Tips and Exercises to Master Spray Paint


Hi guys, what's up? Hope everyone enjoyed my last tutorial about stencil art, because today we're going deep on spray can techniques. Not only we're again focusing on alternative techniques, but this time we're going to do this also thru video, check this out.

So first of all, let me explain what is the main idea here: Lots of people ask me how could I achieve such interesting results using a media as spray paint. Well, it takes time and dedication, but after three years of hard work, I could come from this crap:

To this:

It takes time, it takes passion, but I believe that my way to here would be much easier If I had someone to show me some really basic tricks. But let me emphasize here: these are not drawing or composition tricks, these are just dinamics that will make you have a better motricity with a spray can. I already wrote many written tutorials, but this time I though that a video tutorial would be more appropriated and easier to understand than just images and pictures, so here's a brief explanation of what this is all about.

Chapter #1: Understanding the Spray Can

I did this diagram that exemplify the past of the spray can, as you can see, there's no big deal in here:


This is a essential piece for spraying, it's what regulate the diameter and quantity of paint that get off the can. There're dozen of type of caps, each one with a specific use and some more generical.


This is usually a circle on the top of the can that displays the color you're using. Some cheap brands don't use this piece and rather place the name or a sticker of the color, my advise: If the brand don't even use donuts on the can, don't even buy it.


There's air inside the can, it's actually makes it possible to spray. But there's a golden rule about it: The air should be always on top for a good spray performance, so you should try to use it on 90º degrees and never turn it upside down.


This part is responsible for getting the ink off the can, it works along the pressure that you put on the cap. As it get the ink from the bottom, I will repeat again, you will spray only air If you turn it upside down.


Most spray can use oil based paint, it sticks and cover better than acrylic. In the other hand, they're toxic as hell, so make sure to use gas mask and gloves while dealing with it.


This little metallic ball is helpful for mixing properly the ink, depending on the density of the ink, there can be more than one ball (MTN 94 white color uses three metallic balls, it's almost dense as butter).


Don't know exactly the function of the concave on the bottom, but I know for sure that every aerosol has it, just look at the bottom of your deodorant. I think is something related with the pressure dinamic.

The five variables

There're five variables that will influence the diameter and blurriness of your spray trace, here's a brief explanation why they are so important.

1) Cap - The cap you choose will have a big role on the trace you will get. Nowadays there are dozens of types of caps, each with a specific diameter and usability. The one I'm using in this tut is a NY fat cap, it's a really ecletic cap as he can goes from thin to thick lines easily.

2) Can Pressure - The pressure of the can is something you should look before going to the wall, there are high, medium and low pressure cans, you should check what are better suitable for you use. Low pressure cans are recommended for beginners and for those who want thinner traces. Just remember: The highest the pressure, the biggest will be the trace

3) Wall distance - The more distant from the wall, the more blurry will be the trace, the more close to the wall, more solid will be the trace.

4) Cap pressure - The strenght applied on the cap will determine how much paint will get off it, so I must say the stronger you push it, the more will get off.

5) Speed - Spray paint is also about speed, the more quickly you do your trace, it will have less chances of get blurry or drip, also it will be thinner. But If you want a thicker trace, you should spray it slowly.

Chapter #2: Useful exercises for spray dexterity

So guys, I cannot teach you how to draw with spray paint without teaching you techniques on handling a can. So this will be about get used to this new tool, so please don't get anxious about doing a badass artwork right now, focus on get good on this tasks.

Exercise #1- Make a tiny square

So, let's start by trying to draw a really small square, try to draw the smaller you can. Don't be shy, I know you probably will make a huge mess on the beginning, but we will try again this exercise later and you will see that it will be much easier. Please take this as a invitation to use the can.

Exercise #2- Make three different diameters

Now let's test the dynamics of distance and pressure on the cap. Try to spray three different diameters, this will take time to master trust me.

Exercise #3- Make a thin and thick line

Now let's test the speed and cap pressure, so try to make a thin line by spraying it fast, close to the wall and pressing softly the cap. Then, try to make a thick line by spraying it slowly, far from the wall and pressing harder the cap.

Exercise #4- Make both thin and thick lines

You probably already realized that you can get a blurry or solid trace, so here's a exercise you should try: Try making a blurry to solid trace by vary the distance from the wall, this is a bit hard to master.

Exercise #5- Connect the dots to make straight lines

The best way to learn how to do straight lines is by doing a really silly exercise: Connect the dots, yep, like we used to do on kindergarten drawing books. Draw two points, posicionate the spray over the first one, aim on the second, then connect both. Don't move only your arm, spraying on wall also needs body movements, don't be a robot so.

Exercise #6- Connect the dots to make shapes

Now do the same exercise, but this time try to draw simple shapes, easy huh?

Exercise #7- Make tiny circles

Now that you already master lines and sharp shapes, let's try something round. Try to draw the tiniest circle you, start by doing it big then go smaller as you can.

Exercise #8- Make a circle, a triangle and square

Now, after all this exercises, you probably got some good dexterity with the can, so let's try to draw this basic shapes and try to draw them smaller and smaller.

Exercise #9- Make a square with gradients

Now for a final task, I gotta say I'm not the best on it hehe let's try to use gradients to create shapes, try first to create a square using gradients. You can achieve this by inclining your spray and by aiming the cap to the side you want to make the gradient.

The Video

So guys, in order ot make it more visual I decided to make this self explanatory video, hope it help and answer all your doubts on this exercises.

Tips and Exercises to Master Spray Paint from Marcos Torres on Vimeo.

Just a brief introduction to spray paint and some pretty basic exercises to understand how it works and to get dexterity on this tool.