Achieving professional-grade results on your spray painting work depends on your skill level and technique, the quality of paint you’re using, and whether you have the paint mixed and thinned appropriately for efficient spraying.
If your paint is too thick, your spray tip will keep clogging, disrupting your workflow and lessening the quality of results you achieve. If your paint is too thin, it may cause runs and drippage that make your job unprofessional and messy.
So, come along with me on a quick and relevant journey to learn how to properly thin out paint for use in a sprayer.
We’ll go over specific steps you need to take in order to ensure the best viscosity for spraying. Will also quickly review the differences between high-velocity low-pressure (HVLP) and airless paint sprayers, as well as the materials that you’ll need to properly thin your paint before spraying.
OK, let’s not waste any more time – here we go!
HVLP & Airless Paint Sprayers
High-velocity low-pressure paint sprayers utilize air turbines to push paint, stain, varnish, lacquer, and other coating materials. In other words, they create pressure with air. However, as their name suggests, they operate at very low pressures, typically between 5 and 10 PSI.
Comparatively, airless paint sprayers, as their name suggests, operate without air. Instead, they use fluid pumps to pressurize the system and spray the paint or other coating medium. These powerful sprayers typically operate between 1500 and 3000 PSI.
It follows that most airless paint sprayers do not require paint to be thinned beforehand. They are powerful enough to spray most mediums with no pre-thinning necessary.
Some HVLP paint sprayers are able to push thin paints and other mediums. However, not all of them do. If you’re using one of these economical and hugely versatile painting tools, you may need to thin your coating out before the sprayer can push it properly.
Of course, there are many paint sprayers on the market, and you will need to review the manufacturers’ specifications and recommendations on a product that you’re considering purchasing. If you already own a paint sprayer, then you will likewise need to check the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding thinning specifications.
Materials Needed for Thinning Paint
If you do need to thin your paint out, you’re going to need some materials, including:
- 1-quart measuring container
- A clean 5 gallon bucket
- Clean water (not tap)
- A paint brush
- Clean rags
- Stir sticks
Now let’s jump into the procedure for thinning paint down and ensuring that it’s of the proper consistency before you attempt to spray it.
Steps for Thinning Latex Paint for an HVLP Paint Sprayer
Overall, when you’re thinning latex paint, you should shoot for a minimum of 10% water content. Many HVLP sprayers today require that you thin out latex paint between 20% and 30%.
Here are step-by-step instructions for thinning a single gallon of latex paint:
- Open the 1-gallon paint can.
- Stir the paint up thoroughly.
- Pour the paint into the clean 5-gallon bucket.
- Add ½-cup of water to the empty 1-gallon can and put the lid back on it.
- Shake the 1-gallon can.
- Remove the lid from the 1-gallon can and pour the contents into the 5-gallon bucket.
- Stir the contents of the 5-gallon bucket thoroughly.
- Check the consistency of the paint to see if it’s what you need.
If the paint is still too thick, repeat the above process, using only ¼-cup of water each time. After each quarter cup of water is added, check the consistency again. Continue this process until your desired consistency is achieved.
That’s all there is to it. Simple and easy!
The only thing you have to look for is that you don’t overthin your paint. If you do overthin your paint, you can thicken it back up by adding unthinned paint to it. However, it’s much better to just be careful, only adding ¼-cup of water at a time to reach the desired consistency and viscosity.
Sometimes, with a new paint sprayer that you’re not really familiar with, the best way to test for proper consistency of paint is to load a bit into your sprayer and do a test spray. You can do this on a scrap piece of drywall, plywood, or anywhere else that’s suitable and available. That way, you’ll get to know the action of your paint sprayer, and you can remember how much you mix the paint down to achieve the consistency that’s best for your sprayer.
My Closing Thoughts About Thinning Latex Paint for Spraying
Remember that adding water to paint in order to thin it down will alter the color of the paint and affect the drying time. Water also dilutes the paint, meaning that its pigment-to-moisture ratio is lessened. That means that you may have to apply more coats to achieve the finish you’re after.
If you do not already own a paint sprayer and are wondering which is best for your purposes, it’s good to know that HVLP sprayers are basically intended for small to medium projects, while airless sprayers are designed to handle larger projects.
Again, most airless sprayers do not require paint to be thinned before spraying them. More and more HVLP sprayers are advertising that thinning is not required, but many products on the market still do require thinning before use. Read the details carefully of a sprayer you are considering purchasing, and don’t hesitate to reach out to the manufacturer with your questions.
I’d like to thank you for coming on this journey with me today, learning about how to thin latex paint for use in a paint sprayer. As soon as you do it the first time and get the result that you’re after, it will be so much simpler in the future. Just take your time with it. It’s paint mixing, not brain surgery!
Enjoy the Thin!