Can You Paint Over Spray Paint? (Different Types of Paints)

You can paint over most paints– but can you paint over spray paint?

You can paint over spray paint, but only after sanding the spray-painted surface. Also, you 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.

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

Best Type of Paint To Use Over Spray Paint

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 helps to abrade the spray paint so it can be painted over. Paints won’t stick to spray paint directly since spray paint is usually oil-based and moisture-resistant.

While any type of paint sticks to spray paint, it’s best to use water-based acrylic over spray paint. The water-based acrylic has polyacrylates (or synthetic acrylic resins) that stick well to spray paint as long as it’s primed. Plus, water-based acrylic paints have vibrant colors that cover the color of spray paint well. 

If the spray paint is sealed, paints won’t stick to it directly. Sealants have a moisture-resistant top layer that repels paint if applied over. 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.

Don’t use thin or light-colored paints if you want to cover dark spray paint. If the spray paint is darker than the shade of paint you put over it, the spray paint can bleed through the paint coating. 

Use paints with the same base as the spray paint underneath. So, only apply water-based paint over water-based spray paint, and oil-based paint over oil-based spray paint. This helps the paint stick better.

Before 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)

1. Cover The Work Area

Cover The Work Area

Covering the work area prevents the paint from splattering on the floor or walls. You have to cover everything you don’t want to paint. To cover floors, use a large drop sheet and painter’s tape to hold the sheet down.

You should also remove nearby objects and open all windows and doors for proper ventilation. If you are using oil-based paint, it’s recommended to work outdoors. 

2. Check What Type of Spray Paint Was Used

Check What Type of Spray Paint Was Used

The type of spray paint that is applied determines the prep steps you will take. 

To know the type of spray paint, do the water test:

  1. Add a few drops of water to the spray paint.
  2. If the water changes color, the spray paint used is oil-based. You need to prime it before painting over it.
  3. If the water remains clear, the spray paint used is water-based. You don’t need to prime the surface — just sand it lightly.

You need to check if the spray paint is sealed. To do this, drag your nail across the surface. If you see a build-up of color or paint on the tip of your nail, the spray paint isn’t sealed. If you notice gloss or film on the tip of the nail, the paint is sealed.

3. Remove The Gloss Layer

Remove The Gloss

If the spray paint is sealed, it will have a glossy top layer. This layer is water-resistant and prevents paint from sticking properly. So, you need to remove the glossy layer first. To de-gloss spray paint, use sandpaper or a paint stripper.

Sandpaper doesn’t remove the entire top layer, it removes just enough to allow paint to bite (stick) into the spray paint surface. But, sanding can be tedious, especially on large surfaces. So it’s advised to use a palm sander to remove the gloss.

A paint stripper will remove the entire glossy top layer, so you have to prep the surface from the scratch 

4. Scuff The Spray Paint With Sandpaper

Scuff The Spray Paint With Sandpaper

Use medium-grit sandpaper to scuff the spray paint. This abrades the spray paint coating and creates ridges for the paint to stick (bite) into.

To remove imperfections or bumps from the spray paint, use medium-grit sandpaper (150-grit). 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 (220-grit) sandpaper to smoothen the surface. This helps to achieve a smooth finish. 

5. Apply Two Coats of Primer

Apply Two Coats of Primer

Apply two coats of primer over the spray paint surface. This helps the paint to stick better to the spray paint. The best primer to use is water-based because every type of paint sticks well to it.

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. 

6. Apply The Paint Over Spray Paint

Apply The Paint Over Spray Paint

Next, apply the paint. It’s advised to use acrylic paint over the spray paint. You can apply acrylic paint using a paint sprayer or roller. You can also brush paint over spray paint. 

To make the paint dry faster, apply thin coats. This way you can re-coat faster. Next, apply three coats of acrylic paint over spray paint to prevent spray paint from bleeding through. Plus, it gives the finish a better color.

Let each coat dry before you apply the next one. The wait time depends on the type of paint you use. 

6. Seal The Paint (Optional)

Seal The Paint (Optional)

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

Top choices of sealants include polyurethane, varnish, lacquer, and wax. You need two or three coats of sealant. After sealing, let the entire paint coating cure for at least three 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 any paint that is not oil-based. Water-based spray paint primer allows any type of paint to stick.

Most spray paints are oil-based. Since most spray paint primers are oil-based, you can’t paint over them with water-based paint. This is because oil-based primers have oils and chemicals that will repel the water-based paint.

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.

If you paint over an oil-based spray paint primer with a water-based paint, the paint’s flexibility 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, if the water-based spray paint primer has cured, you can paint over it with every type of paint. Also, all types of spray paints stick to water-based spray primers because the primer doesn’t have any chemical or oil that repels the paint.

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

Types of Paint You Can Apply Over Spray Paint:

Latex Paint

You can paint over spray paint with latex paint if you sand and prime the spray paint. Sanding removes imperfections and the gloss layer of the spray paint. While priming provides a smooth surface for the latex paint to sit on.

Latex paint is water-based and shouldn’t be used over oil-based or sealed spray paint without priming first. Without priming, latex paint won’t stick to oil-based spray paint because of the glossy layer the spray paint has.

However, you can only apply latex paint directly to water-based spray paint.

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

Latex paint is an ideal choice to use over spray paint. Latex paint is flexible and can withstand temperature changes by expanding in hot weather and contracting when it’s cold. This prevents damage 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.


You can apply emulsion over spray paint, but first, you must sand and prime the spray paint with a water-based primer.

Emulsion paint is water-based, while spray paint is usually oil-based. As such, the emulsion paint won’t stick 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.

However, emulsion paint sticks well to water-based spray paint. That’s because both paints have an identical make-up and solvent that makes them compatible.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is the best paint to use over spray paint. The acrylic paint has polyacrylates that stick well to spray paint, as long as the spray paint is primed. 

Spray Paint

You can apply spray paint over old spray paint, but both paints need to have the same base (solvent). So, you can only apply water-based spray paint over water-based spray paint. And oil-based spray paint over oil-based spray paint.

You shouldn’t apply water-based spray paint over oil-based spray paint (or vice versa) because the paint won’t stick. If you are using different bases of spray paint, you need to sand and prime the old spray paint first. 

If you want to spray paint over an old spray paint with the same base, you don’t need to apply primer.

Chalk Paint

You can apply chalk paint over water-based spray paint. However, you shouldn’t apply chalk paint over oil-based spray paint. Chalk paint is water-based and won’t stick to oil-based spray paint.

Wood Stain

You can apply wood stain over spray paint, but you need to sand the spray paint first. Unlike paints, wood stain penetrates the surface and doesn’t stop at the top of the layer. So, you need to sand spray paint to open holes that wood stain can penetrate. 

The wood stain should have the same base (or solvent) as the spray paint to stick. If it doesn’t, you need to apply primer too. 

Final Words

Overall, you can apply paint over spray paint, but you have to sand and prime the coating first. Especially, if you want to use water-based paint. 

You can paint over water-based spray paint with any type of paint. But, oil-based spray paint requires a coat of primer to accept paint.

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