Originally Posted by smokarz
how many times do you usually paint? and do you sand? e.g, paint, sand, paint, and sand, then poly?
really knows his stuff and I am so glad we have a regular member who is an expert we can consult about finishes. Thanks tgse3 for your sage advice. I often go back and re-read tgse3s posts, as I'm always interested in stepping up my game.
As for the number of coats of paint I use--it depends on a few things.
First is whether I want any wood grain to show or not.
If I do, two coats of paint should be enough and I might or might not use a low solids primer first.
If I do not want any wood grain to show, a good high-build primer, sanded smooth, followed by two coats of paint should do it.
Alternatively, you can maybe just spray a few extra coats of the paint itself, sanded smooth, then spray one final topcoat of the paint. That can work if the paint builds quickly.
Some finishes will allow you to put down an extra thick coat, as long as the surface is flat and horizontal. This can allow for fewer coats, but it is not recommended, because the surface will skin over and the material beneath it will take much longer to dry/cure (assuming it is a one-part finish).
Some finishes will not allow a thick coat and you'll get strange things in the finish as a result, like wide cracks and crevices (not to be confused with crazing, which is something different). In other words, you need to follow the advice of the finish material manufacturer for the product. But, you're always better off applying many thin coats rather than any single thick coat (assuming a one-part finish).
Sanding--Yes, I sand in between coats and I wet sand the top color coat as needed. I don't have a set spray/sand schedule. I go by what I see. Using a light at a raking angle across the surface can help you spot any surface irregularities which need to be addressed before applying your final topcoat.
Hope this helps.
Edit: Oh, and I always make sure the surface is satisfactorily smooth before applying the final topcoat, whatever material is used.
Of course, all this is assuming I am not using a textured paint.