how to thin paint

How To Thin Paint For A Sprayer

There’s no doubt about it – paint sprayers are amazing tools. They drastically reduce the time you spend painting and make the process much simpler.

But if you’ve never used one before, you’re probably wondering how to thin paint for a sprayer.

To thin latex paint, you need to add water to it. But you have to do this slowly, so you don’t get it too thin.

Start by adding 1⁄2 cup of water per gallon of paint. Mix the water in.

If the paint is still too thick, slowly add another ½ cup.

Here’s a deeper dive into how to thin paint for a sprayer.

Materials Needed to Thin Latex Paint

Thinning paint is a straightforward process that requires only a few items. 

In this tutorial, we’ll be covering how to thin latex paint. Latex paint is the most widely used paint and is what most homeowners use.

But because latex paint is thicker than oil-based paint, it can clog the nozzle of a spray gun and not flow properly. Luckily, since latex paint is water-based, you can thin it with water.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Paint 
  • Water 
  • 5 Gallon Bucket
  • Paint Stirrer Stick
  • Funnel
  • Piece of cardboard or wood for the test surface

(Important note: If you’re using oil-based paint, you must use paint thinner and not water. However, you should never use paint thinner in latex paint.)

How to Thin Paint for a Sprayer: Step by Step

How to Thin Paint for a Sprayer_b

Step 1: Add ½ Cup of Water to a Gallon of Paint

Dump your gallon of paint into the five-gallon bucket, and then add ½ cup of water. Use your paint stirrer stick to mix the water into the paint thoroughly.

Step 2: Test it With a Funnel

An easy way to see if your paint is thin enough is to run it through a funnel. 

Take a little bit of paint and dump it into the funnel. (Hold the funnel over the paint can so you don’t lose product.)

If the paint easily flows out of the bottom of the funnel, you’re good to go. However, if it collects at the top and doesn’t flow, you need to add more water.

Step 3: Add More Water If Needed

If your paint is still too thick to easily pass through the funnel, add another ½ cup of water to the bucket and mix it in.

Repeat this process until you’ve achieved the right consistency.

Step 4: Test Your Paint

Before you start spraying your walls or cabinets with your newly thinned paint, try it on a test surface.

Layout a piece of cardboard or plywood. Then, load your sprayer with your paint and spray the test surface.

If the paint doesn’t clog or slow down the sprayer, you’re good to go. If you’re still having issues with clogging, you need to add more water to your paint and then retest.

How to Thin Oil Based Paint for a Sprayer

How to Thin Oil Based Paint for a Sprayer

While latex paints are most common, there may come a time when you need to use oil-based paint.

Oil-based paints are a little more durable than latex and an excellent option for outdoor projects and cabinetry.

But because oil-based paints don’t have a water base, you can’t thin them with water. Instead, you have to use a paint-thinning product.

You should also check your paint sprayer to ensure it’s compatible with oil-based paints because some aren’t.

Since each paint is different, refer to the paint or primer to see how much thinning agent you need to add. Thinning oil-based paint usually consists of removing a small portion of paint and replacing it with a thinning agent.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • Paint
  • Paint thinner (mineral spirits or turpentine)
  • Paint stirrer stick
  • 5-gallon bucket

Step 1: Add Paint and Thinner to Your Bucket

Pour your paint into your five-gallon bucket, and then add your paint thinner. For most oil-based paints, you add 1 part thinner to three parts paint.

However, since all paint has different viscosities, you need to refer to the paint package for specific instructions.

Use your paint stirrer stick to mix in the thinner.

Step 2: Do the Funnel Test

Now, put a little paint in your funnel. If paint freely flows through the bottom of the funnel, you’re good to go.

Step 3: Add More Thinner if Needed

If the paint doesn’t flow through your funnel, add a little more thinner and thoroughly stir.

Make sure to only add a little bit of thinning agent at a time so you don’t over dilute your paint. Overdiluting will lead to paint that’s too thin and can also alter the color.

Once you’ve mixed more thinner in, repeat the funnel test.

Step 4: Test Your Sprayer

Now load your sprayer with paint and spray a piece of cardboard or scrap wood. You’re good to go if your sprayer doesn’t get clogged or slow down.

If the paint clogs your sprayer, you need to add more thinner.

Final Thoughts

Thinning paint for a sprayer isn’t a complicated process, but it does require patience. You need to slowly add water to your paint, ½ cup at a time, and then test it to ensure it’s at the proper viscosity.

If it isn’t, add a little bit more water.

Your end result should be paint that’s thin enough to go through your sprayer without clogging it or slowing it down.