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DIY Tips: In 7 Steps How to Mix Paint for Spray Gun


The most important factor in creating a beautiful paint job is not the painting tools you use to apply the paint. The most important factor of achieving a perfect look from your paint is the paint that you use.

Paint sprayers often require you to thin the paint you are using. In order for you to get the results you want you will have to thin the paint correctly. If you thin it too much you have watery paint that requires extra layers before it looks good. If you thin it too little then the paint sprayer is unable to atomize the paint and you simply end up with clogged tips and runny blobs of paint on your surface.

The following instructions will help you to mix paint for your spray gun so you get the results you want.

Step by Step Guide How to Mix Paint for Spray Gun

Step by step guide how to mix paint for spray gun

1. Begin your painting process by assembling all of the tools you will need. This will save you time and aggravation.

painting tools

Tools needed list:

  • Paint
  • Spray paint gun
  • Manufacturer instructions for how to mix paint for the spray paint gun you are about to use. The instructions for each gun style, and type can be dramatically different
  • Paint strainer
  • Clean bucket or pail to mix the paint in
  • Paint thinner, water or a diluting agent
  • Face mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Test board
  • Sprayer tips
  • Clean cloth for wiping off tips or runs
  • A funnel to help transfer the paint from the mixing bucket and into the holding unit of the spray paint gun

2. Stir the paint

Stir the paint

This sounds like an unimportant step. You are going to be mixing things into the paint and stirring after each mixture so many people think that they can either skip this initial stirring or that they can just give the paint a quick stir.

Paint settles at the bottom of the paint can. The majority of your paint pigment is sitting on the bottom portion of the manufacturer container. You MUST stir the paint properly, and get the paint that is on the bottom mixed into the rest of the paint BEFORE you begin to add anything to thin the paint.

The color and consistency of the paint will be changed if you do not stir it thoroughly before you do anything else.

3. Set up your test board

This can be a piece of cardboard, or a piece of drywall that you are going to through away. Your test board will allow you to determine if your thickness is proper. You will also be able to see if the tip you have chosen is going to work properly for you. The test board is also where you can practice your application and make sure your skills with the paint sprayer will allow you to get the results you desire.

4. Add the Thinning Agent to the Paint


To do this it is best if you pour some paint into a clean container. By using a clean container instead of the paint container you get an opportunity to strain the paint going into the container. You also get to mix just the amount of paint that you need.

For Oil Based PaintsIf you are mixing an oil based paint then you will need to thin the paint using mineral spirits, or paint thinner. Water can be used if you are thinning latex paints, but for oil based paints you must have mineral spirits.

It takes a smaller amount of mineral spirits or paint thinner to thin paint than it would take if you were using water. Generally most paint experts recommend that you pout one quarter to one half of a cup of water into the paint and mix that, then add more water and mix again until you reach a consistency that you approve of.

If you are using mineral spirits then you want to add no more than one quarter of a cup to one gallon of paint, at a time, and after the paint begins to thin you may want to add your mineral spirits in tablespoon measures instead of in cup measures.

For Water Based PaintsWater based paints are thinned using water. The problem with some water based paints is that when you add too much water air bubbles will form in the paint. You will not notice these air bubbles until you spray some of the paint onto the test board. As the paint starts to dry you will see the tiny bubbles appear. The air bubbles will cause your finish to not look smooth and uniform. They will also cause your paint to not properly adhere to the surface so your paint will peel and become damaged in a short period of time.

5. Write Down your Formula

You need to write down the formula for the mix you are creating. Write down exactly how much paint you put in the container, and how much thinning agent you add to the paint. This will allow you to duplicate the paint mixture exactly if you need to mix more of the paint.

Keep this written log with your paint sprayer. In the future when you mix paint again you will not have to rack your brain trying to remember the exact ratio of paint to thinning agent that you used. You will have the ratio on hand and will be able to duplicate your results perfectly.

6. Test your Mixture


Put some of the mixed paint into your sprayer and spray some of the paint onto your test board. You want the flow of paint to come out evenly. If the paint comes out and creates splotches or an uneven coverage then you need to thin it a little more. If the paint runs when it is sprayed onto the board then it is too thin.

When you are doing your paint test you need to make sure that you position the test board the same distance from the paint sprayer that the surface you are painting will be. If you hold the spray gun close to the test board, say within 6”, and then when you paint the wall of your room you hold the sprayer 12” from the surface, the paint spray will be completely different. Always do your paint test in the exact manner that you intend to paint.

This means that you should spray in the same pattern you intend to spray in, hold the gun the same distance from the surface, and use the same techniques you plan to use.

Think of this test spray as a method of testing the thickness of your paint, and a method of checking your technique and skills. When you do the test spray you can determine if the technique you plan on using is going to provide you with the results you want to achieve. During the test spray you have the opportunity to make the changes you need to make.

7. Paint and then Clean

When you paint you want to keep the spray paint gun the same distance from the surface at all times. If you move in and out with the gun then your paint will not be uniform and you are likely to have overlapping areas.

Do not rush to apply the second coat. You want the first coat of paint to dry completely before you apply the second coat. The second coat will adhere to the first coat better and the final paint will look smoother if you remember this.

Cleaning Tips from the Pros

  • Make sure that you rinse your paint sprayer with water and clean any paint residue out of it as soon as you finish painting. By cleaning as soon as you are finished the paint will not have had time to harden or dry inside the paint sprayer and it will be easier to clean.
  • You can soak your spray paint tips in water while you are cleaning up other tools so they are easier to clean. Keep your paint tips in a container or in a plastic storage bag so they do not get lost.
  • Be sure that you spray some water through the gun just like you would spray paint so you can remove any residue that may be in the gun.
  • If you clean the gun using mineral spirits then you should still run clean water through it to remove the oils and residue of the mineral spirits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Mix Paint for Spray Gun

When you are preparing to use a spray gun to paint you always want to thin your paint and mix your paint in a separate container prior to filling your paint gun paint holder. You want the paint thinned to the precise thickness you like and you want to make sure that the paint is completely stirred so the color and the thickness is consistent throughout the paint.

Once you have a consistent fluid you can pour the paint into the holding cup of the spray paint gun and check to make certain you have the best thickness by spraying a small test area on something like cardboard.

What is the ratio of paint to thinner for spray gun?

The common paint to thinner ratio for the majority of spray paint guns is a four to one or three to one mixture. Each spray painting gun is slightly different and you should always read the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the proper ratio of paint to thinner. You also have to consider that the amount of thinner you use with a latex paint is completely different from the amount of thinner you will use with an acrylic or oil based paint. Latex paints are thicker and require more thinning.

How do you mix auto paint for a spray gun?

Mixing auto paint in your spray gun is not very different from mixing any other paint in a spray gun. Your main differences when mixing auto spray paint is to start with a simple three parts paint and one part thinner ratio and do a test spray before you determine if the paint is ready. If you do have to adjust the thickness with more paint, or more thinner, then make a note on the can or in a notebook so you will remember the exact mixture combinations so you can replicate the paint and be consistent.

Can you use any paint in a spray gun?

Every spray painting gun is a little different and some of them will take any paint that you put in them, while others will spray only acrylic paints. Latex is a much thicker consistency than acrylic, but there are spray paint guns that can even spray latex paint with no thinning required.

You should read the instructions that came with your paint sprayer to determine what paints you can safely use with your device.

How do you mix acrylic paint for a spray gun?

You mix acrylic paint in the same manner that you mix latex paint. The difference is when you are mixing latex paint you use about three parts paint to one part water and when you mix acrylic you will want to start with a four parts paint to one part mineral spirit, not water, ration. Acrylic paint is thinner than latex so it will probably require less thinner to reach a perfect consistency.

Final Word

Painting with a paint sprayer is easier and faster than painting with a brush and roller. Each manufacturer has different recommendations for how to mix the paint you will use in their tools. It is always wise to start your mixture according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and then make your own changes according to your preferences. If you write down the mixtures you create and the results you get then when you go to paint again you will already know how much of everything you need to mix together.

Be sure that you properly clean your paint gun, your painting tips, and all of your tools at the end of each day. If you allow the paint to sit in these sprayers you can create a mess that you won’t be able to clean out.

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2 thoughts on “DIY Tips: In 7 Steps How to Mix Paint for Spray Gun”

  1. Great, I need more information on spray painting. As an artist I want to use this medium for painting object and canvas
    Thank you
    Rees Phillips


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