How to Build a DIY HVLP Spray Booth for Under $125

With this guide, you don’t need a ton of resources or space to be able to spray varnish your prints at home.

Varnish has always been a popular topic here on The Breathing Color Blog.

Whether we’re talking about how to properly apply it, or how to avoid ruining your work with it, we’re always thrilled to see your responses to varnish discussion.

Customers often ask us about their options for spray varnish. Could they buy a used paint booth? Could they build one at home? What kind of paint filters should they use to protect themselves?

With these questions in mind, we’re happy to bring this helpful DIY post, originally published in 2011, back from archives, updated with new products available in 2015.

Introduction: Why Spray?

While foam-roller varnishing can be a great method for many printmakers, some find HVLP varnishing applied in a spray box to be a much easier and more consistent way to varnish canvas prints.

This is especially the case when varnishing large canvas prints and high volume production runs, where it becomes increasingly difficult to use the foam roller method with consistency. The good news is, creating an HVLP Spray Booth for varnishing canvas prints is easier than you might have thought!

While there are countless variations of how this can be accomplished, in this post, we’ll show you one example of how to create a “no frills” DIY HVLP spray booth on a budget with items from your local hardware store.

Supplies and Materials

In our example, we have chosen to build our booth in an unused corner inside of a large room in our building. By using a corner, we have already created 2 of the 3 sides needed for our spray booth.

DIY HVLP spray booth

The Frame

Painter’s plastic and tape are always great tools for many types of home projects because the plastic is lightweight and durable, and painter’s tape does not leave behind a residue. Using drywall anchors and screws will provide a strong hold that won’t damage your wall. PVC pipe is very inexpensive and comes in many lengths and thicknesses. Utilizing the various lengths available as well as PVC elbows you could create an entire booth out of PVC pipe and elbows.

The Backing

Pegboard is a great choice for mounting the prints as the machined holes allow excess overspray to run through. This helps to keep the area clean.

DIY HVLP Spray Booth

The Spray Gun

If you don’t have a compressor or are limited on space, the Wagner Control Spray Double Duty HVLP spray gun is a great gun to use. The package includes everything that you need to get started. The gun connects to an air hose that is connected to the turbine. This gun is very easy to clean as you can simply run warm water through it, provided you do so relatively soon after you have finished coating. The turbine runs on a standard 120 volt outlet.


Shopping List

DIY HVLP Spray Booth
Picking up your materials for this project is as easy as stopping by a Home Depot. You can verify your local store has what you need by visiting the links below. Print out the list with Home Depot item numbers for easy shopping by clicking here.
 


Total Cost = $125


Ready to kick your varnishing game up a notch? Download the printable shopping list below, which includes Home Depot item numbers and check boxes to check as you pick up items at the store.


Step by Step Video Tutorial

View the below how-to video for a full walkthrough of how to set up your DIY HVLP spray booth using the products we’ve covered above.

Notes

With this set up and a spare Saturday to run to the hardware store, you’ll be up and running with your own HVLP spray booth in no time.

Remember to ventilate while spraying – ideally with a small fan pointed out a window as to exhaust the fumes. You’ll also need to protect yourself with goggles and a respirator. If you don’t have these items already, we recommend the following:

Total setup time for this project is about 1 hour, including setting up the HVLP gun. It only takes a few minutes to get used to the Wagner HVLP gun, and cleanup is as simple as running warm to hot water through it. All of the parts can be detached for cleaning purposes and can be put back together in seconds.

This is just one of many ways you can build a spray booth on a budget, but we hope it gets you thinking about how to improve your craft and save money doing it!

Have any questions? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll help you out.

Further Resources

What’s next? Further your education on varnish with these selected posts from our blog!

  • The Solutions to 5 Common Print Varnish Problems

  • From bubbled or cloudy prints to cracked canvas, download this PDF to avoid making varnish mistakes that can cost you entire prints.

  • How to Spray Canvas Prints Like a Pro

  • When it comes to spraying prints, setting up your booth is just the beginning! This post covers best practices such as using proper lighting, and even includes a video to demonstrate proper spray technique.

  • Mastering Canvas Varnish: Water Vs. Solvent Bases

  • Learn about the two main categories of varnish and how to select the right one for your work.

  • 4 Options for Stretching Canvas Prints

  • After you’ve coated your canvas, you’re probably looking to get it stretched and ready for display or purchase. This guide walks you through four of the primary options for stretching canvas prints – from doing it yourself to outsourcing. Plenty of great links and information there.

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  • Cpphoto

    What about overspray? When I spray inside a building the overspray ends up filling the building with the odor. Kind of like ‘second hand smoke’ you might say. I really expected you to have an exhaust fan of some kind – so is HVLP that different from spray can or conventional spraying?

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Thank you for the comments! You make a very good point about overspray; something that was not covered in the video or post. The actual space we used for this booth was relatively open, but we did encounter some light overspray. The vapor from the sprayed varnish is actually heavier then the air in the room, so all the vapor will fall to the floor.This happens pretty quickly, and I’ve noticed that after spraying multiple prints the vapor seemed to vanish after only 5 minutes.

      After speaking with a few customers that have a spray booth setup indoors, I’ve gathered that some of them recommend using a fan positioned by a window (if any), pointing the window out as this will intake air in the room and exhaust that air outside.

      Spray cans differ tremendously as you are purchasing less at a time, thus increasing your total cost. These spray coatings are typically solvent which decreases the life of the print. And if you have a steady amount of prints, this can be too costly.

      If you have any other questions, please feel free to post below.

  • Jorge

    1 good HLVP sprayer $1,400

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Hi Jorge,

      Which HVLP Spray gun are you looking at? Almost all of our volume users get great results with the Fuji 2903-XPC Mini-Mite 3 HVLP Spray System. The Fuji comes with an extremely durable turbine, so no compressor is needed. At around $550 it provides an industrial strength, long lasting spray gun without a very large investment.

  • http://www.camera-crafts.com Rod Schall

    I used to spray my prints. To get rid of the overspray, I installed a 20″ box fan in a window blowing to the outside. I put two closepins on the bottom and set a disposable furnace filter on it with the fan blowing. The fan held the filter in place and also the photos with the suction. If the suction was not quite strong enough to hold the print without it sliding down, I would clip another closepin to the grill to hold the print from sliding. As I spayed and the overspray went outside. Be sure there is nothing close by outside or it will get covered with partly dry spray. Of couse, this is limited to smaller than 20″ prints.

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      Rod,

      That’s a great idea! Innovative and affordable. A great addition to any Do it Yourself Spraybooth. 

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  • Alexandru Cardaniuc

    Purchased the recommended HLVP. How should I mix the Glamour 2 to get the right viscosity? Any recommended settings? 50/50?

    • http://www.breathingcolor.com Paul Morales

      25-50% water is a great working range for Glamour 2. More water will help if the humidity is very low. As long as you have an even, consistent flow from the gun, many different dilution ratios will work.

  • http://www.tyrebaydirect.com/1007-Garage_Equipment.html garage equipment

    There are several types of small spray booths
    that are constructed with the same basic principle as the larger
    versions. Often used in manufacturing or home hobby painting, the small spray booth’s main purpose is to draw fresh air into the booth and expel paint fumes while drawing the over-spray away from the object being painted.

  • http://warrenbuckles.com/ Warren Buckles

    I have been using the Wagner Control Spray HVLP unit – the lower cost one – for several years with excellent results. It’s not what you pay for the sprayer but how you use it – light spray in an even pattern. Much better than an overloaded roller and roller marks on the print – that’s a ‘no sale’ in my book.

    I thin Timeless down to 2/3 nominal viscosity using distilled water. The Wagner spray kit comes with a viscometer cup that allows you to check the viscosity of your spray mix – pour your mix into the cup and, if it empties in the specified time your are good to go (30 seconds, as I recall). Dead simple.

    On the other hand, I’m a bit paranoid about what I breathe and use an organic vapor mask rather than the simple painter masks recommended in the video – this unit runs ~$50 at the local hardware store and, coupled with the recommended eye protection, keeps all the nasties out or my key I/O ports.

    The spray process is far superior to rollers, even for a few prints. Consider the amount of varnish required to saturate a roller before you are good to go – this varnish is non-recoverable and goes down the drain or has to be thrown out with the roller. My estimate is 8 fluid oz or more for an 8″ roller – about $8 worth of varnish @$100/gallon for Timeless. An HVLP sprayer requires a fraction of a fluid ounce of thinned varnish to prime the head – maybe $0.50 worth – and this is the only loss in the process. No need to replace rollers.

    My spray booth is my shower stall – I put a 4×6 foot piece of foam core up against the side of the stall, pin my work to it with metal drafting pins, turn on the bathroom vent and spray away. Cleanup is easy – just run the shower over the foam core and curtain and next morning’s shower is no problem (well, unless I’m a bit lazy – but what’s a bit of Timeless among friends?).

    wb