on June 3 2013
More Coverage—Less Time
If your paintbrush and roller are slowing you down, consider using a powered paint sprayer. From small finishing jobs to large surfaces, sprayers are extremely handy. They allow you to quickly and efficiently complete repetitive painting tasks, and many models are versatile enough to handle a variety of objects and materials, including wood, masonry, brick and metal.
Spray painting is highly desirable due to the solid coverage and uniform finish it produces. With sprayer solutions for everything from large exterior surfaces, such as a deck or garage, to more detailed interior objects, such as a louvered door or ornate piece of furniture, you are sure to find one that meets your needs.
Consider the following questions as you explore your options:
• What types of projects will you tackle with your sprayer?
• What is the material of the surface you will be painting?
• How large are the surface areas you typically paint?
• How thick is the paint or stain you intend to use?
• How frequently will these projects be performed?
Selecting Your Sprayer
There are a number of sprayers available on the market today, including air sprayers, airless sprayers and high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) sprayers. Each type is designed to help you accomplish specific painting tasks quickly, efficiently and with beautiful results.
Your selection will be largely determined by your intended application, so it is important to know what surfaces you will be painting, what types of paint and/or stain you will need to apply and if the coverage area will be large or small. Click on the links below to learn more about some of the most common types of paint sprayers.
These compact and convenient airless powered sprayers are ideal for the do-it-yourselfer or the craft and hobby enthusiast. They offer quick, even application of paint and stains without the expense associated with more advanced models designed for large-scale work.
Cup sprayers draw paint to the gun where the spray pattern is formed and propelled forward onto a surface. Simply fill the cup with your paint and plug it into a standard outlet or an appropriately rated extension cord and tackle everything from staining articles of furniture to painting shelving for your office.
• Masking is required
• Paint may need to be thinned
• Ideal for small jobs, touch-up work or when using multiple colors
• Many models include a siphon attachment that draws paint straight from the bucket
• Applications include: Craft and hobby projects, small projects and touch-up work
Conventional air sprayers use compressed air creating a spray pattern to apply paint onto a surface. Paint droplets form when air meets a stream of paint and the spray gun’s nozzle directs the paint pattern for smooth, even coverage. Conventional air spraying equipment can accommodate a variety of paint types. Some sprayers of this type may require you to adjust paint thickness by diluting with liquid.
• Extensive masking is required
• Paint thinning is sometimes needed
• The suggested spraying distance is 6" to 12"
• Provides a fine finish, good for high-quality work
• Applications include: Automotive work, fine, high-quality finishes, small projects, small-to-medium
exteriors and interiors
Airless sprayers work under high pressure accommodating a variety of paint products from thick latex paints to thin stains. These units also minimize overspray and are considered to be the fastest.
Forcing paint through a tiny hole in the spray gun creates a paint pattern which is then applied to the intended surface. Occasionally the small nozzle hole may clog with dirt or dried paint. Most high quality sprayers come with reversible spray tips to help prevent clogs.
• Moderate masking is required
• Paint thinning not usually needed
• The suggested spraying distance is 12"
• Airless sprayers provide uniform paint coverage on a wide variety of surfaces
• Applications include: Large exterior and interior projects
High-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) sprayers use a high volume of air to help break up the paint and push it into the nozzle. An additional low-pressure air stream is transmitted through the nozzle, meeting the paint creating a fine, mist-like spray pattern. This results in a sprayer that produces minimal overspray, making it a good choice for interior or detail work.
HVLP sprayers also provide the highest level of transfer efficiency. This means more paint reaches the spraying surface, resulting less masking and drop cloth usage. HVLP sprayers work best with thinner substances, they aren’t ideal for thick paint such as latex.
• Some masking may be required
• Paint thinning is sometimes recommended
• The suggested spraying distance is 6" to 8"
• Ideal for interior applications and detailed work
• Applications include: Small projects, small-to-medium exteriors and interiors
Tips and Techniques
Whichever model you choose, you’ll want to master a few general spraying techniques to maximize your investment and improve the quality of your painting. When using your sprayer, keep in mind that holding the gun closer applies more paint to the surface and has a narrower spray pattern, while holding the gun farther away results in a thinner coat and a wider spray pattern.
Most spraying techniques depend upon the type of sprayer you choose, so consult your user’s manual for more specific rules and proper use of your equipment. Here are some general tips that apply to most paint sprayers.
• 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. Overlap each spray stroke by about 50% by pointing the tip at the edge of the
• To achieve a smooth, even coat keep the spray gun a consistent distance from the surface and overlap
each spray stroke by about 50%, then spray a succession of overlapping strips
• Move the sprayer in a smooth motion and at a consistent pace—usually about 3 inches per second
• Spray straight at the surface, and 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
• Try framing a rectangle on the surface and filling it in or spraying a grid with perpendicular lines, then fill
the area with horizontal or vertical paint strokes
• Once you have begun to work, do not leave the sprayer idle for more than 20 minutes or the paint will
begin to harden
• When you have finished painting for the day or are taking a break of significant length, be sure to clean
the paint from the unit, carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions
Sprayers are particularly useful for painting deeply textured, hard-to-reach, or multi-piece surfaces with many nooks and crannies such as eaves, lattices, or even rough stucco. These surfaces will require you to carefully mask the area and put down plenty of drop cloths. Never use a sprayer on windy or even breezy days.
To avoid mishaps or injury, always wear protective clothing and gloves, as well as goggles. Never point the sprayer head at your body. The powerful jet of paint from a sprayer can force paint through your skin. If that happens, get immediate medical attention.
Before you clean a power sprayer, turn off and unplug the unit. Then pull the spray-gun trigger to release the remaining pressure in the hose. Make sure to set the safety lock on the spray gun when you are not spraying.