Can You Paint Over Spray Paint? (How-To)

The spray paint on my center table was starting to wear off after many years. I wanted to revive the finish by painting over it but I wasn’t sure if I could paint over spray paint. So I made some research and here is what I found out.

You can paint over spray paint but only after sanding the spray-painted surface. Also, you’ll need to apply at least a coat of primer on the surface to block out the cellulose in the spray paint as paint doesn’t go well on cellulose.

However, you can’t apply paint over oil-based or graffiti spray paint. To paint over these spray paints, you’ll need to use an oil-based stain-blocking primer first.

But there is more to know about painting over spray paint and this post digs right into the topic. So let’s dive in.

What Paint Will Stick To Spray Paint?

Virtually any type of paint will stick to spray paint as long as the spray paint is sanded and primed. The purpose of priming is to block out the cellulose (and oils) in the spray paint since paints don’t adhere well to cellulose.

Sanding also helps to abrade the spray paint so it can be painted over. This is because paints will not stick to spray paint directly since spray paint is usually oil-based and as such, moisture resistant.

Though any type of paint will stick to spray paint, it’s best to use water-based acrylic paint over spray paint. This is because water-based acrylic paint has polyacrylates (or synthetic acrylic resins) which will stick well to the spray paint as long as it’s primed.

Also, water-based acrylic paints have vibrant colors that will work well to cover the color of the spray paint underneath.

You should know that paint will not stick to sealed spray paint directly. This is because sealants have a moisture-resistant top layer that will repel whichever paint is applied over it. To apply paint over sealed spray paint, you’ll need to strip off or sand the top layer of the sealant. Then prime before applying the paint.

However, stay away from thin or light paints especially if the spray paint you want to cover has a dark color. If the spray paint is darker than the shade of paint you put over it, the spray paint can bleed through and cause stains as the overlapping paint starts to cure.

It’s also a good idea to use paint that has the same base as spray paint. This means you should use water-based paint over water-based spray paint and oil-based paint over oil-based spray paint. This will help the paint stick better.

Painting Over Spray Paint (Comparison Chart)

Here is a quick summary of what you need to do before painting over water-based or oil-based paint:

 Water-based spray paintOil-based spray paint
PrimingNot necessaryNecessary (Use water-based primer over the oil-based spray paint).
De-glossingNot needed since water-based spray paints have no gloss.Necessary as oil-based spray paints have a gloss that will repel paint.
Water-based paintIt will stickIt will not stick without a primer
Oil-based paintIt will stickIt will stick better with a primer

How To Paint Over Spray Paint?

Painting over spray paint isn’t difficult. But there are a few basic steps to carry out before the paint is applied. This guide will reveal all you need to know about painting over spray paint. First, you’ll need some tools and supplies:

  • Rags or tack cloth
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Drop sheet
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint primer
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • A sealant (optional)
  • Paint stripper (only if the spray paint was sealed)

Here is a quick rundown of how to paint over spray paint:

  1. Cover the work area
  2. Check what type of spray paint was used
  3. Remove gloss
  4. Scuff the spray paint with sandpaper
  5. Apply two coats of primer
  6. Apply 3 coats of the required paint
  7. Seal the paint (optional)

Now, let’s get to work.

1. Cover The Work Area

Cover The Work Area

The first step is to cover the work area. This step is to prevent paint splatters on the floor or walls. Ensure to cover whatever you don’t want the paint to get on. Use a large drop sheet to cover the floors. Then use painter’s tape to hold the drop sheet down.

Any object on or around the surface to be worked on should be removed. Also, open all windows and doors for adequate ventilation. If you plan on applying oil-based paint or any stain with a high volume of paint chemicals, it’s best to apply the paint outdoors to prevent a build-up of toxic fumes.

2. Check What Type of Spray Paint Was Used

Check What Type of Spray Paint Was Used

It’s important to know what type of spray paint was used on the surface to know the best paint to apply over it and how to prep the spray paint.

To do this, you can use the water test. Add a few drops of water to the spray paint. If the water changes color, the spray paint used is oil-based and this means you’ll need to prime well before painting over it.

If the water remains clear, then the spray paint used is water-based. In this case, you don’t need to prime. Just sand lightly before applying the paint.

You should also check if the spray paint was sealed. To do this, try dragging a nail over the surface. If you see a build-up of color or paint particles on the tip of the nail, then the spray paint wasn’t sealed. But if you notice gloss or film on the tip of the nail, then the paint was sealed.

3. Remove The Gloss

Remove The Gloss

Spray paint that was sealed will have a shiny top layer. This layer is usually water-resistant and will prevent paint from adhering properly. So the gloss needs to be removed. To de-gloss the spray paint, you can use sandpaper or paint stripper.

Sandpaper is more ideal because it will not remove the entire top layer. Sanding will remove just enough to allow the paint to bite into the spray paint. But sanding can be very tedious especially on large surfaces. So it’s advised to use a palm sander to remove the gloss.

Paint strippers however will remove the entire top layer meaning you’ll have to prep the surface from scratch. When you have removed the gloss, you can…

4. Scuff The Spray Paint With Sandpaper

Scuff The Spray Paint With Sandpaper

Use medium-grit sandpaper to scuff the spray paint. The purpose of this is to abrade the spray paint by creating ridges that the paint applied can bite into.

Medium-grit sandpaper also helps to remove paint pimples and imperfections. Use 150-grit sandpaper for this. If the surface has corners, use sanding sheets. You can fold the sheets to get into corners and tight spaces.

After scuffing the spray paint, use fine-grit sandpaper to smoothen the surface. This helps to achieve a smooth finish. Use 220-grit sandpaper for this.

5. Apply Two Coats of Primer

Apply Two Coats of Primer

Regardless of the type of paint, you plan on using, a coat or two of primer will improve paint adhesion and smoothness. The best primer to use is water-based primer because any type of paint will stick well to water-based primer.

Use a paintbrush to apply the first coat of primer. Ensure to cover the entire area. Then let the first coat dry before applying the second coat. When both coats are dry and hard, you can…

6. Apply The Paint Over Spray Paint

Apply The Paint Over Spray Paint

The next step is to apply the paint based on the manufacture’s instructions. For this guide, it’s advised to use acrylic paint over the spray paint. You can apply acrylic paint by using a paint sprayer, roller, or paintbrush.

Ensure to apply thin coats. Thin coats will dry faster and you can re-coat sooner. Since you are painting over spray paint, it’s advised to apply up to 3 coats of acrylic paint. This will ensure that the spray paint doesn’t bleed through. It will also bring out the best results.

However, you should let each coat dry before applying the next. The drying time between coats depends on the type of paint you are using.

6. Seal The Paint (Optional)

Seal The Paint (Optional)

This step is optional. However, sealing the paint will improve strength and durability. Also, the sealant will make the paint moisture resistant.

Top choices of sealants include polyurethane, varnish, lacquer, and wax. You’ll also need two or three coats of sealant. After sealing, let the entire paint coating cure for at least 3 days before using it.

Can You Paint Over Spray Paint Primer?

You can only paint over water-based spray paint primer. Oil-based spray paint primer will repel paint that is not oil-based because water can’t stick to oil. Water-based spray paint primer however will allow any type of paint to stick.

Most spray paints are oil-based. As such, spray paints are usually designed to sit on oil-based primers. So most spray paint primers out there are oil-based and you can’t paint over them with anything water-based. This is because oil-based primers have oils and chemicals that will repel the water-based paint.

Also, oil-based primers are rigid when dry and should only be painted over with a rigid oil-based paint. Water-based paints however are flexible.

So, if you paint over an oil-based spray paint primer with a water-based paint, the flexibility of the paint will be affected since it can’t move on the rigid oil-based primer. This will cause the paint to crack or blister and fall off.

However, you can paint over water-based spray paint primer with any type of paint as long as the primer has cured and not just dry to touch. Oil-based and water-based spray paints will stick well to water-based spray paint primers because the primer doesn’t have any chemical or oil that will repel paint coating.

Tip: Always sand lightly before applying spray paint over spray paint primer.

Can You Paint Over Spray Paint With Latex Paint?

You can paint over spray paint with latex paint as long as you properly sand and prime the spray paint before applying latex paint over it. Sanding will help to remove imperfections and gloss on the spray paint coating and priming will provide a smooth surface for the latex paint to sit on.

Never use latex paint over oil-based or sealed spray paint without sanding and priming first. This is because latex paint is water-based and as such will not adhere to oil-based or sealed spray paint due to the glossy top layer of oil paints. You can only apply latex paint directly to spray paint if the spray paint is water-based.

You shouldn’t apply latex paint over graffiti spray paint. This is because graffiti contains synthetic oils and chemicals that will repel the latex paint coating. The only way to paint latex over graffiti is to remove the graffiti first. This can be done easily with a paint stripper or alcohol-based solvent.

Latex paint is an ideal choice to use over spray paint. This is because latex paint is flexible and as such can withstand temperature changes by expanding in hot weather and contracting when it’s cold. This prevents quick damages to the surface underneath.

As an expert tip, always seal latex paint after using it over spray paint. This makes the latex paint last longer.

Can You Paint Emulsion Over Spray Paint?

You can paint emulsion over spray paint but the spray paint must be sanded and primed with a water-based primer first. This is because emulsion paint is water-based while spray paint is usually oil-based.

As such, the emulsion paint will not sit well on the oil-based spray paint because water doesn’t adhere well to oil.

But if you sand and use a water-based primer first, the emulsion paint will stick to the water-based primer coating.

Also, emulsion paint will stick well to water-based spray paint since both paints have an identical make-up and solvent that makes them compatible.

Final Words

Overall, spray paint can be painted over but it’s very important to prime first especially before using water-based paint over the spray paint.Final Words

While water-based spray paint can be painted over easily with virtually any type of paint, oil-based spray paint will require at least a coat of spray paint primer first to ensure good adhesion.

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