How to Pick Out a Paint Sprayer

Choosing the right paint sprayer for your project can seem overwhelming, with so many styles and brands available. However, picking out the perfect paint sprayer doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what to look for. Here is an in-depth guide on how to select the ideal paint sprayer for your needs.

Assess the Scope of Your Project

Before shopping for a paint sprayer, first consider the scope of your project. This will help determine what type and size of paint sprayer you’ll need.

  • What will you be painting? Are you working on interior walls and trim or exterior siding and fences? The surface material makes a difference in sprayer choice.
  • How large is the project? Are you painting a single room or the entire exterior of a house? Larger projects require more sprayer power and capacity.
  • What type of coatings will you use? Latex house paints are thinner than lacquers, stains or enamels. Make sure the sprayer can handle the coatings you need.
  • How often will you use the sprayer? Occasional projects call for an inexpensive rental. Frequent use requires investing in a heavy-duty sprayer that will last.

Understand the Different Types of Paint Sprayers

Once you’ve assessed your needs, it’s time to understand the primary types of paint sprayers available. Each has advantages and drawbacks.

Airless Paint Sprayers

How they work: Airless sprayers use hydraulic pressure to force paint through the tip, producing high pressure and a fine spray pattern.


  • Produce a smooth, professional finish.
  • Ideal for fast, efficient coverage of large surfaces.
  • Can spray medium-to-heavy coatings like latex, enamels and stains.


  • Requires diluting thicker paints.
  • Risk of overspray and drips.
  • Higher initial cost than other types.

High Volume, Low Pressure (HVLP) Sprayers

How they work: HVLP sprayers use a high volume of air at low pressure to atomize the paint and propel it onto the surface.


  • Provide excellent control for detailed, delicate work.
  • Minimizes overspray and requires less thinning of paints.
  • Good for spraying lacquers, stains, varnishes and primers.


  • Slower paint delivery compared to airless.
  • Improper setup can cause dry spraying or sags.
  • Requires a separate compressor.

Compressed Air Sprayers

How they work: Uses compressed air to atomize paint and propel it onto the surface.


  • Lightweight and highly portable.
  • Inexpensive compared to other types.
  • Good for small jobs and touch-ups.


  • Produces a lower quality, less professional finish.
  • Higher overspray potential.
  • Limited to thin paints and stains.

Match the Sprayer to Your Needs

With an understanding of the types available, you can now match a sprayer to your particular project’s requirements.

Airless Sprayers for Exteriors and Large Jobs

For house exteriors, decks, fences or other big projects, an airless sprayer is the best choice. Models like the Graco Magnum X5 can handle heavy coatings while delivering professional, consistent results across large areas quickly. Look for:

  • 0.5 horsepower or higher motor – For spraying high volumes of thick paints.
  • 0.015-0.021 tip sizes – For exteriors, 0.015 tips are optimal for delivering a smooth finish.
  • At least 75 feet of hose – Allows you to move around easily on big jobs.
  • Stainless steel or flexible suction tube – Allows spraying directly from 1-5 gallon paint buckets.
  • Pressure control dial – Helps you adjust pressure for different coatings.

HVLP Sprayers for Interiors, Cabinets, Detailing

For interior walls, cabinets, railings and other semi-smooth surfaces, HVLP sprayers give you superior control and minimize overspray. Good models like the Fuji 2203G include:

  • 650-1000 watt turbine – Generates sufficient power for common coatings.
  • 1.0-1.8mm tip sizes – Optimal for thin materials like stains, enamels and lacquers.
  • 1-quart capacity – Allows continuous spraying without frequent refilling.
  • Air flow control – Lets you adjust the fan pattern and flow as needed.
  • Portability – Light designs with wheels and compact shape for easy maneuvering.

Compressed Air Sprayers for Small Jobs

For jobs like painting a chair, cabinet or mailbox, a compressed air sprayer gets the job done without a big investment. The Wagner Control Spray Max offers:

  • Adjustable material flow control – Allows you to go from a fine mist to heavy flow.
  • Metal spray tips – Good durability for intermittent use.
  • 1-quart metal cup – Enough capacity for most small tasks.
  • Portability – Weighs just 2.2 lbs. for easy maneuvering.
  • Inexpensive price – Costs a fraction of high-end models.

Features to Look for in Any Paint Sprayer

Beyond choosing a type, keep these features in mind as you compare specific models:

  • Strong pressure rating – Look for at least 2500-3000 PSI for powerful performance.
  • Easy cleanup – Models with filter screens that remove quickly and a pump that reverses for fast paint removal.
  • Flexibility – Ability to spray a variety of coatings prevents limiting yourself.
  • Comfortable grip – Choose a model with an ergonomic handle and lightweight design.
  • Durability – Metal parts last longer than plastic components prone to breaking.
  • Warranty – One year minimum coverage for protection against early defects.

Best Practices for Getting a Great Paint Job

Once you’ve chosen the right sprayer, proper setup and technique helps ensure you’ll get smooth, professional results:

Proper Surface Prep

  • Always clean surfaces thoroughly before starting. Remove any dirt, grease, mold or peeling previous paint.
  • Lightly sand glossy areas to help paint adhere properly.
  • Fill any cracks, holes or other imperfections with patching compound so they don’t show through the new paint.
  • Mask off any areas you don’t want painted, like windows, trim or other surfaces. Use high quality painters tape that won’t allow seepage.

Ideal Spraying Conditions

  • Spray when temperatures are between 50-90°F with low humidity for best performance. Avoid windy conditions that can disrupt the spray pattern.
  • Work in a well ventilated area to minimize breathing paint particles. Wear an appropriate respirator mask when required.

Mix and Thin Paint Correctly

  • Stir paint thoroughly before pouring it into the sprayer’s cup to ensure consistent results.
  • Check manufacturer guidelines and thin paints appropriately for your machine. This improves sprayability.
  • Mix multiple cans together in a large bucket to guarantee an even color across the entire project.

Maintain Proper Sprayer Distance and Pattern Overlap

  • Keep the spray tip 6-12 inches from the surface and move at a steady pace. Rushing causes drips and thin coverage.
  • Overlap each spray pass by 30-50% to create a uniform appearance. Avoid stopping mid-stroke.

Practice Stripe Coating Technique on Edges

  • Use angled narrow strokes along all edges first before spraying the broad surfaces. This prevents paint build up and drips on edges.

Clean Thoroughly After Finishing

  • Clean your sprayer immediately after completing your project, following manufacturer guidelines. This maintains the sprayer for optimal performance next time.

Finding the Best Deals on Paint Sprayers

Paint sprayers can represent a significant investment. Here are tips for getting the features you need at the best possible price:

  • Buy during off-season months – Purchase sprayers during fall and winter when demand declines. You’ll often find sales.
  • Check manufacturer refurbished models – Refurbished units directly from the maker tend to perform like new for substantial savings. These come with a warranty.
  • Compare prices online – Don’t limit yourself to local stores. Online retailers often have lower overhead and better deals.
  • Consider sprayer rental – For a one-time project, rental may make more sense than buying. Shop rates in your area.
  • Buy a bundle – Packages with hoses, tips and other accessories included offer overall savings compared to individual purchases.
  • Start with an inexpensive model – For infrequent spraying, buy a low-priced sprayer to save money. Upgrade if you increase your use.

Maintaining Your Paint Sprayer for Years of Use

Proper maintenance keeps your paint sprayer working like new. Follow these tips:

  • Clean thoroughly after every use – Never leave material dried in the sprayer lines, tip or filters. Use the manufacturer’s cleaning process.
  • Replace filters regularly – Old clogged filters reduce performance and strain the machine. Change them every 5 uses or so.
  • Inspect spray tips – Make sure the tip is free of debris and damage. Soak in solvent if paint dries and obstructs the nozzle.
  • Check hoses for damage – Any crimps or cracks in hoses can lead to problems. Replace damaged sections immediately.
  • Store properly – Keep your sprayer in a clean, dry space away from extreme cold or heat. Engage any locks to prevent accidental triggering.
  • Service annually – Take your sprayer to a repair shop once a year for a comprehensive inspection and tune up. This keeps it running optimally.

Safety Tips When Using Paint Sprayers

While incredibly useful tools, paint sprayers call for these safety precautions:

  • Always read and follow all manufacturer safety guidelines before operating your sprayer.
  • Wear a respirator and ventilate the area when spraying hazardous coatings like lacquers, varnishes, stains or enamels. The fine mist can be easily inhaled.
  • Wear protective glasses to shield your eyes from overspray.
  • Use ear protection when working with high-pressure airless sprayers, which generate up to 90dB of sound. Extended exposure can damage hearing.
  • Never point a spray gun at any part of your body or at another person. Treat it like a loaded gun.
  • Avoid contact with paint on your skin by wearing gloves, long sleeves, hats and full-coverage clothing.
  • Keep sprayers away from open flames or ignition sources. Solvent-based coatings are highly flammable.
  • Unplug electric-powered sprayers before adjusting, cleaning or servicing to avoid accidental startup.

By selecting the right sprayer for your needs, practicing proper spray techniques, and working safely, you’ll get beautiful, professional paint results for any project. With this detailed guide’s help, picking the ideal paint sprayer for your situation doesn’t have to be intimidating. Carefully evaluate your particular painting requirements and match them to the right sprayer features. In no time you’ll be getting high-quality paint jobs like a pro.

How to Pick Out a Paint Sprayer

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions about picking out a paint sprayer:

What features should I look for when choosing a paint sprayer?

Some key features to consider when selecting a paint sprayer include:

  • Sprayer type (airless, HVLP, compressed air)
  • Spray power and pressure rating
  • Adjustability of pressure and spray patterns
  • Comfortable, easy to maneuver design
  • Durable, corrosion-resistant parts
  • Big enough paint capacity for your projects
  • Easy to clean filters and tips

What is the difference between airless and HVLP sprayers?

The main differences are:

  • Airless sprayers use hydraulic pressure to atomize paint, while HVLP sprayers use high volumes of low pressure air.
  • Airless models are better for spraying thick coatings, while HVLP is ideal for thinner liquids that require fine atomization.
  • Airless delivers higher pressure and broader coverage for large jobs. HVLP offers more finesse for detail work.

How do I know what sprayer tip size to choose?

The optimal spray tip size depends on your specific project. Some general guidelines:

  • Smaller 0.011-0.015 tips for fine finish work.
  • 0.015-0.019 tips work for most latex house paints.
  • 0.021-0.031 tips for thicker coatings like primers, enamels, acrylics.
  • 0.031 and up for high flow needs like painting siding.

Should I buy or rent a sprayer?

If this is a one-time project, renting often makes the most sense economically. For frequent paint jobs it pays to invest in your own sprayer that will last for years.

What can I do to get the best price on a paint sprayer?

Tips for finding sprayer deals include:

  • Shop off-season months for sales
  • Consider manufacturer refurbished models
  • Compare prices between online retailers
  • Buy bundled packages that include accessories
  • Start with an inexpensive model if you’ll use it infrequently

How can I extend the life of my paint sprayer?

To maximize your sprayer’s lifespan:

  • Thoroughly clean it immediately after every use.
  • Regularly replace worn parts like filters and tips.
  • Inspect hoses for damage and replace if needed.
  • Store properly in a clean, dry space.
  • Get annual tune-up service from a repair shop.

What safety precautions should I take when using a paint sprayer?

Important safety tips include:

  • Wear an appropriate respirator mask and ventilate your workspace.
  • Use protective eyewear to avoid overspray in your eyes.
  • Wear gloves, hats, long sleeves to prevent skin contact.
  • Never point a sprayer directly at yourself or another person.
  • Keep sprayers away from ignition sources due to flammability.
  • Unplug electric sprayers before servicing to prevent accidental startup.


Picking the ideal paint sprayer involves carefully evaluating your project’s needs and matching them to the right sprayer features and capabilities. Small jobs require compact, inexpensive models like compressed air sprayers. For larger exterior projects, invest in a heavy-duty airless sprayer that can handle big volumes efficiently. Detail work calls for the finesse and atomization of HVLP sprayers.

Taking the time to understand sprayer types, main features, and proper spraying technique allows you to get the best results and value. Your chosen sprayer should feel comfortable during extended use and have easily cleanable components to maintain performance. Durability and powerful pressure capability ensures the sprayer can handle the coatings you need.

By following this guide’s tips on selection factors, features, usage, maintenance, and safety, you can approach purchasing your next paint sprayer with confidence. In no time you’ll be completing high-quality paint jobs like a professional. Carefully match your needs to the sprayer’s capabilities for smooth, consistent, beautiful results on every painting project.