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How to Thin Your Paints

Thinning Tips

There is not one right answer when it comes to thinning your material. Thinning your paints is a trial-and-error process that can take years to master. How you thin your material depends on several factors which include: temperature, application method (whether you are using a brush, roller or spray application) the paints that you are using, the brand of paint that you are using, the substance that you are painting, (i.e. wall, drywall, wood, metal, etc.) and the list of factors goes on...

Paint BrushThinning TipsLevel of Difficulty: 7-10

Tools needed:

Brush, Roller, or Paint Sprayer

Materials Required:

Paint, water Paint Thinner, and Lacquer Thinner


Latex Paints:

Water: For latex paints there is usually only one answer, water. However, there are times when in cold weather you may add isopropyl alcohol to keep the paint from freezing but this is not something that a novice painter should try. I personally would not recommend this practice - just wait till a warmer day! When adding water to paint, you should add only as little as possible to make the paint flow better. In hot weather add a just small amount of water in the bucket - without mixing - to keep it from skinning (i.e. drying in the bucket forming a skin) prematurely.

Floetrol Paint AdditiveFloetrol: Another important tip especially when spraying semi-gloss paints on doors or trim work is to add a product known as Floetrol to the paint. It helps the paint flow better, reduces paint runs, and eliminates brush and roller marks. It is an exceptional product and I highly recommend it!
Floetrol Reviews: Floetrol Reviews


Emulsa Bond Paint AdditveE-B Emulsa Bond: A tough bonding primer for chalky exterior surfaces

Available in U.S. Only

Emulsa Bond Reviews: Emulsa Bond Reviews

Oil-Based Paints

Paint Thinner: For oil-based paints there are many more options which depend on the application. When rolling oil-based paints, I usually just thin with straight paint thinner and add about 1/2 cup to 1 cup per gallon.

Penetrol Oil Base Paint AdditivePenetrol: When Brushing I usually thin with a small amount of paint thinner - like a cap-full and then add up to 1-1/2 cups of Penetrol until the paint flows smoothly with a brush. I use the trial and error method. The amount of Penetrol-to-Paint ratio can actually be quite tricky. Too little Penetrol and it's hard to brush and too much Penetrol and the paint won't cover... When Spraying oil-based paints, I do something very different from most painters. I usually thin my paint with straight lacquer thinner. But when using this method, it can only be used for spraying. This method allows the paint to dry quicker and after it dries - it looks like a lacquer finish!
Penetrol Reviews: Penetrol Reviews

These tips are the ones that I use the most, but there are certainly other thinning tricks such as lacquer thinner in oil-based paints, (which I learned from an old painter when i worked down in Palm Springs, CA) some which are very technical and others that are based on trial-and-error to see which works best. If you have any questions or have a trick or 2 of your own to share, please feel free to contact us or share them.