How to Thin Latex Paint? (Using Different Paint Thinners)

Latex paint is usually thick and thick paints are difficult to apply and control. However, thinning the paint makes it lighter and easier to apply. So how do you thin latex paint?

You can thin latex paint by adding a thinning compound, usually water to the paint in the ratio of 1:4. This means 1 part water and 4 part of the latex paint.

It’s usually a good idea to have more latex paint than thinning compound to prevent a lighter shade of the latex paint. After adding the right amount of thinning compound, you need to stir the mixture for 5 minutes till you have even consistency and color.

How Much Can You Thin Latex Paint?

It’s generally advised to thin latex paint in the ratio of 1:4. This means 1 part paint thinner and 4 part latex paint.

You can do this especially when you want to spray the latex paint. You can also use another formula of 1/2 cup of water to 1 gallon of latex paint. For this formula, 2 gallons of latex paint will need 1 cup (or 236 milliliters) of water.

If you want to spray the latex paint using a spray gun or paint sprayer, it’s advised to make the paint lighter so it can come out smoothly from the nozzle. If you want to apply the latex paint with a paint roller or paintbrush, you don’t have to thin as much.

You can also figure out the right measurements to thin the latex paint by checking the paint container. Sometimes, the information is usually inscribed on the paint can.

You should know that while thinning the latex paint, you are advised to add the paint thinner or water to the latex paint and not the other way around.

This means the latex paint should go in the paint bucket first before you add a thinning compound. This way, you can monitor the color and flow of the latex paint. If you add the latex paint to the thinner, you risk over-thinning the latex paint.

What Can You Use To Thin Latex Paint?

What Can You Use To Thin Latex Paint

You can use different paint thinners and solvents to thin latex paint. This is because latex paint is water-based and as such can be mixed with different types of solvent without repelling the solvent. Let’s check out some common paint thinners and find out if you can use them to thin latex paint.


You can use water to thin latex paint. This is the most common thinning compound used to thin latex paints. The reason is that latex paint as explained earlier is water-based.

This means that water is the solvent, vehicle, or carrier of the paint particles inside the paint container. Since the paint uses water as the solvent, it can also be thinned with water.

However, you need to add the right amount of water so you don’t over-thin the latex paint. A good rule of thumb is 1/2 cup of water to every gallon of latex paint.

Denatured Alcohol

You can thin latex paint with denatured alcohol. But, you’ll need a very small amount to thin the latex paint.

This is because denatured alcohol contains alcohol and alcohol in high quantities can separate the paint pigments from the binder. So only use denatured alcohol to thin latex paint if you are experienced.

 Paint Thinner

You can use paint thinner to thin latex paint but you should only use water-based paint thinner on latex paints. If you use an oil-based or petroleum-distilled paint thinner like turpentine on latex paint, you’ll end up with a mess on your hands.

In the painting world, paint thinner is wrongly used to refer to turpentine or any other solvent-based liquid that can be used to lighten oil-based paints.

You shouldn’t use any of these products on your latex paint to prevent damages to the paint. You should only use a water-based paint thinner.

Can You Use Mineral Spirits To Thin Latex Paint?

You shouldn’t use mineral spirits to thin latex paint. This is because mineral spirits contain natural oils from trees and petroleum and oils don’t mix well with water.

So if you thin latex paint which is water-based with an oily paint thinner like mineral spirits, you will ruin the color and viscosity of the paint. This will make it difficult for the paint to stick, dry, and stay on the material properly.

Mineral spirits is a popular paint thinner but it’s designed to thin oil-based paints and sealants. This is because mineral spirits is gotten from petroleum distillates and Pinetree resins. As such, it contains oily deposits that wouldn’t go well with latex.

Can You Use Lacquer Thinner To Thin Latex Paint?

You shouldn’t use lacquer thinner to thin latex paint. Though lacquer thinner is a paint thinner, it should only be used to thin lacquer. If you thin latex paint with lacquer thinner, you risk separating the paint pigments with the thinning compound.

This is because lacquer thinner is made of solvents like acetone. Acetone is meant to thin the oils and pigments in lacquer stain and not latex paint.

How To Thin Latex Paint (Made Easy)?

Thinning latex paint is a very easy task but one that requires caution as you can easily over-thin the latex paint. To thin latex paint, you’ll need the following tools and supplies:

  • Water-based paint thinner or water
  • A paint mixer or turning stick
  • A paint bucket
  • Rubber gloves
  • Latex paint
  • Clean rags

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

  1. Clean the paint bucket
  2. Open and pour the latex paint into the paint bucket
  3. Measure and pour the needed amount of water into the latex paint
  4. Stir thoroughly for 5 minutes
  5. Test the latex paint

Now, let’s get to work.

1. Open and Pour The Latex Paint

Open and Pour The Latex Paint

The first thing to do is to ensure the paint bucket is clean. If there is any paint residue especially from an oil-based paint in the paint bucket, it can affect the flow and color of the latex paint. So clean the paint bucket with rags and soapy water. Then leave it to dry.

The next step is to pour out the latex paint. You should also know that you can thin the latex paint inside the paint container but it’s better to do so in a paint bucket as you get more space to work with.

Pour enough latex paint into the paint container. But, be sure of the amount added as you’ll need to measure the paint thinner based on the amount of latex paint added. The next thing to do is to…

2. Measure and Pour The Needed Amount of Paint Thinner

Measure and Pour The Needed Amount of Paint Thinner

When you have enough latex paint, it’s time to thin. For this guide, I’ll be using water as the latex paint thinner. But before you add water to the latex paint, you need to measure the amount of water needed.

For 1 gallon of latex paint, you should add 1/2 cup of water if you want to use a spray gun to apply the latex paint. If you would be using a paint roller or paintbrush, you should add 1/4 cup of water to the latex paint.

The reason for adding more water while using the spray gun is that paint sprayers can’t apply thick paints. To use a spray gun, you need the latex paint to be as thin as possible without affecting the paint color. Paintbrushes and paint rollers can lay thicker paints well.

You should know that latex paints have different flows based on the brand and type of latex paint. So if you add the required amount of water to the latex paint but it doesn’t seem enough, you can add more but be careful not to over-thin the latex paint.

4. Stir The Mixture Thoroughly

Stir The Mixture Thoroughly

Using a paint mixer or a turning stick, stir the mixture (latex paint and water) thoroughly for at least 5 minutes. You should stir until you notice an even flow and color in the paint bucket.

If you can notice the water flowing on the latex paint, it means you still need to stir. You have to stir until you have an even color.

5. Test The Latex Paint

Test The Latex Paint

You can test the thinned latex paint on cardboard, paper, plaster, or any other dispensable material or surface. If the paint goes on fine, dries well and quickly, then you can use it.

But if you notice any imperfection in the latex paint, you probably need more water in the paint. So what happens if you over-thin the latex paint? Let’s find out.

What Happens If You Over-Thin Latex Paint?

If you over-thin latex paint, four things will happen.

1. The Paint Color Will Get Lighter

When you add too much water or paint thinner to the latex paint, the color gets lighter. So when the paint dries, you get a lighter shade than you bought.

This can also make it very difficult to seal or cover existing paints on the surface as paint bleed-through will be evident. In simple terms, over-thinning latex paint gives you a lighter shade of color.

2. The Paint Will Not Stick Well

When you over-thin latex paint, there will be too much solvent than binder or paint pigment in the paint coating.

This will make it very difficult for the paint to stick even to a well-primed surface. Paint adhesion will be weak since you have over-thinned the latex paint.

3. You’ll Experience Runs and Drips

As explained earlier, when you over-thin latex paint, there will be too much solvent in the paint coating. This will make the paint lose its viscosity or thickness.

So when you apply the paint, it will drip on the floor especially if the latex paint was applied on a vertical surface like a wall.

4. The Latex Paint Will Dry Too Quickly

If you over-thin latex paint, the paint coating will dry too quickly. Over-thinned latex paint can dry as soon as you finish the last stroke of the paintbrush.

This will make it very difficult to achieve even results. This can also cause uneven color when the paint dries.

Related Read: Latex Paint Dry Time?

Does Thinning Latex Paint Change The Color?

Thinning latex paint doesn’t change the color as long as you don’t over-thin the latex paint.

But if you over-thin, you can end up with a lighter shade of color than you purchased. If the paint is thinned correctly, all that is affected is the paint thickness and not the color. So you’ll still get the same color of the paint but with a lighter flow.

Final Words

Overall, latex paint can be thinned and should only be thinned with water. Though denatured alcohol and water-based paint thinner also work, you are at a higher risk of over-thinning the latex paint with any of these products.

You should also measure the required amount of water before you add it to the latex paint to prevent over-thinning.

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