Spray painting plastic was once a burdensome task. Spray paint tended to create blobs, beads, or droplets on the glossy plastic surfaces. However, now you can get the job done much more easily and with a great result. Taking all of the following into account will make spray painting plastic items a much easier task.
1. Clean Plastic Surfaces
Make sure anything you’re going to paint is clean. Any dust, debris, or sticky materials glued to the surface of your plastic should be removed prior to spray painting. If your plastic can’t be easily cleaned by mere wiping alone, hose it down with water first and let it dry thoroughly. Any particles you can see before you paint it will be just as visible after you paint; the only difference is that after you spray paint, the result will look embarrassing and shoddy. Don't underestimate the importance of this step and rush to spray painting your plastic items.
2. Skip Applying Primer
For most painting jobs, it is often recommended that a primer should be used prior to spraying the final colors. However, for plastic, it is not always required. As long as you have a clean surface and are able to do some quick sanding, you should be good to go. There are also paints available that don't even require you to do any sanding.
3. Spray Evenly from a Distance
Do not spray too close to the piece, as it will unevenly thicken the color on some parts. To create an even tone, spray from a distance. The recommended distance would be about 4 to 6 inches away from the object you are working on. This might seem like obvious advice, but it's important that you not only do this when you start painting, but also follow through with it throughout the entire process, even when you often stop and start and start a new layer.
When spraying, never begin or stop on the surface of your material. This will create drips and bunching up of colors, which can damage your paint job. Continue spraying in an even, single line from one end to the other. When you have sprayed in the single line from left to right, go slightly beyond the edge of the piece before releasing the trigger and stopping the spray. Then, do the same thing from right to left, repeating until done.
TIP: Painting professional Edward Kimble, the author of Interior House Painting Blog, adds, “The piece should be sprayed in several coats. The first coat is very light and does not cover the piece. We call this the “tack” coat. The next coat will stick to the tack coat and cover the piece. Don’t put the paint on heavy in one coat, or it will run. Usually, two to three light coats will finish the piece nicely with no runs.”
4. Prevent or Repair "Orange Peel"
This does not mean that the color you're spraying with will have an orange hue, nor does it mean that the paint will start to peel off or flake. "Orange peel" happens when the paint has dried out before it has the chance to level off on the plastic surface, creating a dimpled, uneven finish. To fix this, sand to level the surface of the paint once it has totally dried out. Orange peel textures can also happen when the paint is applied too thickly, or you could be working too far from your plastic ware. To get the best distance do some trial and error work prior to your actual painting job. This will help you determine your best distance that will not create orange peel. Remember that if you are moving close to your subject, you have to work faster to get an even result in the color.
5. Have Patience
Spray painting is not easy and takes some time and careful attention to details. You should keep in mind to always be patient with your work and not hurry in finishing the job. Don't hesitate to use scrap plastic or small negligible areas of your plastic surface to do tests at each stage. What you learn and observe can be very helpful.
The only thing that hurrying spray paint does is guarantee that you'll ruin the paintwork that much faster.
Assuming you can exercise that patience, you're well on your way to giving some old lawn furniture or other plastic pieces a new life with a burst of color and a couple of coats of spray paint.
Edward Kimble, a professional painter and the author of Interior House Painting Blog, contributed to this article.