$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent

$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com

One of the bigest problems with spray guns and spray paint is the mess that they leave behind.  No matter how careful you are or how a particular product claims to limit overspray, you are going to have a thin coat of blue/white/black/red/whatever paint on anything that has the audacity to look at it funny. That overspray keeps me from spray painting most of the time.  Between the overspray in the garage and the little bugs that get in my piece when I paint outside, a paint brush provided me fewer frustrations.

When Graco sent me the new sprayer, Tom finally agreed to build me the “easy and cheap paint tent” that he’s been talking about for years.  This way, I could paint in the garage (free from bugs) while protecting our surfaces.  We don’t have a lot of extra space to store large items, so he wanted to make sure that the tent was collapsible, too.

Since it worked so well, Tom was excited for me to post the tutorial for you guys.  He agreed to write it, but that would probably take a few more years to complete, too.  So, here it is from yours truly.


$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent

1.  Cut 12 lengths of PVC pipe 7 feet long.  We used pipe that was 3/4″ in diameter and is labeled Schedule 40 (Sch.40 on the pipe).  We found that type of pipe was inexpensive yet rigid enough to support our structure.  We choose 7 feet because that made will make the tent tall enough for a person to stand in and wide enough for most pieces of furniture that I paint.

You can cut your PVC pipe with a handsaw or a pipe cutter.  A pipe cutter is a cool little tool with a wheel on it that cuts as you spin it around the pipe.

$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com

We bought 12 10-foot lengths and cut them down to 7 feet.  The pipes were $2.28 a piece.  If you are really short, you could buy 5 foot lengths and save yourself a few bucks.  I don’t think they were available in anything between 5 and 10 – and no longer than 10 – at my Lowe’s.

2.  Connect your 12 7-foot sections to 3-way PVC side outlet corner elbows so that they form a cube. Make sure that the elbows are the same rating (i.e. Sch.40) and diameter of your pipe.  I don’t know why other than “Tom said so,” so I hope that’s a good enough answer for you.  You will need 8 of these, and they are $1.60 a piece.

$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com
$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com
It creates a cool optical illusion, right?  It magically makes my garage look like we have stuff everywhere! But, we can park my truck and Tom’s car in there, so no making fun of me.

3.  Next, you get to plastic wrap the whole thing, Dexter style.  You will need 6 plastic 9×12′ drop cloths in total.  We started on one side and taped the drop cloths to the top and went around making sure that all sides (except the floor) were covered.  After the ceiling and walls were covered (4 drop cloths), I tilted the tent and slid another drop cloth under it to cover the floor (1 drop cloth).

$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com

You can see that we made a little door flap on one side of the tent so that I could easily get in and out. It’s just in the way that the plastic drop cloths are positioned.  I put little arrows on the below image so that it would be easier to see.  Yours doesn’t have to look exactly like this, but make sure there is an open area where the plastic overlaps – it will essentially seal you into the tent.

$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com

But wait, Lindsay.  You said I needed 6 drop cloths.  Yeah, you do.  Set up some sort of table/sawhorse system (remember it’s easiest to spray when things are waist high!) and completely cover that with a drop cloth.  There’s your 6.

$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com

We bought a 12 pack of .5mil drop cloths for $8.98.  These really can’t be easily reused, so that one box gave me enough for two different tent set ups.

4.  Now, all you have to do is hop in there and paint!  In between coats, I propped the little door flap open and pointed a box fan in there  – it is super humid here, and that helped cut the humidity in the air and let the paint dry.

5.  When you are finished, tear off the plastic and throw it away (it will likely be so covered in paint that you can barely even see out of it).  Then, disassemble your pipes and elbows and put them in an out-of-the-way spot until the next time you are ready to spray something.

$50 DIY Collapsible Spray Paint Tent via MakelyHome.com

This is such a nice thing to have – and it cost us less than $50 to put together.

Pipes: 12 @ $2.28 each = $27.36
Elbows: 8 @ $1.60 each = $12.80
Plastic drop cloths: 12 for $8.98, but only use 6 for a tent = $4.49
Painter’s Tape: $3.93 a roll
Total: $48.58

It will only cost you $5 or $6 (for the drop cloths and tape) each time you want to set it up. Isn’t your time worth that over painting with a brush? Mine sure is!

You can click here to see what I painted in the tent the first time I used it and learn more about the spray gun that I used.

*****IMPORTANT!  I also need to say that you MUST wear a respirator when you are in the tent.  MUST, MUST, MUST.  If you go in there without one, I’ll drive to your house and give you a stern talking to.  And no, those little paper masks just won’t work.  You should ALWAYS use a respirator for your projects if there’s any chance that some harmful particles (pant, wood sand, metal etc) will be in the air.  Don’t make me hunt you down.  Because I will.  And I can be mean.  Not really, but seriously.  My granddaddy was a machinist and we are certain that the metal dust is what caused his lung disease.  

I also recommend wearing safety glasses (which you should be wearing anyway when you spray paint), nitrile/latex gloves and long sleeves/pants when you go in there (so you won’t be covered in a fine mist of paint yourself).

So, what do you think?  Could you use an easy, collapsible spray tent in your life?

Filed Under: Create Your Decor, Project Gallery

About Lindsay Ballard

Lindsay Ballard is a former college mascot turned political geek turned DIY fanatic who is conspiring to live in a Technicolor dream world. Her designs are bold and graphic, while her spirit is fun and full of color. Lindsay chronicles her projects and design ideas here at Makely, where she shares daily tutorials and inspiration. Lindsay lives outside of Austin, Texas with her husband (Tom), children (Zack and Emma) and dogs (Jack and Duke).


  1. I would love a paint tent…..I think I would make the walls out of fabric drop clothes and just reuse them. How do you think that would work?

    • Great idea, Robyn! But, I think that gives you two problems to consider: 1) It would be extremely dark in the tent if you used fabric drop cloths, so you’d need to put several lights in there and 2) You might need a higher rated pipe, as I’m not sure if the type that I used could withstand that type of weight.

      • Thanks Lindsay! Very good points I will keep in mind! My DD told me several years ago I needed a “Dexter” room to do my painting in! LOL

  2. Julia @ cuckoo4design says:

    I’m so freakin jealous!!! This is what I need and I have no room…boooohooo! I’d have to get it out every time to paint in the drive way!
    And my first thought was Dexter when I saw the tent. One of my favorite shows ever!

  3. This is such a great idea! I’ve pinned this to give it a try. The last time I spray painted in the garage I ended up with the dreaded overspray on everything.

  4. Just made one of these. It definitely took two sets of hands…and we cannot stop commenting/comparing to a dexter kill room. We’re happy to save our garage from overspray + psyched to brake out the new paint sprayer!!

  5. Love that you brought up Dexter because that’s EXACTLY what I was thinking. Brilliant idea!

  6. That is a genius idea! I might have to do this myself, Brilliant!

  7. That’s a brilliant idea – thanks for sharing. Instead of going out and buying PVC pipes, I’m going to try adapting your idea to an old picnic shade tent that I picked up at a garage sale for $10 – hopefully it will work.

  8. Thia is great! I need to paint some stuff on my porch and this would protect everything! And I promise I will wear a respirator : ) well done!

  9. Do you have any idea what the relative humidity ended up being inside the tent? I have a rubber boat to repair that requires very low humidity and a temperature around 65 degrees or so for the glue to take and set properly (a challenge in MS). Was thinking this may work with a dehumidifier. Did you experience issues with your paint curing properly due to excess humidity? Was your fan able to vent the fumes adequately enough to keep them out of your home?

  10. Hi Lindsay, I own a small contracting business and spray quite often. such a time saver.( And yes i use a respirator) I’ve been searching for a portable spray tent and this is just about perfect. I’ve been making them out of 2×4’s and just takes so long to construct.

    Thank you for sharing ,I will let you know on the outcome!


  11. Thanks for the great info! I am going to try your tent and explore your blog some more. It looks amazing!


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