The HUX Report Vol 8: Spray Painting vs Hand Painting
The most suitable paint finish depends not only on what kind of look and finish you are trying to achieve, for both the joinery and your wider scheme, but also the style and use case of the furniture itself. Whether that be traditional or modern, detailed or seamless, rustic or urban chic. Here we cast light on the pros and cons of each finish and where best to apply them.
Most joinery providers who work on a high volume of projects often turn to spray paint for its efficiency and professional-looking results. One major advantage is that the joinery is “shop-finished”, so arrives on site in its final finish, cutting out a messy and time-consuming stage post installation.
With a professional spray shop there’s no worry about leaving behind brush strokes that come when using a paintbrush or roller. Paint sprayers leave a beautiful even finish that doesn’t require any touch ups or any site-finishing. This seamless even finish of a spray lacquer is particularly suited to flush “slab” doors and contemporary-style panelling.
For shaker style doors we typically recommend a spray finish to more contemporary shaker doors, which we manufacture from high quality moisture resistant MDF, and a hand paint finish for traditional rail and stile constructed timber doors, or doors with an inset beaded detail.
Typically, the industry works to an average 20% sheen level for a standard semi-matt lacquer finish, but we can go as low as 10% and as high as 80% sheen. This higher sheen is harder to produce as it shows up every speck of dust, but still gives a shinier satin effect at a cheaper price point than a full high gloss finish.
Spray paint is also the way to go if you want this high-gloss “piano-style” lacquer finish, however this is around three times more expensive than a standard semi-matt lacquer, due to the amount of polishing and additional coats required to add that lustre.
Similarly we can achieve excellent metallic effects in a spray finish as shown in the frames of the doors on the right, painted in the same metallic paint as the metal door inlays.
With spray paint it is more difficult to get an exact colour match, and it is always very slightly different to your Little Greene’s and Farrow and Ball’s due to the polyurethane hardeners and the sheen level. So if you want an exact match to your water-based F&B Elephant’s Breath skirtings, it may be better to go for a final hand-paint finish.
Spray paint is more durable and wipeable than hand paint finishes, however if it does get knocked or chipped you can’t easily sand down and re-apply paint to the damaged area on site. However removing doors for a factory respray is not a problem if required. It is possible to delicately touch up any nicks to the edges, where wear and tear usually occurs, but more challenging to do so on site to front faces of doors.
There’s much to be said for good, old-fashioned hand painting. Although it is more time-consuming, painting furniture by hand with a brush and foam roller results in a beautifully elegant hand-crafted finish, particularly suited to beaded shaker kitchens, traditionally ornate library shelving and classic and “plant-on” panelling designs.
One main advantage is that hand painted furniture can easily be repaired as you can simply sand down the affected area and apply paint with a brush. Both hand and spray painted furniture can be completely re-decorated by hand, and if you were to do this the spray paint finish would require less preparation.
Hand-painted items need to be completed in a dust free environment post-install, with no other trades present. This inevitably adds time and cost to the install.
While hand painting is excellent for many applications, one thing to bear in mind is that you will always see an element of brush strokes. This in itself is something to be celebrated in some styles of joinery. We typically shop prime all our joinery, leaving only the topcoats to be carried out on site for our hand-painted projects. However, on close inspection you will see visible marks or traces of drips on all hand-painted joinery items.
Hand painting is roughly 10% more expensive than spray painting, and it takes an extended amount of time especially if you have many cabinets or joinery to paint. Brush painting requires close attention to detail to ensure even layers and no missed spots, and since it’s all completed by hand, the process is longer than with spraying.
Regardless of which method you choose — spray or hand — the biggest challenge of painting cabinets is obtaining a fantastic finish. The finish depends on properly prepping and priming the surfaces before painting, applying even layers, allowing for sufficient dry time and paying attention to detail throughout the entire process.