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How to Prevent Overspray – DIY Painting Hacks


Paint sprayers will definitely save you time on your painting projects. They simplify the painting process and can make the final results look impeccable. Paint sprayers can also come with problems, like overspray.

Overspray happens when the paint mist that you are applying reaches farther than where you intended for it to reach. It is kind of like coloring outside the lines, only you are using paint, and the result can make the finish product look bad.

Overspray also results in you using more paint than you should have used. That means that overspray can cost you money.

Overspray is a nuisance, but there are methods that you can use to help you not have to deal with overspray issues.

What causes overspray?

Some of the most common causes of overspray are:

Choosing Incorrect air pressure

If you are using a high-pressure sprayer then the paint particles may bounce around when they are emitted from the sprayer. This bouncing may cause the particles to form a cloud or mist of paint that adheres past the area you wanted to paint. The only solution to this problem is to adjust the pressure and do test sprays prior to trying to paint your surface area.

Incorrect Spray Pattern and Using the wrong tips

Incorrect Spray Pattern and Using the wrong tips


Spray guns can be adjusted so that they spray a broad spray pattern or a narrow pattern. The broad spray pattern is perfect when you are applying paint to a large area, but for smaller areas, or for more control over the paint, you should choose the narrow setting.

The tips you choose makes a huge difference in the spray pattern. Larger tips allow you to spray larger amounts of paint at one time and they are perfect for larger projects, but they can allow overspray to quickly happen if you are painting a smaller surface.

The angle you are spraying at and your painting technique

If you want the least amount of overspray then hold the spray paint gun perpendicular to the surface you are painting. Try to hold the gun at a 90% angle and you should see 99% of the paint reach the surface you intend for it to reach.

When you use a paint sprayer you move the gun while you are applying the paint. These items are very easy to use, but you will have to develop a technique that allows the paint to be positioned evenly on the surface you are painting.

Many painters use an up and down technique, while others prefer a side to side, and still others like to paint at angles.

Practice your technique so that you develop the ability to get the paint where you want it and not anywhere else.

The distance the gun is from the surface you are painting

If you hold the gun too close to the surface you are painting you will get an increased amount of overspray. If you hold the gun too far away from the surface then the paint spray will cover a lot more area and create a real mess. Read the instructions that came with your paint gun and follow the recommended distances for the least amount of overspray. Normally you hold the spray gun between six and ten inches away from the surface you are painting.

The thickness of your paint

If you have thinned your paint too much then more paint will be emitted when you depress the trigger and this can cause an increase in overspray.


The wind can carry the paint you are spraying away from the area you are aiming at. Do not try to apply paint in high wind situations.

Limiting Overspray

As you become more experienced with the paint sprayer youwill automatically start to see a reduction in the amount of overspray thatoccurs when you paint. Until that time the following advice from the prosshould help you.

  • Protect the nearest surfaces
  • Before you paint, take the time and put plastic sheeting over areas you do not want the paint to touch.
  • Do not cover the area you want to protect with newspaper because when newspaper becomes wet with paint the paint bleeds through the paper.
  • Use painters tape so you do not damage the surface area. Best painters tape is specifically designed to stop paint bleeding and has a less adhesive backing so it will not damage the surface beneath it
  • Before you paint, take the time and put plastic sheeting over areas you do not want the paint to touch.
  • Use the smallest possible spray paint gun tip. You will have more control over your spray pattern if you do.
  • Do not be in a hurry when painting. You want to paint in a steady and even pace and do not rush the work.
  • Do not try to make the paint thicker because you are going to have runs and lines if you do.
  • Always do a test spray prior to spraying the paint at the surface you are going to paint. The test will show you if your paint is too thin, or your tip is too wide and will reduce overspray by 75%
  • Do not paint on windy days or in areas where you have fans blowing

Create a Paint booth

You can create a paint booth that will keep the paint from taking to the air and getting on surfaces you do not intend for it to touch.

To create a make-shift paint booth simply:

  • Take pieces of cardboard and stand them up around the item you are painting.
  • Tape the corners of the cardboard together so that they can stay in position
  • The paint will not penetrate the cardboard and the rest of your area is protected from overspray

Frequently Asked Questions About Prevent Overspray

How do you prevent spray paint overspray?

To prevent overspray you need to select the right air pressure setting for the gun you are using, select the proper tip size, and use the right accessories. You also must do test patterns on cardboard or surfaces like cardboard to determine if your settings are proper before you begin to paint.

What causes paint overspray?

The spray pattern that you choose can also play a significant part in the amount of overspray you have. You must have the right spray pattern for the job you are doing. A tip that is too wide can cause overspray issues as well.

The angle that you hold the spray painting equipment at can play a role in the amount of overspray that is created.

The distance which you are standing from the surface you are painting matters. You want to be at least 12 inches away from the surface while you are painting.

Do Airless sprayers create overspray?

Yes any paint sprayer has the ability to create overspray while you are working. With an airless sprayer the main culprit in overspray is the distance you are from the surface you are painting. You need to maintain that 12” distance between you and the surface you are painting. If you are too close or farther apart then the overspray will begin to occur.

What can I use to paint overspray?

You can paint overspray areas with the same paint in light coats, and you can also use a method of overspray removal to eliminate the overspray and then paint the surface again. There is a good chance that where there is overspray there will never be a smooth surface until the overspray is removed.

How does an airless sprayer reduce overspray?

The airless sprayer does not have the same pressure problems that the other sprayers have. With a typical sprayer the air pressure may be set too high and that causes overspray but an airless system does not allow the operator to choose the air pressure setting so there is less pressure forcing the paint from the gun.

Final Word

Most of the time overspray occurs because we get in too big of a hurry when we are painting. We try to apply the largest amount of paint using the largest tip and
we end up with a finished project that is not nice to look at.

To stop overspray be sure that you read your owner’s manual for your spray paint gun. Follow all of the recommendations for tip sizes and paint thickness. Follow the recommendations for how far to hold the paint gun from the surface.

Always do a test spray on a piece of cardboard before you begin to spray your object.

Take your time and develop a slow and steady technique for applying the paint. The end result will be more pleasing, and you will use less paint.

About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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