Understanding Sandpaper for Paint: Grain, Grit, and Backing


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Sandpaper is an essential tool in the world of painting and finishing. Whether you are a professional painter or a DIY enthusiast, understanding the different types of sandpaper and their uses is crucial for achieving a smooth and flawless finish. In this article, we will delve into the world of sandpaper, exploring its various grains, grits, and backings, and how they impact the painting process.

The Best Sandpaper for Paint

1Our Pick
Emery Cloth Roll, 5 Grits Abrasive Sandpaper Rolls

2You might also need
BLACK+DECKER 2.0 Amp Electric 1/4 Sheet Orbit Sander

3You might also need
Aouker HS85180 Hand Sander

The Basics of Sandpaper

Sandpaper, also known as abrasive paper, is a coated abrasive material used for smoothing surfaces through abrasion. It consists of a flexible backing material coated with abrasive particles. The abrasive particles, also known as grit, are responsible for removing material from the surface being sanded.

There are various types of sandpaper available in the market, each designed for specific applications. The most common types include emery paper, garnet sandpaper, aluminum oxide sandpaper, and silicon carbide sandpaper. Let’s explore each of these in detail.

Emery Paper

Emery paper is one of the oldest types of sandpaper and is made from natural minerals. It is primarily used for hand sanding and is known for its versatility. Emery paper is available in various grits, ranging from coarse to fine. It is commonly used for sanding metal surfaces, such as rust removal or polishing.

Garnet Sandpaper

Garnet sandpaper is another popular type of sandpaper. It is made from natural garnet minerals and is known for its excellent cutting ability. Garnet sandpaper is commonly used for woodworking projects, as it provides a smooth finish without leaving deep scratches. It is available in various grits, making it suitable for both rough sanding and fine finishing.

Aluminum Oxide Sandpaper

Aluminum oxide sandpaper is one of the most commonly used types of sandpaper. It is made from synthetic materials and is known for its durability and long lifespan. Aluminum oxide sandpaper is available in a wide range of grits, from coarse to fine. It is suitable for sanding both wood and metal surfaces, making it a versatile choice for many applications.

Silicon Carbide Sandpaper

Silicon carbide sandpaper is a popular choice for sanding hard materials such as glass, ceramics, and stone. It is known for its aggressive cutting action and ability to produce a smooth finish. Silicon carbide sandpaper is available in various grits, ranging from coarse to fine. It is commonly used for automotive refinishing, woodworking, and metalworking.

Grit and its Importance

Grit is a measure of the size of the abrasive particles on the sandpaper. It determines the aggressiveness of the sandpaper and the type of surface it is suitable for. The higher the grit number, the finer the abrasive particles and the smoother the finish.

When choosing sandpaper for a painting project, it is important to consider the grit that best suits your needs. Here are some common grit ranges and their applications:

  • Coarse Grit (40-60): Ideal for heavy material removal, such as stripping paint or smoothing rough surfaces.
  • Medium Grit (80-120): Suitable for general sanding and preparing surfaces for painting or staining.
  • Fine Grit (150-180): Used for sanding between coats of paint or varnish to achieve a smooth finish.
  • Extra Fine Grit (220+): Perfect for final sanding and achieving a polished surface.

Backing Types

The backing of the sandpaper plays a crucial role in its performance and durability. There are three main types of backing commonly used in sandpaper:

  • Paper Backing: Paper-backed sandpaper is the most common type and is suitable for most applications. It is flexible, easy to tear, and provides good adhesion for the abrasive particles.
  • Cloth Backing: Cloth-backed sandpaper is more durable than paper-backed sandpaper and is commonly used for heavy-duty applications. It is tear-resistant and can withstand high heat and pressure.
  • Film Backing: Film-backed sandpaper is the most durable type of sandpaper backing. It is made from a thin plastic film and is commonly used for wet sanding applications. Film-backed sandpaper is tear-resistant, waterproof, and provides a consistent finish.

Choosing the Right Sandpaper for Painting Prep

When it comes to painting prep, choosing the right sandpaper is crucial for achieving a smooth and long-lasting finish. Here are some tips to help you choose the right sandpaper for your painting project:

  • Identify the surface: Determine the type of surface you will be sanding. Different surfaces require different types of sandpaper. For example, wood surfaces may require a different type of sandpaper than metal surfaces.
  • Consider the grit: Determine the level of sanding required and choose the appropriate grit. Coarse grits are suitable for heavy material removal, while fine grits are ideal for achieving a smooth finish.
  • Choose the backing: Consider the backing type based on the application. Paper-backed sandpaper is suitable for most applications, while cloth-backed sandpaper is more durable and suitable for heavy-duty tasks.
  • Test on a small area: Before sanding the entire surface, test the sandpaper on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it achieves the desired result.


Sandpaper is a versatile tool that plays a crucial role in achieving a smooth and flawless finish in painting and finishing projects. Understanding the different types of sandpaper, their grains, grits, and backings is essential for choosing the right sandpaper for your specific application. Whether you are sanding wood, metal, or other materials, selecting the appropriate sandpaper will ensure optimal results. So, the next time you embark on a painting project, remember to consider the grain, grit, and backing of the sandpaper to achieve professional-quality results.

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