How to Fix Common Spray Paint Mistakes

Whether using a can or a sprayer, spray painting can be one of the quickest and easiest methods of painting any type of surface. But that doesn’t mean that it always goes smoothly. In fact, sometimes, you’ll run into all sorts of problems like orange peel, cracking, uneven coverage, and more. If you’re wondering how to fix spray paint runs and drips or worse, then this article is or you.

Throughout the years, I’ve completed many painting projects with spray paint and paint sprayers. Although they’ve turned out great, along the way, many mistakes were made for me to learn from. Now, I’ve compiled as many spray paint mistakes as possible, their causes, and how to fix them. Hopefully, this list can help you to avoid some of these time-wasting mistakes and fix any problems that you’ve already got.

How to Fix Spray Paint Mistakes

Common Spray Paint Mistakes


Cracking is one of the most common spray paint mistakes you’ll find. It’s generally caused by poor surface prep, which causes weak, ineffective adhesion. The best way to avoid cracking is to be more detailed with your prep work. Be sure to thoroughly clean the surface before applying paint. Any oils, dirt, or other contaminants can prevent the paint from adhering the way it should. This will result in cracking, so really take your time when it comes to prep work and be thorough.

Paint Blobs

If you paint while holding the can or sprayer too close, moving too slowly, or applying too much paint in any area, you’re likely to see paint blobs. These globs of paint can almost look like wax melting and they’ll completely ruin the finish of any paint job. Since they’re caused mainly by poor technique, the best way to avoid paint blobs is by paying close attention to your technique while applying spray paint.

Remember to keep the can about 10-12 inches from the surface you’re painting. Make sure that you shake the can well before spraying and continue shaking it every few strokes. While painting, use even strokes while moving at a moderate speed. Avoid going too slowly as this can cause the paint to build up and cause the paint blobs you’re trying to avoid.

Flaking and Peeling

Similar to cracking, flaking and peeling are generally caused by poor prep work that prevented the paint from adhering all the way. Usually, this is due to contaminants on the surface like dirt, oils from your fingers, or dust. Any contaminants on the surface can cause the paint to flake and peel as it dries, so the best way to avoid this issue is with thorough prep work. Make sure to get your surface completely clean and devoid of contaminants before spraying if you want to get proper adhesion.

Orange Peel

Orange peel is so named because as the paint dries, it gets loads of little pockmarks, causing the surface of the paint to resemble the peel of an orange. Naturally, this isn’t a good look, so you’ll want to avoid it. It’s caused by over-applying the spray paint, laying down too much paint in a single coat.

To avoid orange peel, you’ll want to apply thinner coats. If you need more coverage, continue applying thin coats until you get a solid, even finish. Make sure to allow ample drying time between each coat to avoid introducing new problems.

Runs and Drips

While all of these mistakes are common, runs and drips are probably the most common paint issue of all. Many different mistakes with your technique can cause runs or drips, but they all boil down to applying too much paint in a single area. This might be from moving too slowly, spraying too close, or just trying to apply too thick of a coat.

Avoiding runs and drips requires patience. You have to apply thin coats and allow them to dry fully before moving on to the next coat. When you get hasty and try to apply too much paint at once, you’ll end up with runs or drips every time. Likewise, if you have poor spraying technique and are moving at inconsistent speeds while spraying, applying an uneven coat, you’ll continue to have problems with runs and drips.

Don’t apply too much paint at once and learn proper spraying techniques to reduce or eliminate all the runs and drips you’re experiencing now.

Smudged Paint

When you’re painting a project, it’s easy to get overzealous and want to move on to the next coat right away. But if you try to apply additional coats of paint before the first coat is dry, you’ll get smudged paint that will ruin your project and take you back to square one.

Thankfully, this is a relatively easy mistake to avoid. You just have to be patient! Read the directions on your spray paint can and see how long it takes for the paint to cure for additional coats. Then, wait that amount of time before repainting! You can check with your finger and make sure the paint isn’t tacky when you go to repaint. It should be completely dry to the touch before you add any more paint.


This is an interesting mistake and you probably wouldn’t know what went wrong if it happened to you. Shrinking generally happens if it’s very cold or humid when you paint. As the temperature rises or the humidity levels decrease, the paint will start to dry out and shrink. This doesn’t happen under normal circumstances, only if there’s a large temperature change from cold to hot or a big change in humidity from wet to dry.

This is a pretty easy mistake to prevent. Just make sure that you only paint when temperatures permit. Choose a day with moderate temperatures and no rain on the forecast. Alternatively, you can paint inside where the climate is controlled. Just make sure you use a paint that’s safe for indoor use!


We’re not talking about camera lenses here. Fisheyes are those little round dots that sometimes appear in your paint as it dries. They’re caused by surface imperfections or contaminants like oils and dirt. To avoid fisheyes in the future, make sure your surface is adequately prepped before painting. You’ll need to clean it thoroughly and do your best to fix any surface imperfections by sanding.


This mistake doesn’t actually pertain to your project, but to the area surrounding your paint station. Overspray is the excess paint that falls on nearby items, causing a speckled appearance on everything in the vicinity.

When you spray paint, you need to do lots of prep on the area you’re painting. Masking tape, newspaper, plastic, and cardboard are all your best friends. Put them on everything you don’t want to get covered! This is the best and only way to avoid overspray. Don’t believe that you’ll just be able to aim the can and avoid overspray. Spray paint gets everywhere! The only way to avoid overspray is to cover everything that you don’t want to get paint on.

If you do happen to get overspray on some items, you have several options. You can try to wipe it off with water if it’s still wet. If it’s dry, you can try some paint thinner or turpentine. You can also simply scrape it off with your nail or a textured sponge.

Uneven or Patchy Coverage

If your finished coat appears patchy and uneven, you probably haven’t applied enough coats of paint. To get a nice, even finish, you’ll likely need to apply several coats. But make sure to apply light coats. You’re better off applying multiple light coats instead of just a few heavier coats, even if it’s more time-consuming.

Blotchy Spray Paint

If you’re trying to cover a large area using spray paint, you’ll likely find that you have a blotchy finish when you’re done. It can be very difficult to get truly even coverage with spray paint, so it often turns out blotchy, especially on large surfaces.

The best way to fix this is by gently sanding the finished coat with fine-grit sandpaper until it’s all even. Then, apply a layer of clear coat to finish it off.

Spray Paint Lines

If you’ve ever experienced lines in your paint that you couldn’t get rid of, you’re not alone. These can be very frustrating, ruining an otherwise great paint job. They’re usually caused by dirty or clogged tips.

To stop the spray paint lines when using a spray, take off your tip and leave it in a cup of paint thinner for a few minutes to clear out any blockages. If that doesn’t work, you might need to let it soak overnight to get out any stubborn dried paint.

You can avoid spray paint lines in the future by always cleaning your tip after every time you paint. Soak it in paint thinner to break up and remove any paint. If it dries in the tip, you’ll likely experience these annoying paint lines again.

If using a sprayer, you’ll need to follow the same basic process. Take the tip out of the spray handle and soak it in a cup of paint thinner. Then, you can use a small pick to ensure that the hole is completely clear. Any dried paint will result in spray lines and a clogged spray nozzle.

How to Fix Spray Paint Mistakes

How to fix uneven spray paint

There are many ways for spray painting mistakes to occur but there’s one sure way to fix them all; sand and repaint. This requires sanding down the offending areas and recoating them. Let’s walk through all of the steps so you know exactly how to go about fixing those spray paint mistakes and turning a rough-looking coat into a fine-looking finish.

Step 1: Wait For the Paint To Cure

Once you’ve got a mistake to fix, it can be hard not to jump right in and take care of it. But if you’re impatient, you’ll only make things worse. Before you can start to fix your mistakes, you have to let them dry all the way. Give the paint ample time to ensure it’s fully cured before moving on to step two.

Step 2: Wet Sand The Mistakes

Once the paint is completely dry, it’s time to wet sand. This is where we’re going to remove those mistakes and take the paint back down to a good starting point for a repaint. You’ll want to use wet or dry sandpaper with a very fine grit, something in the realm of 1,000 or higher.

There are two ways for you to wet sand. You can dip your sandpaper into the water and then use it to sand while it’s wet, or you can use a spray bottle to wet the surface before sanding it. Either method is fine, just make sure you don’t use too much or too little water. You want the sandpaper to stay wet, but you don’t need to flood the surface.

Your goal is to sand all the mistakes down to a flat surface. This might require going all the way to a bare surface again. Or, it might just require taking off the top layer of paint. You’ll have to gauge it for yourself. Just try to sand it down till the surface is completely smooth to the touch.

Step 3: Clean the Surface

After wet sanding, you need to let the surface dry completely. Then, it’s time for prep work once again. Since poor prep work is the root cause of so many spray paint mistakes, it’s important to be thorough with our prep work. Make sure the surface is free of imperfections and completely clean. Any contaminants will prevent the paint from adhering, meaning you’ll have to repeat this whole process once again.

To make sure that you get the surface fully clean, you can use rubbing alcohol, turpentine, or any other type of cleaner. Make sure to use a rag that doesn’t shed; paper towels aren’t a great option because they leave behind too many fibers.

Once you’re finished cleaning and prepping the surface for more paint, allow it to dry completely before moving on to step four.

Step 4: Apply Primer If You Took the Paint Down to Bare Surface

If you had to take all the paint off and get down to a bare surface during the wet sanding step, then you’ll want to apply a coat of primer to the bare surface to ensure that the paint will stick and you get even coverage. But if you still have a layer of paint on the entire project, you can skip this step and move on to step five.

When applying primer by the can, make sure to read the instructions. Apply it like you would spray paint, holding the can about 12 inches from the surface you’re painting. Paint with even strokes moving at a moderate speed from start to finish. Allow the primer to fully dry before you progress to step five and apply paint.

If using a sprayer, make sure your primer is the right consistency for your sprayer. Then, apply it using broad, even strokes, overlapping each other halfway.

Step 5: Apply Paint

Now that your prep work is complete and you’ve applied primer if you took the paint off to the bare surface, it’s time to finally reapply your paint. Make sure that your surface is totally dry before attempting to paint.

Start by reading the instructions on your paint can. Make sure to follow them precisely. If using a sprayer, make sure your paint is the right consistency for your machine.

Apply the paint using broad, even strokes. Hold the can or spray handle about 10-12 inches from the surface you’re painting. Make sure not to apply the paint too thick. Instead, opt for a very thin coat with as even of coverage as possible.

Step 6: Allow Ample Drying Time

After applying the paint, it’s easy to get impatient and attempt to move on before the paint is cured. But you need to wait for the paint to be completely dry before you add any additional coats.

Read the instructions on your paint can. They should tell you exactly how long the paint will take to dry before it’s ready for another coat. Make sure to wait at least that long and test the paint to see if it’s dry before applying more.

Step 7: Apply Additional Coats

Repeat step five using proper technique. Continue adding thin, even coats of paint until you’ve achieved an even coverage on the entire surface. Be sure to allow plenty of time to dry between each coat, so you don’t cause any new problems like smudged paint.


Spray painting might seem like it’s quick and easy, but what’s really easy is messing it up! From orange peel to paint drips, spray paint can easily turn out poorly. But if you follow the right steps and sand down your mistakes, you can repaint over it and still get that beautiful finish you were hoping for.

If this information on fixing spray paint has helped your project turn out for the better, please consider sharing this article with others who have similar projects in need of help. And if you leave any questions or comments in the comments box below, I’ll do my best to respond to them as quickly as possible.