What Causes Overspray With a Paint Spray Gun?

Written by chris hamilton
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What Causes Overspray With a Paint Spray Gun?
Paint spray guns are used to paint house exteriors. (house painting image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com)

Paint spray guns are used by professional painters to quickly finish large exterior or interior paint jobs. Paint spray guns require significant amounts of experience to use properly, as paint is sprayed rapidly to coat a surface. The most common problem experienced by beginners who use a paint spray gun is overspray. With overspray, paint is applied too thick, too thin, or unevenly, as a result of poor handling techniques. In addition, overspray can cause paint to coat unwanted surfaces.


Always prepare the surfaces that you intend to spray. Dust sheets (plastic sheeting) can be used to cover doors, windows, vinyl siding, brick, and other items near the borders of the area to be painted. Overspray can cause the paint to drift a long way from the target area, so make sure to adequately cover all borders with tape and dust sheets. Decks, sidewalks, and fences below the painted area should also be covered.


When using a paint spray gun, always paint in a set pattern to prevent an overspray of the same area. You may go side to side or up and down. Holding the spray gun at an angle causes overspray. Always hold the gun perpendicular to the surface when spraying.

Tip Size

Most paint spray guns have adjustable tips. If the stock tip that came with the unit is too large, buy a smaller one. New painters should choose a smaller 517 tip that provides greater control while reducing overspray. Paint needs to be thinned when using a smaller tip. You may want to get a series of different size tips in order to find the best one for your job.

Fan Pattern

Always hold the spray gun closer to the surface than the maximum recommendation. Doing so reduces overspray by narrowing the spray fan pattern of the gun. A wide fan pattern causes paint particles to be carried away by the wind, leaving paint applied unevenly to surfaces.


As you release the trigger of the spray gun, paint will flow from the gun temporarily. Learn how to control your paint spray gun by gradually releasing the trigger as you near the border of a painted area. Keep moving the gun until the paint has stopped flowing. This will prevent small puddles of paint from forming on the edge of the surface.

Air Control

For air spray guns, reduce the air pressure on the unit. This is done by adjusting the air control valve. To prevent overspray, find an ideal setting. An ideal setting will not throw paint too fast, which will give you the time to do the job properly. Lower air pressure requires the paint to be thinned.

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