Spray painting practice

by jenny on 28 March 2012 - 05:35pm

I should go ahead and mention now that Young House Love is my home improvement Bible. Sherry & John have meticulously documented step-by-step how to take your run-of-the mill space and make it into something fabulous: something yours. While I’m giving props, The Nester has also provided a lot of inspiration and taught me that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

These guys have different styles and I like bits and pieces of both. One thing they have in common is extensive use of spray paint to transform old, ugly items into that perfect piece that anyone would think you went out and bought exactly for that space.

Enter old, ugly item in the form of scratched metal planter.


I’ve chosen this piece because it’s pretty ugly and pretty low risk. Not too expensive, not too sentimental. Note that this is “Spray painting practice,” as in, I’m not very good at it yet. In fact, I’ve only ever done it once before, on ottoman legs (more on that later). But this is a skill I really want to learn to do well since it opens the door to so many possibilities.

So without further ado, lightly sand the metal with high-grit sandpaper so the paint will stick. I used 150 from this variety pack.


I tried to sand all in the same direction so even if the paint didn’t completely cover the scratches, at least it would look uniform.


Wipe off the sanded surface with a damp cloth to remove all loose particles and allow to dry completely. At this point, it should look uglier than when you started.


Find a cap from the recycle bin to prop the item on for a nice even coating on the bottom edge.


Hold the can 8-12 inches from the object. Aim away from the object when beginning the initial spray to avoid a giant splat of paint in the beginning, then mist very lightly, swaying your arm the entire time. As Sherry likes to say, the coats should be very “thin and even”, not thick and drippy. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t want full coverage on the initial coat. It should take 2-3 coats to get there, waiting 5 minutes between coats.

Oh, and don’t do this if it’s windy out.


Otherwise you’ll get a nice imprint of your drop cloth on your pot.


And you’ll need to wait 24 hours for the paint to cure, and go back to the sanding step to smooth out the uneven texture.


Not that I would know from experience.

In the end, if all goes well, you should have a gorgeous like-new item. Not that it has to be perfect. This pot has a few itsy-bitsy wrinkles in the coat in a few places (I think I should have done 3 even thinner coats instead of 2), but I can just turn those to the back and enjoy the other side, which is looking pretty good.


Unless, of course, it isn’t. In which case, you can simply wait 24 hours, sand it down, and try again. It happens to the best of us.

My strategy is to tackle the ugliest things first: they have the most room for improvement. Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly the way you had in mind, it’s usually better than the way it was before. In other words, a success!

Update: I noticed after this fully cured that the drop cloth imprint is still pretty visible under the paint… must not have sanded enough. Fortunately, it’s on the same “bad side” as the itsy-bitsy wrinkles, so it’s good enough for me. You may want to sand things down a bit more than I did for a perfectly smooth finish.


Who knew there was so much skill to spray-painting! Granted, I usually think of spray paint as something for freeway overpasses and college theater prop shops ...