How To Mix Paint For Spray Guns: Learn Today With 5 Easy Steps

We use paint sprayers mostly to refinish different furniture around the house. If you do home-projects then you want to get the best results possible. To get a good and smooth finish you need one thing (except for the tool itself) – experience.

Experienced people know how to use the paint sprayer properly, but most importantly, they know how to mix paint for spray guns. The better you mix the paint the better results you will get. After all, you need the paint to be as smooth as possible.

Mixing paint with water (or other paints) isn’t hard, but it’s something that you should know. If you thin the paint too much, then the paint gets too much watery and you need extra layers to get a decent finish. If you thin it too little, then you will end with thick paint which the paint sprayer can’t atomize and most likely the sprayer will clog or you will end up with clogs at your surface.

If you don’t know how to thin paint for spray gun then don’t worry, we have made a simple but effective guide that you can follow. But before continuing to the guide here are the tools that you need –

  • Paint Sprayer
  • Paint
  • Paint Thinner or water
  • Manufacturer Manual
  • Safety Goggles
  • Test Boards
  • Sprayers Tips

How To Mix Paint For Spray Guns

You have to keep in mind that there’s no exact formula for this because sometimes you have to thin the paint more and sometimes less. but here are the basics for this.

1. Stir The Paint

First things first – you have to stir the paint. I know that this may sound like an important step, but there’s a reason why I listed it as the first thing that you need to do.

You have to stir the paint before mixing it. If you don't then you won't get the same color quality. Make sure to stir for at least a minute or more before continuing to the next step

Most of the paint that you bought has been sitting at the store for at least a week or more, which means that most of the paint pigment is at the bottom of the can. You have to stir the paint so the paint pigment that is at the bottom goes and mixed with the whole paint.  Stir for at least 30 seconds or more.

2. Add The Paint Thinner

There are a lot of paint types, but two of the most used ones are oil-based paint and water-based paint. These two paints mix the same, but you need to use different materials to mix them (and I will be explaining both of them down below)

To get the best results possible I recommend mixing the paint in a clear container. By using a clear container instead of the paint container you will get better results, plus you can only mix only the amount of paint that you need and not the full container.

Oil-Based Paints

If you want to mix oil-based paint then you have to use mineral spirits or paint thinner instead of water. Using water works fine with water-based paints, but it doesn’t work for oil-based paints.

Unfortunately, you have to buy the paint thinner or mineral spirits so that adds more expenses for your project. Fortunately, you need less amount of paint thinner or mineral spirits to mix oil-based paint than it would take you to mix water-based paints with water.

If you are using mineral spirits then it’s recommended to use no more than one-quarter of a cup for one gallon of paint. Once the paint starts to thin then I recommend adding the mineral spirits with tablespoon measures and not cup measures.

Water-Based Paints

As I said before, if you want to mix water-based paints then you need to use water. The problem with mixing water-based paint is that if you add to much water then some air bubbles will form in the paint. You won’t see these bubbles while you are mixing, you can only see them once you added to paint to the surface, and that can be too late.

The air bubbles will cause you not to get the results that you want, the finish quality won’t be smooth. Plus, these bubbles also cause the paint to not stick to the surface, so the paint can peel and become damaged after a short period of time.

So you have to be careful about how much water you add. It’s recommended to use one-quarter or a half-glass of water to the paint and mix, once the paint starts to thin you have to add more water until you get the results you want. Just make sure to not add too much water.

3.Test Your Mixture

Before moving to the surface you have to actually paint, it’s best to do a few test sprays to know if the paint is thinned properly. You can use a cardboard or a piece of drywall that you don’t need. This also helps you know what spray tip you need to use.

Once you get your cardboard and you mix the paint then add some of that paint to the spray container and start doing some tests. Keep in mind that you need to use the same exact distance. So, if you are going to stay 12 inches away from the surface you will be spraying then you need to stay 12 inches away from the cardboard too, this ensures that you will get the same results. The same exact spray tip should be used too.

When you are spraying the paint flow should be even, if the paint flow isn’t even or it creates splotches then need to thin the paint a little more. If the runs when it’s sprayed then the paint is too thin, add more paint.

Testing the mixture into the cardboard means that you can also test your techniques and see if you get the same results that you want. I recommend doing a few spray-tests every time you want to use the sprayer. This will prevent you from damaging the surface plus avoid the sprayer to be clogged.

4. Write Down Your Formula

Once you get the results that you want then it’s recommended to write down your formula. Take a notebook and write exactly how much paint you used and how much paint thinner/water you used to get the desired results.

After you find a formula that works then it;'s recommended to write it down so you can use it the next time. Take a notebook and write exactly how much paint and water you used to get the mix you want.

This will help you to calculate in the future how much paint thinner to add if you want to use more paint. Plus, you don’t have to remember the exact ratio for the next time. You can just read it and re-do it.

5.Paint And Clean

After you get the results that you want, it’s time to actually spray the surface. Keep in mind, you should use the same exact spray tip and distance that you use on your cardboard to get the same results.

Once you add the first layer of paint, you should wait for it to dry before adding the next layer. After you complete the project you should clean the paint sprayer. This gives the tool a longer life. If you don’t know how to do it, then we have made a mini-guide on how to clean paint sprayers?

Final Words

And this is it – this is how to thin paint for your spray gun. If you buy a new paint sprayer, then most likely it will come with a manual. Each manufacturer has a different mixing ratio. It’s recommended to start with the manufacturer recommendations, and if customize it a little bit until you get the desired mix.

You should always write down your exact formula, you have no idea how much time this will save you.  Cleaning the paint sprayer is also important. As always, if you have any questions make sure to comment down below or email me. Have fun spraying different surfaces with your paint sprayer.

Michael is the Editor at thetoolgeeks.com. He used to own a local shop where he sold different tools for 20+ years. He now enjoys researching DIY tools and writing guides about it.

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