4 Tips for Preventing Orange Peel while Spray Painting

A close up of orange peel texture on a painted wall.

Orange peel is a common defect when spray painting. It occurs when there is an impeded flow of paint and it results in a pockmarked application that resembles the skin of an orange. Here are some simple tips to prevent this from happening to your next paint job.

Tip: Remember to always work in a properly ventilated area and follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions.

1. Choose the Correct Size of Needle/Nozzle

Orange peel usually happens when you use the wrong type of nozzle or needle. Because a larger needle ejects a larger amount of spray, some areas may have too much spray while others receive too little. Assess what type of job you have to do, and then adjust the nozzle depending on the size of your job. If you want a thicker finish, then you need a larger needle, but make sure that you distribute the spray properly.

Tip: Pass the sprayer over a test board before going to the project. This way you can make adjustments before painting the final piece.

2. Don't Use Too Much or Too Little Pressure

Another reason why orange peel occurs is because of too much or too little pressure during application. Using the wrong pressure will give some areas an overspray, and again, that will create an improper distribution of spray flow. Too little creates large droplets of spray, producing a center-weighted pattern when the surface is done. Too much expels more spray than needed in some areas. Another problem with too much pressure is that the spray may dry before the level becomes equal across the entire surface, producing an uneven texture.

Tip: Consider a paint extender to change the viscosity of the paint if you're not getting the pressure you want.

3. Choose a Good Spray Distance from the Surface

Stay about six to 10 inches away from the surface the entire time you're working. Painting too close to the surface creates a center weight pattern while remaining too far away creates only a light coat of paint that won't cover all that you want it to.

4. Consider Winds or Temperature

The environment can also play a part in creating orange peel. In hot weather, spray paint can dry too soon, resulting in improper distribution of paint. Also, if you are spraying outside and a strong wind is colliding against your surface, it will dry out the spray before the entire surface gets a sufficient amount of coverage. So, for best results, try to schedule an outdoor project for a series of days with mild weather, without too much wind or humidity.

The reason all these factors create orange peel is because of fluid flow, which is how much spray each area gets before it dries. Make sure your technique is right and that you follow these tips for controlling your spray so you can get a perfect finish every time.

Pam Estabrooke, district manager of ProTect Painters, contributed to this article.