When I moved to the US and began painting with spray paint from this country I had to make many adjustments. I was used to Comex brand spray paint from Mexico. I assembled a group of spray paints, mostly from the hardware store that more or less had the same capabilities as Comex, the original spray paint of Mexican Aerosolgrafia (spray paint art). I painted many things with these brands, mostly Painters Touch, Rustoleum, Krylon Metallics, Colorplace ( now called Fast Dry from Walmart) and a few others. I discovered that these colors had many irritating solvents and often the colors were a bit faded. I decided to switch to a higher quality brand. I tried MTN hardcore at the recommendation of another spray painter and was pleasantly surprised. The MTN spray paints had more brilliant color and much less harmful solvents. I struggled with many issues in adapting to these paints including clogging caps and sticky paint. There were some hardware store paints that were simply not replaceable and I kept using those. MTN hardcore was comparable in price to the hardware store brands.
After speaking with the people at ArtPrimo, the place where I was buying my paints, they recommended Montana 94 as a better quality paint. I hadn't tried that paint before since the site said it was matte and thin. This year I ordered a bunch of Montana 94 plus many Molotov transparent spray paints. I have grown to love these brands as well. They behave very differently from the MTN hardcore. But in it's own way thy are very useful.
I also tried “Blue Flame” and was pleasantly surprised that this less expensive brand seemed to have the same quality and even better workablity than the Montana brands.
Lately I have tried Montana water based 300 and loved it for it's quality and it's safety. That's currently my favorite. It seems to have everything I want, including a few of it's own semi transparent cans.
Below I review several brands of spray paint and talk about their positives and negatives. I also give some suggested lists for different kinds of needs. I hope they are helpful to you! None of these lists are carved in stone, they are basic suggestions. Feel free to pick your favorite shades for each color. As long as you have the primary colors, you should be able to paint cool stuff.
If you are working with other brands, don't worry, you will have to make some adjustments but you will be able to follow the lessons just fine. If you have any questions, please write me at email@example.com
Montana Water Based 300
The Advantages: No VOC's, that means these are much less toxic than other brands. They are slightly flammable however, less than regular spray paints, but slightly. They do contain alcohol. So don't fill a room with the spray and light a bomb off. People do paint inside and smoke with no problem however. (though I don't recommend smoking either!) Gorgeous bright lush paint. You don't need to buy clear because you can just use water. High pigment, so you can use less. Cans are easy to control and don't spatter as long as you keep the caps clean. In my opinion the most perfect paint so far!
The Disadvantages: Cans are more expensive than most. I've found a source to get them for about $7.50 per can but the cans are smaller than regular cans. (but remember you don't need clear, so you save some money there)
Here is my current favorite source.https://www.sprayplanet.com If you sign up for their whole sale account you can get cans for $5 each or less. You do have to convince them you are a business to get that. An art web page helps for that.
Doing Spray Paint Art with Regular Tubes of Acrylic Paint:
Acrylic Colors from the art store: Yes! You can do spray paint art with regular acrylic tubes of paint. Learn more here: http://airbrushpaintingsecrets.com/
The advantages: Much lower in solvents than any hardware store brand. It is slightly cheaper then 94. It's a thick paint that works well for intense color and most spray paint art applications. There are lots of colors to choose from. It's a glossy lush paint. You can easily get texture if you want it. This paint contains less solvents than hardware store brands. It's good for painting on canvas because it's so thick. It's a very wet paint that slides easily to create land. Basically a very wet concentrated color
The disadvantages: It comes out globby, especially if cold. The caps clog regularly. You need to purchase lots of extra caps. It only seems to work well with skinny banana caps and colorplace caps. It has more solvents than the Montana 94. Depending on the temperature it may not be possible to get a soft look to the spray. This is a problem when you want soft clouds. It's very hard to wash off..a very sticky paint.
Caps that work with it: Caps from Colorplace spray paint work great and don't seem to clog much The skinny banana cap sold by ArtPrimo works with it. You can't do a comet with this cap though.
Montana 94 The advantages: This brand has the lowest amount of harmful solvents. This paint is based on acetone only. Acetone is the stuff in nail polish remover. It contains no other solvent. This is a nice matte, thin, dry paint. Ultimately though it will come out glossy since you will definitely need lots of transparent to work with it. So it doesn't make a huge difference in the end. This paint has a dry feel to it..it often doesn't slide well by it self (you must spray transparent on it to work with it). To use it to paint with you must also add transparent to get any kind of long lines. Being dry has some advantages though. It creates some nice different softer kinds of marbling effect when you use it with newspaper..so it adds to your range. You can use all the Montana brands together without the paint breaking up..so it can be combined with all the other stuff. It has nice bright deep colors that have a very artistic look. Much better color than the hardware store brands. The thick color is dry and matte. It doesn't clog the caps as much as MTN hardcore and more caps can be used with it. It does clog them eventually though. This paint is really good for etching effects. It's much better than the MTN hardcore for spatula painting. It is a good replacement for Rustoleum in any etching painting. It does behave a bit differently though. Once the color is on the paper, you will never get back down to the white paper beneath. This paint is easy to get off your hands. It seems to peel off. If you use it together with the MTN hardcore, your hands will still be somewhat easier to wash.
The disadvantages: This paint doesn't slide as well by itself, you will have to use more transparent. The caps clog somewhat quickly. It's better than the MTN hardcore, but still not great. You can't do comets or spray stars with the caps. It's slightly more expensive than MTN Hardcore. The cans get spattery quickly. You should buy lots of extra caps. Very sensitive to cold weather. Needs to be shaken more so it won't clog.
Caps: Grey and gold dots work well as do black dots or micro caps. The blue dot is best for fading. Universal also works.
Molotow and MolotowTransparents: Molotow is a great brand for spray paint art. It's glossy and thin but the colors are substantial enough for most effects. I recommend getting black, white and any colors that please you. It is not as good for the woodblocking effects as Montana 94 and it is much thinner than MTN hardcore, so it flows differently when applied by newspaper. But there are many unique things you can do with this brand. It has a fine artistic finish as well plus low solvent content. The caps clog much less frequently as well. Highly recommended. The transparent colors are fricking awesome. They are great for many many uses such as creating a soft shadow or hue, You can create details in galaxies, stars, underwater scenes, and anywhere you need a subtle gradual shading. I highly recommend having a bunch of these.
The Advantages: These cans make up for the opaque nature of all other Montana paints. You can get very very subtle shading in any color. These can replace metallic spray paints for most uses. They cost the same as the metallic spray paint anyway.
The Disadvantages: These are a bit pricey (like metallic spray paint). They are so thin that you need quite a bit to get enough color. Towards the end of the life of the can they can spatter a little bit.
Selecting colors: I would recommend specific colors, but they often change the available colors so you might not be able to get the colors I mention. Most websites will have a color swatch posted for every color they sell so you can pick your favorites. I will mention a few of my favorites... I love MTN hardcore surgical green..I use it for underwater stuff and making jungle mist etc I haven't found a difference between all the different blacks and whites except for the MTN cream white, which was slightly off white. I've tried several purples including pale violet, signal violet, and republic violet and haven't found a nice bright purple yet. The MTN purples seem faded to me. Perhaps the 94 purples are better. The darker greens and reds are very very dark..which is cool..but just make sure you get some lighter versions too. Make sure you get a dark blue..the lighter blues aren't enough for many purposes. Get a warm (yellowy) green and also a cool (bluish) green to be able to make forests with perspective.
A new brand from 2014! A little cheaper and very cool. http://artprimo.com/catalog/spray-paint-flame-blue-spray-paint-c-26_242.html http://shop.molotow.com/cans/flame/ Just google "blue flame spray paint" to find more options. These cans are great! Nice thick paint, bright color. Great for landscapes. I used them to paint an entire year of lessons. Combine with a transparent paint from a hardware store because you will need the solvents to loosen up the paint. For example Rustoleum Crystal Clear or Krylon Clear or whatever is available in your area that has solvents in it. This is not a glossy paint, but the result is beautiful when combined with a glossy transparent or clear coat! Seems to mix fine with Rustoleum, Molotow, Colorplace among others. I did not encounter cracking unless I used a HUGE amount of clearcoat or thin color. Highly recommended.
Caps: Grey and gold dots work well as do black dots or micro caps. The blue dot is best for fading.
Montana waterbased 300 should be used only with itself to maintain the benefits of being free of VOC's.
All the other brands that I mention can be combined although there are some things to keep in mind.
If you ask the spray paint sellers, they will tell you that when you spray a thinner color on top of a wet thicker color, you run the risk of cracking and shifting of paint and you can get some weird things happening. I have noticed that this isn't exactly true. Some thinner paints seem fine on top of some thicker paints and it can be unpredictable when you will get cracking. I have had intermittent cracking of my paint when using Molotow above MTN Hardcore. It seems to depend on how much paint I use and the weather. But sometimes when it “should” crack, it doesn't.
Another issue is the dilution of the paint. If you spray paints with different levels of solvent and pigment on top of each other, you may get some weird bubbling or shifting of colors. Since the formula of each color in various brands is not standardized, this can be hard to predict.
If you do get cracking or bubbling or some other weird thing, I recommend you keep a journal of what you did and the climate at the time and begin to use the effects to create your own unique style. Keep in mind that anytime you mix paints that have very different qualities thick/thin dilute/non-dilute for example, you may get weird things happening.
Another issue is the different solvents that each brand uses. Those can react as well. One example is Molotow above Montana 94. That can get weird.
Some paints will react only when wet. Some only when dry! So do a test before you layer your paints to make sure it will all work out. If you are wanting to add extra gloss to an already dry spray painting, use Molotow transparent as it has no solvents in it and is simply an acrylic gloss. Do a test anyway to make sure it all works! Don't want to ruin anything.
By the way, you can also polish your spray paintings and remove scratches with furniture polish like Pledge. (But don't spray anything on top of that!)
Hardware store paint:
Colorplace: This is called "fast dry" now. It comes in a blue can and costs about $1 Black and white from Walmart. Get some colors too if you want to get more creative.
The advantages: This paint is indispensable for soft lights and shading. It is a brighter paint than the Molotov transparents. It never spatters. The caps rock. It's incredibly cheap.
The disadvantages: This paint has some very harmful irritating solvents. You should only use it for small details. Better yet, use Montana waterbased 300 which has semi-transparent black and white which will replace Colorplace just fine.
Painters Touch: I like to have Painters Touch red because it is a thin paint and if you add paint to it, the added paint expands..which is a useful effect for making roses, mushrooms and other uses. Check the videos about roses and mushrooms to see how it acts.
Rustoleum: I like to have several Rustoleum paints handy because they are great for carved effects. These are only useful if you plan to paint faces, carve the paint with the spatula, create woodblock effects. See the videos on faces for a look at what this does. I recommend white and black. If you like it, get red, blue, yellow, brown and whatever other colors you like. Be careful not to get Painters Touch. It's very different. You will absolutely need Rustoleum Crystal clear. It's my favorite transparent and it's necessary to have a transparent to work with any spray paint to prevent drying. The metallic colors create some interesting effects when used for the woodblock style. I will demonstrate this in the future.
The advantages: Nice bright clean thin paint. Very easy to work with. Great for work with the spatula when you want the colors underneath to come off in layers.
The disadvantages: Lots of harmful solvents. Not as beautiful as Montana brands.
Bright beauty transparent This is a transparent spray paint available from car accessory stores. It is very useful for making watery effects. See the “special transparents” video in Module 3 to see how it's used. You can also get it on Amazon, though it's more expensive. The part number is BB392 Here is another source: http://www.northernautoparts.com Type the part number in their search engine to bring up the product.
Molotov Transparent This is a nice glossy transparent from Molotov at ArtPrimo. It is good for woodblock, etching, spatula type effects when used to prevent a layer from being damaged. It is not so good for moistening the painting. It doesn't seem to penetrate.
Krylon Triple Thick Crystal Clear This is useful for making waves. It is not essential, but adds a nice touch.
How to Choose Your Colors
Rock Bottom List White Black Yellow Orange Red Dark blue Medium green, Transparent (or Colorplace) white and black.
Basic Color List Most people will want to have at least this basic color list. This a good place to start. Again, buy a combination of brands or get Montana Waterbased 300. White, Black, Yellow, Orange, Red, Transparent or metallic Red, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Transparent blue, Dark green, Light green, Transparent Green, Brown, Purple, Medium Pink, Transparent, transparent black, transparent white
Advanced Color List Add these to the basic list to have more fun! Transparent Purple, Transparent green, Transparent yellow, Tan, Light pink, Maroon, Medium blue, Leaf green ,Golden green, Surgical green, any florescent colors available in your favorite brand.
Expert Add any other colors you like!
The most popular question that I get from people who write and comment on the Spray Paint Art Secrets YouTube videos is "what paper do you use"? The answer is ...drumroll.....mostly posterboard in the US. In Mexico and Costa Rica and probably much of Latin America you can use a paper called "Cartulina Sulfatada" and another called "Caple" These are basically thick posterboards of various types. The important thing is that the paper be slightly glossy so that it doesn't absorb too much spray paint. The best place I have found to buy posterboard is Walmart. Staples is a close second. There is a company, http://www.internationalpaper.com/US/EN/Products/CarolinaPP/CarolinaAdvantage.html that has just been recommended to me by a student of Hugo Montero that sells nice paper to paint on but you will have to call them to ask where you can purchase in your area. I will have more info on this soon. Dick Blick sells several types of posterboard and you can order online from them. http://www.dickblick.com/ My favorites are Railroad Board, 6 ply (item 13105-1102) Y Posterboard 8Ply (Item 13109-1302) This paper is very absorbent however and is more useful for acrylic work. What you want most of the time is a thick glossy smooth paper. Posterboard that is not glossy can work too depending on your style. The painting usually comes out without a gloss on top, but actually that can be a good thing if you will be displaying it under bright lights. It's possible to paint on many surfaces including prepared wood, glass, prepared leather, cars, walls, and much much more. There is more info on how to prepare surfaces in the ebook "Secrets of Mexico" which you get with your membership when you sign up.
Get lots of extra caps...it's much easier to just replace them, and not terribly expensive..also you can rotate cleaning them this way
Caps clog mostly for 2 reasons. The first is that paint can dry inside the cap. The second is that a clog of paint came up from the can and clogged the spray mechanism. To avoid this, make sure you shake the can a lot before using it. The thicker your paint, the more likely this is to happen.
Shake your cans before using them and when you are done spray painting, turn your cans upside down and spray a little bit that way. That will help to keep them clean as you go.
Just FYI, cans clog more easily in low temperatures.
It's easy to clean your caps. Get an old glass jar with a metal cap. You will need either lacquer or acetone thinner from a hardware store. Put your dirty caps in the jar and fill with the thinner halfway. (Don't fill the jar completely) Let them soak overnight. Then in the morning shake the jar very hard to dislodge all the paint from the caps. Let them soak another hour and then rinse in the sink with water until all the old paint is gone. Then you will have clean caps!
Test each cap on a can of transparent if possible before putting on a color, that way you will make sure to clean out anything stuck inside. If it won't spray, turn the can upside down and try again.
Another quicker way to clean the caps is, you can get a can of "graffiti remover" in some hardware stores or “MTN Solvent” from an online spray paint seller. This is great for spraying through the caps also to really clean them out after you have soaked them.
You can wipe the caps off with a paper towel and a little bit of solvent as well.
(Wear protective gloves when you do all this so you don't get solvents on your hands.)
Some caps are just easier to clog. Figure out which ones work best for you and drop the rest! My favorites are the ones you get off old colorplace cans (bought at walmart) they last forever.
Problems with caps:
Caps can drip and spatter. This can be because the cap is damaged or the can is damaged. Throw away the cap and try another. If that doesn't work, clean the place on the can where the paint comes out with solvent and a rag.
If this doesn't work, it may also be that the cap is not right for the can. You probably already know that caps come in male and female and you can only use the appropriate cap for a can, otherwise it just won't go on. You might not have noticed that the width of the tube in the male cans can vary. Some are thick and some are thin. Some cans, Montana for example, only work with the wider tubes. So if you are getting dripping, it may be that the cap just doesn't fit the can.
This is a useful guide to understanding how a spray can works.
It's also possible, but not common, that the can itself might clog. This can happen especially when it's been unused for a long time, like over the winter. Make sure you shake and shake the can if you are using it after a long break. This will avoid the problem. If you do get a clogged can, you can try spraying some solvent or graffiti remover into the stem of the can and letting it sit for a while.
Colorplace Caps: The Advantages: This is my favorite cap. It hardly ever clogs.
The disadvantages: This cap is only sold on the actual can. You have to actually buy a Colorplace spray paint at Walmart to get it. You have to keep them clean and take care of them.
Skinny Banana The advantages:.pretty good spray cap, easy to use..disadvantages..can't do comets or make spray stars
Grey Dots, Gold Dots, Black Dots: These all work fine with Montana 94 and Molotow
BlueDot: Good for fading
Sponges and Scrubbies!
These are great tools to work with. My favorite in the US is the Scotch Brite Greener clean non-scratch sponge. Cut them into little semi circles or whatever shape you want to create foliage and other effects. Very useful!!! Regular kitchen sponges are great for making galaxies and when you want to blend colors more softly Magic eraser sponges are fun too.... Try all the sponges and weird stuff you can get your hands on...they all do different stuff. These are just some examples, but there are so many more sponges you can buy and cut into shapes.
More Cool Tools
This is a paint pad that you can get at the hardware store or department store. The brand I have found in the US is called Shur-Line. This is called a "paint pad replacement". They are used for painting decks. They have little hairs on them which makes them great for foliage. Cut them into little semi-circle to make bushes etc...
The green scrubbies that you use to wash your pots are very useful for all sorts of things.
A car wash sponge is useful for far away foliage.
A "fregon" washcloth is great for stars and foliage. It's not important to get the same brand. What's important are the tiny little plastic loops on this washcloth.
Different kind of socks with different textures are fun to play with. I've done landscapes using kids socks and old sweat socks with great success!
There are some great texture tools that are useful.
This is called a "rubber texture tool" and you can get it at a clay supply store or website. There are many varieties of these tools with different patterns.
Scrapers are useful. This one is used for applying grout.
There are smaller metal scrapers that are also bought in a clay supply store or website.
They clay stores also have tons of plastic and rubber scrapers. I haven't tried the wooden ones...
Ventilation and protection are super important when you paint so that you don't hurt your body. Most spray paint has some kind of VOC or Volatile Organic Compounds in it. These are BAD FOR YOU!!! Some paint has less than others. The safest spray paint I have found so far is Montana Waterbased 300. Here is a chart I found here that shows you the quantities of solvents in each brand.
|Brand||Percentage of Xn|
|Montana Gold||14–29 %|
|mtn 94||2.5–15 %|
|mtn Hardcore 2||15–30 %|
|mtn Water Based||0 %|
|mtn Alien||15–37.5 %|
|mtn Hardcore||15–37.5 %|
Montana Waterbased 300 contains only Dimetileter, alcohol etilico and alcohol isopropilico. None of these are solvents and all are used in cosmetics!
Hardware store brands contain MUCH MUCH more solvents and worse solvents than the brands listed here.
Montana brands use mostly acetone, which is the same thing in nail polish remover. Hardware store brands use stuff like Tolulene which is significantly more dangerous to your health.
To do spray paint art with any brand of spray paint you need to get a great spray mask!
Please please please get a good one that protects you well.
How do you tell if it works?
Here are two ways.
One, get a strong essential oil like banana oil and put your mask on and try to smell it...or just test it with a bit of paint thinner. If you can smell it, it's getting in your mask. Use your first impression to judge as you can get used to the smell and no longer detect it..which can be dangerous.
Two, take off your filters. Put the mask on without filters. Cover the mask holes with your palms. Breathe in. If air is getting in through the sides of the mask, you will feel and hear it. With your palms over the holes, you should have no air in there! (Note this is not true anymore for all masks. Sadly some of the new ones do not let you put your palms flatly over the filter holes.)
What most spray paint artists use is called a half face mask with organic vapor cartridges. They come in small, medium and large. Get lots of extra filters if you paint a lot! They filters should be changed fairly often if you want to take care of yourself well! If you can smell fumes in there which were not there before, time to change filters. Keep your mask in an airtight ziplock bag when not in use so that the filters don't get used up.
I find that it's important to buy a mask made with soft silicon since I don't want to wrinkle my face or feel pain when I paint. I would spend the extra money for the softness!
My current favorite is the Scott Xcel half facepiece respirator with 742 series of cartriges. You can google that or put it into amazon. If you google or search on amazon for “spray paint respirator” or “half face mask organic vapor” “soft half face respirator” “comfortable respirator mask” or other combinations of the words I am mentioning, you will get lots of options for your mask. Remember you need to also purchase organic vapor cartriges separately. Look in the Amazon reviews for information about the feel of the mask and go for the more comfortable ones.
Remember that if you paint indoors, you need a ventilation system.
One tip: The more hydrated you are, the less solvents your body will absorb! So stay hydrated while you paint. Also consider a product called "Gloves in a bottle" it makes cleanup much easier and protects your skin. Wearing some kind of gloves is also not a bad idea if you can get used to them.
Other Safety Issues:
Ventilation is important! The safest place to paint is out doors in shady spot with a mild wind that will remove all fumes from your painting spot.
If you are painting indoors, in a place such as a garage, you can use fans to move the air out the open garage door but you may need 4 or more fans to do a good job of this. Point the fans towards the open door with the back facing you and they will suck the air towards them and draw your vapors out the door. You can do this with a window fan placed backwards as well. You can also put a fan blowing towards the door behind you and adjust the wind to be just right so that it takes all the vapor out but doesn't blow directly on your work. Move the fans around until they take the spray mist out and also let you comfortably paint.
You can experiment with a bit of incense smoke to see where the air is flowing without having to use spray paint. Do this before you start spraying. Make sure that there is never a concentration of spray in the area you are working and that the air never becomes thick with dust. If it does, you don't have enough ventilation and you should seek other options.
One great option is to make or purchase a downdraft table. Here is how my table was built (by my brother) http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/17322/Building-a-Downdraft-Table-for-Painting
I'm currently using a home made spray booth and a dust collector and having great results. See the Safety and Ventilation page for more information.
Some people use surgical gloves for painting. I haven't had much luck with this. Using "gloves in a bottle" seems to work a lot better and makes cleanup easier. Google "gloves in a bottle" to find where to buy it.
To remove paint from your hands when finished painting, I use a mixture of pantene hair conditioner and a scrubby kitchen sponge. The conditioner seems to soften the paint and make it easier to remove. The more "liquid gloves" you use the easier it will be to remove and the better condition your hands will be in!
If you use Montana Waterbased 300 you can just wash it off.
You can do spray paint art with regular acrylics and a cheap airbrush!
Learn how here: http://airbrushpaintingsecrets.com/
Where to buy spray paint:
In the USA I usually buy from Art Primo. http://artprimo.com/catalog/index.php
Montana Waterbased 300 is available here: http://shop.1amsf.com/collections/paint-pack/products/spectrum-pack-mtn-waterbased Get the pack and facebook or email them about selecting your colors instead of getting the standard pack.
Get the transparent colors here: http://tpy-urbancolors.com/products/c185-MTN-Water-Based-300/
or wherever you can find them cheaper. I'm sure they will become more available with time. (They are new right now as I write this)
In Europe I have no specific recommendation as I have never bought spray paint there, but if you google "spray paint Europe" you will get many results. Here is one that carries these brands. http://www.graff-city.com/index.php?cPath=19_33 http://www.graff-city.com/product_info.php?products_id=1418
Perhaps you can find it for cheaper if you spend some time searching around.
In Mexico and Costa Rica definitely buy Comex brand spray paint. Check the store finder to find locations in other areas for Montana Water Based 300.
For more info on materials, read the Ebook Secrets of Mexico available in the members area. I go into more detail on paper and different brands of spray paint and their uses there. Members can download the ebook here: Secrets of Mexico Also for members, see the "Resources" section of the membership area for more details on tools. Resources
High Pressure vs Low Pressure:
A low pressure can gives you a bit more control. I have worked with both and find both useful for spray paint art. Low pressure is a bit better though.
There are different types of metallic colors. Krylon metallics are transparent while Rustoleum metallics are opaque. Make sure you know what you are buying. Both are useful. Transparent metallics are great for subtle shading. Opaque metallics are great for sticking to the paper when you want something that won't be removed by working on it among other things. If you can test the can before buying it or look at a sample you can tell which type of metallic it is.