How To Thin Latex Paint

When it comes to quick paint jobs, latex paint takes a bunch of points against oil-based paints mainly because they dry up quickly and it’s easier to run under water. However, if left for a very long time on a shelf without a proper seal, the cold temperature can affect its consistency and settle over thickly. It is because the solvent rises to the surface as the particles of the paint sink down. Thick latex paint is not suitable for use when using paint brushes because you’ll naturally end up with a goopy mess both on your brush and on the surface. Forget using these in a paint sprayer as well because the suction tube will have a hard time getting the thick paint through the spray tip. It must first be thinned to be deemed usable, and there’s a proper procedure to do.

Thin latex paint like a PRO!

  • Of course, this is the case if the quality of the paint needs thinning. Some latex paints are made to be ready for usage. If you have no idea about the paint’s consistency, you can dip a clean stick into the can and observe the way it drips. Notice how fast or how slowly it falls off from the stick. No thinning is necessary if the paint comes off quickly. Paint with a thin consistency applies smoothly onto the surface and it won’t clog spray guns.


  • After making sure if your paint needs to thin, proceed to the next step. This procedure is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to changing the consistency of the pigment. You’ll need a can or a plastic tub about a gallon. Pour in a ½ can of water into the plastic container. Take the paint and pour it in, do this back and forth. Add half a gallon more and pour the mixture back and forth from tub to can. If you have more quantities of paint with different colors, you can also do this procedure to get the same consistency and color. Make sure to control the water as not to make the paint too thin.


          Why not try these techniques as well?


– Manually stir the paint up to 10 minutes to make sure the pigment is evenly mixed.

– Apply different motions while stirring the paint: up and down then spiral movements.

– Similar to the primary instruction above, pouring the latex paint back and forth will also help mix the paint evenly. Use two empty cans to do this.

– Do the boxing method. It is for mixing paints with colors that kills two birds with one stone: blending to create custom colors and thinning the paint at the same time.


Another option to think if the second step failed to deliver the results you want is to make use of a commercial paint thinner. Read and follow the instructions on the paint. A few cons when using commercial paint thinner is that it affects the shelf life, making it shorter. It is safe to say that using additives is suitable for big paint jobs where the materials will be all used up. It is also the pricier option.  Remember that you need to be working in an area with proper ventilation, or better, somewhere in an open field where the fumes won’t gather in one place. Wear the necessary gear for protection as well.


How to make latex paint suitable for spraying (without thinner):


  • Get an empty can, bucket or plastic tub.
  • For each gallon of paint, add half a cup of water gradually.
  • Stir the paint properly as you add the water to make sure that it distributes evenly.
  • To thoroughly check the consistency, use a funnel and pour in a fraction of the latex paint into it. If the paint is running smoothly and continuously, it’s ready for use. Otherwise, add a smaller portion of water per gallon and mix repeatedly.


If there’s leftover paint, do this trick. Pour some water on top of the latex paint without stirring to prevent the surface from drying. A bit of reminder when buying commercial thinners that tend to be expensive: you need to be sure that you’re buying a brand that would go well with the paint you’re using. Adding the correct amount of paint additive will give you a smooth consistency, one that won’t cause lumping or air bubbles once it lands on a surface. Try adding the thinner little by little while keeping watch if it’s already at the consistency that you prefer.