can you spray polycrylic

Can You Spray Polycrylic With A Spray Gun?

In Tips by Jamie P.

Eventually, you get sick and tired of seeing brush strokes after you apply your Polycrylic finish using a brush. Trust me, I have been there and it just makes you feel as if you didn’t quite get that “professional” touch you were going for. I find it hurts my confidence when trying to sell a piece I refinished for top dollar, so this is when I drop my prices because I didn’t get that factory finish I was going for. But I found a solution, spraying Polycrylic!

Yes, you can spray Polycrylic using an HVLP spray gun. Thinning your Polycrylic at 10% its volume will ensure better spraying results. When spraying Polycrylic, apply in multiple thin coats to prevent drips or a bubbly finish.

What is Polycrylic?

Firstly, it is important to know what exactly Polycrylic is before you begin spraying it. You likely have heard of polyurethane before, which is quite similar to Polycrylic but the ingredients within these 2 products are different. The main difference between them is that polyurethane is oil-based and Polycrylic is water-based. It’s common to hear that Polycrylic is just a water-based polyurethane, because it technically is.

Polycrylic is a product by Minwax, which is the most common water-based polyurethane on the market. We see other water-based polys such as Varathane’s Water-Based Polyurethane and a few others, but Polycrylic by Minwax is my number one option.

In simple words, Polycrylic is a “crystal clear” protective topcoat that I typically use on furniture painting projects, but it is commonly used for woodworking, doors, cabinets, and many other projects that need a clear protective topcoat. Polycrylic is known to stay clear over light paints unlike polyurethane, which is why I use it on painted furniture. Since we are here to learn about spraying Polycrylic, let’s get into it.

Can I Spray Polycrylic with an HVLP Spray Gun?

Yes, I have sprayed Polycrylic many times using my Wagner Flexio 590 HVLP spray gun. I am always using Polycrylic when spraying furniture I have painted, especially white and light painted projects because it does not turn yellow. It did take some practice to get the Polycrylic to spray comfortably, I tested it on a few pieces and measured how much water I should use to thin the Polycrylic.

I found that thinning Polycrylic with 10% volume water increases the spray performance when using an HVLP spray gun. I had sprayed Polycrylic with my Wagner Flexio 590 spray gun without thinning and I had some issues. I could spray it, but the issue was that the gun couldn’t handle it and while starting and finishing spraying the gun would spurt out in thick amounts, ruining the smooth finish. After adding 10% water I didn’t have this problem anymore.

A good tip when adding Polycrylic into your spray gun is to strain it using a strainer. You can use a metal strainer, disposable strainer, and even a sink strainer, whatever keeps clumps of hard paint or poly out of your gun is crucial for spraying success.

What is the Best HVLP Spray Gun for Polycrylic?

The best HVLP spray guns for spraying Polycrylic are the Wagner HVLP series spray guns and the Homeright Finish Super Max. I have both spray guns and I have used my Wagner Flexio 590 HVLP spray gun much more, and I can verify that spraying Polycrylic is easy with it. Wagner has newer models of spray guns that would be a great choice for spraying Polycrylic and various products.

Wagner Spraytech FLEXiO 590 Handheld HVLP Paint Sprayer

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As you already know, I own this Wagner Flexio 590 HVLP Spray Gun. Wagner has quite a few spray guns, I feel many of them spray similar results. This Wagner 590 is somewhat budget-friendly, but more importantly, it is compact and it only has a small wire that needs to be plugged in for use. Other Wagner options have a full hose adapter that connects to the stationary base, it may seem lighter to use because you don’t have the turbine in your hand but now you have this massive machine that takes up so much space. I guess its a personal preference, see the Wagner FLEXiO 5000 Stationary HVLP Paint Sprayer to understand what I mean. All in all, the 590 will spray polycrylic! Wagner has newer versions similar to the 590 called the Flexio 3000 sprayer, it has new adjustment knobs on the large nozzle but it is still practically the same product. I only use the detail spray nozzle when spraying Polycrylic with my Wagner Flexio 590. The detail nozzle on the 3000 is the exact same as the 590.

Here is a video where I refinished 2 dressers and sprayed them with Polycrylic, jump to 8:44 to see when I start preparing my Wagner Flexio 590:

Homeright Finish Max Spray Gun

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The Homeright Finish Max Spray Gun is an extremely popular low-costing HVLP spray gun. I have used it a few times and I must say I really like it, I only recently purchased it so I do not want to do a major review yet. I have researched this gun like crazy and I have seen many people have great success spraying Polycrylic with it. They say many products don’t need thinning when using the Homeright Finish Max, but I like to thin Polycrylic with 10% water whenever I spray it. Check this video out and see the results for yourself:

Gravity Fed HVLP Sprayer

The gravity-fed paint sprayers are amazing and create great results, these are commonly sprayers that are connected to a large air compressor by a thin hose. This hose takes the compressed air and flows it to your spray gun which sprays the air and the gravity-fed paint out. I have never used one personally, mainly because the setup is much more expensive. The reason being that you need a large compressor and they can run up to hundreds of dollars. Typically people use these because they already have the compressor for other reasons and just buy a spray gun, which is relatively affordable. These will have no problem spraying your Polycrylic (water-based polyurethane).

If you are interested in the gravity-fed system go watch my good friend Katie Scott’s youtube video on her setup: 


How to Spray Minwax Polycrylic in 6 Simple Steps

1. Make Sure Your Sprayer is Clean

The first thing I do when getting ready to spray any product is make sure my spray gun is clean. I clean after every use, but even if a small amount of dirt enters the gun it can ruin your spraying experience. Just imagine all the hard work you have done and your spray gun starts shooting out in clumps on your project? It isn’t fun trust me… Do a quick rinse with water and a wipe down, its worth it.

2. Add Polycrylic Into Spray Nozzle Cup (Use Strainer)

Now it’s time to add in your Polycrylic, but if you do not strain it you risk old dried-up Polycrylic entering the cup. This can cause your sprayer to spit up as you paint, which overall ruins your project and spraying experience. I notice this happens sometimes even when I do strain. I will dump out the product clean my gun and redo the process. Having a clean gun and strained Polycrylic is crucial to a successful professional finish.

3. Mix 10% Water Into Polycrylic and Stir

Around the same time, I add in my 10% water to thin the Polycrylic. If you don’t thin the Polycrylic your spray gun may spit-up. I used to measure the Polycrylic and then 10% of that volume I would add that amount of water. This is great practice, measure if you are unsure of consistency. Now with the experience, I know my gun and just eyeball the 10% water amount. But too much or too little can change your results. Be careful when starting out.

Do not forget to stir for approximately 1 minute. If you do not stir your water will just sit on top and your Polycrylic will not be thinned thoroughly, resulting in poor spraying.

Read my article on How to Thin Water Based Polyurethane? for more related information.

4. Fully Setup Spray Gun

Finally, you have all your Polycrylic measured and thinned. Attach all gun components and prepare for spraying.

With my Wagner Flexio 590, my air flow settings when spraying Polycrylic is set on 5, which is medium airflow. For the amount of Polycrylic, I twist and set the trigger knob to a low amount, meaning a very limited amount of Polycrylic is being sprayed at a time.

5. Test Run Spray

test spraying polycrylic

This is when I grab a piece of cardboard, plastic cloth, or even the garage wall, and begin test spraying. I am looking for my Polycrylic to spray super thin or you risk dripping marks. Drips are not easy to fix once you are applying the topcoat, so make sure you are spraying thin coats. This is the time to configure your spray gun settings, reading your product manual really helps understand what settings you should have it on based on product consistency. Polycrylic thinned will spray easily, so I like to make sure little product comes out with a medium air flow. Test until your spray looks thin and won’t run downward.

6. Begin Spraying Project

using hvlp spray gun to spray polycrylic on furniture

Once you found the proper spray pattern you can move over to your project and get things started. I always start spraying before I reach my project, why? When the gun starts spraying it may spit out what is on the tip of the nozzle, so spray about 6 inches away and then move over, while holding your trigger, to the project you want to be sprayed with Polycrylic.

I hope these 6 steps helped you better understand what it takes to spray Minwax Polycrylic with an HVLP spray gun. If you have any questions please email me at furnitureflippa@gmail.com.

Spraying Polycrylic FAQs

Can You Spray Polycrylic over Paint?

Yes, you can spray Polycrylic over paint. Since Polycrylic is water-based, it is the perfect option to spray over water-based paints. Polycrylic is also great to spray over lighter colored paints instead of Polyurethane because it does not yellow.

Can You Spray Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint?

Yes, you will have no issues spraying Polycrylic over chalk paint, the only thing you should be careful is that the chalk paint hasn’t been waxed. Apply Polycrylic over wax may cause it to peel or chip off quickly. Wax is meant to be the final layer, so feel free to wax over Polycrylic but not Polycrylic over wax.

Spraying Polycrylic vs Brushing Polycrylic

I prefer spraying Polycrylic because it leaves a clean brush-stroke free finish. The spray finish looks like it was factory finished, while a brushed on Polycrylic finish looks amateur and messy. Of course, this depends on what you are applying it over. When applying over paint I don’t like brushing because strokes are really easy to see. However, applying over stain I find it less noticeable. But overall, I will spray Polycrylic over brushing it any day. I did brush it on my whitewashed table and it was pretty hard to see the strokes, so it really depends on the finish.

Can You Spray Polycrylic Indoors?

I spray Polycrylic in my garage wearing a respirator because it gets quite dusty looking with airborne overspray. Typically, I have my garage door open for great circulation, but this depends on temperatures. I personally would not spray Polycrylic in my house because of the overspray and the odors along with it.

Can I Spray Polycrlic with an Airless Spray Gun?

When I think of an airless spray gun I think of the Graco series and yes you can spray Polycrylic with an airless graco sprayer, however, it doesn’t seem practical. You need a lot of product for that machine, you fill-up the hose and you will end up wasting a lot of Polycrylic. If you are spraying a lot of cabinets, maybe it’s worth, but you need to have a lot of Polycrylic so you can set it up for airless spraying.

Can You Spray Varathane Water Based Polyurethane?

Yes, you can spray Varathane Water Based Polyurethane just like regular oil-based polyurethane, however when thinning use water instead of an oil-based thinner for water-based polyurethane.

Final Thoughts

After answering numerous questions about spraying Polycrylic I hope it has helped you get a better understanding of how to go about it. For the most part, you can spray most products in a spray gun if properly thinned. The ones to be seriously careful of are the ones that are flammable. Water-based products are not as toxic typically, plus they are so easy to clean, just use water and soap.

I love spraying Polycrylic as a topcoat finish and I will have many projects doing so on my Youtube channel, don’t forget to check it out and subscribe!