Learning How to Spray Paint

Now that I've had my HVLP sprayer for a month or so and used it on a few projects, I have some observations. To those who use spray painters all the time, I'm sure they are of the "duh" nature. To those who, like me, are just learning the benefits of spray painting, I hope they'll help.

  1. Buy a compressor that can power a spray painter. I have a little Porter Cable compressor that can only manage 2.5 CFM. I'd need something that could push about 10+ CFM to push paint at a constant rate. Consequently, I have to stop and rest every 45 seconds for about a minute while the compressor catches up.
  2. Many light coats. Don't kid yourself into thinking you can get away with one or even two coats. You'll need between 4 and 6 coats to cover what you could have covered with two coats with a brush. Unless, of course, you want drips.
  3. Cover everything. I don't care what they say, spray paint gets everywhere. I created a plastic-enclosed room in my basement in which I spray paint. The air turns black when I'm painting.
  4. Wear a respirator. I saw my neighbor's house being painted. The painters sprayed the exterior. None of them wore masks. I was appalled. When I spray, I wear disposable masks. That's not enough. I need to wear something more serious.  I also wear earplugs.
  5. Sand between coats. There will be drips and little bits of crap that get stuck to the surface. Sand with 220 or 400 grit sandpaper to get them off.

I've spent hours trying various settings on my HVLP spray gun. I've found that I don't so much need to worry about the paint feed speed, nor about the air feed speed once I got them set. Mostly, I deal with the angle of the spray (vertical vs. horizontal) and the width of the spray angle (narrow-beam or somewhat-wide-spray). I've found that the widest-angle sprays don't really cover very much. That could be a function of my compressor, but for now, I tend to stick with under a 10-degree spray width.

Comments (2)

  1. Rob says:


    I don’t do lot of spraying either, but when I do it needs to be of a reasonable standard. I beleive that the higher the quaility of paint that you use, the better the paint hangs, therefore you can apply heavier coats.

  2. I’m using a very high quality paint (a local producer — Rodda — with which I’ve had great results). I think the issue has more to do with humidity. I’ve created a plastic room that’s about 8’x8′ by stapling and taping painter’s plastic to walls, ceiling, floor. It’s great for keeping the overspray from getting everywhere, but the humidity increases, which prolongs the drying time, which increases the likelihood of drips. I’m now looking into buying a 600cfm exhaust fan and filtering and venting to the outside.

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