There is always confusion about application of paint- be it color or clear coat. It's because of individual descriptions, and not necessarily preferences on what works.
First, if a coat goes on dry, and has that grainy texture with no gloss, it's because the solvents have evaporated before application on the subject. The carrier has left the building! The danger in this is that there is no binder to adhere the coat to the subject. Do not skimp on the intial coat! Subsequent coats will not "burn in" if the top of the previous coat is dry- and it will promote adhesion of the first pass to the substrate/subject.
Now- the question comes up- is it a coat or a "pass?" It is not a coat, because a "coat" is a series of passes. It could be two or more.
So when you spray paint you define an area that you can cover and come back over before it can flash completely. This is dependent on what's being painted, and how it's comfortable to break up the areas.
The intial pass should should be light (not cover) but wet. This is accomplished by moving the gun more quickly. Because of the thinness, it will flash quickly. Now the second pass will cover- not only because of the additional paint, but it will be aplied more slowly. Maybe a third pass will be necessary to get the desired effect, without runs, drips, and dry edges. Practice will allow you to make that determination. Now you have applied ONE COAT! Three series of three passes equals three coats.
Contributing to a dry pass is moving too fast, or having the tip too far from the work. Another contribution is paint mixture/ gun adjustment , and conditions, but when using pre-packaged paints, it's less of a deal.
With the pre-pak (aerosol) stuff you have less control, and less to worry about except practice. With a gun applied finsih you have more control, but a couple of adjustments to be familiar with- air pressure, fluid volume- air volume, and fan width (or spray pattern). If you've followed mfr's thinning recommendations, that would be all. While this may seem more complicated, it's really not.
The bottom line is, either method of application requires practice- so you can get enough paint on to cover with the thinnest film thickness.
DO NOT be afraid to lay on the paint! You are far better off to sand out a couple of drips, than trying to get a dry coat to adhere!