5 Spray Painting Tips for a Smooth, Professional Finish

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Whether you’re spray painting plastic or metal, there are several fundamental rules to apply if you want to achieve a professional smooth finish.

You want to show off your newly sprayed car, garage door or restored vintage fridge, and don’t want to have to hide your pride and joy away from the world because you didn’t follow a few simple, and internationally recognised, rules of spray painting.

Regardless of the technique or medium you are using – airbrush or auto air gun – by applying these five easy tips, you will end up with a car, door, bumper or metal/plastic-covered object that you can be proud of. However, if you have a more intricate spray-painting job to be done, it is best to stick with the spray-painting specialists. This will ensure every nook and cranny is sufficiently coated, and that it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Check the weather

Firstly, if you don’t have a spray booth, the weather plays a large role in the spray painting application. If it’s too hot the paint will dry before it reaches the surface, and it will end up balling and attaching to the surface, creating an orange peel effect. Do not spray paint in hot or humid weather. The ideal temperature to spray paint is between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius, for a smooth, even application.

Preparing the surface

Don’t be too eager to get going with the first coat. Many over-eager and inexperienced spray painters will jump the gun, quite literally. Correct preparation is essential and it takes the longest, so be prepared and warned. Remove any debris and dust by sanding, peeling, washing and drying thoroughly. Also, ensure that the paint you are using is compatible with your surface.

In the case of resurfacing cars, you may want to have the surface professionally prepared, however, if you’re determined to prepare a metal surface yourself, then remember that it is mandatory to remove all scratches and old peeling paint with sandpaper from 30 – 1000 grit. One small piece of overlooked rust or paint will get the most attention on any large spray-painted surface.

The first coat

This needs to be applied with a lot of care and attention. All good spray-painting professionals will tell you that over spraying or under spraying are both obvious, common mistakes to make, especially over spraying. Paint build-up will mean starting from scratch again so learn quickly to hold the spray nozzle approximately 25 to 30 centimetres away from the surface. Using steady and even strokes, you want to slowly spray from side to side, making it easier to produce an even coat. If you have applied a primer first then it’s best to wait at least 24 hours before applying the first coat.

Recoating

Patience really is a virtue in the spray-painting game. If you apply a subsequent coat too quickly you will have a paint build up, which is not ideal. Wait at least 20 minutes between coats. Some instructions only suggest 15 minutes, but you want to avoid cracks and wrinkles, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Lightly sanding between coats also means you use less paint to cover the surface more smoothly, and fix any problem areas before continuing.

Keep the nozzle clean

Spray nozzles can easily become clogged and cause you to stop mid-way through your slow, even spraying strokes. Before you start recoating, clean the spray nozzle, that way, the paint does not have time to build up and create spluttering and spitting. You want the paint to come out in a soft mist, not spitting out blobs of paint onto your newly prepared surface. Remember, when using a spray can, always shake the can between each slow back and forth motion, this keeps the paint nicely mixed and it produces an even colour.