Got a new paint sprayer but are unable to avoid overspray?
If you’re not familiar, “overspray” is the term used when more paint is sprayed/used than is required to cover a specific surface.
With the advent of paint sprayers, overspray is more common than you think, so you’ll want to be sure how to identify it and solve it when it occurs while painting your home or car.
In this guide, we’ll cover overspray basics, including what causes the phenomenon and how you can prevent it when painting.
Keep reading to find out what you can do to solve this common problem and get that superior paint job that will leave people marveling.
What is Paint Overspray?
Paint overspray is typically a form of minute particles that spreads on the topcoat or any other surface.
It’s generally formed as a rough-to-touch texture on an unintended object or location, which is not easy to wash off.
What does it look like?
Overspray can be of different sizes and amounts. In most cases, it will look like fine dust over the painted surface that feels hard and rough.
However, if the paint droplet you get on the surface is bigger, the overspray will most likely look like a hardened raindrop.
Consider, for example, if the paint, varnish, or stain particles drifted onto the window trip when you intended to paint the walls in your room.
Or if it gets on the windshield when you are spray painting your car body.
What Causes Overspray When Spray Painting?
No matter whether you are spraying the paint over your furniture, walls, fence, ceiling, or deck, overspray is expected due to various reasons.
As you’ll find out, some of these causes of overspray are relatively quick and easy to fix. They are:
Don’t underestimate the power of the wind in affecting your paint job.
If it’s too windy outside, you may find that your paint is being moved in an undesired direction.
This can make it harder to get the job done cleanly and efficiently, as you will inevitably waste more paint as you try to cover the target area.
Depending on the pressure and direction of the wind, you may find that you have more overspray at times than others.
The solution is simple: Don’t paint outside when the wind blows too badly.
If you’re painting indoors, turn off any fans so that you don’t have any unintended pressures acting on the paint coming from your spray gun.
2- Spray Pattern
If you find yourself with too much overspray, you may have the wrong spray pattern.
Depending on the size of your surface, you’ll want to make sure that your spray pattern matches the job at hand.
For example, spraying a narrow surface with a broad spray pattern will inevitably lead to overspray, as you emit more paint than necessary.
This will lead to a lumpy paint job, and extreme loss of paint as a large volume of paint misses the target area or is piled on top of an area that has already been painted.
The good news is that most spray guns are adjustable, with both narrow and broad spray patterns available.
This means that you’ll be able to fix the spray pattern of your device simply by fiddling with the nozzle of your spray gun.
3- Air Pressure
If you find your window or door paint job suffering from overspray, the cause could be as simple as too much air pressure.
Simply put, too much air moving through the machine can cause the paint to release from your spray gun too quickly.
The result is a high-impact splatter that will ultimately create a lumpy finished look.
Of course, depending on the job at hand, you may need a high-pressure machine to do your work (especially if you have to cover a large area).
Still, overspray could be a sign that your pressure is too high.
In these cases, always remember that you can lower the pressure on your device for a smoother, more even application.
4- Distance from Target
How close you stand to your target could also be the difference between a quality paint job and one ruined by overspray.
One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is using their paint sprayers too close to the target surface.
Doing so can lead to incredible amounts of overspray and an overall unattractive finish.
Along with the clunky overspray pattern, you’ll also find that spraying too close leads to the dreaded “drip-down” that occurs when too much paint is applied.
On a related note, you’ll want to be sure that you’re not standing too far away, which will cause your paint to splatter and not adequately cover the target area.
For best results, you must stand between 7 to 10 inches from the surface you are painting – because this is typically a distance that overspray can travel in most cases.
7 Different Ways to Prevent Overspray when Painting
Simply put, it’s not enough to know what causes overspray. So, with all the above information in mind, it’s time to look at ways to prevent oversprays when spraying.
Also, to have an effective paint job, you must know what steps to take to correct the problems. This will ensure you get a clean and even finish on your target surface.
1- Create a DIY Spray Booth
Let’s start with the basics.
Any beginner would agree that getting your spraying area enclosed is one of the best ways by which you can easily avoid overspray.
A DIY spray booth or a portable paint shelter (made of plastic sheets) can help you build your cabin where you can spray easily without worrying about spilling the paint all over your place.
By working within this spray booth, you can dramatically reduce the chances of getting the paint sprinkled on your other items/surfaces in an area you are painting in.
Just bring the items inside this enclosure and spray your stuff.
If you do not have enough budget (to buy a booth), consider building a DIY shelter (in the form of a big box) using old cardboard.
The only downside to using these booths is that you can only spray smaller and movable stuff (such as cabinets, chairs, tables, etc.), not the interior or exterior walls and ceilings.
2- Use Adhesive Tape or Cloth
The smallest and cheapest you can use is adhesive tape or an old (but clean) cloth to cover your stuff.
You can use tape if you fear overspray on trims and edges. Or else wrapping the area with a piece of cloth (or a roll of plastic) can do the job.
Do not use old newspapers to cover the area you do not want to get paint on. Overspray paint can sweep through these and still damage your surfaces, making them a mess.
3- Use the Right Type of Sprayer
Remember that traditional spray guns give you the highest likelihood of overspray, particularly if you are working on a small surface.
For this reason, you may use an airless paint sprayer or a high-volume low-pressure sprayer (HVLP), which uses a very fine mist of paint to help get the job done quickly without overspray.
Obviously, the type of sprayer you choose will depend on your work.
For instance, if you are painting the outside of a house, you’ll probably want to go with a higher-powered option.
However, if you’re simply painting a piece of old furniture, an HVLP spray gun may serve your purposes better.
4- Use the Correct Air Pressure
If you find that your paint job is getting lumpy or drippy or that you are simply using too much paint, most likely, you should adjust the air pressure.
For best results, make sure to start with the lowest pressure possible and work your way up if you need to.
This will ensure you’re not just blasting full force right out of the gate.
You may also choose to go with an airless paint sprayer. Because these sprayers rely on pressure other than air to get the job done, they result in less overspray while coating the target surface with a fine mist.
Especially when working with smaller projects, you may find these types of spray guns more effective at preventing over-splashing.
5- Select the Correct Nozzle Size
The rule to remember is – the bigger the nozzle size, the more paint you will be releasing.
For this reason, correcting your overspray could be as simple as getting a smaller nozzle for your paint gun.
Keeping this in mind, it’s good to have a variety of nozzle sizes on hand so that you can get through your project cleanly without unnecessary overspray.
This is particularly important if you are working on a project that requires broad applications in some parts and finer applications in others.
6- Increase Electrostatic Charge
Generally employed by professionals, Electrostatic spray painting is a process in which the magnetic field is used to apply the paint on metals and a few other plastic items.
If you want to spray like a pro (without any overspray), learn the process to know how you can increase the electrostatic charge on paint particles.
The basic principle behind this is to let the mist of sprayed paint get attracted to the target surface.
In addition to avoiding overspray, the electrostatic charge on paint particles also does help in adhering the paint to the surface better. Hence creating a much smoother paint coating.
Electrostatic spray painting is also an excellent way to spray a three-dimensional object more evenly as the paint gets bonded better without any wastage, enabling you to get a much better finish.
7- Practice and Learn The Spray Techniques
“Practicing makes the man perfect.”
It’s true in every field, including the home paint job.
Over-splashing the paint over other stuff is a common problem for beginners.
If you are trying hand-over spraying for the first time (just because you are passionate about DIY tasks), you must learn a few techniques and expert strategies for spraying correctly.
Websites like YouTube are loaded with such techniques that come directly from experts in the field. It’s good to invest some time into it before using your Wagner machine for the first time.
What is the Best Way to Fix Over Sprays After Spraying?
Even after trying to avoid them, if you happen to get some overspray, there are ways you can get rid of them.
The easiest way to get the layer of overspray off glass windows, plastic, car windshield, or any other smooth surface is to use a retractable safety scraper or a razor blade.
Just scrape the paint off carefully and vacuum the paint shavings. Then try polishing or buffing the surface to polish out overspray thoroughly.
Secondly, depending on the type of paint, the painted surface, and the size of the overspray, you can use agents like acetone, wd-40, rubbing alcohol, paint thinner, etc.
Also, here are a few DIY paint removers I have mentioned. Maybe you will find them helpful.
The Bottom Line
Overspray is a common problem when spraying your walls, ceilings, furniture, or car.
Watch out for the wind if you are painting outside, but air pressure and spray pattern are two of the most common causes of excess spraying.
So, the easiest way to correct overspray is by adjusting air pressure and using a suitable sprayer with a proper nozzle.
These tips are a nearly foolproof way to protect your target surface from overspray and to get that superior paint job you’ve been looking for!
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.