How to Thin Enamel Paint? (4 DIY Steps)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Enamel paint is hard to apply due to its thick and glossy texture. However, you can thin it to get a lighter flow and easy application. So, how to thin enamel paint?

To dilute enamel paint, use turpentine, mineral spirits, or lacquer thinner. Pour the thinning compound and the paint into a clean large bucket and mix them for 10 minutes. 

You must dilute it in a ratio of 1:3 (1 part thinner to 3 parts enamel). If you use a different ratio, you can over-thin it.

Can You Use Enamel Paint Without Thinning?

You can apply enamel without thinning it but only if you are painting porous surfaces, such as wood. Porous surfaces have large pores and will absorb a thick coating easier. However, if you are painting a non-porous surface, such as metal, you must thin the paint because it won’t stick. 

You also must have a lot of experience to apply thick paint and get a perfect and smooth finish. Thick coats are harder to apply and will show brush marks and imperfections when they dry. 

A thick coat will also take longer to dry and can be uneven when dry.

Why Should You Dilute Enamel Paint?

You should dilute enamel paint for the following reasons:

  1. Improves Application – Enamel has a thick flow that is hard to apply or control. However, diluting it will lighten the flow and help you apply and control it easier. Also, a thick flow can clog the small nozzle of the spray paint. So, diluting it before using a sprayer is necessary. The paint must be light enough to discharge through the nozzle without clogging it.
  2. Smooth Finish – To achieve a smooth finish, you must spray (or apply) light coats. To apply light coats, you must dilute the paint first.
  3. Prevents Wastage – When you dilute the paint, you get more of it. Since enamel paint is thick, thinning helps to extend it so you can cover large areas with as little paint as possible.
  4. No Brush Marks – Diluting paint helps to conceal brush marks since its flow is lighter. It will also dry fast and you can apply more coats faster. 

How To Thin Enamel Paint?

Diluting enamel paint isn’t difficult. However, you need to use the following tools:

  1. Thinning compound (turpentine, mineral spirits, or lacquer thinner)
  2. A bucket
  3. A turning stick or paint mixer
  4. A pair of gloves
  5. Enamel paint

1. Pour the Paint

Open and Pour Out The Enamel Paint

Open the container of paint and pour it into an empty bucket. You can also thin it in its container, but using a large bucket is easier.

Plus, you don’t have to pour all the paint into the bucket — pour only the amount you will use. 

2. Add A Thinning Compound

Add A Thinning Compound To The Enamel Paint

To dilute oil-based enamel paint, use mineral spirits or turpentine. Mineral spirits is a better choice, but you must use the right amount, or you can over-thin it. To dilute water-based enamel paint, use water.

If you will apply enamel with a brush, thin it in a ratio of 1:3 (1 part thinner to 3 parts paint). If you will spray it, dilute it in a ratio of 1:2.

3. Stir The Mixture

Stir The Mixture For A Few Minutes

After adding the thinning compound, stir the mixture with a paint mixer or a turning stick for a few minutes. Using a mixer is easier and faster.

If you use a turning stick to stir, pick one long enough to reach the bottom of the bucket. This allows the bottom of the paint to be stirred too.

Stir until you get an even flow and color.

4. Test The Thinned Paint

Test The Thinned Enamel Paint

Test the diluted enamel paint on cardboard, wood, or other dispensable material. If the coating doesn’t have lumps, wait for it to dry. Once it dries, check the finish If the finish is smooth without color vibrations, you have successfully thinned it.

If the finish isn’t smooth or has different color shades, you must stir it again or re-thin it. If the coating is too thin, add more paint into the mixture. If the coating is still thick, add more paint thinner to the mixture.

Final Words

Thinning enamel paint is easy as long as you follow the right steps. Use mineral spirits, turpentine, or lacquer thinner to dilute it. 

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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