Should Paint be Shaken or Stirred Before Use?

Mixing Paint

If you’re wondering if paint should be shaken or stirred before use, then you’re in the right place. Paint can be a tricky thing. On the surface, painting seems simple. However, anyone who has painted for a little while knows that the details matter. 

Both shaking and stirring your paint can be helpful before use. Many hardware stores will shake the paint for you; however, you should still stir the paint yourself before beginning your project

Overall, painting isn’t difficult. However, several things need to be performed correctly for your painting project to run smoothly. 

Below, you’ll find a detailed discussion about the best way to stir and shake your paint. 

Why You Should Shake and Stir Your Paint

Paint is not uniform. Paint contains many parts that play a role in giving you a beautiful color. 

Generally, paints contain four main ingredients: solvents, additives, pigments, and binders. 

These four paint ingredients each play an important role:

  1. Solvents provides a medium or liquid that suspends everything else within the paint. 
  2. Additives will contain mold and mildew-resistant properties. 
  3. Pigments are the color and shade of the paint. 
  4. Binders allow everything to bind together, sort of like glue. 

When paint sits for an extended period, these components will begin to separate. 

There is nothing wrong with the separation that happens between the parts of the paint. However, you will need to do something about this separation before you can begin painting. 

That’s where stirring and shaking your paint comes into play. 

Both stirring and shaking your paint will mix the different parts of the paint to create a uniform product. 

In the sections below, I’ll share some tips and tricks on the best way to stir and shake your paint. 

Should You Shake a Can of Paint? 

Shaking a can of paint can be helpful to mix the various components. However, shaking paint does have some potential downfalls. 

First, it is very difficult to shake a large can of paint by yourself effectively. For this reason, I would recommend you have your paint shaken at a hardware store.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of stirring your paint, you may be able to bring your paint into a hardware store and have them shake it for you. 

Second, shaking paint can also cause air bubbles to form within the paint. These air bubbles will cause problems when you try to brush or roll the paint onto a surface. The problems with air bubbles include a lack of adhesion and a rough finish. 

If you decide to try shaking your paint, I’ll share some tips on the best way to do so in the next section. 

Note: Shaking paint by yourself should not replace stirring your paint before use. 

The Best Way to Shake a Can of Paint 

If you have a large bucket of paint that you need to mix up, it’s best to leave this job for the hardware store. Hardware stores (or other places that sell paint) will usually have large paint mixing machines. 

Here are a few tips if you’re shaking paint by yourself. 

  1. First, make sure the lid is secure on the paint. Spilling paint is a huge mess – one you should avoid. 
  2. Second, hold the paint can between your hands and flip it back and forth. You will likely get tired relatively fast if you have a large bucket of paint. 
  3. Third, you could place some bolts, or ball-bearings inside the container of paint before you shake it. For example, a can of spray paint has the ball bearings that will rattle around, helping to mix the paint.
  4. Finally, you may need to stir the paint by hand after you shake it. Gentle stirring will help remove air bubbles and ensure the paint is fully mixed. 

Now let’s talk about stirring your paint.  

Should you Stir a Can of Paint? 

Stirring your paint is one of the most important parts of using paint. If you forget to stir – or stir your paint improperly – you can end up with unsatisfactory results. 

What does stirring your paint do? 

Well, as we already stated, you need to stir your paint to ensure that the additives, pigments, solvents, and binders in your paint are all working together properly. 

However, stirring your paint also allows you to inspect your paint. 

Is there any dirt or grime that snuck into an old can of paint? If so, you may need to discard the paint or only use it for unimportant projects. 

Is there a film that has dried over the top of your paint? You’ll want to remove this membrane before stirring. 

If your paint was frozen, it may be useless or may need extra stirring. Stirring your paint allows you to inspect your paint and prepare it for use.

In the next section, I’ll cover the best way to stir your paint. 

The Best Way to Stir a Can of Paint 

Stirring your paint may seem simple; however, there is more to this technique than meets the eye. 

So, before you start stirring your paint, here are several tools you will need: 

  1. Paint stir stick – if you can, get one that is a little more robust than a thin wooden one.
  2. Electric drill – you’ll want a powerful drill to spin a more robust paint mixer. Just make sure you have a large enough chuck to attach to your paint mixer. 
  3. Paint mixer – though you can get by with just a stir stick, a paint mixer that attaches to your drill isn’t that expensive, and it will be a real help. 

Once you have the appropriate tools, it’s time to start stirring some paint. Follow the steps below to stir your paint. 

How to stir paint: 

  1. Carefully open your paint before stirring 
  2. When using a stir stick to stir the paint – scrape the edges  
  3. When using an electric paint mixer – watch out for air bubbles 
  4. Stir until the paint is uniform – and then stir a little longer 
  5. Repeat stirring throughout your painting project

Let’s explore these steps in more depth. 

Carefully Open Your Paint Before Stirring 

Being careful not to spill a full bucket of paint should not be overlooked. Paint can be incredibly difficult to clean up after a spill – especially if it starts to dry. 

Also, good paint is expensive. You don’t want to waste any of it. 

It’s a good idea to have a wet rag on hand to clean up any spills. 

Scrape the Edges while Stirring Paint 

If you just stab the center of the paint and start stirring, you may neglect some areas of the paint. 

When you begin stirring with a stir stick, be sure the stick has a flat bottom. Use this flat end to scrape along the bottom of the can. 

Also, take some time to scrape the sides. Scraping the sides will ensure you work all the parts of the paint together. Use a steady motion while stirring. You don’t want any splashing. 

Beware of Air Bubbles while Stirring Your Paint 

When it comes to painting, air bubbles are a problem. If you are using a drill to spin a paint mixer, you need to be especially concerned with air bubbles. 

To avoid the pesky little bubbles, fully submerge the stir stick before you start to stir. 


Well, if you begin using an electric spinner before it is fully submerged, the fast spinning action will create an air pocket. This air pocket will force air bubbles into the paint. Not good. 

So, fully submerge the mixer, and then turn it on. Work your way from the bottom of the paint to the top. 

Stir Until the Paint is Smooth 

How long should you stir your paint? If you’re stirring by hand, you may need to stir for five to ten minutes. If you have an electric mixer, then this will be much faster. 

You’ll be able to tell once the paint is fully mixed. It will be smooth. Also, fully mixed paint won’t have any clumps or look swirly. 

In general, err on the side of over stirring rather than under-stirring. 

Keep Stirring Your Paint Throughout Use 

Finally, if you have a big painting project, you may need to keep stirring your paint throughout the day. Paint doesn’t take long to begin to settle, so you’ll need to be ready to give it a good stir throughout the day. 

You shouldn’t have to stir it as much as you did in the beginning. Instead, just keep a stir stick nearby to maintain a nice consistency. 


You should mix your paint before applying it to anything. For home projects, stirring your paint will be superior to shaking it. If you get the right tools for the job, you will greatly increase your efficiency. 

If you want to shake your paint, I suggest taking it to a hardware store and asking an employee if they can mix your paint with their machine.