Introduction: DIY Spray Paint

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Making your own custom spray paint is easy and produces some interesting results. Maybe they don't sell the exact colour you're looking for, or you just want to a use for all those old almost-empty cans of paint you have hidden in your garage. Time to put them to good use and make your own spray paint!

Using the spray mechanism found in standard spray cans and some common discarded items you can make your own spray paint. This project uses a bicycle pump to pressurize a small PET pop bottle, and by varying the amount of pressure you pumped into the 'can' and the types of paint added you can produce different effects. The style I got based on the paints I used and the pressure applied is reminiscent of a graffiti mop style.

Enough talk, let's make our own spray paint!

*Inspiration for this project was drawn from the short movie splay

Step 1: Tools + Materials

  • hobby knife
  • drill and bits
  • hacksaw
  • bike pump
  • bicycle inner tube
  • Sugru (or other elastic binding agent/adhesive)
  • empty PET bottle
  • empty spray paint can
  • assorted paint

Step 2: Old Spray Can

To start, find an old spray paint can and depress the nozzle to release any remaining pressure inside. This is important as you risk having the can explode when you saw it open if there's any pressure difference.

Once all the pressurized air has escaped, place the can in a vise and saw around the neck of the can. This will separate the can into the lower housing and the upper nozzle. Keep the upper nozzle and tip out the glass marble found inside the can housing, you can discard the can housing after.

Step 3: Valve

Next, we will need a one way valve to pressurize our DIY spray can. For this I used a Schrader valve from an old bike tire, any type of valve will work. I chose this type as it's very common and discarded bike tire inner tubes are easy to acquire from bike repair stores.
Cut the inner tube on either side of the valve, then trim the rubber around the valve leaving a 12mm (1/2") skirt of rubber.

Next, find a drill bit that is around the same size as the valve you're using. For Schrader valve you'll need a 1/4" bit. Drill into the shoulder of an empty PET bottle. Remove any burrs from the drilled opening, then feed the valve into the neck of the bottle and through the new opening.

Drop a small amount of a rubberized adhesive through the neck of the bottle and onto the rubber skirt around the valve, then pull the valve so that the rubber skirt makes contact with the inside of the PET bottle. You may need to poke your fingers through the neck opening to ensure good contact is made. Allow the adhesive to dry overnight.

Step 4: Nozzle

An opening needs to be made in the cap of the PET bottle to accept the old spray can nozzle. For my paint can I found that an opening slightly larger that 3/8" was required.

I tried a few different types of adhesives here and found that the best results were with Sugru. I was able to mold the sugru putty around the opening and join the old spray mechanism with the PET cap. Allow to cure overnight.

After your assembly has dried and cured completely hook it up to a bike pump and test to ensure you have a hermetic seal, if you have any leaks (you'll know) you need to address this with more glue or to re-glue the parts that aren't sealed. This is critical!

Step 5: Fill With Old Paint

If you're like me, you have heaps of old, half-used, miscellaneous cans of paint hiding in storage somewhere. Time to put that paint to good use!

If you are mixing paint make sure you are using like-kinds of paint (latex/acrylic with latex/acrylic and oil paint with oil paint), do not mix oil and latex paints! Mixing dissimilar paints is not advised as it's essentially oil and water. Though, it may produce some interesting results. In fact, ignore my warning, try it. Tell me your results!

Drop your old spray paint marble into the bottle first. then carefully pour your paints into the bottle and fill about 3/4 of the way full. You're going to need a funnel. Since regular paint is quite thick, I diluted my paint with a little water after it was in the bottle. I ad a ratio of about 6:1 paint to water. Experimentation here will produce different results. A thicker paint may not drip as much, but might require more pressure in the bottle (see next step regarding pressurization).

Seal bottle with nozzle cap and shake well to ensure an homogenous mix of paint and water.

Step 6: Pressurize

Time to pressurize the bottle and make this paint can come to life.

Hooking the valve to the bike pump I found I had good results at about 20psi. Experimenting here with different pressure may produce different effects. It's important to know that over pressurization will cause your paint bottle to fail, most likely at the nozzle connection. Start with a low psi and gradually work your way up.

Keep an eye on your connection during pressurization to ensure no leaks have spring. I had my bottle up to about 25psi and have yet to notice any leaks. Over-engineering your sealed connections is a good thing here.

Step 7: Spray

With your bottle pressurized all that's left is to find a surface to paint! It should go without saying that spray painting people, pets, plants and places that don't belong to you is not nice. Also, it's probably illegal. So be smart when you use this.

My pressurization lasted enough to make the dinosaur shown here and then some, a second pressurization was required to make the buildings. If you're looking to make a larger art installment you'll need to carry your bike pump with you.

Here's a video of my DIY spray paint in action!

Have fun!

Have you made your own spray paint using this method? Post a picture or video link in the comments below.

Happy making :)

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