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5 Different Types of Paint Sprayers: Which is Right for You?

worker uses a spray gun

worker uses a spray gun

Paint sprayers can be used to cover single objects, full walls, or entire rooms with your choice of paint. They offer more uniform coverage than brushes and rollers, and they do not have brush marks or other marks from the painting process itself. There are four types of paint sprayers on the market, with the most commonly used being the airless paint sprayer, commonly called the electric paint sprayer, and compressed air or pneumatic paint sprayer. Choose according to your level of expertise, how much coverage you require, the level of detail needed, and your budget.divider 4

Types of Paint Sprayer

Below, we have included details of the five main variants of paint sprayer, including details of the most common uses for each type and their pros and cons. Using this information, you should be able to determine the best spray gun for your project.

1. Airless Paint Sprayer

Staining wood with white spray gun_il21_shutterstock
Credit: JRJfin, Shutterstock

The airless paint sprayer does not use compressed air. Instead, it uses an electric pump to propel the paint through the tip of the sprayer, which causes a fan or arc of paint. The paint sticks to the surface and leaves a smooth finish.

The electric spray gun takes little preparation and is ready to use almost straight away. It will cover a large area in a short space of time and, while this does mean that it is the most useful model for finishing walls or entire properties, it also takes some practice to get your own speed up. If you work too slowly, the fast jet of the airless paint sprayer will continue to apply coat after coat to the same spot. This is called overspray, and it can leave you with non-uniform coverage of a wall while also costing you more in paint.

When to Use It
  • Volume work
  • Professional contractor work
  • Lacquering and varnishing paint

The rapid spraying means that this type of spray gun is used for mass coverage. If you are painting a full room or multiple walls in a home, then an airless paint sprayer is a good choice. If you are a professional handyman or contractor, the speed of this device is also beneficial.

However, other than uniform, volume work, the electric spray gun may not be your best option. It does not work well outdoors, although this is true of any paint sprayer. The potential for overspray also means that it is not suitable for precision work. If you are looking for a reliable way to accurately spray a piece of furniture, for example, you are unlikely to get the desired results from something so rapid.Divider 2

Are Electric Paint Spray Guns Any Good?

Electric paint spray gun_AlexLMX__shutterstock
Credit: AlexLMX, Shutterstock

Electric paint spray guns are highly efficient. They may be too efficient for the uninitiated and the inexperienced. The paint stream does not contain any air bubbles, which means that a large volume of paint is applied directly to the surface you’re working on. If you can keep up with the speed of the jet, it offers the fastest spray-painting solution for volume work. It isn’t suitable for precision work, however.

What Should I Look for When Buying An Airless Paint Sprayer?
  • If you are experienced using this type of spray gun, you can look for the device with the highest horsepower and that delivers the most paint in the shortest space of time. This will enable you to finish projects more quickly.
  • Ensure that the gun includes the tip you need for the project you undertake.
  • Also, consider the hose length. If you’re spraying a fence, you will want as long a hose as possible because that will negate you having to keep stopping to move the spray unit.
  • If you’re painting rooms, you should be able to house the unit in a single position and reach all of the walls.
  • Some electric spray guns may accept more than one gun, allowing multiple people to work on a project at once.

Pros
  • Uniform coverage
  • Fast paint delivery
  • Works with different stains and paints
Cons
  • Quite a lot of paint waste
  • Not a clean process
  • Not suitable for precision work
  • Can be expensive

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2. HVLP

Staining wood with white spray gun_il21_shutterstock
Credit: il21, Shutterstock

The HVLP, or High-Volume Low-Pressure paint sprayer, is more of a precision unit. As the name suggests, it operates with a lower pressure, which means that less paint is ejected from the tip at any time. It is also mixed with the molecules of air that are used to pressurize the paint. This means that the HVLP sprayer is easier to control, causes less of a mess, and can be used for precision work.

Whether you’re looking to paint crown molding or to finish a carpentry job. However, the low pressure means that this type of device is only suitable for thinner paints, and even when used with thinner liquids, it may still become clogged and require regular cleaning.

When to Use It
  • Painting trims and molds
  • Finishing furniture and other projects
  • Cabinets and doors

An HVLP may not be suitable for volume work. It would take a long time to paint a room. What’s more, the low pressure necessitates a short hose, so the device has to be carried or moved frequently, and this makes it an uncomfortable and inconvenient tool because of the potential for user fatigue.

Where the HVLP excels, however, is in its precision work. Paint is delivered slowly and precisely, so if you want to ensure that you get even coverage of a specific area, this is the spray gun for you. If you can use a thin enough lacquer or paint, it can also be used for painting furniture and other craft projects.

Is Airless or HVLP Better?

Airless Spray Painting_N_Sakarin_shutterstock
Credit: N_Sakarin, Shutterstock

Airless and HVLP spray guns are different types of device and have different uses.
  • The airless spray gun delivers a large volume of airless paint and is better suited to volume work where precision is not required. It is better suited to experienced professionals.
  • The HVLP delivers less paint, makes less mess, and has less cleanup. It is better suited to precision work and can be too inconvenient for big jobs.

Pros
  • Costs less than an airless sprayer
  • Used for precise finishes
  • Safer than airless
Cons
  • Clogs a lot
  • Can cause user fatigue
  • Not suitable for big jobs
  • Not suitable for thick paints

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3. LVLP

spraying paint on metal work_Naronta_shutterstock
Credit: Naronta, Shutterstock

LVLP stands for Low-Volume, Low-Pressure and these devices only require around 10PSI to operate. This makes them suitable for use by the DIYer because they can use very basic air compressors that are available for a fraction of the cost of those required for other compressed air devices.

They are also much smaller than other devices and their design means that you will carry the whole thing, including the paint tank or reservoir as you use it. This is why it is important that the device is indeed low-volume, to ensure that it is portable and can be carried.

When to Use It
  • Painting interior walls
  • Painting fences

It may be fatiguing, but this type of device will work on big projects like spraying a fence or a whole wall. However, the low pressure of the system means that the pump is not powerful enough to eject thick and viscous liquids, so it will only work with thin and light paint.divider 8

What Is the Best Type of Paint Sprayer For Home Use?

Professional Painter Spraying House Yard_Andy Dean Photography_shutterstock
Credit: Andy Dean Photography, Shutterstock

The LVLP spray painter is the one most commonly bought for home use. It is inexpensive, easy to operate, and despite being quite heavy after long-term use, it can be used for reasonably large jobs. However, if you do intend to use a spray gun to paint every wall in every room of a house, as well as some other jobs like painting the outside of the property, you should consider something more powerful.

Pros
  • The most affordable option
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Can be used on large surfaces
Cons
  • Not suitable for thick paints
  • Low volume means regular refills
  • Not very powerful or quick

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4. Compressed Air

Working,With,Paint,Spray,Gun
Image credit: Marina Lohrbach, Shutterstock

Compressed air sprayers, like the LVLP gun, are easy to use. They use a compressor to create and force compressed air through the paint in the reservoir. This forces the paint down the hose and through the nozzle or tip of the machine, giving a jet of paint combined with air.

They are easy to use, tend to be less expensive than electric models, but they are gradually being replaced because they do not provide the same uniformity or consistency of an electric unit and they tend to lack the power. You are heavily dependent on the quality and power of the compressor system that you use. However, they do remain popular for art and artisanal use.

When to Use It
  • Painting cabinets and furniture
  • On a tight budget

The compressed air spray gun is gradually being replaced by the electric sprayer. Compressed air units tend to be less powerful, more prone to clogging, and they are not as quick when used to cover large areas.

They are used by cabinetmakers, DIYers that make their own furniture, and by artists. They are also used by those that have an existing compressor system and when a person wants a simple but still potentially effective solution to painting a decent size area.

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5. Gravity Feed Paint Sprayer

Image credit: Ralfador Ralfadinski, Pixabay

In actuality, the gravity feed is not a subcategory of paint sprayer, so much as it is a design element that can play out in a variety of different systems.

The gravity feed spray gun (so named for the fact that the paint feed reservoir rests atop the sprayer) is another unit designed for producing a fine finish. Much like the HVLP, it can produce a variety of different coats on the work surface.

With the siphoning element situated on the top of the gun, the gravity feed sprayer requires much less pressure than other options. The result is extreme precision, no overspray, and a very small cleanup. This type of sprayer is very commonly used for spraying cars, which it truly excels at.

You won’t use this approach with larger jobs, but it is a good way to add a more refined touch to your work. The gravity sprayer first hit the scene in the context of automotive work. It was especially prized for its ability to lay down clear coats of paint. Now, however, it’s used for a wide range of projects.

Works well for: Spraying your car

Pros
  • Extremely precise
  • Easy to clean up
Cons
  • Not very good for high volume work

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What Is the Easiest Paint Sprayer to Use?

Compressed air paint sprayers are very easy to use. Fill the tank with paint, ensure the area is protected, start the compressor, and pull the trigger. This should be enough to get a jet of paint tht you can use to paint individual items or entire walls. Some electric sprayers can be as simple, but many of them have dials for pressure levels and other features that make them appear more complicated than they need to be.

Pros
  • Simple to use
  • Cheaper than electric spray guns
  • Work with existing air compressors
Cons
  • Prone to overspray
  • May not work with thick paints
  • Use a lot of paint
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Conclusion

There are various types of paint sprayer available, but the most and increasingly common variant is that of the electric spray gun. It can cover a large area in a relatively short space of time. Although it may be prone to overspray if you are inexperienced, once you get the hang of using an electric gun, you will be able to get a uniform coverage that is free from brush strokes. Pneumatic, or compressed air, sprayers are better for precision and artistic work.


Featured image credit: Andrii Anna photographers, Shutterstock

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