How To Choose Paint Sprayers

Find the best paint sprayer for you to quickly complete any paint project

A paint sprayer is an efficient tool to complete repetitive painting tasks on a variety of materials, and provides solid coverage and a uniform finish. This guide will help you determine which type of sprayer is best for your project.

Airless Sprayers

There are two basic types of paint sprayers: airless and sprayers driven by air.

Airless sprayers pump paint from a container through a hose directly to a spray gun. They accommodate a variety of paint products from thick latex paints to thin stains. These units minimize overspray and are considered to be the fastest.

  • Moderate masking is required.
  • Paint thinning not usually needed.
  • Suggested spraying distance of 12 inches.
  • Provide uniform paint coverage on a wide variety of surfaces.
  • Ideal for large exterior and interior projects.


Cup sprayers are a type of airless sprayer. They are compact, cost less, and are ideal for smaller DIY or craft projects. They can be used for small touch-ups on larger projects. Paint thinning may be needed for cup sprayers.

HVLP Sprayers Driven by Air

High-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) sprayers use air to push paint into a nozzle, where a low-pressure air stream meets it to create a mist-like spray pattern.

HVLP sprayers provide the highest level of transfer efficiency. This means more paint reaches the spraying surface, resulting in less masking and drop cloth use.

HVLP sprayers aren’t ideal for thick paint such as latex.

  • Some masking may be required.
  • Paint thinning is sometimes recommended.
  • Suggested spraying distance is 6 to 8 inches,.
  • Ideal for interior use, detailed work, small projects and small-to-medium exteriors.

Tips and Techniques

Holding the gun closer applies more paint to the surface and creates a narrow spray pattern, while holding the gun farther away results in a thinner coat and a wider spray pattern.

Tip: Most spraying techniques depend on the type of sprayer you choose, so consult your user’s manual for more specific guidance.

  • Test the sprayer on a large piece of cardboard or other scrap material, adjusting the sprayer and your technique as needed to achieve a uniform spray pattern.
  • To prevent paint buildup, start your stroke before you pull the trigger and then continue the stroke after releasing the trigger.
  • To achieve a smooth, even coat, keep the spray gun a consistent distance from the surface and overlap each spray stroke by about 50 percent, then spray a succession of overlapping strips.
  • Move the sprayer in a smooth motion and at a consistent pace — ideally about 3 inches per second.
  • Spray straight at the surface. Avoid swinging your arm back and forth. Move your arm, not your wrist, keeping the gun straight and at right angles to prevent arcing, which causes an uneven coating.
  • Once you have started painting, do not leave the sprayer idle for more than 20 minutes or the paint will begin to harden.
  • Clean the unit thoroughly following manufacturer’s instructions once your project is completed