Discover How Thinning Latex Paint Can Be Used for Spraying

Most people know that paints are divided into two general categories: oil paint and latex paint. Oil paint uses a petroleum-based solvent as its medium, which helps it have a thinner consistency than latex paint, which uses water as its medium. Traditionally, oil-based paints were the only option when painting with a spray gun because latex paints were too thick. Today’s latex paints are now made with water-compatible resins which makes it possible to thin latex paint for use with a spray gun. At Spray Finishes, we’re experts in electrostatic spray painting, and wanted to offer you these simple tips for thinning latex paint.

Check the Paint Before Thinning.

Generally, the higher quality paint you use, the less likely it is that you’ll need to thin it. An easy way to test the viscosity of your paint is to open a can and stir it a few times with a mixing stick. Then pull the stick out and hold it above the can. If you notice that the paint begins to drip easily off the tool, then it’s good to go; there’s no need to thin it further. If the paint sticks to the tool or drips off in clumps, then you’ll need to thin it out.

Add Water Slowly.

If you’ve determined that you need to thin out your latex paint, then you want to make sure that you do it slowly, so you don’t add too much water at one time. Try following these instructions when thinning latex paint:

  1. Pour your paint into a clean, empty 5-gallon bucket.
  2. Add ½ cup of water for every gallon of paint in the bucket.
  3. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Check the thickness of the paint by pouring about a cup of paint through a funnel. If it flows freely, then the paint is thin enough for the sprayer. If the paint is too thick, add an additional ¼ cup of water per gallon and mix.
  5. Continue this process until the desired consistency is reached.

Test it Out.

Remember, it’s not just the quality of the paint, but also the time of year, temperature, humidity, and the type of sprayer you’re using that all affect the paint’s ability to flow smoothly. Getting the right mix for your situation is a matter of trial and error.

The best approach is to test the paint on a piece of cardboard or scrap wood each time you thin it. Once you have a mixture that flows smoothly, practice your spraying technique on the testing surface until you achieve a consistent finish. Wasting a small amount of paint practicing is less expensive and less time-consuming than starting to spray before the paint is sufficiently thinned.

Advice on Additives.

Another way of thinning latex paint is to use commercial thinning additives. These products do work, but they can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, try using water first. If you do decide to use paint thinner, be sure to purchase a product that’s compatible with latex paint. There are thinners specifically for oil-based paints that won’t work with latex paint. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Whether you’re using water or a commercial product to thin latex paint, the biggest challenge is to not let your patience wear thin as well. But, it’s worth it to go slow and error on the side of caution. It’s much better to gradually thin out your paint than it is to course correct if you’ve thinned it out too much.

Spray Finishes, a division of Stone Services, has been in the electrostatic spray painting business since 1938. They specialize in on-site painting for both residential and commercial properties, and also have a 10,000 square foot shop for large off-site jobs. Spray Finishes’ friendly and knowledgeable staff is ready to serve you at any of their five tristate area locations, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island, and Westchester. Contact Spray Finishes today for an estimate on your next painting project.

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