How to Paint a Picket Fence With a Paint Gun

If you have ever painted a picket fence with a paintbrush, you know that it can be a time-consuming job. Fortunately, airless paint sprayers are available that turn a two-day painting job into a two-hour one. Airless sprayers are inexpensive, easy to maintain, and can spray any kind of paint. To paint a picket fence, use an exterior latex house paint or a highly-pigmented latex stain to get the best UV and water protection for the wood.

  1. Spread plastic on the ground on both sides of the fence and on surrounding shrubbery. Cover gate hardware with masking tape and cover any other surfaces that are potentially in the path of the spray with masking paper or sheet plastic.

  2. Fill the cup of the gun about 3/4-full with paint, screw it on and then plug in the spray gun. If you are using a siphon-feed gun, place the siphon tube in a five gallon bucket and pour in one or two cans of paint. Test the spray pattern in a scrap piece of wood and thin the paint with water or thinner if the spray is chunky or weak. You should have a spray pattern that is about 12 inches wide from a distance of about a foot. Rotate the nozzle to produce a horizontal spray pattern.

  3. Spray the pickets in the front of the fence in a steady up-down motion, holding the gun about 12 inches away and overlapping about half of the spray pattern on each pass. Move the gun slowly enough so that the paint covers all the wood, but quickly enough so that it doesn't accumulate and drip.

  4. Rotate the nozzle 90 degrees and spray the railings on the back of the fence before you paint the pickets. Paint these in a back-and-forth motion. When they are covered, rotate the nozzle again and spray the pickets.

  5. Spray at least two coats on an unpainted fence. The first coat will sink in and act as a sealer, while the second coat will provide most of the coverage.

  6. Clean the gun thoroughly after each use. Wash out the cup or bucket with water or thinner and spray some of this through the gun. Then remove the nozzle and let it soak in thinner before wiping it with a clean rag.


  • Airless sprayers work by forcing paint through the nozzle at a high pressure. This spray can penetrate skin, so never put your hand in the path of the spray, and never point the sprayer at yourself or anyone else.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.