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Spray Paint

Repaint everything from furniture to cars with the touch of a button

From the preparation and mixing to the difficulty of achieving an even coat, applying paint can be a long and arduous task. Fortunately, there’s a way to get the perfect finish without having to go to all that trouble – spray paint. Spray paint is a convenient, low-fuss alternative to conventional painting that can be used on everything from patio chairs to toys to cars. Available in a large array of colors, spray paint also comes in different types, allowing you to choose one that is suitable for your specific application. Consider the following questions as you plan the best way to utilize spray paint to help with a bevy of painting tasks:


  • What types of spray paint are available?
  • What applications can spray paint be used for?
  • What steps do you need to take to prepare surfaces to be painted?
  • What kinds of specialty paint are available?
  • What special features and effects are you looking for?
  • Click here to see which small project paint is right for you?

Types, Application Tips and Features

Spray paint can be classified by the type of application it is best suited for. Some of the more commonly found types are general use, decorative and craft, rust-prevention, professional, plastic and specialty paints. The primary advantages of spray paint are its ease of application and its versatility. While it’s not particularly useful when it comes to painting a house or redoing the walls of your living room, there are a number of situations where it can be used in lieu of old-fashioned brush painting. In many cases, spray paint will require little preparation prior to application, though there are some instances where you’ll need to clean and perhaps prime the surface you’re working on.

General Purpose and Decorative Paint: Whether you’re painting a bicycle, cabinet, mailbox or piece of furniture, general purpose spray paint will come in handy. Formulated to dry quickly and minimize dripping, it’s available in a range of colors, may be used indoors or out and generally stands up well over time. Look for paint designed to provide a tough, durable coating if you’re applying it to outdoor furniture or other areas where it will experience constant wear. Decorative paints are designed to accent a variety of objects and are often available in otherwise hard-to-find designer colors. Stained glass spray paints imbue surfaces ranging from metal to wood with the elegance of a stained glass window.


  • General purpose paint can be used on a wide range of materials
  • Spray paints can provide metallic, glossy, flat, matte and textured finishes
  • Designer paints offer faux finishes such as stone, granite, antique and crackle
  • Gold, silver, copper, bronze and other metallic paints are ideal for craft use

Professional, Plastic and Rust-Preventative Paint: Professional spray paints are designed with contractors in mind, offering durable, high-quality finishes and proving useful for a number of specialized tasks. Plastic paints are designed specifically for use on plastic, resin, PVC and other similar materials whose smooth surfaces make it difficult for normal paints to adhere to. Use it on lawn chairs, playhouses, toys and more. Rust-preventative paints are generally used outdoors and provide a glossy coating that resists fading and cracking in addition to preventing rust accumulation. Use it on bikes, swing sets, cars, motorcycles and more.


  • Striping and marking paints can be used on blacktop, concrete, soil, wood and grass
  • Use marking paints to indicate utility lines, danger areas and more
  • Professional enamel paints dry quickly and provide excellent gloss and color retention
  • Plastic paint may not require any sanding or priming and resists chipping and fading
  • Rust-preventative paints provide a bright, sparkling metallic finish

Specialty Paints: Specialty paint is a term that encompasses a versatile array of different paints. They come in handy for a nearly unlimited number of applications. The chart below lists some of the more commonly found specialty paints and how they can be utilized.



Paint Description and Applications
Appliance Washable, moisture-resistant epoxy that can be applied to washers, dryers and more
Chalkboard Converts wood, metal, plastic or glass surfaces to a chalkboard, making it ideal for use in children’s bedrooms and playrooms
Epoxy Enamel Offers a hard finish for tables and other furniture both indoors and out
Frosted Decorative yet functional finish that reduces glare and adds privacy to windows
High Heat Resists heat up to 1,000° F, making it ideal for use on grills
Lacquer Provides a hard, polished, high-luster finish that’s perfect for furniture
Stain Fix Hides and covers stain while priming surfaces for additional coats of paint
Vinyl Renews the appearance of vinyl upholstery and can be used on luggage, car and boat seats, dashboards and more

Application: While spray paint requires little more than the push of a button to apply paint, there are cases where you’ll need to do a little prep work. Wood will need to be sanded and wiped clean, and you may need to prime it. Fortunately, spray primer is available to make your job easier. It’s important to work in a well-ventilated area to prevent fumes from overwhelming you. Shake the paint can for 60 seconds prior to use to ensure that paint is properly mixed. The rattling sound you hear comes from a ball bearing located within the can that stirs the paint as you shake. More likely than not, you’ll need to apply more than one coat. Consult the manufacturer’s instruction as to when subsequent coats should be applied, as some paints require that they be added within one hour of initial application or after a certain period of hours or days. When you’re done spraying, turn the can upside down and spray for 5 seconds to blow remaining paint out of the nozzle so it doesn’t clog.


  • If possible, apply spray paint outdoors; keep windows open when painting inside
  • Remove rust and oil from metal surfaces prior to painting
  • Lightly sand glass or ceramic surfaces prior to painting to allow paint to adhere better
  • Painting on humid days can lengthen drying time
  • Always work with plenty of light so you can be sure you apply the coats evenly
  • Place cardboard around the object when painting to prevent stains due to overspray and accidental drips


Fluorescent Colors: While fluorescent colors may be a little too bright for everyday use, they can jazz up a variety of objects for parties and holidays. They also come in handy for making signs or marking safety equipment and other objects you want to stand out from their surroundings.

Spray Pattern: If you’re tackling a big job, look for a nozzle with a fan-shaped pattern that will distribute paint over a larger area. Some nozzles utilize an oval-shaped pattern instead of a circular one and allow you to rotate them to adjust for horizontal and vertical application.

Cars: You’ll probably want to leave major paint jobs to the professionals, but simple touchups can be easily accomplished with spray paints. Two-component products mix components when the aerosol button is pressed, saving you time and effort.

Special Effects: If you’re looking for something different and unique, apply color-changing or glow-in-the-dark spray paint.

Don’t Forget

Sandpaper and spray primer will come in handy if you’re painting wood.