Can You Spray Paint Wood? (Here’s What You Should Know!)
Whether you’re painting furniture, cabinets, or another wood surface, you might be tempted to bring out a can of spray paint to give your project a new look. After all, spray painting is fast and easy, right?
While spray paint is a versatile product, you might be wondering if you can use it on wood.
If you’re wondering “can you spray paint wood?”, I’ll answer this question and so much more. Let’s dig in.
In This Article:
Does Spray Paint Stick to Wood?
Spray paint, when applied properly, will stick to wood.
Therefore, you can use many different types of spray paint to color or decorate wooden surfaces, like tables, doors, walls, signs, and much more.
Wood is by nature a porous and absorbent material, especially bare wood. Therefore, if you apply spray paint to some wood surfaces, you might find that most of the paint gets absorbed into the wood and doesn’t apply properly.
If you want to spray paint wood, you need to prepare it ahead of time, and you need to use the right spray paint and materials for the job.
The Type of Spray Paint Matters
There are a few different types of spray paint you can apply to wooden surfaces. In fact, there are dozens of different colors, finishes, and spray paint brands to choose from. But the most important thing to focus on is whether the paint is water-based or oil-based.
Water-Based Spray Paint
Water-based spray paint contains a very low level of compounds and harmful paint chemicals. As a result, water-based spray paints are the best choice for spray painting wood furniture or other surfaces. They are less likely to damage, stain, or discolor a wooden surface.
On top of that, water-based spray paints are advantageous for several reasons:
- They don’t require any special prep work. Considering the fact that you have to prepare wood surfaces for spray paint (see more below), this can cut down on time you spend spray painting and give you more time to accomplish other tasks
- They are very easy to use. Practically anyone can take a water-based spray paint and apply it in a matter of minutes
- They drive very quickly. Water-based spray paints dry in less than two hours per coat (i.e., one coat will dry in two hours, while two coats of water-based spray paint may dry in 3 to 4 hours). Thanks to this, water-based spray paint is perfect for re-coating, sanding, and sealing the finish of your wood surface.
- They perform well on a variety of wood surfaces and textures. Due to their material composition, water-based spray paint penetrates wood grains very quickly and easily yielding a great finish.
If you’re looking to pray paint wood, I would recommend using water-based spray paint.
Solvent/Oil-Based Spray Paint
However, you don’t always have to use water-based spray paint. In some instances, it might be beneficial to use an oil based spray paint for your project.
For example, any wood surface that will be outdoors or in a high moisture environment should be sealed with an oil-based paint. This is because water-based spray paints are not as resistant to moisture and humidity as oil-based paints.
Oil-based spray paints utilize a special formula with synthetic chemicals constructed in laboratory environments. These chemicals and additives change the nature and applicability of the spray paint, helping it to survive and last longer in outdoor environments (where the paint will be exposed to water, wind, dirt, UV radiation, etc.).
As an example, there are plenty of rust-oleum spray paint options. This type of spray paint has special silicone compounds that defend wooden surfaces from heat from the sun or from other sources. Some oil-based spray paint brands feature moisture-resistant additives, so they dry and form a protective layer over the wood to prevent grease or water from seeping through.
In other words, oil-based spray paint may be best if your wood surfaces need to be protected from chemicals or harsh elements over time. But keep in mind that you’ll need to prepare the wood for the oil-based spray paint a little more intensely than you have to with water-based spray paint.
Note that while either of these spray paints can work, the ideal spray paint will explicitly say that it works on wood via the label. The brand that made the spray paint may include special additives or chemicals to make the paint more applicable to wood or more likely to stick to its surface.
Do not purchase a spray paint that isn’t specially marked as applicable to wood. Otherwise, you may do everything right but still find that your paint can’t get the job done.
Preparing the Wood Before Spray Painting
Before applying any spray paint to a wooden surface, you need to prepare it accordingly. Remember, if you try to apply spray paint to regular or natural wood without any preparation, the wood might simply absorb the paint and not give you your desired look.
Do You Need to Sand Wood?
Your first step when preparing a wooden surface for spray paint is sanding the surface.
Sanding is a careful process that allows you to get rid of surface imperfections in the wood, making the surface as smooth as possible.
Sanding wood is important so that the primer (see more below) or the spray paint itself adheres stronger to the surface. It also helps to improve the overall look of your project by creating a smooth texture.
So, how much do you need to sand the surface of wood?
That depends on how rough the surface is.
If you’re working with a natural wooden piece, like something you picked up outdoors, you may need to begin with rough-grit sandpaper (around 80 grit should be fine).
If the surface is largely smooth, or if it only has a few imperfections, fine-grit sandpaper is just right. 100 grit sandpaper could be perfect for your project. In either case, lightly sand at least two passes with your sandpaper over the surface. This should grind down any bumps or imperfections without taking too much time.
You can alternatively use a sanding machine on the surface to expedite the process.
Cleaning the Wood Surface
Your next major step is cleaning the surface.
You should clean the surface in part to remove any of the sanded-down debris or any other leftover residues on the wood.
Fortunately, cleaning wood is very easy.
Simply wipe it down using a piece of cloth or a towel. You may wish to apply a little bit of soapy water.
The primary goal is to ensure that there isn’t any dirt or debris left on the piece before applying either primer or paint.
However, don’t use too much water! If you soak the wood, it may absorb the moisture, which could impact how the paint settles on its surface and what the piece looks like at the end.
Applying a Primer
Now it’s time for arguably the most important step: applying primer.
Paint primer is an important substance that seals the painting surface, filling up any cracks, holes, or microscopic imperfections you can’t get rid of otherwise.
If you don’t prime a surface before painting it, any paint you apply could get into those imperfections or cracks, making the end result worse than it would be otherwise.
If your wood is already perfectly smooth, you may not necessarily need to prime it before applying spray paint. That said, most wooden surfaces will need a layer of primer, and it never hurts.
Here’s when you should apply primer.
- You are spray painting natural or rough wood. If the wood feels rough to the touch, apply at least two separate coats of paint primer before applying spray paint. This will ensure the paint job is
- You are spray painting patched or previously repaired wood. Even high-quality wood repair jobs will have various compounds and marks on it that can impact the final finish of the paint.
- You are spray painting wood with stains. If a wood work piece has moisture, grease stains, oil stains, or other residues, you’ll need to apply a stain-blocking, moisture-resistant paint primer.
- You are spray painting any porous wood species. If the wood surface is particularly porous, it will quickly absorb any extra paint you apply. Applying the primer first will prevent your spray paint from being absorbed by the wood so it looks excellent from start to finish. Note that any freshly harvested wood is likely to be very porous, so apply primer in this case as well.
To apply primer, choose a spray primer designed for the project you’re working on. For example, if you’re working with metal, there are special primers designed to work with that surface.
You can alternatively apply primer using a brush or roller. If you use a brush, use sandpaper to smooth down the primer so it is even after one or two coats.
What if the Wood is Already Painted?
In situations where the wood is already painted, you should try to smooth down the surface of the material using sandpaper before priming it. Removing existing paint with sandpaper can help the new paint coat to better adhere to the surface.
If you’re working with a latex paint, use a paint stripper to remove the paint. If you’re working with an oil-based paint, you’ll need to use a solvent such as mineral spirits.
Can You Spray Paint Wood Without Priming It?
Yes, you can spray paint wood without priming it first, but it’s not recommended unless the work in question is already extremely smooth (i.e., it has no cracks or holes that you can see) or the wood isn’t very porous. Remember, you don’t lose anything from applying primer beforehand and it doesn’t take long to add a layer or two.
How to Spray Paint Wood
The process of spray painting wood is relatively straightforward. Follow these steps for the perfect paint job on your project!
Step 1 – Prep the Piece
Firstly, remember to prep your piece before applying any spray paint.
Check the piece for any cracks, holes, stains, dents, and other surface imperfections. You can use a wood filler to fix any cracks or holes or a paint stripper to remove previously painted surfaces.
Based on these imperfections, you may need to sand down your wood piece before applying any spray paint. Use the appropriate amount of sandpaper until the surface of the piece is perfectly smooth. Clean away any dust or debris the sanding process creates with a rag or vacuum cleaner.
Step 2 – Apply Primer
Next, apply paint primer to seal the surface and ensure that the paint won’t get sucked down or absorbed by the wood too easily. Remember, you don’t always need to apply primer, but it’s usually a good idea to make sure you get the best results.
Step 3 – Pick Your Paint
Now it’s time to get the appropriate spray paint.
Your two main options are water-based and oil-based spray paints. Water-based spray paint will serve you in the majority of cases, and it’s usually more affordable. Oil-based spray paint, however, is a better choice if your wood surface or work piece is going to spend most of its time outdoors.
For example, if you are spray painting a door that is exposed to the elements, oil-based spray paint is a good idea. If you want to spray paint wood furniture that will spend all of its time indoors, however, use water-based spray paint.
The only exception is if you have an indoor piece of wooden furniture that will be exposed to direct sunlight frequently. In this case, oil-based spray paint could still be the best spray paint to protect the wooden surface from UV radiation and sun damage.
Step 4 – Apply the Paint
Now it’s time to apply the spray paint.
To do this, hold the nozzle of your spray paint tool a few inches over the piece. Hold down the nozzle to release the paint, then make long and continuous passes. Release a few inches after the nozzle leaves the piece to prevent the edges from seeming unpainted or unfinished.
To prevent paint from being sprayed everywhere, place the wooden piece over a disposable material like a tarp or paint outdoors. While you can spray paint indoors, it is usually more difficult.
Depending on the quality and type of spray paint you use, you may need to apply several coats of the material. Oil-based spray paint usually requires fewer coats compared to water-based spray paint.
Step 5 – Let it Dry
Finally, let your painted wood dry.
Don’t put anything on the wooden surface until the paint is completely dry otherwise you’ll need to apply yet another coat of spray paint to fix the mistake.
It can take anywhere from 2-4 hours for the paint to dry completely depending on the circumstances. If it’s humid outside, for example, it may take longer for the paint to dry.
If you’re in a rush, you can use a hairdryer on the lowest setting to speed up the drying process. Just make sure not to hold the hairdryer too close to the surface or you could cause the paint to blister or peel.
How Long Does Spray Paint Last?
When applied properly, and if you apply a primer layer beforehand, spray paint will last anywhere between six months and five years on wooden surfaces.
That means, you can expect at least a few years of good performance from your spray paint.
If you pick a spray paint that is formulated for wooden surfaces – and if you use a spray paint that is known for its longevity and durability – it could last even longer. But overall, the prep work you do before applying the spray paint will have a greater impact on its longevity than the spray paint itself.
To make your spray paint layer last even longer, use a moisture-resistant top coat. Some spray paint brands offer specialized finishing topcoats that you can apply with your spray gun to make the paint layers last even longer.
How Long Does Spray Paint on Wood Take to Dry?
The length it takes spray paint to dry depends on the type of spray paint you use and the prep work you did beforehand.
If you don’t use a primer, the spray paint might dry more quickly because the wood will absorb the liquid in the paint much more easily.
But overall, spray paint takes between 30 minutes and two hours to dry on most wooden surfaces. You should wait at least 30 minutes in between spray paint coats before applying another coat. But the entire piece will take around 2 to 3 hours to fully dry. Wait at least this long before you touch the wood or you put anything on its surface.
Does Spray Paint Protect Wood?
Spray paint can protect wood, but that depends on the wooden surface, the type of paint you use, and more.
Generally, water-based spray paint can protect wood surfaces from dust and from stains. But they do not protect wooden surfaces from the elements, moisture, or other significant damage. They also do not protect wooden surfaces against UV damage or radiation.
Oil-based spray paints are much more protective. They can protect wooden surfaces from moisture, stains, and dents. Note that oil-based spray paints don’t always protect against UV rays – you need specially formulated oil-based paints to do that.
Rust-oleum and similar spray paints protect wooden surfaces from UV rays, moisture, and heat. Basically, if you want your spray paint to protect your wooden surfaces, get a spray paint brand that advertises this ability.
Remember, you should also apply primer to wooden surfaces if you want your spray paint to protect them. With a primer, more of the spray paint will stay on the top of the surface without being absorbed.
Final Thoughts on Can You Spray Paint Wood
If you want to give a piece of furniture a new life, spray painting it with new paint might be the best way to go.
By following a few steps, you can spray paint wood giving it a new beautiful finish. Just make sure to sand the wood beforehand, use a primer, and paint in thin coats.
The Best Way To Spray Paint Your Wood Furniture
By Roger Adler/
With a few additional supplies and a bit of practice, drab, tired, and outdated wooden furniture can be restored and revitalized using spray paint. Spraying is a cost-conscious way to breathe new life into distressed or mundane furniture, and a time-saving, durable substitute for hand painting. Wood furniture, pressed wood, particle board, cardboard backing, and wooden hardware can all be spray painted. When done correctly, spray painting has an even appearance without drips or brush lines. Per Woodworking Skills, there is much less cleaning up afterward: No brushes, rollers, or trays to wash.
Classy Clutter points out that every piece of furniture differs but, typically, the same painting steps apply, as do the same potential pitfalls. You will need a well-lit workspace, perhaps outside or in a garage or workshop. According to Painted Furniture Ideas, a warm workspace with non-fluctuating temperatures is ideal. Too cold, the spray paint will dry slower and may crinkle. Don a disposable N-95 mask or, even better, a reusable paint respirator and some protective eyewear, and you’re ready to start spray painting like a pro.
Preliminary spray painting steps
Korawat photo shoot/Shutterstock
Any item of furniture must first be cleaned for painting. Spray paint adheres better and more evenly to a surface without grime, dust, or other debris. Per Home Stories A To Z, warm water with a dash of dish soap or vinegar can be used, or a solution of 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts olive oil will work to disperse stubborn stains. Wipe with cheesecloth, a tack cloth, or a fiber rag and allow several hours to dry before proceeding. If the wood has any imperfections, they can be repaired with wood filler to allow full penetration of the paint and complete coverage.
A Ray Of Sunlight suggests using 220-grit sandpaper on the surface and a fine-grit pad to work on any curved areas. Sanding will smooth and de-gloss the furniture for better paint adherence. Prior to painting, priming the wood is necessary to prevent tannin stains from seeping through your subsequent spray painting. A thin coat of primer is all that is needed and it should be sprayed over the entire furniture surface for best results.
Spray painting steps
DC Paint Solutions suggests practicing on a piece of paper or spare slab of wood before tackling your furniture. The desired technique is to spray the paint from a 10-inch distance, applying steady and even pressure. An up and down, or side to side movement is appropriate, and avoid over-spraying a particular area. According to Lovely Etc., aim to build up multiple thin coats for best results, and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding optimum temperature for spraying, drying times, and distance to aim and fire. Spraying too close or too far can cause dripping or wasted paint.
Make sure the previous coat fully dries before applying another. If using a can, shake it for a minute to prime it before starting, and remember to agitate it every so often as you are working. You are apt to run out of paint quickly, so be sure to have several spare cans on hand. A rust-resistant paint should be used on outdoor furniture. Queen Anne Upholstery & Refinishing recommends using a sealant on any surfaces that are likely to get wet, such as coffee tables and desks. Finally, place the painted furniture in a location where it can be seen and enjoyed.
What is preferable to paint a wooden house: brush, roller, spray?
When buying paints and varnishes for painting a wooden house, buyers often ask the question: what is the best way to apply these materials?
Teknos wood preservatives, paints and varnishes (TEKNOS) indicate in the data sheet that they can be applied by brush or spray. Each method of application has its positive aspects. Nevertheless, if we talk about the priority of durable painting of the facade of a wooden house, then professionals recommend applying materials with a brush. We quote from the book: “A guide to painting work. Tikkurila, 2006″. The section: “Helpful Tips for Successful Painting of Exterior Wood Surfaces” states: “Brushing is preferable to spraying.” This is due to the fact that when applied with a brush, thorough staining of all natural irregularities of wooden surfaces is ensured.
The principal feature of TEKNOS antiseptics and paints for wooden houses is that they are water-borne and therefore brushes with synthetic bristles are best suited for application. The split ends of the bristles provide better uniformity when applying tinted antiseptic or paint. Most often, flute brushes 75 – 120 mm wide are used for painting a house. Narrow brushes are used to paint the joints of logs, beams or sheathing boards, as well as corner joints.
Teknos impregnations, antiseptics and organic solvent paints are recommended to be applied with brushes with natural bristles.
The use of paint rollers gives good results when covering large and even surfaces such as plastered concrete or plasterboard walls and ceilings. Rollers are practically not suitable for painting wood with glazing preservatives.
Applying a glazing antiseptic or spray paint significantly increases the speed of painting work and ensures high decorative properties of painted surfaces. But spray application requires professional spray gun skills. With a low qualification of the painter, the risks of non-painting of shadow areas, painting with a “dry” torch (when the paint reaches the dried surface) or vice versa, paint smudges when the layer is too thick, large paint losses due to incorrectly adjusted torch, etc. increase.
If you choose the spray method for applying antiseptics on TEKNOS wood, then low-pressure devices (pressure 0.5 – 3 atm) can be recommended. These devices include pneumatic nebulizers and commonly used professional HVLP devices. It is important that the parts of the spray gun that come into contact with liquid paint are made of stainless steel. Otherwise, in contact with water-borne antiseptics, paints and varnishes, corrosion of metal parts of painting equipment may occur.
For more viscous (thick) TEKNOS industrial paints and varnishes (TEKNOS), which are used for painting a wooden house: facade paint NORDICA ECO 3330-03 and facade varnish AQUATOP 2920-04, it must be taken into account that they are designed for application in the factory. For these materials and to achieve the best painting results, Finnish experts recommend industrial high-pressure spray guns. Such devices require connection to the main compressor with a pressure of up to 6 atm. Therefore, at the construction site for painting a wooden house, high-pressure apparatuses (pressure at the outlet of the nozzle 100 – 150 atm) are practically not used. More detailed information on professional painting equipment can be found, for example, on the GRACO website
When painting a wooden house inside, interior water-borne acrylic lacquers: PANELILAKKA, NATURA, TEKNOCOAT AQUA 2550 and water-borne acrylic paints: BIORA, BIORA BALANCE, TIMANTTI can be applied both with a brush and with pneumatic spraying. When painting walls and ceilings with wood wax SATU VAKS or TEKNOVAKS 1160-00, Finnish experts recommend painting with a synthetic brush, rubbing liquid wax over a wooden surface. This ensures economical consumption of wax and allows you to get a beautiful glazing effect, uniform over the entire surface.
In conclusion, we want to note that the priority when painting a wooden house is not the chosen painting tool: brush or spray gun, but professional skills and conscientiousness in the performance of work. Additional advice and written instructions for applying Finnish TEKNOS paints and varnishes (TEKNOS): priming and glazing antiseptics, facade and interior paints, varnishes and wood wax can be obtained from the sellers of our company stores.
What to choose for applying antiseptics, oils and paints to the surface of a wooden house.
Brushes are the most popular choice for applying antiseptics, oils and paints.
Despite the ease of use and general availability of this tool, there are a number of tricks that you need to know about in advance. It is better to choose brushes with mixed or natural bristles and dense packing, about 10-20 mm .
The thick padding of the brush ensures a better distribution of the product on the surface without leaving streaks. It also holds a good amount of product without the need for frequent dipping of the brush into the jar.
Also, do not forget that you should not paint your house in direct sunlight.
It is not recommended to apply oil in very hot weather, in direct sunlight. At high temperatures, the viscosity of the product changes, it becomes more liquid. Product consumption increases. There may be smudges after application. As a result, there may not be enough grams on the surface for durable protection.
It is also a mistake to paint wood after rain. It is necessary that the surface is completely dry, otherwise the oil will curl off the damp wood.
The final touch when painting a wooden surface is to ensure that there is enough air in the work area (especially when working indoors). The fact is that the process of polymerization (drying) of the oil occurs when interacting with oxygen. With a lack of air, the surface will dry for a long time. Therefore, we adhere to the recommended drying time. This is 7-10 days. Moreover, all this time you need to regularly ventilate the room.
Choosing paint for exterior or interior decoration, one major mistake is often made. The calculation of the estimate for painting the surface should not be based on the price for 1 liter of the product, but on the basis of the cost of processing 1 sq. m of finished surface and the cost of its renewal in 10-15 years.
At a low price for traditional film-forming compositions, their consumption for processing 1 sq. m can reach up to 200-300 g, and the consumption of oil-containing products is 2-3 times less, which ultimately leads to a reduction in costs in the long term.
How to paint wood with a spray gun: features
Painting the facades of wooden houses is not an easy task. How to paint wood correctly in order to maintain the aesthetic appeal and so that the work does not turn out to be too complicated? The answer to the first part of the question assumes knowledge of wood coloring technology, and the answer to the second question will be the use of special tools for wood coloring.
The wood spray gun can only be used if no translucent compound is to be used.
Let’s take a closer look at how to paint a tree with an airbrush.
Preparing wood for painting
Before painting over the natural nature of wood, it is necessary to carefully examine it for the absence of decay and various sores.
Before painting, wood must be treated: filler imperfections, sandpaper, and then sand.
Identified “weak” places must be treated before painting. For example, there was a trace of a once hammered nail or metal fastening, which drastically violated both the color of the tree and its structure in this area. Or a dent, a chip, a knot that has fallen out or “live” is found. Such places are subject to repair, even if non-translucent painting is planned over the entire surface. Why shouldn’t these places be left unsealed? Because the wood itself consists of a structure that is heterogeneous in density (young and late wood) and has a relief. And even under the finish, the natural texture (pattern) of the tree is visible, which is desirable to use when painting the tree.
The puttied surface is sanded using fine-grained sandpaper, which contributes to the appearance of a pile of minimal dimensions. Soft rock is recommended to be primed, “fixing” the pile. After that, you can already perform finishing grinding. The pile is ground in all intermediate staining procedures.
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Features of wood painting
Before you start painting wood, you need to remember such a property of it as uneven absorption of paint in different areas. That is, soft layers after painting look dull, and denser ones shine. This effect is enhanced by acting on the texture with stain and applying varnish protection. Sometimes tinted varnishes are used, which both show the texture and paint the wood. Wood as a material is universal, which is very noticeable when using coloring agents, when you can completely recreate the structure of another, more valuable species.
Painting the facade with an airbrush can significantly reduce the time of work, the paint lays down more evenly and dries faster.
When using opaque compounds, a different effect is sought, for example when staining oak. With a high density and a pronounced texture, it absorbs the coating, but continues to retain the texture due to the relief. After preparing the surface of the oak (cleaned and primed), the oak is painted with white paint, and then sanded. Once again exposing the natural color of the wood, you can see that the paint has remained in soft layers, embodied in a unique combination of shades called “gray” oak. The perception will be completely opposite from the lightening of the veins and from the manifestation of the veins of the oak.
This principle underlies the technology of “wood aging” by coloring. The surface prepared in a chaotic manner is smeared with wax (an ordinary candle), and then painted in the desired color. Dried paint will peel off in places where there is wax, and in torn hanging particles. All this is fixed with varnish, elegantly decorating the wood for centuries.
Coniferous trees, such as pine, have special features in staining. Since pine emits resin, which can completely ruin all work. The technology for staining conifers includes an additional deresining operation, and other stages of wood coloring are the same.
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Scheme of the device of the spray gun.
Naturally, it will be much easier to paint the surface of a facade of 50 m² if you have specialized equipment, which includes a spray gun. How justified is the use of an airbrush in painting the wooden walls of houses from the outside – let’s clarify.
Airbrush has a reputation for professional painting equipment for a reason. It is used in their work by professional painters in a wide variety of fields of activity: from tire fitting to restoration services of antique furniture. The quality of the coating is ensured by pneumatic spraying by finely dispersed crushing of the paint composition. However, this technology takes place only for a small staining area. With a wall area of 50 m², it is absolutely impossible to prevent sagging and overlapping. Moreover, even an experienced painter will paint with an airbrush. The main problem in this case are the intervents joints. At the joints, overlaps and excess paint are formed even with the adjusted spray jet width. At the same time, it is very important to maintain the same distance between the wall surface and the spray gun, and the speed of movement of the sprayer must also be the same.
The use of a spray gun is absolutely unacceptable for the application of translucent compounds. But for opaque painting of the facade, it is possible to use an airbrush, because with an opaque paint overlay, the overlaps become invisible.
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Preparing the gun for operation
- To adjust the flow of air and paint, the gun is suspended in a vertical position over a piece of newspaper and held at some distance from it.
- Press the trigger and do not release it until streaks form on the paint stain.
- Settings are corrected.
- The air nozzle is turned enough to form a fan-like flame.
- Need practice spraying continuous stripes with overlaps in different directions.
- To create a uniform coating, the tool is moved at the same speed, maintaining a certain distance from the wall.
- Having gained some experience in the use of the device, they proceed to direct spraying of paint on the facade walls.