Top ten tips for spray painting anything

March 17, 2015

It’s that time of year again folks – the most wonderful, most glorious time of year…when it’s nice enough to spray paint outside. :) Gone are the days of pulling the car out of the garage and shivering in your coat while you spray paint on the floor. Instead it’s time to lay your items out on a old sheet in the driveway while your neighbors look at you funny. It is a very good time my friends.
I still say spray paint is hands down the easiest way to transform something. Anything. I have spray painted some peculiar things. Bamboo shades for one. It worked! I did lost a few brain cells on that one but they looked great!
I’ve curbed my obsession a little over the years – there was a time I got a little carried away by spraying everything black. Ever.y.thing. That phase has passed, thankfully, but when you discover the power of this stuff it’s hard to stop.
Of course one of the easiest mediums to spray paint is wood:
rolling art caddy
This little caddy was a dark brown and after some spray primer and white paint it was brought to life. I think this is still one of my favorite spray paint projects ever. :)
I’ve sprayed a lot of light fixtures in my day. Most are pretty easy, some are a bigger pain in the butt. I shared how I easily taped off this formerly 80’s masterpiece so I could make it into a more updated look here:
DIY bookcases
I think metal is the easiest to paint. Lamps are excellent candidates for it, especially those you find at Goodwill:
spray painting lamps
Those navy blue lamps are my favorites in the house!
Some of the more random items I’ve sprayed in our house are the floor vents:
spray painting floor vents
It’s super easy! These have held up incredibly well and I’ve had them painted for years now. This is that same vent (the wall looks different because of the window seat now) and it’s by far the worst looking one in the house: spray painted floor vents
It got a lot of wear during the window seat and trim install but it still looks pretty dang good.
I sprayed our coach lights years and years ago and they came out SO beautifully!:
spray painted outdoor lights
You have to see the before to see how worn they were by the elements. They looked AWFUL. But I loved the actual lights and knew I could give them more life, at least for a year or two.
Well it’s been four and a half years now since painted those lights – and this is how they look today:
spray painted coach lights
Pretty spectacular, yes? I find spray paint holds up incredibly well outside, especially if you’re not touching the item. I sprayed some planters from Goodwill about seven years ago and they are still looking fantastic.
Years back when I painted our front door I knew the brass kick plate wasn’t going to jive anymore. So I taped it off and sprayed it the oil rubbed bronze to match the lights and the door hardware:
spray painted kick plate
It still looks fantastic, all this time later! Oh yeah, and I painted those planters too. ;)
Here’s my advice for spraying anything --
1. Clean it well. Soap and water, a cleaning wipe, whatever.
2. If it’s wood with a protective finish, you may want to sand at least a little.
3. At the very least, use a spray primer.
4. Shake the can well and for a few minutes before you start.
5. Use short, quick sprays, not long ones.
6. Many lights coats work better than one or two heavy ones.
7. If your surface crackles the item was too warm or was not cleaned enough.
8. Sand down any imperfections or drips and spray again.
9. Let it cure – wood takes a little longer, metal shorter.
10. Clean like normal once it cures – but I avoid heavy duty cleaners.
I did a spray paint “taste test” last year that shows how the different paints fared:
comparing spray paints
I’ve sprayed glass, metal, wood, ceramic and plastic. I had one ceramic pitcher fail but otherwise my only other fail ever was our door knobs – they did not hold up to daily use. You can find more about that here.
Are you a spray paint fan? What’s the craziest thing you’ve painted? Have you had any luck with sprayed door knobs?
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  1. Boy, you have a great roundup of projects! I love painting in general, and spraying just makes it all the more fun! I've done some fun lamps, side tables and have a desk that STILL isn't done. Maybe now that the weather is improving I'll get it done! I saw some fun new spray paint colors at Lowe's yesterday that tempted me - magenta, peacock blue and citrus green. Yummy!

  2. I love spray paint - picture frames (for my beach room I used the sand texture, and added seashells n twine - love them) old window's etc. I also love the krylon 3x clear glaze - we call it can o' magic - people donate stuff for our Bazaar. Just a spritz here and a couple of LA ti da's and sometimes they but back their own items. I've used it on floral arrangements, baskets, frames, figurines. I use it over the reg. Spray paint and acrylic too. Great stuff

  3. I am going to try to spray paint the harware on my front door. We don't use it a whole lot. In fall I painted the door but the hardware is awful. Thanks for giving me the idea!

  4. Would you mind elaborating on Step 2 a little, please. What brand and type of protective finish do you use on wood? I assume that because that is Step 2, you put that protective finish on before priming and spraying. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks for all the great blogging!! You are so appreciated

  5. the previous owners of our house loved ORB SO MUCH that they spray painted the fixtures in the bathrooms. Tub faucet, shower head, handles, etc. As you can imagine, they haven't held up very well. ;)

  6. I'm excited to hear how easy and durable spray paint is. I've been worried about wear and tear on a bookcase. Is it nothing to worry about (I'm certainly not pulling books everyday) or is there a finish to help with longevity?

  7. Sarah, YOU are the one who has REALLY inspired me to DIY about 3 years ago. Spray paint...brilliant! I NEVER knew until you! My first spray paint job was some urn planters, faded yucky, from Wal-Mart, spray painted them black and they still look good, I think this is the 4th year. Then, I found some outdoor chairs, $4 each and spray painted them black and they are awesome! I found a HUGE framed picture of Italian side for free at a garage sale, repainted the mat, fixed the broken corner and spray painted in the bronze and looks like new.

    I have a question...when you did your front door, don't know how to ask this but what did you do to the 'no door' on the front of your house issue while it dried? I am looking at Java Gel Stain possible for my door, any experience with that? Oh, and TOALY thinking about wainscoting in my living room. .Like I said, you inspire me!!!

  8. The weirdest thing I have sprayed was a dragon, a very rusty dragon. It was some garden art I bought a long time ago. It's in three parts so it looks like the dragon is coming in and out of the ground. It looked great, but did not rust uniformly. Guess there isn't enough pollution to give it that rusty patina. So, I painted it a nice bright red and now it pops in and out of the hostas in the summer.

    My entire house has those brass knobs that have been looking so dated and dirty. I was going to try to spray paint them but found a reference to soak the brass in hot water for a long time and then they clean up real easy with some bar-keepers friend. So, I am working around the house and cleaning the knobs. I still might paint some, but they'll be clean.

    And, I was at Target today and found some cute brass-looking planters in the $1-3 dollar area. So, I might try painting a chalkboard block on each one and plant some herbs for the windowsills.

  9. I spray painted my kitchen cabinet hardware and a door handle to an interior door. The door handle and the knobs on the cabinets did not hold up but, the cup pulls on my drawers did. I think it has to do with cure time.The cup pulls weren't put on for several weeks where I put the knobs and door handle back on same day. I'm going to try again once our weather turns nice as it is not in the budget to buy new hardware. We are still buried under several feet of snow with another foot and half expected tonight. I'm in Nova Scotia Canada so just a bit north of you. LOL

  10. I LOVE the beauty and ease of spray painting... my kids have a funny saying that "if you stand still too long in our house, YOU'LL get spray painted!" LOL

  11. I was literally just sitting in my baby's nursery last night thinking to myself, "I wonder if I could spray paint these bamboo shades?" Ha! They are a horrible yellow color with brown splotches on them...not unlike a leopard. Anyways, I am so curious to hear what color you painted yours, if they've held up, and see a picture if you have one?! I would love for mine to still look like wood, but a nice medium tone wood, not a yellow wood. Any suggestions?

  12. We just had a kitchen face lift and had our cabinets painted white (from a honey oak). In addition, we had hardware added to the cabinets. We went with an oil rubbed bronze. Well, we realized that the old hinges would show, and they were a brassy color, so I just spray painted them (in like 2 seconds!) and they look amazing! You can't tell we didn't buy them that way! I was thinking about doing all of our brass door handles and hinges, but am a little worried about how they will hold up with lots of little fingers and hands on them. Any suggestions?

  13. I'm so excited to spray paint our vent covers once it's warm out and I'm no longer pregnant (due start of May)! We got our carpet replaced with wood-look vinyl plank flooring last winter, and I procrastinated on remembering to spray the covers all summer, then I got pregnant and didn't feel safe spray painting any longer. We have some oddly sized/shaped vent covers so it's not easy to just go replace them. I'm excited to give them a spray of ORB this summer!

  14. I was wondering where the pouf in your library area by the navy chairs is from. I have been searching for something for the nursery for months and that is exactly what I have been looking for. I am new to your blog but quickly became addicted.

  15. Spray paint is totally underutilized! I love how you repainted the caddy, the white really refreshed the whole thing :)

    xoxo, SS

    The Southern Stylista

  16. I have not had any luck with knobs. Recently I tried first using an etching primer. This primer is usually used on cars. It has been a month and the knobs look really good. I will let you know how they hold up over time.
    Really enjoy your post. I love spray paint.

  17. Just finished painting my daughters tball helmet! It was older and black, my son used it when he played. So I have painted it fluorescent pink, to make it more girly and match the rest of her stuff.


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