How to Fix Paint Drips

Fixing paint drips
 The Spruce / Margot Cavin


  • 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 incredibly frustrating when they dry before you notice them. Drips can happen after painting with a roller or paint sprayer, too, and are easier to fix when they’re still fresh by rolling it out or spreading it.

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.

Why Is My Paint Dripping?

Paint drips are usually caused by applying too much paint to your project in a single coat, typically from using an overloaded paintbrush or roller. 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.

Gravity causes excess paint to run, and as it begins to dry, the paint congeals in visible drips. Similarly, gravity causes paint on the ceiling to drip if not spread on the surface adequately.

Another factor causing paint drips is high humidity. A humid environment tends to slow paint’s drying time, allowing it to drip before thoroughly drying.

Before You Begin

To help find drips while wet, set up a strong light source almost parallel to the surface to highlight drips as they happen. Often called a “raking” light, this light type is a utility lamp that sits on the ground or a clamp on a pole, ladder, or other object and will shine directly onto the wall or thing you are painting at an oblique angle. The light highlights the shadows and raised spots to spot the drip immediately. 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


How to Stop Paint From Dripping

Materials and tools to fix paint drips
 The Spruce / Margot Cavin
  1. Clean up Drips on Wet PaintIf you catch the dripping paint while it is still relatively wet, you can probably fix the paint drip by brushing it out. Try a few brush strokes and see what happens. Stop brushing if this does not affect the drip or the paint feels tacky—the paint is already too dry, and additional brushing exaggerates the problem.TipThe trick is to make the brush strokes in the same direction 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
  2. Let the Paint DryIf the paint is tacky to the touch, it’s best to let it (and the surrounding area) drip dry entirely before trying to remedy the problem. If the paint is still damp, it may peel up when you scrape or sand it, creating an even bigger problem.Paint drip left to dry
  3. Scrape or Sand the DripA paint drip creates a raised area highlighted by the paint’s shininess. Therefore, the first step after the paint has dried is to cut down or sand the raised area with an appropriate grit sandpaper. Start 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 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
  4. Repair Any DamageYou might scrape or sand too deeply into the paint despite your best efforts if there’s a recessed area where the drip was or 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.TipIt’s a good idea first to prime the puttied area to prevent problems with the topcoat; sometimes, the paint will develop pinholes or appear blotchy (known as paint flash) if applied directly over putty.Glazing putty excess scraped off with small drywall knife
  5. Repaint the AreaOnce the drip has been flattened, apply another coat or two of paint. Once the paint dries, the blemish should be barely noticeable.Coat of white paint reapplied with paint rollerCompleted paint wall after removing drip

How to Prevent Paint From Dripping


Saturate your roller thoroughly before using it. Once saturated, use the paint tray to lightly roll out excess paint in the center and on each side. Load the roller regularly to keep it properly saturated. Roll paint over the wall slowly and steadily to avoid drips and splatter. Pushing too hard on the roller causes paint drips. Splatter is common when painting a ceiling with a roller, so don’t overload the tool with paint.


Remove excess paint from the brush after dipping it into the can or paint tray. Keep your paint brushes loaded with a moderate amount of paint, as drips can be caused by too much paint or from pushing too hard on brushes without enough paint.


Prevent paint drips when using a sprayer by spraying in thin coats, repeating as necessary until the color is saturated on the wall or item you’re painting. Never spray too close to the paint target, as this makes the coat of paint too thick and causes drips. Grab a paintbrush and lightly brush out the drip if you notice one forming.


  • Are paint drips normal?Paint drips are common but preventable when paint is applied correctly and carefully.
  • Does humidity make paint drip?Humidity can make the paint drip, cause paint to dry longer, and cause problems with the paint bonding to the surface.
  • At what temperature does paint dry best?Paint dries best best between 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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