Painting Furniture with a Sprayer

Looking for a way to paint furniture faster or get a brush free look on your next project? Painting furniture with a sprayer is exactly how I do that.

A paint sprayer is a wonderful tool that can help you achieve a professional-looking finish when you’re painting furniture. Get more painting techniques for furniture here!

painting furniture black with a paint sprayer

But before you pick up a paint sprayer, there are a few things you need to know in order to get the best results.

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A paint sprayer is one of my favorite tools because it creates a clean, smooth finish, and it’s faster than a good ol’ paintbrush or a paint roller.

But using a paint sprayer when painting furniture might seem complicated at first. And of course, there are several kinds of paint sprayers on the market so choosing one can get overwhelming.

Well not anymore. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about painting furniture with a paint sprayer.

Supplies Used for Painting Furniture With a Sprayer

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Check out my list of 10 must-haves when painting furniture supplies here. I also have a great list of spray paint tools you need when painting furniture.

Prepare the Furniture for Paint

First, prep your furniture by removing the hardware, cleaning the furniture, and lightly sanding it. If you’re not sure how here’s more information on how to prepare furniture for painting.

Test Out the Sprayer with Water

When I got my first paint sprayer, I was excited to use it, but I wasn’t sure how to work it, and I was nervous that I would make a mess.

But I had heard that it’s best to test it out with some water first, so you can get a feel for how it works. So I did. It’s a great way to get familiar with your paint sprayer.

spraying water through paint sprayer

Plus, you don’t waste paint, and you don’t have to clean up a mess if spraying isn’t for you.

Filter Paint Before Spraying

Then when you’re ready to put some paint in it, pour the paint through a mesh filter while you’re pouring it into the sprayer’s container.

These mesh paint filters that I use are funnel-shaped, so they fit perfectly in the sprayer’s container.

We run the paint through the filter first to remove any debris or particles, like dried paint that can clog your sprayer.

paint filter to filter paint before putting in the paint sprayer

Do you have to thin paint for a sprayer?

When painting furniture with a sprayer, you don’t always have to, but it will make the paint level out better and create a more professional-looking finish.

Here’s a great video for the best paint sprayer for furniture, comparing when you don’t thin out paint and when you do thin out paint.

texture after not thinning out paint has a lot of bumps
The texture when paint is not thinned out

Most HVLP sprayers require you to thin the paint, but not all HVLP paint sprayers. If you thin out your paint, make sure to thin it out with the right thinning agent. Otherwise, you’ll ruin that paint.

What to thin paint with for a spray gun?

Mix water in water based paints, like we did with our chalk painted nightstand makeover in this post on how to use the FLEXiO 3000. Use mineral spirits for oil based paints.

If you’re not sure what to use, check the back of your paint container.

If it says to clean up with soap and water, you can usually thin the paint with water. You can usually thin your paint with mineral spirits if it says to clean with mineral spirits.

back of paint can with cleanup information

How to thin paint for a paint sprayer

Thoroughly mix the thinner with the filtered paint in the sprayer container using a paint stick.

I like adding water to water based paint while the paint is still filtering through the filter. This makes it easier for it to go through the mesh on the filter.

I thin the paint between 10% to 15%. And then I test it. I add more water to the paint if it has a lot of big bumps or texture when I spray it.

If it seems really thin, I add more paint to thicken it back up. Too thin of paint might not cure well, and it is more prone to dripping while drying.

You can also thin water based paint with Floetrol. Learn more about how to thin paint for Wagner FLEXiO sprayer here. Or if you have other types of paint sprayers, check out this guide on how to thin paint for a sprayer.

How to Work a Paint Sprayer

Then, assemble the sprayer parts as shown in the owner’s manual. Adjust the settings and test the spray on a piece of cardboard or paper.

The material flow adjustment is the setting that usually needs the most adjustment. If too much paint comes out, lower the material flow. If not very much comes out, turn the material flow up.

closeup of material flow adjustment knob

Remember, the key is to get the right amount of air and paint flow so that the mist that comes out of the paint sprayer nozzle isn’t too fast or too slow for the speed that you’ll move the sprayer when spraying.

Keep adjusting the settings until you’re comfortable with them. Watch this video on how to use the Wagner FLEXiO 3000 for more information. And for our personal experience with this Wagner FLEXiO model, here’s my Wagner FLEXiO 3000 review!

Tips for Using a Paint Sprayer When Painting Furniture

  • Spray lighter than what you think you need to spray. It’s better to spray a thinner coat than to spray too much and have drips in the paint.
  • Ideally, the sprayer should be around 12 inches away from the furniture when spraying.
  • Spray in straight lines, back and forth across the furniture.
  • Overlap each line of paint by 50% to create an even coat all over.
  • A good rule of thumb is to not leave your paint in the sprayer for more than a few hours.

Get more information on how to use a paint sprayer here. Or if you are using a Vonforn paint sprayer check out this guide on how to use Vonforn paint sprayer.

using a paint sprayer on furniture

If I’m using easy to clean paint like chalk paint, I can leave it in all day without cleaning it out.

Suppose I’m using a very durable paint like Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. In that case, it’s best to clean it out between coats.

How to Fix Spray Paint Drips

If you catch the paint drips when the paint is still wet, simply brush the drips away with a paint brush. If the paint drips are dry, you’ll have to sand or scrape off the paint drip to remove it.

Then, you can paint it again (after you’ve adjusted the settings on the sprayer to not spray as much paint! haha)

Watch this part of a makeover where I sprayed too much topcoat and how I fix spray paint drips.

How to Clean a Paint Sprayer

If you want your paint sprayer to last long as possible, it’s best to clean it right after you finish a project. Or in the middle of a project if you’re using a very durable, fast drying paint.

Cleaning isn’t complicated; it should only take 5 to 10 minutes.

If you used water-based paint for your project, use warm water and soap.

If you used oil-based paint, use mineral spirits. If you aren’t sure, the back of your paint container should tell you what to clean up your paint with.

Once you’ve detached the container and the suction tube from the paint sprayer, rinse the container and the suction tube.

Now, put some cleaner solution in the container and reassemble it. Plug in, turn on the paint sprayer, and spray the cleaning solution to clean what’s inside of the sprayer.

Keep spraying until the spray comes out clear. If paint is left in the sprayer, it will dry and can clog when you use it again. Read more about how to clean a paint sprayer here for more information.

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How to Spray Water Based Polyurethane

Like other paints, you need to mix water-based polyurethane very well because the flattening agent settles at the bottom of the paint can.

If you don’t mix it back together, you will end up with an uneven sheen on your furniture. Then put it through a mesh filter before it goes into the sprayer.

When topcoating dark colors, I like to add a small amount of water-based paint to the polyurethane to tint it to the color I’m topcoating.

Tinting the polyurethane helps reduce any foggy or streaky looks that the polyurethane can create sometimes. Get more tips on spraying water based polyurethane here.

spraying polyurethane on furniture

When I was starting out, I had a lot of questions. Below are some common questions and answers for painting furniture with a sprayer.

What is the Best Paint Sprayer for Furniture?

I’ve tried a couple of paint sprayers for furniture, but my favorite is the Wagner FLEXiO 3000.

The Wagner FLEXiO 3000 has 9 air settings that work for various coatings. It will even spray thick chalk paint without thinning it! Check out the best Wagner paint sprayers for furniture here.

For more paint sprayer options, check out my list of the best HVLP paint sprayers here and the best electric paint sprayers for furniture here.

wagner flexio 3000 paint sprayer

But the finish looks much smoother (there are less bumps, and the bumps are smaller) if you thin thicker paints out.

Unlike other cheaper paint sprayers, you don’t have to be precise when thinning out the paint.

And it comes with two different nozzles. One is for painting large projects like fences and walls. And the Detail Finish Nozzle is for fine finish projects like furniture or cabinets.

I like High Volume Low Pressure or HVLP paint sprayers because you don’t need an air compressor. (An air compressor can cost you a few hundred dollars for the size you need.)

lineup of different paint sprayers that are good for painting furniture

Another great sprayer is the Wagner FLEXiO 5000. Check out my honest Wagner Flexio 5000 paint sprayer review here. Here’s how to use Wagner FLEXiO 5000 paint sprayer.

What is the Best Paint for Spraying Furniture?

Water-based paints are the easiest to work with when painting furniture with a sprayer.

They dry quicker, are more durable than ever, are easy to clean up with soapy water, and aren’t as toxic as oil-based paints. Check out my list of the best paint for spraying furniture here.

Some of my favorites are:

Learn more about painting furniture with latex paint here.

Can You Use Primer in a Paint Sprayer?

Yes, you can use primer in a paint sprayer. Stay away from shellac based primers when using HVLP sprayers, though. (Check the sprayer’s manufacturer for more information.)

Don't use shellac based primer for HVLP paint sprayers

Shellac has a low flash point, so it doesn’t take much heat for it to combust. Also, remember to put on a mask/respirator and goggles because primers often have strong fumes.

If you do need to spray shellac based primer, don’t forget to clean it after use. Here’s a guide on how to clean shellac primer out of a sprayer.

How to Thin Primer for a Sprayer

Sometimes when the primer is thick, you will need to thin it before spraying it. Water based primers can be thinned with water. Oil based primer can be thinned with mineral spirits.

Read the back of your container to see if they recommend thinning and to see what they suggest cleaning it up with. And don’t forget to mix it well.

Make sure to pour the primer through a filter. We don’t want any debris in the primer when spraying, or else the sprayer can get clogged.

How to Spray Paint Furniture Without Making a Mess

I highly suggest laying plastic or cardboard on the floor and the walls of wherever you’re spraying. Also, cover anything else with plastic.

If you’re spray painting indoors, it’s essential to follow these steps to protect your area and yourself.

Then, put painter’s tape and plastic on the areas of the furniture that you don’t want the paint to get on, like the inside of drawers.

putting tape and plastic on drawers

Here’s a great detailed guide on how to prevent overspray when painting furniture you don’t wanna miss!

In terms of using a paint sprayer when painting furniture, I make sure the paint flow is coming out at the right speed.

If a lot of paint comes out, it can spray pretty far and get paint on everything around you.

Is it Better to Spray or Brush Paint on Furniture?

This is a matter of preference. But personally, I like using a paint sprayer when painting furniture instead of a brush or a paint roller.

A sprayer creates a smoother finish with less bumps and no brush strokes. I love how professional my project looks when using a sprayer.

However, a paintbrush is easier to use when painting indoors. And I don’t have to worry as much about ventilation when using a brush and water based paint.

Read about the best paint brushes for painting furniture here! A paintbrush is cheaper than a sprayer, but it takes longer to brush paint.

A sprayer also requires a lot more preparation, as mentioned above.

But for me, the excellent quality I can create on my furniture makeovers outweighs the time spent taping and protecting things before spraying. Check out spray paint vs brush paint furniture here.

With all this information, I hope you are ready to try painting furniture with a sprayer. I’m excited to see your final result. Comment below and let us know how it went, and feel free to ask questions.

More Paint Sprayer Resources

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  1. Kristine Gonzalez says:

    I love your tutorials!!! The music with it was cute, too!

  2. Thank you so much Kristine!

  3. Heather Carter says:

    Love your tutorials. Would love to know how long you let paint dry between coats and if you need to clean out the sprayer between coat while waiting for paint to dry.

  4. I built shaker style doors and drawer fronts for a custom vanity. Can they be sprayed laying horizontally on a plywood table, or do they have to be vertical so the paint will flow from the sprayer?

    1. They can be sprayed laying down, no problem. But they will dry better and feel smoother when dry, if they are sprayed and dry while vertical.

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