In a DIY paint project, the best spray paint can be a game-changer. A high-quality spray paint creates a coat that covers well, stands the test of time, and looks great. While using spray paint may feel a little like cheating, the results often are indistinguishable from a professional paint job.
To ensure the best possible finish, buy the best spray paint for your project. But, so many colors, finishes, and brands are available that choosing the paint can pose a challenge. This guide aims to help.
- BEST OVERALL: Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Spray Paint
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Rust-Oleum American Accents Spray Paint
- BEST CHALK PAINT: KILZ Chalk Spray Paint for Upcycling Furniture
- BEST GLOSS PAINT: Krylon Triple Thick Clear Glaze Aerosol Spray
- BEST STONE LOOK: Rust-Oleum Stone Creations Spray
- BEST METALLIC LOOK: Rust-Oleum Universal All Surface Spray Paint Metallic
- BEST FLUORESCENT: Krylon Fluorescent Spray Paint
- BEST HIGH HEAT: VHT SP402 Engine Metallic Burnt Copper Paint Can
- BEST FOR OUTDOOR FURNITURE: Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Hammered Finish Spray Paint
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Spray Paint
Before shopping for the best spray paint for your paint project, familiarize yourself with what determines a quality product. The following is a list of spray paint considerations to keep in mind while shopping.
Paint Type and Surface
Many different types of spray paint are on the market. The most common types and their best uses are below.
- General-purpose paint is for use on a range of different types of surfaces, including wood, metal, wicker, plastic, and masonry. It’s available in a range of colors and can be used on both indoor and outdoor projects.
- All-surface paint takes the guesswork out of choosing the right paint. It’s available in a range of colors, works for indoor and outdoor projects, and often comes mixed with primer.
- Rust-prevention paints help keep metal projects and surfaces from oxidizing. They’re most commonly used on outdoor surfaces and come in a range of colors and textures.
- Professional enamel paints create long-lasting, durable finishes on a variety of surfaces. They sometimes come in high-temperature varieties, and they dry quickly.
- Marking and striping paints help mark underground utilities, outlines for landscape architects, and locations for posts for fence builders. They’re weather-resistant, though rarely intended for permanent purposes.
- Special use paints do an excellent job of dressing up a variety of surfaces. They’re available in finishes like chalk, hammered, metallic, and more. Like enamels, they’re often available in high-temperature formulas.
- Automotive paints are, as the name suggests, ideal for vehicles. They work on materials like primed metal, plastic, and fiberglass, preventing rust and oxidation to create an attractive finish.
Color and Finish
Spray paints can help create custom looks on DIY jobs. Find them in a wide variety of colors to choose exactly the right hue for a project.
Moreover, quite a few finishes are available, each with a different look. High-gloss finishes are very shiny and easy to clean, but they highlight imperfections. Flat finishes have no shine and they hide flaws, but they’re harder to clean. In between these two, gloss, eggshell, and satin paints descend in order as to shine and ease of cleaning.
Not only are a wide variety of colors and finishes available, but paints also vary in texture. Many manufacturers now offer spray paints with textured finishes to add a unique look to almost any project.
For example, spray paints with hammered textures look like dimpled metal after they cure. Some paints look and feel like stone or metal. Choosing the right texture can take a paint job from good to great. The right paint also can help hide imperfections, so be sure to research the various kinds to choose the best textured paint.
In some situations, drying time is a critical factor when shopping for the best spray paint. A DIYer may not have an entire weekend to wait for a coat of paint to dry before it’s time to apply the second coat. And, while cooler temps aren’t ideal for painting, fast-drying spray paint will cure much faster when the temperature is lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Depending on the heaviness of the coat of paint, most spray paints can dry to the touch within 30 minutes. Fast-drying spray paints often are ready as quickly as 10 to 15 minutes, depending on factors like temperature and humidity.
Spray paint comes in two bases: oil-based and water-based.
The most common spray paint base is oil. Oil-based paints rarely need a primer coat (though it never hurts), they’re very durable, and they can be applied to surfaces that are in less than perfect condition.
Water-based (latex) spray paints and alkyd resin (enamel) spray paints also are available. Latex spray paints are easy to clean up with soap and water, but in most cases, they require a primer, which means they aren’t very popular. Enamels are very durable and attractive, but they are a bit more finicky when trying to achieve a picture-perfect result.
Paint Thickness and Opacity
Those looking to get creative with their paint projects also may want to consider the paint’s thickness and opacity. Many paints, like those used in graffiti and street art, offer a bit of transparency. This allows the artist to add a second color on top of the surface paint without blocking out the color below. Transparent paints also allow the artist to blend the transition between two colors.
While most DIY projects won’t require attention to opacity or translucency, coverage may well be a factor. Some paints have built-in primers, which allow fewer coats. Also, the faster the user moves the spray can, the thinner the application, which is another way to control the paint’s opacity.
One of the most important factors when deciding on a spray paint is versatility. Some products can cover a huge range of surfaces, which helps remove the guesswork from spray painting. These general-purpose or all-purpose spray paints work well for most DIY projects.
However, a special project may require a paint other than an all-purpose or general-use paint. For instance, a general-use spray paint may not work on a barbecue grill. Instead, find a spray paint with a metal-specific, high-temperature formula to ensure it looks great and will hold up to the rigors of grilling.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve learned what to look for when choosing the best spray paint for any project, take a look at what the market has to offer. Below, find a collection of the best spray paints for a variety of uses. Keep the important considerations, such as color, finish, and texture, in mind to find the best result.
For a reliable spray paint for DIY and refinishing projects, check out Rust-Oleum’s Stop Rust Spray Paint. This classic paint uses an oil-based semi-gloss enamel formula to create a weather- and corrosion-resistant coating. It creates an abrasion-, fade-, and chip-resistant surface on materials like wood, metal, concrete, and masonry.
Each can provides up to 15 square feet of coverage, and one coat can dry in two to four hours. Aside from white, it comes in a wide range of colors, including black, blue, and gray, as well as flat, gloss, and satin finishes.
Rust-Oleum American Accents Spray Paint might be worth checking into when tackling a challenging surface. This indoor/outdoor combination paint and primer works on basic surfaces like metal, wood, and wicker, but it also paints plastic and unglazed ceramic.
Each can in this six-pack offers up to 12 square feet of coverage, allowing up to 72 square feet of total coverage. This formula dries to the touch in 20 minutes, and the any-angle spray tip allows users to cover an entire project comfortably and quickly. It’s available in several colors and finishes, including black, white, hunter green, nutmeg, and granite.
Whether it’s upcycling older furniture or adding a chalk look to a new project, KILZ Chalk Spray Paint can achieve the desired results. This water-based spray paint works on many different materials, including wood, wicker, brick, metal, and plastic.
Each can of KILZ Chalk Spray Paint provides up to 12 square feet of coverage, which means it can cover a tabletop, chair, or end table. It dries to the touch in one hour and allows for additional coats. It comes in 11 color varieties. Since it’s water-based, it cleans easily with soap and water—ideal for messy DIY projects.
To finish a paint project with a layer of high-gloss protection, Krylon Clear Glaze Aerosol Spray is worth checking out. This can of clear glaze creates a shiny finish on materials like wood, plaster, metal, plastic, and ceramic. It even adheres to paper.
This Clear Glaze product comes in 12-ounce cans, and because it features the Triple Thick Crystal formula, one coat is equal to three coats of most other products. It has a 15-minute dry-to-touch drying time, and it cures in four hours.
Get the stone look without the stone price with Rust-Oleum Stone Creations Spray. This water-based formula creates a stone appearance on materials like wood, metal, ceramic, wicker, and other indoor surfaces. The authentic-looking finish contains multiple tones, which helps mimic actual stone.
Each can of Rust-Oleum covers up to 12 square feet of surface, which means one can covers several smaller items. The water-based formula creates a long-lasting and durable finish, dries to the touch within 30 to 60 minutes, and cleans up easily with soap and water. It comes in several colors, including gray stone and mineral brown.
Check out Rust-Oleum’s Universal All Surface Metallic Spray Paint for a durable and long-lasting product to give products and projects a metallic look. This oil-based paint and primer works on most surfaces, including wood, plastic, metal, fiberglass, concrete, wicker, and vinyl. It creates a chip-resistant and weather-resistant finish suitable for indoor and outdoor projects.
Each can of Universal All Surface Spray Paint covers up to 15 square feet. Paint coats dry to the touch in 30 minutes. The can features a comfort grip trigger and an any-angle nozzle that allows users to spray sideways or upside-down. This product is available in 21 colors.
Some projects need a bit of extra pop to really shine. Krylon Fluorescent Spray Paint provides just that, producing a brilliant fluorescent finish that actually glows when exposed to ultraviolet light. It works for both indoor and outdoor jobs, from construction sites and safety situations, to home decor and DIY projects.
Each coat of Krylon Fluorescent Spray Paint dries to the touch in 15 minutes, and it’s dry enough to handle in two hours. Krylon suggests spraying this paint over a white base coat to increase the project’s brilliance by up to 400 percent. It comes in six colors, including blue, green, pink, yellow, orange, and red.
For a spray paint to dress up a car’s engine bay, check out VHT’s SP402 Engine Metallic spray paint. This high-temperature paint uses a mix of urethane and ceramic resins to create a finish capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 650 degrees Fahrenheit as well as chemical exposure.
While the VHT Engine Metallic paint dries to the touch in 30 minutes, it must go through a curing process before it reaches its potential. After spraying the metal surface, it needs to bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to cure completely. If the paint is on an engine block or exhaust part, simply run the engine to cure the paint.
If your outdoor furniture has seen better days, consider touching it up with Rust-Oleum’s Stops Rust Hammered Finish Spray Paint. This six-pack of 12-ounce cans of spray paint helps hide small imperfections on the surface while creating a fresh new look.
Each can of Stops Rust covers up to 15 square feet, allowing users to tackle several pieces with one can. It works best on masonry, metal, and wood surfaces, and each coat takes between two and four hours to dry. The oil-based formula creates a durable fade- and chip-resistant finish that protects against rust, corrosion, and weather.
Tips for Using Spray Paint
Tackle spray paint projects when the weather is nice. Temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity are ideal for proper curing. Choose a day with low wind to avoid dust and dirt from blowing onto your wet paint surface. Be sure no rain is in the forecast either: Just a few raindrops before the paint cures can ruin a new paint finish.
Wear a mask and spray paint in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in harmful vapors. If possible, spray outside or in a garage. If you must spray paint indoors, open the windows in the area and set up a fan to expel any fumes the paint gives off.
Not all spray paints require a primer base coat, but it’s never a bad idea to start with one. Primer does a good job of creating a consistent base coat, and it helps minimize imperfections or stains on the surface you’re painting.
- Choose dry, still, warm days to start your paint projects.
- Wear a mask and spray paint in well-ventilated areas.
- A primer base coat helps create a more consistent coat.
FAQs About Spray Paint
Even after reading this guide, questions may still arise about working with spray paint. This final section should help. Find the most frequently asked questions about spray paint listed below. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your paint manufacturer and speak with a customer service representative with additional questions.
Q. What is spray paint used for?
Spray paint can create decorative finishes, but its primary purpose is to protect an object from corrosion or rust. You can use it on exterior projects, interior decor pieces, or any other surface that’s normally painted.
Q. Can I paint over spray paint?
You can, but here’s a tip: If it has a glossy finish, you may want to scuff the surface with some 120-grit sandpaper to give the surface something to adhere to. To start fresh, here are some tips about removing spray paint.
Q. Should I prime before spray painting?
The answer is always yes, you should, but you don’t always have to. Primer creates a uniform, consistent base, but it isn’t always necessary for a great finish. Some spray paints even have primer mixed in with their formula.
Q. How long does spray paint last?
A can of unopened spray paint can last up to 10 years. If the can is open, the paint lasts between two and three years. As a finish, it depends on the surface’s exposure to the elements, but the finish itself can last three to four years before needing a refresh.