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Spray Paint Art – A Beginner’s Guide on How to Use Spray Paint

Spray Paint Art


Like all art forms, using spray paint to explore your creativity or give life to your masterpiece has its share of tricks and techniques that make it unique. Of course, experimentation and practice is the best teacher of all, but it cannot hurt to arm yourself with a bit of knowledge beforehand. In this article, we aim to do just that by giving you a crash course on how to spray paint art and the kinds of equipment you need to do it well. We will also throw in some recommendations about what we think are the best products on the market in order to help you achieve the look you want.




What Is Spray Paint Art?

In some cities, graffiti has a bad reputation. It is used by some to make their mark in public spaces, and even natural places. But in recent years, street spray painting art has been used by skilled artists to beautify the dull walls of cities and bring life to what is sometimes seen as being claustrophobic and oppressive city living. It brings color into dead spaces and, like any art, is often used to convey certain messages to onlookers.

Spray paint art started around 1949, soon after the aerosol spray can was developed. The first color available was aluminum, although today artists are spoiled for choice in terms of the colors, textures, and finishes they can choose from, as well as the types of surfaces they can paint on.

While water-based spray paints do exist (and we will include a recommendation for one brand later in this article), oil-based paints are more accessible in terms of affordability and versatility. Oil-based paints can be used on concrete, glass, walls, wood and, like more traditional methods of painting, canvas and board (although spray paint artists usually make use of larger surfaces). For these reasons, we will focus on how to spray paint art using oil-based paint.


Using Oil-Based Spray Paint

When using spray paint, take heed of the fact that breathing in toxic fumes is hazardous to your health. You should therefore ensure that you are creating your work of art in a well-ventilated space and even wear a mask. To get the best experience out of your spray painting time, also make sure you have everything you need with you before you start painting.

Oil-based spray paint has its advantages, but it can be challenging to remove accidental marks you make with the spray paint. For this reason, make sure you have some acetone or alcohol-based thinner to remove unwanted stains on your hands or surfaces.

Street Spray Painting Art

For those who choose to use a smaller surface to work on than a wall or building, rather than engaging with street spray painting art, canvas or poster-board is usually used. The benefit of spray painting canvas is that it retains its shape, and it is not porous, which allows the paint to adhere well. If you are using board, make sure that you paint on the glossy side – the paint will stick better to the glossy side without losing its color.

In this spray paint tutorial, we have established so far that you will need your paint, a surface on which you want to work, thinners or acetone, and possibly a mask. In addition to these, many artists like to use tools or hand-made stencils to make designs. You can also easily make your own stencil by using cardboard to create your design. Here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of using oil-based spray paints:


  • Available in a range of colors
  • Sticks well to a variety of surfaces
  • Does not take long to dry
  • Dries quicker than paints applied with a brush
  • Durable
  • Not as messy as some other types of paints
  • Affordable for small projects


  • Toxic fumes (it is necessary to wear a mask, regardless of whether you are working indoors or outdoors)
  • Expensive when it comes to bigger projects
  • The paint itself can be toxic (using it requires the use of gloves)



Spray Painting for Beginners

When you are preparing the space in which you can unleash your inner graffiti artist, you may want to ensure you have a few things close at hand, so that you do not have to interrupt the painting process once you have started.

How to Spray Paint Art


Protective Gear

Although spray paint art may have nestled its way into your heart, using it is not for the faint-hearted. We say this because of the toxic chemicals that make up the contents of any oil-based spray paint worth its salt. The fumes are toxic, and the paint itself can damage your hands.

Using these products safely, therefore, requires protective gear like masks and gloves. When we suggest masks, we are referring to heavy-duty masks, because simple cloth masks are not effective for spray paint fumes and will not prevent you from getting high or developing respiratory problems in the long run.

It may require an additional investment before you start, but it is certainly worthwhile in the greater scheme, especially if you intend to use spray paint in the future. If you want to know how to spray paint art without compromising your health, simply follow these few simple steps.



Newspaper is cheap, and always handy to have around. It can be spread around your workspace to protect your furniture, floor, and work surface. It can also be a useful tool that you can use to create different effects during the painting process. In addition to this, newspapers can help you experiment with and test the pressure and color of your paint.


Your Surface

Although we loosely mentioned earlier that spray paint can be used on a variety of surfaces, not all spray paint can be used on all surfaces. For this reason, consider the material you want to paint on before buying your spray paint and make sure you get one that is suitable for the project you have in mind. Some spray paints, for example, cannot be used outdoors, or cannot be used to paint furniture. Spray paint that is suitable for furniture is generally not great for artwork, as they tend to be glossier.

If you intend to use canvas for your spray paint, ensure that the canvas you buy is made specifically for spray paint. If you buy one that is not, you will have to paint the canvas with a primer first. If using poster-board, bear in mind that buying a bulk pack may be cheaper than buying single sheets.

How to Do Spray Paint


Spray Paint

By the same token, take care when choosing spray paint. Some are designed to work better on large-scale projects, while others are better for indoor use. Some have a glossy finish, where others have more of a matte appearance when dry. You will also have to decide whether you want to use water- or oil-based paints. We will discuss how to use spray paint later in this article.


Cleaning Products

Spray paint will mess and stain surfaces that it lands on (hence the reason we suggested laying out a newspaper). Preventing stains is preferable to having to clean them up! Alcohol-based thinners or solvents can be used to clean surfaces. Even if you do use newspapers, having a cleaning agent around will inevitably prove a worthwhile investment! Thinners can be harsh when used to clean your hands, so if you want to use something gentler, try baby oil or modest quantities of acetone.



Stencils are a cheap addition you can make to your arsenal of useful spray painting tools. You can buy them from most good craft shops and you can get them if you shop online, but you can also make your own. Stencils can be used to help cover areas you are not wanting to paint with a particular color and can be extremely helpful in focusing your paint onto smaller areas.


Spray Paint Handle

If you are planning on making a hobby or career out of spray paint artistry, you may find it worthwhile to buy a spray paint handle. This is a device that attaches to the front of the nozzle, which allows more control and comfort during prolonged use.


When trying to figure out how to do spray paint art, it can help to have at least a basic idea of the diverse products that are available for purchase. Read the next section to see some examples of what you may find on the shelves.



Spray Painting Art Supplies

Now that you have a basic knowledge of the kinds of things you will need to set you up for creating some quality spray painting work, let us take a look at some specific products, which we think are the bee’s knees.

Cans for Spray Paint Art


The Best Spray Paint: RUST-OLEUM Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Paint and Primer

This product is no exception in Rust-Oleum’s excellent reputation as a leading spray paint manufacturer. As its name suggests, it provides double the coverage that competitors offer, making it the ideal choice for use on any surfaces, whether they are indoors or outdoors. The spray paint cans are user-friendly and come in gloss, satin, or matte finishes (among others).

RUST-OLEUM Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover Spray Paint and Primer
  • Ideal for use on a variety of both interior and exterior surfaces 
  • Oil-based formula is low odor and durable with lasting protection
  • Fast-drying with a comfortable any-angle sprayer
View on Amazon

The Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover Spray Paint and Primer oil-based paints have a less offensive smell than you might expect, which makes using them less of an assault on your senses than many of the other brands on the shelves. The paints are fast-drying and are highly durable, which means less damage to whatever surface you are painting on when exposed to the inevitable wear and tear of life.

Also, as the name indicates, these products are ideal for outdoor furniture, as they serve as both a primer and paint, making your job as the painter that much easier. If you want a glossy and protected finish, this is the range of products for you!


  • Well-known brand
  • Products come in a range of colors
  • Works as a primer, paint, and sealer
  • Adheres to a variety of surfaces
  • Inexpensive


  • The nozzle can be susceptible to clogging (to solve this problem, simply wipe with alcohol)


The Best Spray Paint for Street Spray Painting Art: MONTANA BLACK Set of Graffiti Art Mural Spray Paints

Montana Black’s set of spray paints is durable and is the spray paint of choice for the most talented graffiti artists out there. Why? This range of paints has been designed especially for street art and can withstand even the harshest of weather conditions. Despite being called Montana Black, the colors available in this range are in fact so bright that they will catch the attention of even the most oblivious of passers-by.

MONTANA BLACK Set of Graffiti Street Art Mural Spray Paints
  • Set of 12 Montana Black 400ml spray paint cans in popular colors
  • High-pressure paint designed for graffiti street art and mural use
  • Great coverage, fast-drying, high-quality, and winterproof
View on Amazon

In addition to these qualities, it has great coverage, which means that it is suitable for use on large surfaces – perfect for street art. Its finish does not quite qualify as being specifically matt or gloss – it strikes a happy balance between the two. What more could you ask for if you are wanting a top-of-the-range spray paint that provides worlds of possibility in terms of the detail you can add to your art? Note that this product is not suitable for spray painting for beginners.


  • Weatherproof
  • Reputable brand
  • High pressure allows for more detailed work
  • Excellent coverage
  • Range includes bright colors that stand out from a distance


  • Expensive
  • Beginners might have difficulty using this product


The Best Water-Based Spray Paint: PINTY PLUS Aqua Spray Paint Art Set

The main advantage that water-based paints have over oil-based spray paints is priceless: no toxic fumes that can irritate and possibly damage your respiratory tract. Another advantage is that the absence of harsh chemicals akin to those included in oil paints means that they have a less harmful impact on the environment.

The Pinty Plus Aqua Spray Paint Art Set is child-friendly, easy to use, and comes in eight pastel colors. They are also pretty versatile and can be used in both indoor and outdoor contexts, as well as on a wide range of surfaces.

PINTYPLUS Aqua Spray Paint
  • An ultra-matte water-based spray paint set ideal for arts and crafts
  • Range of muted pastel-colored paint is low-odor and eco-friendly
  • Easy to use and can be cleaned simply with water and soap
View on Amazon

One disadvantage to be aware of when considering what paint to buy is that this brand takes longer to dry than oil-based brands. When you are applying a couple of coats, you will have to wait at least 30 minutes between coats of paint to allow for time to dry. Otherwise, your paint will flake and bubble. Once your project is complete, drying time is a minimum of one hour before you can touch the painted surface.


  • Stunning colors
  • Can be washed
  • Non-toxic
  • Minimal environmental impact
  • Non-odorous fumes


  • Outdoor painted items need to be coated with a sealant
  • Expensive
  • Long drying time


As you can see, several products are available for your spray painting needs. These are only three products that are on the market – there are far more out there for you to choose from. 



How to Do Spray Paint Art

Learning how to master a new art form can seem daunting at first, but practice will undoubtedly allow you to hone your skills. For now, take a look at the following tips and tricks that can help you to get to know the wily ways of spray paint.

  • Find an outdoor space or a well-ventilated area indoors where you can do your spray paint art without the risk of getting high or breathing in toxic fumes.
  • Make a habit of shaking your spray paint can. Doing this before you start painting, as well as throughout the painting process, will ensure that the paint is applied evenly.
  • Ensure that you are painting in cooler weather, as the heat can affect the consistency and quality of the paint.
  • If you are painting furniture, or if you are using wood as the surface you are painting on, it is best to sand down the surface and paint it with a coat of primer before you apply spray paint to it. Sanding it can make the texture more even and remove old paint, and priming helps provide an adhesive surface to which your paint can be applied.
Spray Painting for Beginners
  • Always test your paint on newspaper before you apply it to your project. This can help you become accustomed to the pressure, and to test the color of the paint. Once the paint hits a surface, it is not easy to remove.
  • It is important to spray the paint a short distance away from the surface. If the can is too close, the paint will be uneven and may build up to create blotches. You should be spray painting about 6 inches away from the surface you are working on.
  • One of the secrets behind effective spray painting is to move your hand a little when spraying to ensure that an area is covered from many different angles.
  • If painting furniture, more than one coat of paint is required. Three usually does the trick.
  • When applying second and third coats of paint, ensure that previously applied coats of paint are completely dry. This will prevent unwanted bubbling. Spray paint dries fairly quickly, so this should not delay your painting for too long.
  • Painting furniture also requires that you cover your paint with a fixative, especially if the item you are painting will be outdoors. Only use a fixative once your paint is completely dry.


Spray Paint Art Techniques and Tips

Once you are familiar with the basic practical aspects of setting up your workstation and making the most of your paints (as described above), you can start to explore the different effects you can create that make spray-painting a one-of-a-kind art technique.

  • Spray paint dries fast, so work as quickly as you can.
  • Be creative about the kinds of objects you have around you when you work. The most ordinary of household objects like toothbrushes and sponges can be surprisingly useful when used to apply your paint in different ways.
  • The ideal way of beginning your painting is to start by spraying a light outline of all the elements of your design first. This provides a layout.
  • Once you have done this, fill in each area with a solid layer of each color you intend to use. This should be a fairly short process.
How to Use Spray Paint
  • Following this, use newspaper to move the paint to where you would like it to go. This can produce some great effects. Newspaper can also be used to cover your painting if you would like it to absorb excess paint.
  • Concerning spray paint art techniques, newspaper or toothbrushes can be used to create finer details or a sense of motion. Magazine paper, tinfoil, or newspapers can also produce interesting textures if you scrunch them up.
  • Once you are happy with the images and details in the design, finish off by painting the background. This is done last so that you can cover up any mistakes you have made or made any spills or unwanted marks with the paint.

The information provided in this spray paint tutorial should set you in good stead for tackling spray painting for the first time. We hope that it helps make your journey into the world of graffiti art an enjoyable experience and that you have fun experimenting with spray paint!



Frequently Asked Questions


How to Do Spray Paint Art?

Using spray paint can take some getting used to. The best thing we can recommend is to get familiar with your spray paint can and practice, practice, practice! You can easily find information on the basic principles behind spray paint use online, which can help you to become accustomed to using this versatile medium.


What Are Some Spray Paint Art Techniques?

The secret to creating beautiful, detailed art with spray paint is to use ordinary objects that you have lying around your home in order to create detail and texture with your painting. Unlike an artist who paints finer details with smaller brushes, a spray paint artist will use paper, tinfoil, or cotton swabs to help make their work more realistic.


How to Use Spray Paint?

There are a few things you need to know when using spray paint. Number one, wear protective clothing like a heavy-duty mask and gloves, as the chemicals in spray paint can be toxic. Secondly, stand away from your surface when using spray paint, as being too close can cause the paint to pool. Finally, make sure you leave enough time for each layer to dry before painting a second or third coat.


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