PercentFamily Handyman

Overlap 50 Percent

If you overlap just a little, you'll get stripes of heavy and light coverage. So instead, aim for 50 percent overlap, with each pass overlapping the previous pass about halfway.

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Don't Swing an ArcFamily Handyman

Don't Swing an Arc

It's the most natural motion for your arm, but swinging gives you heavy coverage in the middle of the project and light coverage at the ends. So move the can parallel to the surface, concentrating on straight, steady motion.

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Get a HandleFamily Handyman

Get a Handle

If you've ever sprayed a project that required several cans of paint, you already know about finger strain. For less than five bucks, a trigger handle not only prevents the pain but also gives you better control of the can.

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Wear a RespiratorFamily Handyman

Wear a Respirator

Spray paint cans fill the air with fine mist and solvents. That's bad—really bad—for your lungs and nervous system. Working outside is the most effective way to avoid inhaling fumes, but a breeze may blow away most of the paint before it reaches the surface, while bugs and falling leaves wreck the finish. So it's often best to work indoors with doors and windows open. Most important, wear an organic vapor respirator. It will protect you, and you won't even smell the fumes.
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Start Before; Stop AfterFamily Handyman

Start Before; Stop After

Spray paint nozzles often spit out a few large droplets when you start spraying and again when you stop. To keep this spatter off your project, pull the trigger before you're over the target and release the trigger after you're past the edge.
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Smooth a Rough SurfaceFamily Handyman

Smooth a Rough Surface

If you want a smooth finish, pick the right primer. Some are formulated to fill pockmarks and scratches. Plus, they're sandable so you can smooth the surface before top-coating with paint.

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Spin and SprayFamily Handyman

Spin and Spray

On some projects, you can walk miles circling the item to spray all the surfaces. Instead, pick up a lazy Susan at a discount store and save some legwork.

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Two Cans are Faster — and Sometimes BetterFamily Handyman

Two Cans are Faster — and Sometimes Better

Spray-painting a big surface isn't just slow; it can also lead to texture trouble. In warm, dry conditions, spray paint dries almost instantly, so very light 'overspray' may land on nearby paint that's almost dry. When that happens, you get inconsistencies in the surface texture. Here's how to get paint onto the project faster and get a consistent finish: Just hold a can in each hand. If you move each hand independently, one hand will stray off course. But if you hold the cans together, creating a single spray pattern, it's easy to stay on track. Keep in mind that this trick can lead to drips on vertical surfaces. Make faster passes and try a practice run on a scrap of cardboard.