How to Fix Paint Drips

Updated: Dec. 17, 2023

Don't let paint drips get you down! For a flawless finish, save your paint job by tackling unsightly drips or runs while they're still wet.

You’ve laid down drop cloths, taped off your trim, popped the top on your can of paint and are off to a great start with your DIY paint job. Before long, however, you notice paint drips ruining your flawless finish — a sure sign that you’ve overloaded your brush or roller with paint.

No need to panic, says Five Star Painting president Matt Kunz. “It’s easy to fix any drips while the paint is still wet, but don’t wait too long,” he says. Remove these frustrating imperfections by implementing the following how-to steps and insider tips.

How to Fix Paint Drips

Keep an eye out for paint drips and runs while you paint. Smoothing out drips while they’re still wet is much easier than fixing dried paint drips. “If you immediately notice that you put too much paint in one area, quickly spread out the dripping paint,” advises Kunz.

If you see drips or runs forming on your painted surface, here’s how to remedy the situation before it’s too late.

Tools and materials

  • Spotlight: Kunz recommends setting up a spotlight or utility light before you begin. “It’s helpful to use a raking light (a light source set at an oblique angle or almost parallel to the wall surface) to discover any paint drips you might have missed along the way,” he says.

  • Painting tool: To blend in drips, use the same type of painting tool — generally a brush or roller — you’ve been using so the surface texture matches and your drip repair doesn’t stand out. Grab the same tool or keep a smaller version on hand for more precise repairs.

  • Paint: You need paint on your brush or roller to smooth out drips, so don’t seal up that can until you’ve thoroughly checked the painted surface for imperfections.

Remove excess paint from your tool

Remove excess paint from your brush or roller to avoid creating more drips. Your tool should be damp with paint, but not loaded.

Brush or roll over the drip

Brush or roll over the drip in the same direction you painted the surrounding surface. Brushing or rolling in the opposite direction can cause cross-strokes that are unsightly and difficult to remove.

Check with a raking light

After a few brush or roller strokes, check the effect with a raking light. If you can’t see the drip, then your quick fix was a success and you can continue with your paint job.

If it hasn’t blended in or the drip has a tacky consistency, stop. The drip is already too set to be smoothed out. You’ll need to wait until it’s completely dry before sanding away the imperfection and repainting the area.

How to Prevent Paint Drips

Not overloading your roller or brush is the best way to avoid drips or runs. Behr Paint Sales and Development Trainer Jessica Barr offers these tips.

  • For a roller: Lightly dampen the roller cover, then remove excess moisture with a paper towel. Doing so will invite the paint into the nap and remove any minor surface lint from the roller packaging. It’s important to roll the cover into the deep end of the paint tray several times. Don’t be shy — give it 10 to 12 rolls to fully saturate the roller cover. A properly loaded roller shouldn’t drip when rolling on the surface, but you shouldn’t have to apply strong force against a surface to force the paint out of the roller nap.

  • For a brush: If you’re using a water-based paint, start by lightly dampening the bristles of your brush with water, just to moisten the ends. (For oil-based paint, make sure you’re using a high-quality brush.) Dip one-third of the total length of the bristles into the paint. Lightly tap the brush against the inside of the paint can or tray to remove excess paint. Don’t wipe the brush against the can’s rim; that fills the rim with paint, making it messy and difficult to open and close the lid. Repeat this process at least twice to make sure the bristles soak up enough paint to start the project.