How to Fix Paint Drips

Fixing paint drips

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

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, 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. Gravity causes the excess paint to run, and as it begins to dry, the paint congeals in visible drips. The good news is you can fix paint drips even after the paint has dried, and it's even easier if you catch them while the paint is still wet.

Tip

We've listed the tools you might need to fix paint drips for both wet and dry paint, as well as more extreme fixes. Read through the steps carefully to determine exactly which tools you'll need.

Wet paint drip
The Spruce / Margot Cavin

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

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

Materials

  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Glazing putty

Instructions

  1. Clean up Drips on Wet Paint

    If you catch the dripping paint while the paint is still relatively wet, you can probably just brush out the drip. 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.

    Tip

    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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

    Tip

    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.

  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.