How to Fix Paint Drips

Fixing paint drips

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

In This Article
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $15

When painting a woodworking project, cabinets, a wall, or wood trim, paint drips are a common problem, and they can be especially frustrating when they dry before you notice them. Paint drips are usually caused by applying too much paint to your project in a single coat, typically from an overloaded paintbrush or roller. Gravity causes the excess paint to run, and as it begins to dry, the paint congeals in visible drips. Using a paint roller too fast across a wall can cause multiple paint drips and a heavily-loaded roller will cause streaks that do not go away once the paint is dry. The good news is you can remove and fix paint drips, splatter, and streaks even after the paint has dried by buffing out the runs with sandpaper, and it's even easier if you catch them while the paint is still wet.

Before You Begin

To help find drips while they are still wet, set up a strong light source that can highlight the drips as they happen. Often called a "raking" light, this type of light is often just a utility lamp you can typically sit on the ground or clamp on a pole, ladder, or other object and it will shine directly onto the wall or object you are painting. The light highlights the shadows and raised spots so you can spot the drip as soon as it happens. It also helps you to find dry drips, as well.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Clean scraper, razor blade, or 5-in-1 tool
  • Putty knife
  • Small drywall knife


  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Glazing putty


Instructions for How to Fix Paint Drips

Materials and tools to fix paint drips

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  1. Clean up Drips on Wet Paint

    If you catch the dripping paint while the paint is still relatively wet, you can probably fix the paint drip by brushing it out. Try a few brush strokes and see what happens. If this has little effect on the drip or if the paint feels tacky, stop brushing—the paint is already too dry, and any additional brushing will just exaggerate the problem.


    The trick is to make the brush strokes in the same direction that you used for the surrounding area. Don't try to knock down the drip by brushing in the opposite direction, as this usually creates unsightly cross-strokes that are difficult to remove.

    Wet paint drip
    The Spruce / Margot Cavin
  2. Let the Paint Dry

    If the paint is tacky to the touch, it's best to let a paint drip (and the surrounding area) dry completely before trying to remedy the problem. If the paint is still damp, the paint may peel up when you try to scrape or sand it, creating an even bigger problem.

    Paint drip left to dry

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  3. Scrape or Sand the Drip

    A paint drip creates a raised area that is highlighted by the paint's shininess. Therefore, the first step after the paint has dried is to cut down or sand the raised area. Start by lightly scraping down the drip with a clean scraper, razor blade, or 5-in-1 tool. The less you disturb the surrounding area, the better.

    After you've removed the raised portion of the drip, try sanding out the remaining blemish with 220-grit sandpaper. Sand only in the direction of the drip; sanding back and forth, or in the opposite direction of the drip, causes the paint to gum up or flake away, leaving you with a bigger blemish. Take care to sand only the drip itself, avoiding the surrounding paint.

    Paint drip lightly scraped up with scraper

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  4. Repair Any Damage

    Despite your best efforts, you might scrape or sand too deeply into the paint. If there's a recessed area where the drip was, or if there's any other damage due to your repair efforts, you can fill the area with glazing putty, such as Bondo.

    Spread on the putty with a putty knife, then scrape off the excess with a small drywall knife. Let the putty dry, then sand as directed.


    It's a good idea to first prime the puttied area to prevent problems with the topcoat; sometimes paint will develop pinholes or appear blotchy (known as paint flash) if it is applied directly over putty.

    Glazing putty excess scraped off with small drywall knife

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  5. Repaint the Area

    Once you're satisfied that the drip has been flattened fully, apply another coat or two of paint. Once the paint dries, the blemish should be barely noticeable.

    Coat of white paint reapplied with paint roller

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

    Completed paint wall after removing drip

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  • How can I fix paint drips caused by spray paint?

    Multiple drips tend to result when spray painting a thick layer of paint onto a surface. If the paint is still wet, grab a paintbrush and lightly paint out the drips. If the drips are dry, you'll need to cut them out and sand the edges down (as instructed in the above steps), then repaint using very light, thin coats as you go along. However, if you're using a paint sprayer, it takes skill and experience using the sprayer to avoid drips.

  • How do you prevent paint drips?

    To avoid drippy paint when you're painting with a brush, do not overload the tool with paint. If you're using a roller to paint, roll paint over the wall very slowly and steadily to avoid drips and splatter. Splatter is very common when painting a ceiling with a roller, so don't overload the tool with paint.

  • Can I sand down paint drips?

    Yes, but it is a two-step process as outlined in the steps above. First, you will need to cut the raised portion of the drip out and then use the appropriate grit sandpaper to remove the rest of the raised edges.