Water-based enamels spraying; the way to go…

Over the years, trends and ideas change as new technologies are developed and new skills are learned. Taking advantage of those new technologies and trends often means you’re able to complete projects more quickly, and you’re able to produce better results. 

Traditionally, paint was available in two varieties: water-based acrylic and oil-based enamel. Early oil-based enamel was long-lasting while water-based acrylic would quickly wear away and could be affected by rain or other moisture. 

Professionals and DIY’ers alike now have access to modern, high-quality, water-based enamel paints, many of which include latex as an additive, making it hard-wearing and durable, and able to retain its colour for years.

At PaintAccess we can provide you with guidance and advice so that you get the best results possible from your water-based enamels. Contact us today if you need help with a specific project, or you need helping picking the right product.


Water-based vs. Oil-based

Is there any need to use oil-based paints anymore? 

Water-based paints use mostly water as a solvent (the liquid that evaporates as paint dries) whereas oil-based paints use substances like mineral turpentine. Water-based paints give off fewer odours, while oil-based paints have a strong “paint smell” and those fumes can be problematic. 

Ongoing exposure to the fumes of oil-based paints can cause headaches and skin irritation and so oil-based paints are often recommended only for outdoor painting, in areas with good ventilation. The mineral turpentine component of oil-based paint is also flammable.

Water-based enamel paints have far fewer fumes and are generally non-flammable. This makes them ideal for both indoor and outdoor projects, and for use over large areas.

Oil-based paints are capable of producing a higher-gloss finish (that glossy, somewhat oily finish) but lose that quality over time. Water-based paints are generally lower-gloss (though special high-gloss variants now exist) but they retain that quality for longer because of their latex component

Water-based enamels are available in a multitude of colours, with a wide variety of finishes, for a huge range of applications. Colour-matching technology means it should be possible to find a water-based enamel paint in exactly the colour you need. Then it’s just a matter of applying it.

Spray vs. brush (or roller)

Typically, paint that is applied using compressed air and a spray gun should be thinner. To ensure continued flow of paint from the storage vessel to the spray gun, paint should be of a low viscosity (that is, it should be “runny”). As the paint is thinner it is applied in thinner layers. This does 4 things – 

  1. applies paint more evenly;
  2. applies paint without brush-strokes;
  3. reduces drying time; 
  4. requires additional applications.

Brush-applied (or roller applied) paint is thicker, is applied in thicker layers, takes longer to dry, can be uneven, and often has visible brush-strokes (or roller marks). It does, however, require fewer applications. Spray paint can take 3-4 coats, whereas brush or roller paint can be completed in 1-2 coats. 

While the need to apply 3-4 coats might be discouraging, [an experienced spray painter] can complete a single coat in minutes. And with reduced drying time, those multiple coats can be completed in a single day. 

Thinning water-based enamel for spraying

Because water is one of the main components of water-based paint, it is easy to make thinner by adding water. This is particularly helpful if you plan to apply it using a spray-gun which requires a lower-viscosity paint.

Water-based enamel paint can be thinned by pouring a portion of paint into a clean bucket and then gradually adding water and mixing with a paint-stirring stick. The exact amount of water required will depend on the paint and the spray gun you are using, but an approximate ratio of 30:1 is generally recommended. Your hardware supplier can provide additional advice, or you can ask a PaintAccess expert.

A new way to spray

Typical spray-painting systems use an air compressor in combination with a paint reservoir; both paint and air are fed into a spray gun and combined to project paint onto a surface when you pull the trigger. These are sometimes referred to as high volume low pressure (HVLP) sprayers. Because the paint is being mixed with air, it needs to be thinned so it is less viscous. This is done with water (for water-based paints) or paint thinner (for oil-based paints).

Modern airless spray-painting systems apply pressure to the paint itself, which allows the paint to become its own projectile. Because the paint is the only thing being sprayed, it only needs to be thinned a little bit (or sometimes, not at all). Thicker paint still means thicker coats, but without brush-strokes or roller-marks. It also requires fewer coats. It’s the “best of both worlds” and has become the method of choice for most professional painters. It’s also the method of choice for most of our BorisDoes Taskers and Businesses.

BorisDoes? What’s that? 

BorisDoes is a new and unique Australian tasker platform designed to connect those who need things done with those who can do them. Registering with BorisDoes is quick and easy. From there you can find the Tasker or Business that’s right for you. 

That means you can find a professional painter in your area who can help you choose a water-based enamel paint, and can then apply that paint using the latest airless spraying tools and techniques. 

Alright, I’m ready…

Ultimately, water-based enamel spraying is just one of the many product and technique combinations you can use to complete your project. It might not be the right choice for you, and the PaintAccess blog and guides have information about a wide range of other techniques and methodologies you can use for your project. And if you need a bit of extra help you can hire someone from BorisDoes. 

At PaintAccess we love seeing finished projects and so we’ll help you in any way we can. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.