Using a paint sprayer instead of traditional rollers or brushes lets you save time, exert less effort and achieve consistent paint coverage on your project. Paint sprayers simplify repetitive painting tasks on hard-to-paint surfaces while still providing a uniform finish. This lets you cover more surface area in significantly less time, which reduces arm fatigue. This guide covers the best paint sprayers for any type of project. It will help you determine the best paint sprayer for interior walls and for other DIY jobs.
Types of Paint Sprayers
The two basic types of paint sprayers are airless paint sprayers and paint sprayers driven by air. Each type has different specifications and work limitations. The best paint sprayers for your project will depend on your budget and what you want to do.
Airless Paint Sprayers
Airless Paint Sprayers:
- Are the fastest of all paint sprayers.
- Accommodate a variety of paint products, from thick latex paints to thin stain.
- Can be used for a wide range of coating materials.
- Are recommended for large paint projects.
Airless sprayers pump paint from a container through a hose directly to a spray gun, creating paint spray without using any compressed air. They can also spray most coatings depending on the tip size and pump horsepower.
Airless pumps are ideal for people who are paid to paint. They work well for DIYers who need to do multiple large projects. Jobs like the full exterior of a large house or the interior of a new build are ideally suited for the speed and size of airless paint sprayers.
Airless sprayers require little setup and cleaning time. They produce professional-looking results even on surfaces that are hard to paint using a traditional brush.
Airless Paint Sprayer Tips:
- Masking is required before your spray the area.
- Paint thinning not usually needed.
- Suggested spraying distance of 12 inches.
- Provides uniform paint coverage on a wide variety of surfaces.
- Ideal for large exterior and interior projects, especially doors and cabinets, siding and fences.
- For best results, strain your paint before use.
Cup sprayers are a type of handheld airless sprayer. They are the best paint sprayer for home use because they are compact, less costly and require little setup. They are ideal for fences, decks and smaller DIY projects. Cup sprayers can also be used for small touch-ups on larger projects. Paint thinning may be needed for cup sprayers.
HVLP Paint Sprayers:
- Allow more paint to reach the spraying surface.
- Are compatible with stains and most interior and exterior paints. They aren’t ideal for thick paint such as latex, but some models come with nozzles specifically designed for such jobs.
- Are recommended for general home use.
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. These sprayers provide the highest level of transfer efficiency, which means more paint gets to what you're painting. As a result, you may be able to reduce the amount of masking and number of drop cloths you use while working with an HLVP sprayer.
HVLP sprayers don't use tips for spraying, but they do have front ends for different finishes and applications. Many brands and models provide nozzles specifically designed for broad surfaces, such as decks and siding, or small projects with fine finishing.
HVLP sprayers are great for general home use with projects varying in quantity and size. Use these sprayers when painting a single room, smaller house exteriors, trim, deck and fence staining, as well as some crafting. HVLP sprayers also make good paint sprayers for crafts.
HVLP Paint Sprayer Tips:
- Some masking of the painting area may be required.
- Suggested spraying distance is 6 inches.
- Ideal for interior use, detailed work, small projects and small-to-medium exteriors.
- Compatible with stains and most interior and exterior paints. Paint thinning may sometimes be recommended, depending on the project.
Handheld HVLP sprayers are ideal for projects where mobility and long reach are important. Stationary models are best when continuous spraying is desired using a direct feed and/or the weight of the sprayer and user fatigue is a concern.
Tip: Select HLVP units can cover large exteriors as they pull directly from a one- or five-gallon bucket.
Compressed Air Paint Sprayers
Compressed Air Paint Sprayers:
- Produce a smooth and even finish.
- Have adjustable PSI settings.
- Are recommended for car coatings and indoor, outdoor and industrial applications.
Compressed air sprayers, also known as pneumatic sprayers, project the paint out of the nozzle's tip using compressed air. A typical compressed air sprayer set-up includes a spray gun attachment, a high-pressure hose and a compressor canister.
Compressed Paint Sprayer Tips:
- Thorough masking of the work area is required. Tape and cover areas that you do not want to be covered in paint.
- Suggested spraying distance is 12 inches.
- Compressed air sprayers need thinned paint to work efficiently. Refer to the manufacturer’s directions on thinning paint so that it will work with the sprayer.
- Adjust the PSI level to the setting that is appropriate for whatever job you are trying to accomplish.
- Test the sprayer on a disposable sheet of paper as you try to determine optimal pressure levels.
Controlling the spray can be difficult at first and requires plenty of prep work to protect surrounding surfaces. Pneumatic sprayers are one of the best paint sprayers for home use. They work well for projects around the house, including painting kitchen cabinets and furniture.
General Tips and Techniques
Most spraying techniques depend on the type of sprayer you choose, so consult your user’s manual for more specific guidance.
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. But be careful not to hold the sprayer too far away or the paint can dry before reaching the wall, which creates more overspray and loss of material.
- 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.
- Carefully observe how the paint lands on your project when you first start spraying, then speed up or slow down to get consistent, even coverage.
- 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.
- Regularly wipe the tip of your paint sprayer to prevent paint from dying and disrupting the spray pattern.
- Clean the unit thoroughly following manufacturer’s instructions once your project is completed.
- Do not store paint in your paint sprayer for an extended period of time.
Specialty Sprayers and Accessories
For projects with unusual challenges, or if you simply want a different paint finish than that produced by a standard paint sprayer, you may need to use a specialty sprayer.
Choose from handheld paint sprayers or paint sprayers that use stands, carts or are cordless. Each type allows you to rest your arms during long painting jobs, or provides more flexibility as you paint.
Paint Sprayer Safety
No matter what type of paint sprayer you use, preparation is key. Make sure to set up drop cloths and properly tape off the area you're going to spray. Wear coveralls and old clothes you don't mind getting paint on.
Take the necessary safety precautions by wearing a full-face paint respirator or mask, and eye protection. While using the paint sprayer, only spray what you intend to paint. Avoid aiming the sprayer at other people, pets or any animals. Don’t spray windows. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for more information about using a paint sprayer safely.
Knowing about the types of paint sprayers can help you select one that will work well for your project. Depending on what you want to paint, you may need an airless paint sprayer, a compressed air sprayer or an HVLP sprayer.
Ready to get a paint sprayer, as well as paint and other supplies to get the job done right? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.
If you only need a paint sprayer for one job, The Home Depot offers tool rental. Rent a paint sprayer and use it once, then bring it back. You won’t have to worry about maintaining or storing it.