How to Thin Thick Paint

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Screwdriver
  • Paint stirring stick
  • Small disposable container
  • Paint conditioner

Unlike most oil-based paints, latex paint sometimes requires thinning before you start painting. If you are using paint that has been around for some time, chances are that it has become a bit thick. Another reason for thinning paint is to allow it to flow through a sprayer. Most paint manufacturers include instructions on the label for thinning paint. There are no hard and fast rules among the manufacturers. The key is to thin it enough to apply but not so much that it is ineffective.

Place the paint can over some newspapers or a dropcloth. Pry the paint can lid off with a screwdriver, and place the lid upside down out of your way.

Position a small disposable container next to the paint can if there is a “skin” on the top of the paint. The “skin” is dried paint that you must remove to prevent clumps when stirring. Remove the skin with the end of a paint stirring stick and place it in the disposable container for disposal.

Stir the paint first with the paint stirring stick to ensure that it requires thinning. Paint that has set for a period of time separates. The stirring process is often all that is necessary.

Add 2 tablespoons of water per pint of paint, if the paint consistency is too thick. Stir the paint well and add more water as necessary. Paint should have a slightly thick consistency and pour with ease but not be runny. Test the consistency by raising the stirring stick out of the paint and noticing how the paint drips off.

Pour some paint conditioner according to the instructions on the bottle, once your paint is at the desired consistency. The conditioner helps to reduce brush streaks when applying the paint with a brush or roller.


  • The more water you add, the more time it takes for the paint to dry and the more coats necessary to cover.