How to set up a paint gun to spray a car

Written by contributing writer
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Email

Setting up the equipment correctly is one of the trickiest parts of doing a paint job yourself. Paint manufacturers typically place simple, easy-to-read directions on their product containers, and it is nearly impossible to incorrectly mix your paint. Body fillers and spot filler manufacturers also have very detailed instructions on how to mix and apply their products. Using sandpaper is simple and requires no formal instruction. This leaves us with one final component in the painting process--setting up the paint gun.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Air compressor
  • Paint gun
  • Paint
  • Tape
  • Cardboard

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Learn the controls. Most paint guns have three basic controls. These include the fluid adjustment--the knob inline with the spray nozzle, typically the top knob on the rear of the gun. The fan control is the knob on the side of the gun, and the air micrometer is the lower knob on the rear of the gun.

  2. 2

    Set the fluid control. Begin by turning the fluid control nearly all the way out. Pull the trigger all the way back and begin turning the fluid control in until you feel pressure pushing back against the trigger. This allows the full volume of paint to exit your gun.

  3. 3

    Set the fan control. Turn this setting all the way open. This is what determines your spray pattern. The air flowing out of the holes on either side of the nozzle help to siphon the paint from the gravity cup and fan out your spray. Turning this knob all the way in will produce an unwanted round spray pattern.

  4. 4

    Set the air micrometer. This is normally set all the way open. This is used to fine tune the air pressure coming to the gun. It is best to follow the paint manufacturer's guidelines as to the air pressure settings.

  5. 5

    Test the pattern. With the knobs in the wide open position and paint in the cup, test your gun by spraying it at a piece of paper or cardboard taped on the wall. You should have a nice fan shaped elliptical pattern with a wet centre and small droplets of paint at the top and bottom edges. If you have a poor pattern, adjust your controls one at a time until you have the pattern you want. This is the time to make adjustments to the gun and mentally note what changes were made to your pattern. This will familiarise you to future needed adjustments.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice painting on an old car bonnet. This will allow you to play with the settings on the gun and develop a spray pattern that you like.
  • Never exceed the manufacturer's recommended air pressure with a paint gun. Serious bodily damage could result from an over-pressurised gun.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.