How to Thin Enamel Paint? (4 DIY Steps)

The thick and glossy texture of enamel paint makes it a bit difficult to apply. But you can bypass this problem by thinning the paint to get a lighter flow and easy application. So how do you thin enamel paint?

To thin enamel paint, you need to dilute the paint with a suitable paint thinner. The thinning compound should be poured into the enamel paint. Then, you’ll have to stir the mixture for about 10 minutes till you achieve an even consistency and color.

Suitable paint thinners for enamel paint include turpentine, mineral spirits, and lacquer thinner. You should know that you have to mix the enamel paint and the paint thinner in the correct ratio to prevent over-thinning the enamel paint. So what’s the correct ratio? Find out the answer to that and more in this post.

Why Should You Thin Enamel Paint?

You should thin enamel paint for the following reasons:

Thinning Helps To Dilute The Enamel Paint

Enamel paint has a thick consistency or flow. Thinning the paint helps to dilute it. This gives the paint a lighter flow. When the paint has a lighter flow, it’s easier to apply.

Makes It Easier To Spray Enamel Paint

As explained earlier, enamel paint has a thick flow and consistency. As such, it’s difficult to spray the paint because the nozzle of the spray gun or paint sprayer will not discharge thick paints properly.

To spray enamel paint, the paint has to be light so it can be discharged properly through the nozzle. Thinning the paint before applying it helps to make the paint lighter and easier to spray.

Helps To Achieve A Smooth Finish

To achieve a smooth finish, it’s always advised to spray light coats of paint. You can’t apply light coats without thinning the paint. When the enamel paint is thinned, it becomes easier to apply light coats and a smooth finish is almost guaranteed.

Helps To Extend Enamel Paint

When you thin enamel paint, you get more of the paint. Since enamel paint is thick, thinning helps to extend the paint so you can easily get coverage over large areas with as little paint as possible.

Thinning Enamel Paint Helps To Hide Brush Marks

Thinning enamel paint helps to conceal brush marks since the paint is lighter. Also, the paint thinner makes the paint take longer to dry. Since the enamel paint takes longer to dry, the paint has time to settle and lay properly so it’s less likely to reveal brush marks and imperfections.

Now you know the importance of thinning enamel paint. But can you use enamel paint without thinning first? Let’s take a closer look at that.

Can I Use Enamel Paint Without Thinning?

You can use enamel paint without thinning it first. You’ll still get a terrific finish as long as you apply the paint correctly.

However, you’ll need a good deal of painting experience to achieve a perfect finish without thinning the enamel paint. This is because enamel paint is thick and is more likely to reveal brush marks and imperfections when the paint coating dries.

Also, the thick flow of enamel paint makes it difficult to control on the surface. It also makes the paint coatings heavier.

All of this means the paint will take longer to dry and most likely be uneven when dry. You might also struggle to reach a smooth finish. So if you think about it, you enjoy more benefits when you thin the enamel paint.

How To Thin Enamel Paint?

Thinning enamel paint isn’t difficult. To thin enamel, you’ll need the following tools and supplies:

  1. A paint thinner (for enamel paint)
  2. A paint bucket
  3. A turning stick or paint mixer
  4. A pair of gloves
  5. Enamel paint

Here is a quick rundown of how to thin enamel paint:

  1. Open and pour out the enamel paint
  2. Add a thinning compound to the enamel paint
  3. Stir the mixture for a few minutes
  4. Test the thinned enamel paint

Now, let’s get to work.

1. Open and Pour Out The Enamel Paint

Open and Pour Out The Enamel Paint

The first step is to open the container of the enamel paint and pour the paint into a paint bucket. You don’t have to pour the enamel paint out of its container. You can also thin the paint in the container but it’s easier to stir the paint in a large paint bucket than in a paint can.

Also, you don’t have to pour all the enamel paint if you don’t intend to use all of it. You just need to pour the amount of paint to be thinned.

2. Add A Thinning Compound To The Enamel Paint

Add A Thinning Compound To The Enamel Paint

When you have poured out the paint, the next thing is to add a paint thinner. For enamel paints, you can use mineral spirits or turpentine to thin the paint. Mineral spirits usually work best but you need the right amount of mineral spirits in the paint so you don’t over-thin it.

It’s generally advised to thin enamel paint with mineral spirits in the ratio 1:3 (1 part paint thinner to 3 parts enamel paint) when you want to use a paintbrush.

But when you want to spray the paint, you need a very light paint so you can go with 1 part paint thinner to 2 parts mineral spirits.

3. Stir The Mixture For A Few Minutes

Stir The Mixture For A Few Minutes

After adding the paint thinner, stir the paint with a paint mixer or a turning stick for a few minutes. Using a paint mixer is easier and faster than using a turning stick.

If you want to use a turning stick, ensure the one you pick out is long enough to reach the bottom of the paint bucket or paint container. If the stick isn’t long enough, the paint and thinner at the bottom of the paint bucket will be not be stirred. It’s advised to stir the paint till you get an even flow and paint color.

4. Test The Thinned Enamel Paint

Test The Thinned Enamel Paint

How do you know if you have properly thinned the enamel paint? By testing it out on cardboard, wood, or any other dispensable material. If the enamel paint goes on fine without any lumps or paint pimples, that’s a good sign. Next, you need to wait for the paint to dry.

When it’s dry, check if the paint coating dries smoothly. If it’s smooth and without color variation, then you have successfully thinned the enamel paint.

You might also need to add more paint thinner or enamel paint to the mixture. If you over-thinned the enamel paint, you can add more enamel paint to thicken the paint.

If you didn’t use enough paint thinner initially, you can add more to get a lighter flow of enamel paint. When you are satisfied with the paint application and result of the thinned enamel, you can go ahead to use the paint on the surface.

Can You Thin Enamel Paint With Water?

You can thin enamel paint with water but only if the enamel paint is water-based. You should never thin oil-based enamel paint with water. This is because oil and water don’t mix well. So if you thin an oil-based enamel paint with water, you’ll be ruining the paint.

You should also know that water-based enamel paints are not to be thinned with any paint thinner asides from water.

Can You Thin Enamel Paint With Acetone?

You can thin enamel paint with acetone but it’s not advised to do so. Though acetone works as a paint thinner, in the case of enamel paint, it works a bit too well. Acetone can easily separate the binder from the enamel paint particles causing the paint to lose adhesion.

Acetone is also very strong and it can melt plastic which means the plastic parts of your paintbrush are at risk of being melted. If you put acetone-thinned enamel paint on plastic material or any other sensitive surface, the paint can also eat away at the plastic.

It’s best to use acetone as a paint cleaner. After painting, get a bottle of acetone and clean the paint area with the solvent. Acetone works very well as a paint cleaning agent.

Can You Thin Enamel Paint With Lacquer Thinner?

Lacquer thinner shouldn’t be used to thin enamel paint. Lacquer thinner is specially designed for thinning lacquers and other sealants.

These paints (or sealants) are thicker than enamel paint meaning that they are more difficult to thin. So a stronger paint thinner is needed to dilute them.

So if lacquer thinner, a paint thinner designed for solvents is used to thin enamel paint, the lacquer thinner will be too strong and can easily over-dilute the paint. It can also damage the paint.

Final Words

Overall, thinning enamel paint is easy as long as you follow the right steps. Also, don’t use water to thin oil-based paint and don’t use oil-based paint thinner to thin water-based enamel. As long as you thin the enamel properly, you are guaranteed a perfect finish.

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