How To Thin Enamel Paint in 2021

cans paint with brush how to thin enamel paint

You need to thin enamel paint for various reasons. How to thin enamel paint into a smooth and consistent fluid for the application is what we will address here.   It is particularly vital when you have to airbrush the paint. Thinning enamel paint is also important to ensure you use it efficiently. Good thinning means you can use the same tub of enamel for greater paint coverage. Mineral spirits, white spirits, and water are the solutions generally used as enamel paint thinners. However, many people taking on DIY paintjobs don’t know how to thin enamel paint.

For all those homeowners thinning enamel paints based on guesswork, we have put up this guide. Here will discuss in detail how to thin enamel paint for the perfect smoothness, consistency, and quantity.

Things You Will Need to Thin Enamel Paints

Before we discuss how to thin enamel paint, outline all the things you need for the job apart from the enamel paint.

Safety goggles, gloves, and a respirator: Safety comes first no matter what type of home improvement or art task you are carrying out. When handling oil-based enamel paints that emit harmful fumes and chemical thinners, safety measures become all more important. Therefore, make sure you are using gloves, respirator, and safety goggles while thinning the enamel paint. If you can’t get a respirator easily, wear a mask.

A stirrer and a strainer: Thinning is essentially mixing since you are mixing the enamel with spirits. For the right mixing, you will need a stirrer as well as a strainer. You can use any wooden or plastic stick as a paint stirrer. However, avoid using makeshift sieves and go for purpose-built paint strainers available in the market. An off-the-shelf paint strainer is a disposable item that features a fine mesh that helps remove all the clumps, dust, dried flakes, and other impurities from the mixer of the thinned-out enamel mixture.

Paintbrush, rollers, sponge, or spray gun: Depending on the tool you will use to apply the enamel paint, make sure you have it while thinning out the mixture. You will need a paintbrush, roller, or spray gun during the testing phase (more on that later).

Last but not least, you will need the thinners (water or mineral spirit depending on your brand and paint specifics on the label), a container to mix the thinner and paint, and a board for the testing.

Once you have all the items listed above, you are all set for thinning out your enamel paint bucket.

Pick a Ventilated Space

We can’t stress enough how important it is to pick the ventilated space for the thinning and mixing job. Even if you are using a new respirator, you need to work at a place with proper ventilation. If you are not wearing a respirator or a mask, then picking a well-ventilated space is a must. These are some signs of a well-ventilated space.

  • It has doors, windows, or pans opening on at least 2 opposite sides
  • It has a high ceiling
  • It has an exhaust fan in place

If your chosen space doesn’t fulfill any of the three criteria mention above, you should not proceed with this mixing work that involves harmful VOC fumes.

Go Through the Label of the Paint Product

Once you are satisfied with the ventilation of your mixing site, look at the label of the paint product. Make sure it is well within its expiration date. Also, read the label to find out whether the enamel you are going to thin out is either water-based or oil-based. Without reading the label, you can make the mistake of adding the wrong thinner to the paint!  It’s like putting regular gas into a diesel car….disaster!   For instance, if your enamel paint tub is oil-based, you can’t use water as your thinner.

Test It First Without Thinning It Out

Contrary to popular belief, not all enamel paints need thinning. Many homeowners assume that since an enamel paint product is manufactured to be used with a thinner, it always needs thinning. If you don’t want to mess up the consistency and thickness of your enamel, we would suggest you try it first without adding any thinner to it.

We recommend a spray gun for this testing job because the airbrushing application makes it easier for you to determine if the paint has the right smoothness and viscosity. A good practice is to pour the paint solution in a spray gain through a strainer. A top-quality strainer filters out all the small invisible lumps from the paint that can block the nozzle of the spray gun.

After filling the gun, spray it onto the testing board and closely observe it for some moments. If the paint spreads smoothly and then dries to form an even surface, you don’t need any thinning. Close this guide and kick off your enamel paint job.

However, if the spray gun doesn’t seem to intersperse the paint with fluency and a consistent spary, and its coat doesn’t dry to make a smooth and even surface, you need to move to the next step.

Thin Out the Enamel

thin paint with gloves how to thin enamel paint
It’s a good idea to wear gloves when thinning enamel paint

Bring the large mixing bucket and pour the enamel paint into it. Then, pick the thinner (mineral spirit, white spirit, or water) and pour it into the bucket as per the recommended quantity. Usually, a gallon of enamel paint needs one or half a pint of the thinner. As you pour the thinner into the paint, keep stirring the mixture and see how this addition is changing the viscosity of the paint.

Test It

Once you are sure that the thinner and paint have mixed well and acquired the same consistency, you should test the thinned-out paint again for its consistency. Also, this time you should test it for a double coat. If the thinned paint mixture offers you the required result after drying, you can use it for your paintjob. However, if the mixture is still too thick, you need to add more thinner to it. Always add the second batch of the thinner in a very small quantity, stir the mixture and conduct the double coating test again until you are satisfied with the result.

Thinning Out Enamel Paint Like a Pro: 5 Tips to Consider

Before we wrap up this guide, we would like to share some expert tips on how to thin enamel paint like a pro. Keeping these tips in mind will save you from wasting your paints and thinners with botched-up mixing.

  1. Conduct a test after small additions of thinners to prevent over-thinning. This will take time, but it will save your paint.
  2. Don’t use two thinners to mix the same tub of enamel paint.
  3. When it is humid, you will need to add more thinner to the enamels, particularly the oil-based ones.
  4. Always read the paint label from start to end. Every paint product might have different mixing instructions that you need to be aware of.
  5. Put a thinner through a measuring beaker to determine its exact amount you need for thinning out the paint. Finding this out will help you in future painting jobs.

For More Information

Check out my other aticles on paint:

Latex Paint Vs. Enamel Paint

10 Most Asked Questions About Acrylic Paint – I’ve got all the answers!


We hope that the above discussion thoroughly helps you understand how to thin enamel paint. If you have any questions about how to thin water or oil-based enamel paints, shoot them away in the comment section. We will get back to you with an answer ASAP.




Anita HC

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