Paint Booth

Is it possible to paint in your garage and get excellent results? Sure it is, but you have to be prepared to deal with dust and overspray.

I use a system of curtains made from 6 Mil plastic sheeting to contain the overspray and keep dust out of the paint area. The curtains are suspended on steel cables using brass grommets and shower curtain hooks. When not painting, I can take the curtains down and fold them for storage. This system does a reasonable job of containing overspray. And it really saves on preperation time, because I only have to worry about thoroughly cleaning a small part of the garage.

In the past, I used to staple plastic sheeting to the rafters before painting, but stapling up plastic sheeting can be very time consuming. Adopting an approach like this makes sense, especially if you have to paint more than a few times a year. With these curtains, it usually takes me an hour or so to get ready to paint.

Now as well as it works, you shouldn't have unrealistic expectations for a system like this. It's never going to be as effective as a true paint booth. It's never going to completely eliminate dust contamination. As hard as I try to clean things up before I paint, there are always a few spots where dust and lint settle on freshly sprayed panels. This is no big deal when applying primer, but it poses a real challenge when shooting color. My usual approach to dealing with dust contamination is to apply multiple coats of single-stage acrylic enamel, then color sand and buff. The end results are quite satisfactory. You can remove imperfections from clear coats in a similar manner.

It is also worth mentioning that my garage has been dry-walled. I did this a few years ago for several reasons, chief among them being dust control.

Paint Booth 1

Here I am shooting DuPont Vari Prime on the grill of my dad's 1935 Ford 1 1/2 ton truck.

Paint Booth 2

Three cables run the length and width of the garage. There are intermediate hooks that keep the middle of the span from sagging.


I am using a squirrel cage fan from an old furnace to remove overspray and fumes from the painting area. I picked up the fan, with the motor, from a surplus store for about $30. I have used cheap box fans in the past, but this fan moves a lot more air.

Paint Booth Fan

A fan from an old furnace works much better than a box fan.

Presently, I have the exhaust fan suspended in front of an open window. I chose to locate the fan in front of the window for two reasons. First, the fan is always out of the way and I don't have to set it up before I paint. Second, I was worried about the motor brushes reacting with the overspray to cause an explosion. Having the motor up near the ceiling keeps it away from the fumes, which tend to sink.

Now, I'm not sure how great the risk of explosion actually is. I've been told that modern paint vapors are not as flammable as those from old lacquer-based paints. And many people have painted cars in their garages, using box fans to exhaust the overspray (myself included), without blowing themselves up. Eventually, I would like to relocate my fan on floor so that it blows underneath a partially opened garage door. This would create the effect of a simple down-draft paint booth. But before I do this I plan to locate an explosion-proof motor for the fan. Even though there seems to little chance of causing an explosion, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

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