Curious about paint sprayers but not sure where to start? In this beginners guide, we explain how to paint with sprayer and techniques for spray painting your house interior and exterior.
Maintaining a house can be a costly undertaking for just about any homeowner. Every 15 to 20 years, you need to replace the shingles on your roof, and carpeting should be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Naturally, every 5 to 10 years you will also need to repaint your home, inside and out.
Painting your house may seem like a daunting job. But while it is time consuming and requires some planning, with a paint sprayer you can get the job done easier than you might think. In this guide we explain how to paint with sprayer so you can get a nice, neat finish on your house, both inside and out.
Why Paint Your House with a Sprayer?
There are many different ways to paint the house. For most homeowners who choose to repaint their own homes, the most common tools of the trade are some rollers and paintbrushes.
But the problem with rolling and brushing is that it takes forever. This is why most professionals instead opt to spray a house, then follow up with a paintbrush later for any touchups. But you don’t have to hire a professional in order to paint a house with a sprayer, because even a DIY homeowner can purchase or even rent a sprayer.
How to Prepare Paint for Sprayer
Before you begin the actual process of painting, it is necessary to prepare the paint and the equipment that you will be using. The paint itself needs to be thinned down and strained to ensure there are no particles that can clog the sprayer. The sprayer also needs to be prepared for the project.
How to Thin Paint for Sprayer
There are two main categories of paints that are used in homes, oil and water-based paints. Oil-based paints require a petroleum-based product to thin them out such as naphtha or mineral spirits. Water-based paints only require water to thin them out. Since oil-based paints are water-resistant, the process of cleaning up after their use is more difficult than water-based paints. Nevertheless, the process of thinning out paint for use in a sprayer is the same regardless of the type of paint used.
In order to thin out latex-based paints for spraying a home, you will need a second bucket to transfer the mixture into as you will be adding 1/2 cup of water to each gallon of paint. Start by transferring your paint into a larger bucket for mixing, then add 1/2 cup of water for each gallon. Using a paint mixer, thoroughly mix the paint and water until it becomes uniform.
In order to determine if the paint is thin enough, simply pour some of the paint down a funnel. It should flow freely out the bottom and should not stick to the surface of the funnel. If it is still too thick, then feel free to add another 1/8 cup at a time and mix thoroughly. Recheck with a funnel each time until you reach the right consistency.
How to Strain Paint for Sprayer
But, you cannot just simply pour your paint into the sprayer and start spraying down the house. If there is any dirt, dust, lumps, chunks, or clumps of any type in the paint mixture, it is going to clog up the sprayer. The nozzle of the sprayer isn’t large enough to allow any particulates through. As a result, you are going to need to strain the paint in order to remove any debris.
The easiest way to strain the debris from the paint is to use some nylon stockings. Nylon stockings can only be used when screening out debris from water-based paints as the petroleum-based thinners will melt the nylon. If you have access to a pair of old stockings or pantyhose, then these will be perfect. If not, then you can simply buy a cheap pair of pantyhose in order to strain out the paint.
Start by stretching the pantyhose around the opening of a clean container. Then using your fist, gently push down on the pantyhose in order to create a pocket inside of the container. Be careful that you do not tear the nylon mesh, which can easily fray if you put it under too much pressure. Once you have your pocket created, you can begin pouring your paint through the pantyhose in order to catch any debris. After you have finished straining out your paint, you can simply wash out the pantyhose to reuse them later during your painting project.
How to Use a Paint Gun Sprayer
Next comes the physical act of using the paint gun sprayer. Depending on whether you purchased or rented your sprayer, you will have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to nozzles. You will want to take your time reading through the material that came with the sprayer to determine which nozzle will be right for your particular situation. In most cases, you will be working with a gravity gun, and as such you will need a tip that will only allow the paint to be ejected in a smooth pattern when the trigger is pulled.
Before you began to paint the house, it is important to get some practice first. It is a good idea to set up the sprayer with a small amount of paint in order to test out the nozzle, distance from the surface, and painting motion. You may need to practice several times before you get comfortable with the physical act of spraying paint on a wall. Keep in mind, that the more paint you have in the gun sprayer, the heavier it will become.
One of the most important aspects of properly spraying a house is to set the air pressure. While you are testing, you will need to gradually increase the pressure entering the gun, until you are able to achieve a fine mist from the nozzle. It’s important to remember, that the smaller you can get the particles of paint, the better the finish will be. Be wary, however, because if you spray too fine of a mist, then it’s possible that the paint can dry out before it contacts the wall.
In general, you will want to spray in a left to right motion at a distance of about 6 to 8 inches away from the surface of the wall. You should be able to move back and forth across the surface area in even paths to ensure equal coverage. As you go, you’ll need to overlay each layer with about a 40% overlap. More importantly, make sure that you are spraying with your shoulder and not your wrist as this will ensure a more consistent finish.
How to Paint with Sprayer on the House Interior
When you hire professionals to paint your home, generally all of the smaller items are removed from the rooms being painted and the larger items are stacked in the middle. Any items that remain in the room need to be completely covered to prevent any mist from settling on them. Likewise, plastic should cover all the doorways in order to prevent any paint particles from leaving the room.
Without a question, the most important factor to take into consideration when choosing to paint the interior of a home with a spray gun is the ability to completely cover everything. If you have ever used a can of spray paint, then you know how easy it is for the paint particles to drift onto other nearby surfaces. No matter how careful you are, unless it is completely covered you are bound to get some spray on any exposed surfaces.
If you have the ability to completely remove everything from the room, then you should do so. Start by moving all of the smaller items that can be stacked up in another room. If you are unable to move some of the larger items, then you will need to completely cover them. You will have to drape a sheet of plastic over these items until the plastic touches the floor. If your floor is carpeted, then you will need to cover it as well. And all doorways should be covered by a sheet of plastic that has been taped to the outside of the doorjamb.
Lastly, since you will most likely be painting your windows by hand using a brush, you can go ahead and cover up the window and the frame with plastic sheets and painters’ tape. Once everything has been completely covered, double-check to make sure that no surfaces are exposed. Just to be on the safe side, triple-check everything.
If you do happen to get wet paint on your floor, then jump over to our article on how to remove paint from timber, laminate and vinyl floors where we explain how to get both wet and dry paint off your surface.
Since all exposed surface is will get covered with a fine mist of paint particles, this also means that you need to cover yourself accordingly. The easiest way to cover all of you. is with a pair of disposable coveralls. These coveralls are made of a heavy-duty fibrous material that can be put on over top of your clothes without ripping. They also feature a hood that can be pulled tight over your head in order to prevent any paint from settling in your hair. More importantly, since you do not want to inhale any of the paint particles, make sure that you are wearing a proper respirator mask with a new filter. Safety goggles are also a crucial part of protecting your body and any remaining exposed surfaces from the paint.
It’s Painting Time
Because you will need to paint in runs, it’s important to take the time to determine where you are going to start in the room and where you are going to finish. This generally involves determining which corner or doorjamb to start at and then working your way around the room. Once you have decided on a particular spray pattern, then you can begin to paint the space.
Just as practiced earlier, you’ll want to keep the nozzle of the spray gun set accordingly. Likewise, once you have the air pressure set, you shouldn’t play with it too much while you are actually painting. With the paint gun in an outstretched arm, begin painting long rows from left to right. It is best if you start painting from the top-down as this will prevent excessive buildup and the potential for runs.
Overspray the Strokes
Do not forget that you need to overlap each pass by about 40%. This will ensure a good consistent layer is added with each pass. Moreover, this allows the paint to stay slightly wet when the next layer is added, ensuring good adhesion.
Once you have completely covered all of the surfaces within a room, it is time to clean up. You do not want to leave the paint in the spray gun for too long, as it can clog up the nozzle and other interior channels. Cleaning dried latex paint from a paint sprayer can be time-consuming. Turn off the compressor, unhook the paint gun sprayer from the hose, and immediately start cleaning it out. You may be able to save some of the excess paint by straining it through a pair of pantyhose to remove any residual clumps.
By the time you have finished cleaning out the paint gun sprayer and returned the paint to an enclosed container, the painted surfaces should be almost dry. However, do not touch them as they may still be tacky enough to leave fingerprints as well as other imperfections. If you plan on adding a second coat, then you may do so at this stage.
How to Paint with Sprayer on the House Exterior
In the past, the only option that one had for painting the exterior of the home, was to use oil-based paint. But oil-based paints are hard to work with, and cleaning up afterward can be a real hassle. Today, there are a number of popular exterior grade latex paints that can be used for most home projects. As latex is water-based, that means it is easier for a DIY homeowner to use.
Just like painting the interior, when painting the exterior of a home, it is important to make sure that any exposed area that you do not want to be painted is properly covered. This means that you will need to move any patio furniture grills and other backyard accessories,.out of the way. Anything that cannot be moved should be taped off and covered with plastic sheets. This is even more critical for stained wood decks, as the paint spray can easily wreak havoc on stained wood surfaces.
Any windows or other items that you do not want to be coated such as shutters and awnings should also be covered. Look around to make sure there are no knickknacks that may be accidentally sprayed, and also make sure to cover any plants that are close to the walls and cannot be removed.
Wash All the Surfaces
Even if you live in the middle of the country, the exterior of any home can have a lot of built-up filth. As cars drive by, they kick up dust and release pollution which eventually builds up on the walls of a home. Even when it rains, the splashing of the raindrops can kick mud and other debris onto the wall which can form a filmlike layer over the surface of the wall. As result, it is important to wash all exterior walls before painting.
Paint will not stick to a dirty surface. If there is any form of dust, debris, or oil on the surface, then the paint will not adhere. In order to properly wash all the surfaces, you’ll need to use a cleaning solution. It is best to use a pressure washer to clean the exterior walls, as you can mix a cleaning solution with the pressure washer and order to remove any dirt or grime. Don’t forget that after you have sprayed the walls with a cleaning solution, you will still need to rinse them off before applying any paint.
In the event that you find some of the old paint peeling off, you will need to scrape it in order to ensure that all of the loose paint is removed. Any loose paint on the surface will interfere with the adhesion of the new layer. Scrape it off with a putty knife, and if needed use some fine-grit sandpaper to feather out the edges.
Let’s Get Painting
The difficulty in painting your home will depend on how many levels it has. Naturally, single-story ranch-style homes are the easiest home to paint. Although you may need a ladder to reach the higher points, you will only need an additional 2 to 3 feet of reach. If however, you are dealing with a taller home, then you will need to prepare some safe and secure scaffolding for the higher levels.
As you did with the interior, you always want to start at the top and work your way down. This pattern will prevent the possibility of runs forming in the paint as a result of overspray you will also want to make sure to overlap each layer by 40%. This will ensure a consistent layer across the surface.
Unlike working inside of a home, if you need to use scaffolding to reach the higher levels, you will not be able to paint the entire side in a single pass. Instead, you will need to split up the exterior wall into sections that are 4 to 6 feet wide at a time. As always, start from the top and work your way down with a 40% overlap between all layers.
Paint the Edges, Window and Door Frames
Although it is possible to paint edges, inside corners, window and door frames with a paint gun sprayer, it is not recommended for DIY homeowners. Spraying an inside corner can be a very difficult process. The funneling action of the 2 converging walls results and a buildup of spray in the corner, which can easily run down the entire length of the wall. The same can also occur when painting along edges or around door frames.
It is always recommended that in order to get the best finish, especially around edges, wall inside corners, and door frames, you hand paint these areas with a paintbrush. It is easier to control the amount of paint being applied into these nooks and crannies, and ensure that there are no drips or runs. Take your time, and make sure to use a beveled brush, especially when you are trying to trim in around a door jamb or window frame.
Once you have finished coating the exterior walls, take the time to clean up. As always, the first thing that needs to be done is to pour out any excess paint through a strainer to remove any clumps. Then the sprayer needs to be thoroughly cleaned to prevent any clogging. Take your time making sure that all of the equipment is properly cleaned up before you begin removing any tape or plastic sheeting. Since the exterior may need multiple layers of paint, you might want to leave up any tape or plastic sheeting until you are able to add that second coat.
In the end, you can save a lot of time by choosing to use a paint sprayer rather than painting your home by hand. The outcome of any painting project is improved substantially by using a paint gun sprayer, simply because the coats are more uniform across the entire surface. But, never forget to also purchase several different paintbrushes in order to do touchup work. For larger areas 2 or 3-inch flat-edged paintbrush is perfect, but for cutting in along the trim, you will want to have a 1 or 1 1/2-inch angled or beveled edge paintbrush.
As a beginner paint sprayer, we suggest you start on a less important project such as a garden shed or a hidden wall, while you get used to the workflow and equipment. Using a paint sprayer will take a little getting used to, so make sure to take frequent breaks to avoid any strain on your arms and back, If you do happen to experience any back pain, jump over to our article on relieving upper back pain caused by too much or improper painting technique (ha, yes, we’ve all been there and that’s why we published an entire article on it!).
If your first try isn’t perfect, don’t worry. Just laugh it off and play with the sprayer again another day. Practice makes perfect, and the messy bits… well you can always go back and fix those later if you need to! Happy spraying!
This article was originally written in 2020, and updated in July 2022.