How to Choose the Best Paint Sprayer

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

Using a paint sprayer instead of traditional rollers or brushes allows you to 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 allows you to cover more surface area in significantly more time, which reduces arm fatigue.
 
There are two basic types of paint sprayers: airless paint sprayers and sprayers driven by air (HVLP). This guide will help you determine the best paint sprayer for your project.

Airless Sprayers

Airless paint sprayer


Airless sprayers pump paint from a container through a hose directly to a spray gun, creating paint spray without using any compressed air. They accommodate a variety of paint products from thick latex paints to thin stains and are considered to be the fastest type of paint sprayers. They can also spray most coatings depending on the tip size and pump horsepower.

Airless pumps are ideal for multiple large projects a year or people paid to paint. 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 pumps.

Airless sprayers require little set up and cleaning time and produce a professional-looking result 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.
  • Provide 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 sprayers. They are compact, cost less, and are ideal for fences, decks and smaller DIY projects. They can also be used for small touch-ups on larger projects. Paint thinning may be needed for cup sprayers.

HVLP Sprayers

HVLP Sprayers


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 reaches the spraying surface, resulting in less masking and drop cloth use.

HVLP sprayers typically aren’t ideal for thick paint such as latex, but some models come with nozzles specifically designed for such jobs. They do not use tips for spraying, but they do have different front ends for different finishes and applications. Different 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 Paint Sprayer Tips:

  • Some masking 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 unthinned interior and exterior paints, though paint thinning may sometimes be recommended, depending on the project.


Handheld HVLP sprayers are ideal for projects where mobility and long reach are important, whereas stationary models are best when continuous spraying is desired using a direct feed and/or weight and fatigue is a concern.

Tip: Select HLVP units can cover large exteriors as they pull directly from a one- or five-gallon bucket.

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.

  • Texture sprayers are designed to apply interior wall and ceiling textures such as orange peel, popcorn, splatter and knockdown.
  • Line striping machines align the paint sprayer on rollers with a handle so that you can easily roll the device along the ground to paint stripes.


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, and take the necessary safety precautions by wearing a full face respirator or mask.