Can You Spray Paint Wood? (Here’s How)

Spray paints are not only easy to use, but they also give a bright and beautiful finish to the material it’s used on. So, can you spray paint wood?

You can spray paint wood. It’s a quick option for finishing wood. However, before you do it, you must prep the surface to allow the paint to stick to it. 


Generally, spray paints stick properly to wood. This is because wood is a porous material and the spray paint is applied at a high speed so it can penetrate it with ease. 

However, if the surface is sealed, spray paint won’t stick to it. That’s because the sealant forms a glossy moisture-resistant coating that prevents spray paint from penetrating the surface. 

You also must sand the surface to remove any imperfections and bumps that it may have. 

Types of Sprayer To Use

What Type Of Spray Paint Can You Use On Wood?

It’s recommended to use spray paints designed for wood, whether that is oil-based or water-based it doesn’t matter. You should avoid using sprayers designed for metal surfaces as they have extra additives that aren’t needed, and cost more. 

However, if we compare both types, using a water-based sprayer is better. That’s because water-based coatings have a low level of chemicals, don’t have oily in their formula, and dry fast. So, it is less likely to damage or discolor a surface. 

Also, they don’t require any special prep work, are easy to use, and dry fast. On average, a water-based spray paint coating will get dry in less than 2 hours. This means you can quickly re-coat, sand, and even seal the finish with a top coat.

Water-based coating is also thinner, meaning it will penetrate the pores of wood easier. When dry, it will reveal a bright and colorful finish. However, you shouldn’t use it for outdoor wooden surfaces as it isn’t strong enough to protect it. 

For outdoor surfaces, it’s recommended to use solvent or oil-based spray paint. That’s because their solvent forms a glossy finish and is formulated with additives that protect the surface better. Rust-oleum and Krylon are two great choices.

Is Priming Necessary?

You don’t have to sand before spray painting wood because it will stick regardless as long as the surface isn’t sealed. But, without applying a primer, the finish won’t come out smooth. That’s because primer covers imperfections and fills holes on the surface, providing an even (flat) texture.

So, if you don’t prime, the surface will be riddled with imperfections and holes. And, if you paint over those surfaces, the finish will also be affected and won’t come out smooth. 

You can skip a primer coating when:

  1. Surface is Perfect – If the surface is clean, smooth, and doesn’t have imperfections, you don’t need to prime. The finish will come out smooth since there isn’t anything affecting its quality. 
  2. Matching Finish – If the existing finish matches the color shade you want to use, you don’t need to prime. That’s because the existing finish won’t bleed-through. In this case, the existing finish will act as an undercoat. However, you must still clean the surface. 
  3. Quick Fix – If you need a quick fix, you don’t need to prime. 

Applying a primer coating is necessary when:

  1. Rough Surface – If the surface is rough, apply two coats of primer. In this case, the primer will cover the rough texture of the surface, and provide a smooth and flat layer for the paint to stick to. It’s recommended to sand the rough surface before priming. 
  2. Patched Surface – If the surface is patched or repaired, it will have several marks and bumps because of the wood filler, caulk, or glue used. So, you must prime the surface to cover these imperfections. 
  3. Dirty Surface – If the surface is riddled with stains, dirt, grease, and oils, you must seal it with a stain-blocking and moisture-resistant primer. The best option is a shellac-based primer. In this case, the primer will form a layer that will prevent the stains underneath from affecting the finish. 
  4. Fresh Wood – Fresh wooden surfaces have large pores and are more porous. This means they will absorb more paint than needed, and this can lead to wastage. You must seal porous surfaces with a stain-blocking primer to prevent over-absorption. 
  5. Existing Finish – If the surface is sealed, you must prime it. In this case, the primer will form a textured layer over the sealer that the paint can stick to. So, instead of paint sticking to the sealer directly (which it can’t), it will stick over the primer. 

How To Spray Paint Wood?

Spray painting wood isn’t hard, but you need the right guidance and tools.

Here are the tools you need:

  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • A clean rag or cloth
  • Primer
  • Spray paint
  • A sealant (optional)

1. Remove The Existing Finish

Remove The Existing Finish From The Wood

If the surface is sealed or painted, you must remove the existing finish first. If you don’t, the spray coating won’t stick over it since the sealant will prevent penetration. To remove a sealant, use a stripping compound, or a solvent-based remover. 

2. Sand The Surface

Sand The Wood

Start sanding the wood with medium-grit sandpaper. This sandpaper will remove imperfections and bumps from the surface. Then, finish sanding with fine-grit sandpaper. This sandpaper will smooth out the surface. 

If the surface is riddled with stains and tannins, wet sand to prevent a build-up of dust. However, if you wet-sand, you’ll have to wait a few hours until the surface dries. 

3. Apply Primer

Apply Paint Primer

After sanding, apply two coats of primer. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. However, if the surface is perfect (has no imperfections), applying a primer is optional. 

4. Spray The Paint

Spray Paint The Wood

It’s generally advised to shake the sprayer container for at least 30 seconds before using it. This is to allow the content to be properly mixed so the paint can come out smoothly.

While spraying the paint, ensure to leave at least 8 inches between the nozzle of the spray can and the wood. This ensures proper coverage.

Also, don’t spray too long in one spot or you’ll end up with a blotched finish. Allow each coat to dry before you apply the next one. You should also sand between each coat of spray paint (except for the final one). You’ll need 3-4 light coats for a smooth finish. 

Is Sealing Necessary?

You only need to seal outdoor surfaces after spray painting them. That’s because spray paint isn’t strong enough to withstand outdoor weather elements, and will get washed off if not sealed. 

However, for indoor surfaces, such as furniture, shelves, and wall frames, you don’t have to seal the finish since they won;t be exposed to harsh outdoor elements. 

The sealant, when dry, forms a glossy moisture-resistant coating over the finish. This glossy layer protects the finish from moisture, water, and other damage. Good choices for a sealant including polyurethane, spar varnish, or lacquer. 

Things To Know


Spray paint protects the wood but the level of protection depends on the type you use. Water-based spray paints protect the wood from dust and stains but not from moisture or the elements.

Oil-based spray paints protect the surface from dents, moisture, and stains but not from UV rays. Rust-oleum paint protects the surface from heat, UV rays, and moisture. So it all depends on the type that you use. 

However, if you want maximum protection, you should use exterior spray paint. They are formulated with chemicals that make its finish withstand heavy use, moisture, heat, and other environmental factors.


On average, spray paint will last over 3 years on wood. However, its durability depends on the prep work carried out before it was applied, the type of spray paint used, and the type of wood.

To make the finish last longer, seal it with a waterproof sealant. 

Dry Time

It takes spray paint between 30 minutes to 2 hours to dry on wood. It takes 30 minutes to dry enough for a re-coat, but it takes 2 hours to fully dry.

Final Words

In summary, you can spray paint wood as long as you do enough prep work. This includes cleaning, sanding, and priming the surface. Also, you must seal the finish with a waterproof sealant for maximum protection. 

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

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,

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