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The ULTIMATE Guide to Spray Painting

I’m Zoe.
My mission is to teach you to  confidently build magazine-worthy DIYs. I used to be terrified of power tools, which is why I'm a firm believer that ANYONE can DIY.
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This post was sponsored by Krylon. All opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here to read our full disclosure.

If you’re looking to spray paint a project and have some questions (or just want some helpful tips and best practices), you’re in the right place. This is the Ultimate Guide to Spray Painting. 

In this post we’ll cover:

Let’s dive in! 

Benefits of Using Spray Paint

There are a handful of reasons to choose spray paint for your next project. 

  • Easy to apply 
  • Durable finish
  • Quick dry time 
  • Can get into tough spaces easier than you can with a paintbrush 
  • More cost-effective for smaller projects (no need to buy a whole quart or gallon of paint for a small project) 
  • Wide variety of colors, textures, and finishes are available

Choosing Spray Paint for Your Next Project

When deciding which spray paint to use on your next project, you’ll find that there are a lot of different options available on the market. You’ll want to consider durability, color options, and the surfaces that the spray paint can be used on.

Personally, Krylon is my go-to spray paint brand. Not only do they have pretty much limitless options in terms of colors and finishes, their paint is also extremely durable. It’s the only brand I’ve tried that hasn’t chipped over time.

Their spray paint also doesn’t require a ton of prep. Seriously, the prep I do on most spray paint projects is just wiping it clean.

You can’t beat beautiful, durable results and minimal prep work.

When you head to the store, you’ll see a handful of different lines of Krylon spray paint. Let’s quickly talk about the differences between them. 

Krylon spray paint product lines: Krylon Fusion All-In-One, ColorMaxx, Stone Texture, Chalky Finish, Glitter Blast, and Metallic

Overview of Spray Paint Lines

Fusion All-In-One®

This is our go-to line of spray paint. If you’re looking for top-of-the-line spray paint that adheres to all sorts of surfaces, look no further. With 5X Stronger Adhesion*, you can spray paint almost any surface – even difficult ones like plastic and ready-to-assemble furniture.

*Compared to Krylon General Purpose paints

You can use Fusion All-In-One on:

  • Wood 
  • Metal
  • Plastic 
  • Glass 
  • Tile 
  • Masonry 
  • Laminate 

Like I said, it works on all sorts of surfaces. If in doubt, choose the Fusion All-In-One line. I love it and highly recommend it. But if you need a little more reassurance, it also offers a No Peel Guarantee**

**If Krylon Fusion All-In-One, when applied according to product application instructions to a properly prepared surface, peels or fails to perform to your complete satisfaction, contact us with the product number at 1-800-247-3268 or [email protected] to request a refund.

Aside from the wide variety of color options and the vast number of surfaces you can paint with it, Fusion All-In-One also does not require sanding or priming. Just clean your surface, make sure it’s dry, and then you’re good to start painting! 

I know, this spray paint already sounds like it’s too good to be true, but there’s one more big thing… 

Fusion All-In-One solid colors have a big button spray tip. If you’ve ever spray painted for a long time, you know that it can result in some serious hand cramps. Well, with this bigger spray tip, it’s so much easier to use! No more cramps!

You can also spray it in any direction you want. Right side up or upside down. Whatever direction you need to tilt the can to get it all those nooks and crannies of your project works great. Gone are the days when you have to spray your spray paint perfectly upright!

close up of Krylon Fusion All-In-One can showing the big white button

And one more thing (for real this time): Fusion All-In-One is a great choice for both indoors and outdoor projects. We used it an outdoor side table a few years ago and the paint still looks brand spanking new. If you’re using it on metal, it also offers maximum rust protection.

COLORmaxx

COLORmaxx is next up on my list of recommended spray paint lines. It comes in a ton of on-trend colors and dries in 20 minutes or less. 

It can be used on both indoor and outdoor projects and works great on the following surfaces:

  • Wood 
  • Metal 
  • Plastic 
  • Glass 
  • Fabric
  • Paper 
  • Wicker 

Like the Fusion All-In-One line, it has a big button spray tip that you can spray any way. 

Chalky Finish 

Ooof, I love the ultra-matte finish of the Chalky Finish line. We’ve used it on a ton of projects, but my favorite has to be these glass vases (the Mink color is so good).

The Chalky Finish line gives you durable results and doesn’t require primer. If you like a distressed look, it is sandable so you can sand off various spots on your project. 

You can use it on the following materials:

  • Wood 
  • Metal 
  • Plastic 
  • Laminate 
  • Glass 
  • Wicker 

Brilliant Metallic 

If you’re looking for that shiny, metal look, this is the best spray paint line on the market. The way this spray paint catches the light is really cool – my personal favorite color is Gold Leaf.

It can be used on:

  • Wood 
  • Metal 
  • Plastic 
  • Glass 
  • Paper 
  • Wicker 

This line is for interior use only. If you’re looking to add a metallic look outdoors, the Fusion All-In-One line has some metallic color options.

Other Specialty Spray Paint Lines 

Krylon DIY spray paint lines

I’m going to list a few more of my personal favorite specialty spray paint lines, but there are a ton more beyond these. If you’re curious about all the possibilities, check out krylon.com

Rust Tough

If you’re looking for maximum rust protection and fade resistance for a metal outdoor project, this is the line for you.

No priming is needed – you can spray it directly on metal.

Glitter Blast 

Okay, if you like glitter, you are going to LOVE this spray paint. We used it for vases on our Christmas tablescape and I quickly become obsessed. 

The best part? Once it’s on, you can add a clear sealer and then the glitter stays put. It doesn’t flake off. It won’t cover your house in an endless stream of glitter. You can get the glitter look without all the cleanup headache. 

Stone Finish 

This stuff is cool. It comes in a variety of different colors and there is both a course stone and fine stone texture line. The course stone finish shoots out of the can almost like silly string! 

When it dries, it leaves you with actual texture. Not just the look of texture–actual texture. The colors aren’t flat either. Natural stone consists of specks of a handful of different colors. This spray paint mimics that. 

Glass 

From sea glass to frosted glass…there’s a handful of specialty paint lines designed specifically for fun effects on glass. 

High Heat Max

Ever wanted to give your grill or metal firepit a new look? You can spray paint it! This spray paint was designed to withstand temperatures up to 1200°F intermittently and 600°F continuously. How amazing is that?? 

A quick caveat: it’s not for cooking surfaces. You can use it on the outside of your grill, but don’t be spraying the inside of it! 

P.S. Not every store carries every line of spray paint. You’re more likely to find a wider variety of the Glitter Blast, Stone Finish, and Glass lines at your local Michaels or Hobby Lobby rather than at Lowe’s. Lowe’s on the other hand has a wide variety of the Fusion All-In-One and COLORmaxx lines. Click here to find a retailer near you

Now that we’ve covered some of the different lines of spray paint (I hope you’re inspired by all of the possibilities!), let’s switch gears and talk about how to spray paint. 

How to Spray Paint 

Spray Painting Supplies 

Aside from grabbing the spray paint you want to use, you’ll also want to grab a drop cloth, newspaper, or some cardboard to put down underneath the project. 

You might also want something to hold your project up off of the ground. I like to avoid spray painting something when it is directly touching the ground (or drop cloth). Sometimes the paint will stick to the surface underneath and you can end up with some awkward extra paint around the edges of your project.

Generally, I like to use these mini paint cones. They are also great because they minimize the surface area that is being touched. 

If you aren’t using the Fusion All-In-One or  lines that have the big button spray tip, you might also consider the Krylon Snap and Spray Can Handle. It attaches to the spray paint can and then you just squeeze the handle instead of pressing the nozzle. It’s definitely not necessary for short paint jobs, but it can be nice to have when you’re planning to go through a few cans of spray paint!

Safety Tips 

Before planning your spray paint project, make sure to peak at the weather forecast. If it’s 100% humidity with a 95% chance of rain, you might want to wait. According to the Fusion All-In-One can, it’s best to apply when temperatures are between 55-75°F and humidity is below 60%. But always check the label on your particular can as it may vary.

Whenever possible, spray paint outdoors. This gives you maximum air circulation.

If you can’t spray paint outdoors, open windows to increase ventilation and consider wearing a respiratory mask.

Spray Painting Step-by-Step

STEP 1: PREP YOUR SURFACE

The first step for any successful project is good preparation. Check out the tips down below for different types of materials to see if you want to sand or prime before spray painting. 

If you’re usually the Fusion All-In-One, COLORmaxx, or Chalky Finish lines, you’re good to go. No sanding or priming required! 

Regardless of what surface you are spray painting or what paint line you’re using, every project needs to start with a clean surface. Make sure to remove any grease, oil, chipping paint, dust, and debris from the item that you are spray painting.

If you don’t want to get paint on a specific area, be sure to cover it up. 

STEP 2: SHAKE YOUR CAN 

This step is so important for a smooth, consistent finish. Shake the can for 2 minutes before spray painting. I like to think of it as a dance to make it a little more fun. 

Once the spray paint is shaken up, spray a little bit of paint on your tarp, newspaper, or cardboard (aka whatever is underneath your project) to make sure it comes out how you expected. 

STEP 3: SPRAY 

Now it’s time for the most important step. Spray painting is a pretty simple process, but there are a few best practices to keep in mind to get the best results. 

Tips to Getting the Best Finish
  1. Start spraying off of the surface. When you start by spraying on the surface, you run the risk of applying it too heavily in that first spot. You always want to check to make sure the can is spraying how you expected it to before touching your project. 
  2. Test out your motion and distance on the cardboard or tarp before moving to your item. You don’t need to spend long on this step, just take a moment to practice spraying to make sure you feel good about your technique. 
  3. Apply multiple, thin coats to your project. It’s better to apply 5 thin coats than 2 thick coats. The first coat or two might look a little rough, but I promise the surface will get covered evenly if you just keep going. 
  4. Don’t stop moving. You don’t want to jerk back and forth across the surface or stay in one spot forever. Instead, move evenly across the surface while continually spraying. I generally go about 10-12” per second. 
  5. Move in a line across the surface. As you move down or over to the next line, the spray paint should slightly overlap the area that you just sprayed. 
  6. Make sure you’re the correct distance from the surface. The back of your paint can will tell you, but generally, it’s about 8-12” away from your project. Too close and it’ll be too thick. Too far and most of the paint will disappear into thin air. 
using Krylon Fusion All-In-One in Matte Beach Glass to spray paint wood beads
Wait Time Between Coats 

The wait time between coats varies based on the specific paint line that you’re using. Check the back of the can for the recommended wait time between coats. 

For Fusion All-In-One, the wait time is one minute. Aka, you can pretty much just keep making rounds on your project until it’s complete (yet another reason why it’s my favorite spray paint). 

Flipping The Project Over 

When you need to spray paint both sides of something, you’re likely going to have to flip your project over at some point. Check the back of the paint can to see the dry to touch time.

If you are using mini paint cones that minimize the areas that will be touched, you can flip your project over once the paint is dry to the touch and then coat the second side. 

If you aren’t using something to elevate the majority of your project, I would recommend waiting a little longer than the dry-to-touch time. When you do flip it over, make sure that you aren’t flipping the project over into a wet spot (or freshly painted) spot on the tarp. Been there, done that…

Generally if I’m flipping my project over and it’s going to resting directly on the tarp, I will wait about an hour and then I’ll flip it. 

Other Random Tips 

If you want to contain the overspray, place your project in a large cardboard box or in a paint tent. Generally, we don’t worry too much about overspray and just spray paint outdoors in the middle of the yard. We have a large enough tarp to protect the grass. 

Wanting to stencil a project? Spray paint is great for that! As long as your stencil stays in place, you’ll have super crisp lines with ease.

I mentioned it a few times, but always read the instructions on the back of the can before starting. There are a million different spray paint lines and some of them have their own unique nuances. Don’t assume dry times, times between coats, or recommended prep steps are the same for every paint line. 

Spray Paint Tips for Different Surfaces 

Wood 

When using Fusion All-In-One and COLORmaxx spray paints, you don’t technically need to sand or prime before painting. 

However, when spray painting wood, I recommend sanding first for the smoothest finish. I like to sand with 120-220 grit sandpaper before painting my project. 

If the wood previously had paint on the surface and it’s peeling, make sure to remove all the chipping paint before spray painting. Adding a coat of spray paint won’t stop previous paint from chipping.

Once the wood is sanded, wipe the surface clean (I like to use tack cloth). 

Now here’s the age-old question: if spray painting raw wood do I need to prime? Again, technically you don’t need to prime if using Fusion All-In-One or COLORmaxx spray paint, however, you might want to consider priming if it’s a large project.

Raw wood soaks up paint like a sponge. If you prime first, you’ll need fewer coats of spray paint.

Priming first will also help your wood absorb the paint more evenly. If your wood has knots, the knots (and the area around it) will absorb the paint at a different rate than other areas of the wood. Priming will help make it more consistent. 

Tip: If spray painting a darker color, use a gray primer instead of white. 

Spray Painted Wood Project Inspiration 

Metal 

Before spray painting metal, you want to remove any loose rust using a wire brush or sandpaper. If the surface has a lot of rust, you can also use a chemical rust remover. 

Clean the surface thoroughly. If the surface has oil or buildup, use a degreaser to get it nice and clean. 

For increased durability, prime your metal surface before applying spray paint. Note: you do not need to prime first with Fusion All-In-One, COLORmaxx, or Rust Tough lines – they are already very durable and offer rust protection). 

Spray Painted Metal Project Inspiration 

Plastic 

There are two things to keep in mind when spray painting plastic: make sure to clean it well and check to see if your spray paint can be used on plastic. 

If the particular spray paint you picked up doesn’t mention plastic, prime first. But really, I would recommend just sticking with a spray paint that specifically mentions that it works on plastic. I can’t speak highly enough about Fusion All-In-One!

For cleaning: if your plastic is old, use an ammonia-based cleaner to prep the surface. If it’s new plastic, you can wipe it down or use a paint thinner for an extra clean. 

Spray Painted Plastic Project Inspiration 

Glass

If using Fusion All-In-One, COLORmaxx, Chalky Finish, or a Glass Effects spray paint on glass, simply clean it up, make sure the surface is dry, and start spray painting.

If you’re using another line of spray paint, I’d recommend lightly hand sanding the surface of the glass using 120 grit sandpaper. This will make the surface a little less slick and increase adhesion. 

You can also apply a primer for great adhesion.

Spray Painted Glass Project Inspiration 

Frequently Asked Questions

I got spray paint on my hands – how do I get it off?

You can easily get the spray paint off of your hands with some olive oil. Rub a little olive oil (or coconut oil) into your hands. Then wash your hands with dish soap and water to remove.

Something got in my paint. How do I get it out?

Okay, I know you’re tempted to just try to pluck it out right when you notice it, but I’d recommend waiting. Wait for your paint to dry to the touch and then try to pluck it out or lightly sand it out depending on what the debris is. Then go back over the area with another light coat of spray paint. 

Do I need to prime?

This really depends on your particular project and the paint line that you’re using. It’s never going to hurt your project to primer first, but it isn’t always necessary. The back of the paint can will tell you if a primer is recommended. 

Personally, I would recommend it when you are spray painting raw wood or want even more durability and adhesion. 

Do I need to sand?

You don’t technically need to sand the surface when using the Fusion All-In-One, COLORmaxx, or Chalky Finish paint lines, but I would always recommend sanding wood for the smoothest finish.

For paint lines other than the ones listed, you can lightly sand your surface first for greater adhesion.  

If you are painting over something that has been previously painted and the paint is started to chip, you’ll need to remove the chipped paint before spray painting. 

Do I need to seal my project?

Like primer, sealing your project isn’t going to hurt it as long as it’s applied properly. Generally, I don’t apply a sealer to my spray paint project. That being said, if the specific paint line that you’re using (ex: Glitter Blast) specifically recommends that you seal your project, then go ahead and seal it.

My spray paint looks like it’s cracking. What did I do wrong?

Spray paint can look like it has a cracked texture when the temperature you applied it in is too hot or too cold. More often than not though, it occurs when you apply it too heavily or you recoat too quickly.

If you recoat an area before the first layer is dry (another reason to always check the recoat times on your specific spray paint can), it can cause the spray paint to pull and look like it’s cracking.

If it happens, don’t fret! It’s an easy fix. Wait for the area to dry. Once dry, lightly sand the area until the surface is smooth. Wipe it with tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding. Then apply light coats as you reapply the paint. 

This is another reason I highly recommend Krylon Fusion All-In-One spray paint. It adheres great, dries quickly, and you only have to wait a minute to recoat. You won’t run into this issue with that line of spray paint!

My hand cramps when I spray paint. Any tips?

Try using the Krylon Fusion All-In-One or COLORmaxx lines! They have big button spray tips that make it so easy. If you’re using another line and are planning to use a few cans of spray paint, try the Krylon Snap and Spray Can Handle. It attaches to your spray paint can and then you don’t need to press a button. 

Krylon Snap and Spray attachment on spray paint can

Help, my spray paint nozzle is clogged!

If your nozzle has clogged, don’t stress. It’s a pretty simple fix. First, use warm water to wipe off the nozzle. If the water doesn’t unclog it, you can try some paint thinner. 

To prevent your spray paint from clogging in the future, here’s what you want to do. Once you’re done spray painting, turn your spray paint can upside down and spray until it turns clear. No need to do this with the big button Fusion All-In-One or COLORmaxx lines.

My project is sticky and doesn’t seem to be drying… 

Usually, this happens because you applied the paint too thick. Spray paint should always be applied in multiple thin coats.

Okay, okay, but if you read this post after you spray painted something with too heavy of hand, how do you fix it? First, wait a few days. Time is usually enough to solve it. If you wait a few days and it’s still not dry, you have a couple of options. 

Option 1: apply a little bit of talcum powder to the paint. This should help absorb some of the water. 

Option 2: wipe it off/sand it down. Start fresh with a clean surface. This time just be sure to apply really thin coats. Remember, the first couple of coats might look a little splotchy, but that’s okay. Thin coats are better than trying to cover it all in one pass. 

How many coats of spray paint do I need?

The number of coats you’ll need will depend on the project you’re working on. Remember, it’s always better to apply multiple thin coats. Generally, I will apply 3-4. Once I think the surface 95-100% covered, I like to apply one more coat for good measure.

Can I recycle my spray paint cans?

Yes! If your area has a place to recycle steel aerosol cans, then Krylon spray paint cans can be recycled. Before taking it to the recycling center, make sure the can is empty and then remove the plastic spray cap. The plastic spray cap can be recycled separately. 

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