Thinning Paint For a Paint Gun

gloved hand painting wood with spray gun
  • 1+
  • Intermediate
  • 50+
What You'll Need
Paint gun
Paint thinner
What You'll Need
Paint gun
Paint thinner

We've all been there — a paint project that goes from cute to catastrophic in no time flat. Painting can be a fun, inexpensive way to transform your home, but it can also be a challenge. Especially when you're working with a paint gun for the first time, or you're trying out a new paint in your paint gun, you're going to want to budget a little extra time for troubleshooting.

Why? Because there's a good chance that you are going to need to thin your paint for your paint gun.

Thinning paint for a paint gun is a common practice in painting but does depend on the specific type of gun you are using. The need to thin paint will be dependent on the air pressure needed, the type of spray tip used, and the kind of paint to be applied.

It's always a good idea to check the paint gun manufacturer’s directions before you start painting. Thinning requirements vary for oil-based versus latex-based paints.

When to Thin Paint

There are a few reasons you need to thin the paint in your paint gun. If your paint is spraying unevenly or leaving the gun clumpy. If there appear to be lots of lumps and bubbles in the paint, that's another reason to thin the paint.

If the paint is coming onto your walls and the color looks inconsistent, you need to remix the paint with a paint stick before you thin it. If you're still having problems after you mix it completely, you can thin it.

Your specific paint gun will come with paint-thinning instructions, so make sure to check there first.

mixing paint

Latex Paint

Latex paint is one of the most common types of paint and is likely what covers your interior walls at home. Latex paint comes in a variety of finishes, all of which can be applied to your walls using a paint gun.

If you find that you need to thin the paint in your gun, here's what you need to do.

First, try thinning your latex-based paint with water. Use it sparingly. We recommend adding just a tablespoon or two to start with. Also, keep track of how much you add to the first batch so you can add the exact same amount to the next round of paint.

If water does not do the job, acquire the paint additive Floetrol or the Thin-x Latex Thinner. Both are available wherever paint is sold. Mix four ounces into a quart of paint at a time and check to see if the mix is effective.

Do not use more than eight ounces per quart. Because these are professional thinning products, using them will not affect the color of the paint but may reduce the sheen a bit on gloss paint.

paint gun spraying

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints are different than oil paints. Oil paints are used for painting art projects, while oil-based paint is a type of interior paint that is used to paint high-traffic areas in the home or spaces and objects that need a little extra. Cabinets, furniture, and molding often get painted with oil-based paint instead of latex paint.

If you find that you need to thin your oil paint, here's where to start.

Read the instructions that came with your paint gun. There should be oil-based paint-specific instructions. This guide will tell you where to start with your specific gun because each has slightly different requirements.

Use the product Penetrol or Red Label Thin-x Paint Thinner when thinning an oil-based paint for a paint gun. Never thin the paint by more than 15 to 20 percent. Check online for any special bargains when buying paint thinners. Discounts may be available when purchasing paint for your paint gun.

Especially if you are painting cabinets and need a really smooth finish, it's a good idea to start with paint that is slightly thinned. This will ensure a smooth and even application on your cabinets so they look perfect.