1. MATCH THE MATERIAL TO THE CAN.

This is a no-brainer, but if you’re trying to paint metal, use a paint specially formulated for metal. Not every paint is good for every job. Read the labels on the can for a list of materials that it covers, or you could wind up with a paint job that peels right off of the surface and looks worse than before you began.

2. START WITH A SQUEAKY CLEAN SURFACE.

Paint will not stick evenly to a dirty surface, and the dirt will wind up tracking more dirt as time goes on. Thoroughly clean the object you are going to paint. Windex is a go-to surface cleaner for most objects for me. Porous objects are harder to clean, so in some cases, you may have to use a primer to block stains or dirt from creeping up to the surface and into your paint job.

3. VENTILATE, VENTILATE, VENTILATE.

Spray paint is toxic, so it is best to have a few windows open if you’re spraying something indoors that you can’t move outside. If you can, try to spray outdoors.

4. PROTECT WHAT YOU DON’T WANT TO PAINT.

Spray paint… well… sprays…everywhere! Most brands nowadays have directional nozzles for ease of spraying, but because of your efforts to ventilate, wind or a fan will blow the mist everywhere. Even when you think you’ve got the goods to keep the overspray to a minimum, it can still leave a slight haze over the surrounding surface, so it’s best to protect what you’re not wanting to change. Blue painters tape and some paper toweling work well.

5. SHAKE IT UP.

Shaking the can is part of the directions. Follow them. Otherwise, your paint can come out clumpy and ruin whatever you were spraying. As an added measure, do a spray test on a piece of cardboard or something you plan to toss out, to make sure you are first oops isn’t on your project.

6. USE A LIGHT-HANDED APPROACH.

In terms of staying power, four light coats are usually better than two thick, heavy-handed coats. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but when you use a thick coat, it goes down in a single layer, which increases the chances of it coming back up in a single layer as well—aka, uneven, gross peeling—kind of like a bad sunburn. Do too much too quickly, and your results will come right back off.

7. DRY AND REPEAT.

For most projects, at least two coats are necessary for adequate coverage. It usually takes only thirty minutes or less before the first coat is dry, but wait a little while in between coats to ensure that the first has proper dry time. When making drastic changes, such as coating ceramic or changing from a dark/light color to a light/dark color, use a spray primer first. For certain projects, you may also need to use some between-coat sandpaper to rough up the original surface to get the first layer to stick well.

About David Jerome