On many of the furniture makeovers I’ve shared with you, I often use my paint sprayer to do the job. My paint sprayer is by far one of my favorite tools and cuts hands-on project time in half.

There was a time that I detested paint sprayers. In fact, I tried three that went straight back to the store after I attempted to use them. At that point, I swore off paint sprayers, but as luck would have it, I found one paint sprayer that works great for me-it’s called a HomeRight Finish Max. Here’s a beginner’s guide for using one; it might be easier than you think.

Before you get out your paint, set up your painting area. I just got a spray shelter,and it is awesome for containing overspray. It takes about 10 minutes to set up. If you want to keep paint from getting on the floor of wherever you are painting, you’ll want to put a tarp under the shelter.

Strain old paint and use the viscosity cup to determine if the paint is thinned properly. (Photos: Jenna LaFevor)

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Step one
Unscrew the paint container from the sprayer and fill it with paint. If your paint is old (like a month or more), you will want to strain it.

Once paint has been opened, it can sometimes get lumps that dry up in it, and if not strained, those lumps will clog your sprayer.

Fill the container about half to three-fourths full, depending on the size of your project.

Step two
Thin the paint. To thin the paint, all you need to do is add water.I usuallytry to have a cup of water nearby. Add a little at a time. Start with about a quarter of a cup of water for thinner paints and half a cup for thicker paints-you can always add more. Stir as you add water.

The big question is always, “How do I know if I’ve thinned my paint enough?” Ya know what? That used to be my question, too! But one more reason I love this particular paint sprayer is because it takes the guesswork out of thinning. It comes with a little tool called a viscosity cup. Once you’ve added water to your paint and mixed, dip the viscosity cup in the paint cup and time how long it takes the paint to run out of the cup. If you’re using a basic enamel paint, the paint is thinned enough if it all runs out of the viscosity cup in 25-40 seconds. If the paint doesn’t run out of the cup within that time frame, add more water, mix, and test it again. Repeat until your paint is thinned properly.

Though many common paints can be thinned with water, be sure to check the label on your paint for thinning instructions. Most oil-based paints require thinning with other liquids.

To adjust the spray pattern, turn the air cap on the front of the sprayer that has the “wings.” Turning the wings horizontally will give you a vertical spray pattern and turning them vertically will give you a horizontal spray pattern. (Photos: Jenna LaFevor)

Step three
Adjust your spray pattern. To adjust the spray pattern, turn the air cap on the front of the sprayer that has the “wings,” as I like to call them.

Turning the wings horizontally will give you a vertical spray pattern and turning them vertically will give you a horizontal spray pattern. If I intend on spraying something up and downas I spray, I use a horizontal spray. If I intend on spraying something from side to side, I use a vertical spray.

Step four
Plug in the sprayer and paint-no air tank needed, just an extension cord. When you start spraying, hold the sprayer about 5-10 inches awayfrom the piece you are painting. Pull the trigger and start painting. You want to move your entire arm-not just your hand-as you spray, and keep your arm in constant motion. Don’t stay in one place for too long.

You want to move your entire armu2014not just your handu2014as you spray. Keep your arm in constant motion. (Photo: Jenna LaFevor)

The sprayer won’t magically cover the entire piece in one coat. Typically, I have to do two or three light coats, but it takes far less time to spray those coats than hand paint them. There will probably be some small spots that don’t have paint on them the first go-round-that’s OK; you’ll get them next time. You can tilt the sprayer to get into hard-to-reach places; just try not to tip it more than 45 degrees.

Let the paint dry between each coat. You can protect your paint job with a topcoat using the sprayer exactly the same way.


And that’s it. If you’re worried about cleaning up the paint sprayer, you can read more details here about that.

Have you used a paint sprayer before? What are your pros and cons for them?

Jenna LaFevor rants on at Rain on a Tin Roof about DIY projects, junk d├ęcor, thrifty finds, crafty creations and other decorating dilemmas. She went to UTC, where she got a teaching degree that now collects dust. When she isn’t trying to keep her kid from climbing out of the circus ring or making sure her husband’s shirts are taken to the dry cleaners so she gets out of ironing, she can be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cheap beer in the other. But if you’re buying, she’ll have a cosmopolitan. You can email her at [email protected] or you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @raintinroofblog or at her blog. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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