Spray Paint: Pros and Cons

August 10, 2009

I was finishing up a bench this morning, using one of my favorite tools: spray paint.  As I was working, I was going back over all of your emails that you’ve sent to me asking questions about spray paint, expressing your fear or relaying your love for the aerosol can. 

spray paint nozzle

In my humble opinion, these are the top ten pros and cons when it comes to the use of spray paint.


  1. Spray paint offers more even coverage without brush strokes. 
  2. Spray primer is a million times faster than brush primer. 
  3. Spray paint is a million times faster than brush on paint.
  4. Spray paint is typically oil based, therefore more durable than water based spray or regular latex paint.
  5. Spray paint is easy to use outdoors, with a drop cloth and some newspaper.
  6. Specialty spray paints can be used to transform metal, wicker, plastic, resin and other surfaces. 
  7. Spray paint dries much faster than paint out of a can (without an additive).
  8. With a spray paint nozzle gun in hand, you can conquer the world, or at least, transform a piece of furniture without losing your mind to a million brush strokes.
  9. Clean up is quicker – no brushes to rinse or buckets to wash.
  10. Spray paint feels a little devious – at least in my state – you have to be of a certain age to purchase it.


  1. Compared to latex paint, there are limited color choices beyond the great ‘Heirloom White’ and some of the ‘American Accents’ line by Rustoleum. 
  2. Spray paint is more expensive per square foot of coverage.
  3. Spray paint requires ventilated area in which to work.  You can’t use it indoors. 
  4. Drips are tricky.  I use my finger to wipe up drips, but they take away from the smoothness of even coverage.
  5. Spray paint is typically oil based, so clean up on your hands requires mineral spirits or really strong exfoliation. 
  6. Spray paint is extremely toxic (therefore, wear a mask).
  7. A bad nozzle will spatter paint and ruin your day.
  8. Spray primer is not as durable as brush primer so it shouldn’t be used on high traffic pieces (ex: tabletops).
  9. Without a spray paint nozzle gun, your fingers can cramp.
  10. I read somewhere that aerosol cans are bad for the environment.  For a very boring interesting article on how an aerosol can of spray paint works, look here.

Rules I Follow:

  1. Shake shake shake.  Shake shake shake.  Shake your spray can.  Shake your spray can.
  2. Always spray 7 inches away from your piece, and move back and forth in a rapid motion. 
  3. Two thin coats is better than one thick coat – you risk drips.
  4. Start your spray in an inconspicuous spot in case it spatters out of the can. 
  5. Quality varies, so I mostly use Rustoleum brand spray paints. 
  6. Always wear a mask, disposable or otherwise.  Have you seen the warning label on a can of spray paint?  Couldn’t be more toxic.
  7. Dispose of your cans properly at a toxic waste disposal sites.

Here’s a throwback to a few months ago, but take a look at some brass thrift store finds that I transformed with a can of spray paint in this post


brass before


brass after

What has been your experience with spray paint?  Are you as big of a fan as I am?  Do you fear the spray can?  Did I miss any pros or cons?

What tips can you share to help us all be better in our application? 

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