How to Prevent Overspray

How to prevent overspray is a question anyone that sprays paint will ask.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss various techniques and strategies on how to prevent overspray and ensure a clean and professional finish.

How to Prevent Overspray
I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

How to Prevent Overspray

There are many ways to prevent overspray which we will discuss below. You can adjust you paint sprayer in a few ways to reduce and prevent overspray:

  • Type of sprayer you use
  • The way you paint (technique)
  • Tip Size you use (use a smaller one)
  • Your Fan Width (make it narrower)
  • Adjusting the Spray Pattern (3-4 different patterns)
  • Using a Spray Shield

What is Overspray?

Overspray is the dispersion of paint particles that miss the intended surface and end up landing on nearby objects or surfaces. This is because paint and air are combined inside a paint sprayer in a process called atomization. When you spray paint, tiny particles that are not visible to the naked eye are released into the air. These overspray particles can float long distances, travel through ventilation, land on things you don’t want painted, and also, get into your lungs.

Overspray is a common problem that occurs during painting, especially when using spray paint. This can be frustrating and time-consuming to fix, not to mention potentially damaging to surrounding materials.

Overspray can occur when the spray gun is held too close or too far away from the surface being painted, the paint is released too quickly or too slowly, or the spray gun is moved too quickly or too slowly. Overspray can result in a messy, uneven, or unprofessional-looking finish and can be difficult and time-consuming to clean up. 

How to Prevent Overspray 

Why are you getting so much overspray? Reducing overspray starts with the type of sprayer you choose and your technique when using it.

Type of Sprayer You Use

Airless sprayers tend to have higher levels of overspray (40-50%) than other types of spray guns, like HVLP and LVLP (10-20% overspray rate). Lower overspray keeps paint costs down, because there is less paint floating around in the air, being wasted.

Reducing overspray is the main advantage of using an HVLP and LVLP spray gun instead of other types like airless. These two types of guns are the ones we recommend for beginner spray painters.

How do You reduce overspray with your HVLP Spray Gun? If your HVLP/LVLP sprayer has a pressure adjustment, you may need to lower it. Too much atomization of your paint from the air pressure will increase overspray. Also, follow the directions below while painting and you will see a reduction in your overspray levels.

Spraying with an LVLP gun results in the least amount of overspray of any type of spray gun on the market, even modern HVLP guns.  If you’re looking for the least amount of paint waste, choose an LVLP.  The spray is super soft and forgiving for beginners.    

Spraying with an LVLP is slower than using an HVLP, so add a bit of time to your project estimate if you’re used to painting with HVLP sprayers.  

Your Technique Needs Improvement

If you are new to spraying, your technique may need some work before your start on your project. Bad spraying technique will increase overspray. 

Keep your gun close to your paint surface too so the paint gets on the surface and not in the air. 

Maintaining the correct distance between the spray gun and the surface being painted is critical to preventing overspray. If the spray gun is held too close to the surface, the paint will be applied too thickly and may create drips or runs.

If the spray gun is held too far away, the paint particles will become too dispersed and may result in overspray. The proper distance will vary depending on the type of paint being used, the size of the surface being painted, and the spray gun being used.

Generally, a distance of 6 to 8 inches is recommended but consult with the manufacturer guide for your specific spray gun.

The speed and direction of the spray gun can also impact the amount of overspray. Moving the spray gun too quickly can cause the paint particles to become too dispersed, while moving too slowly can result in too much paint being applied in one spot. Additionally, moving the spray gun in a consistent direction can help ensure even coverage and minimize overspray. 

Finally, using the right painting technique can help prevent overspray. Always start and stop the spray gun off the surface being painted, and then move onto the surface with a continuous motion.

Use a sweeping motion from side to side or up and down, overlapping each pass slightly to ensure even coverage. Avoid holding the spray gun in one spot for too long and be sure to release the trigger before reaching the end of each pass. 

Need a Smaller Tip Size

Smaller tips also reduce overspray by providing a more direct spray onto your surface. Use the right tip for your job to reduce overspray. Using smaller fan widths also reduces paint overspray by focusing the paint onto your project instead of in the air. 

Also make sure that your tips/nozzles are thoroughly clean before using and not worn out because those two things will increase splatter and overspray.

When using a sprayer, thinner paint mediums like stains, lacquers etc., will require you to use smaller tip sizes. Thicker paints like oils and latex will require you to use a larger nozzle size. Follow the manufacturers recommendation for tip size and paint medium to reduce overspray as much as possible.

Here is a quick reference chart to pick the proper tip for your projects if you’re using an airless sprayer .

JobTip Size
Furniture (Oil)517 or 619
Coatings (Poly)313, 413, 415, 515
Walls/Ceilings (Latex)313, 413, 415, 515, 517
Decks/Fencing (Stains)313, 413, 415, 515
Cabinets (Enamel – Oil)313, 413, 415, 515
Primer (Oil)517, 619
Primer (Latex)415, 515, 517

Smaller Fan Width

A wide fan width can lead to more overspray. Set your fan width so that it’s the right size for your surface to provide proper coverage and no larger.

Larger fan widths are made for larger surfaces like walls or large pieces of furniture. Narrower fan widths can be used on trim, cabinets, smaller things you need to paint and it reduces overspray.

Adjust the Spray Pattern

The spray pattern refers to the shape of the paint mist that is emitted from the spray gun. By adjusting the spray pattern, you can control the amount of overspray that is created.

Most spray guns have adjustable spray patterns, which can be set to either vertical, horizontal, or circular shapes. Adjusting the spray pattern can also help ensure even coverage and a smooth finish. 

Having different spray patterns to choose from means that you can conquer a ton of staining projects.  

You can switch up your pattern to reduce overspray, which saves you money on paint.  

best fence stain sprayer

Using a Spray Shield

A spray paint shield is a tool used in painting to protect surfaces that should not be painted. It is typically made of plastic or metal and is designed to be held in one hand while spraying paint with the other.

The shield has a straight edge with a curved or angled top that can be positioned along the edge of the surface being painted. This creates a barrier between the paint and the surface that needs to be protected from overspray.

The spray paint shield is particularly useful when painting around windows, doors, baseboards, or other surfaces that require precise lines and edges.

The shield can be adjusted to different angles and distances from the surface being painted, allowing for more control over the application of paint. It also helps to prevent drips and splatters, resulting in a cleaner finish.

What Causes Excessive Overspray?

As discussed above, excessive overspray can be caused by a too large tip size, air pressure too strong, using a high pressure paint sprayer like an airless model (too much air pressure when painting), a too large fan width, spraying too far away from your project, and your general technique if new to spraying paint.

How Much Paint do You Lose to Overspray?

Airless sprayers tend to have higher levels of overspray (40-50%) than other types of spray guns, like HVLP and LVLP (10-20% overspray rate). Lower overspray keeps paint costs down, because there is less paint floating around in the air being wasted.

How to Keep Overspray from Getting on Everything

To keep overspray from getting everywhere, you must cover all your surfaces that are not getting painted with plastic or newsprint and tape it down. This includes your vents, windows, floors, etc. 

Here is our quick supply list to grab to make sure you have everything you need to mask of your painting area right the first time.  

First Things First: Masking Your Floor  

To keep overspray from landing on your floor, you must cover it in plastic sheeting.  You will need to cut the plastic sheeting or newspaper to match the dimensions of your floor.  Then, you tape together the sections.    

Using a durable tape here like regular masking tape or duct tape is important.  This prevents the sheeting from coming loose and exposing your floor to paint droplets.   

It also stops the sheeting or newspaper from lifting and creating a hazard that you might trip on.    

Make sure to get the sheeting/paper underneath your furniture too.  Paint overspray is so small, any bit of airflow will blow the paint into any nook and cranny you’ve left unmasked.  

Second: Seal Off Your Doorways and Air Vents  

Make sure you’ve turned off your furnace or air conditioning system before you start painting.  Paint droplets are so small they will get into your air system and could land on anything in your house. 

Make sure you mask off the furnace and/or air conditioning vents to keep any particles from making their way into your system.  

Third: Your Furniture, Fixtures, and Walls  

How to prevent overspray from getting everywhere when painting includes covering your furniture and fixtures in plastic sheeting, newspaper or rosin paper.  This includes your couch, chairs, wall light fixtures, lamps, and anything else you can think of that you don’t want to get any paint on.   

Don’t skimp out on the material that you cover your items, paint WILL find a way in if you do.  

Don’t forget to remove your light switch and plug covers and mask off the holes in the walls.  Don’t forget to mask off any walls you don’t want painted as well.

How to Remove Overspray

Removing paint overspray can be a challenging task, but there are several methods that you can use to remove it effectively. Here are some steps that you can follow to remove paint overspray:

  • Wash the surface: Start by washing the surface with soap and water to remove any loose paint particles. This will work for water based paints like latex.
  • Use a clay bar: If the overspray is still present, use a clay bar to gently remove the overspray. This will help to lift the paint particles from the surface without damaging it.
  • Try solvents: If the clay bar does not work, for oil based paints and primers, you can try using solvents such as acetone or mineral spirits. Apply the solvent to a clean cloth and gently rub the overspray until it starts to dissolve. Be careful not to rub too hard, as this can damage the surface.
  • Use a polishing compound: If the overspray is still visible, you can try using a polishing compound to remove it. Apply the compound to a clean cloth and gently rub the overspray until it starts to come off.

Remember to wear protective gloves and eye wear when handling solvents, and always test any cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire surface.

How to Reduce Overspray with an Airless Sprayer

All of these steps are discussed above and reduce overspray for all types of sprayers.

  • Adjust the pressure
  • Use the right tip
  • Hold the gun at the correct distance
  • Practice proper technique

How to Prevent Overspray when Painting a Car

Follow the techniques above to reduce overspray, especially using the right tip size, an LVLP (low pressure) sprayer, and improving your painting technique.

Do You Need a Mask to Paint? 

You should always be using the best paint respirator mask when painting.  Most paints release fumes into the air that are not healthy to breathe, even when using a brush or a paint roller.   

This is so important when painting with the best paint sprayer. Overspray particles are so small, you can’t see them.  What happens is, the paint is then inhaled into your lungs like air when you breathe. It can even make it’s way through your ventilation into other rooms, so proper sealing and masking of your painting area is very important. 

The type of spray painting protection you’ll need can depend on the type or types of paints you’re using.  One mask may work for some paints and fumes but not others.  Please check out our post on the best paint respirators for more specific information. 

How to Prevent Overspray Conclusion

How to prevent overspray requires proper preparation, equipment, and technique. By following these tips, you can achieve a clean and professional finish while minimizing the risk of damaging nearby objects or surfaces. With practice and patience, you can master the art of spray painting and enjoy the many benefits it offers.


What Type of Sprayer has the least amount of overspray?

LVLP (Low Volume Low Pressure) and HVLP are great at reducing overspray and are beginner friendly.