Nothing makes an old house feel brand new, like a fresh coat of paint. When I’m sick of staring at the same four walls, adding a pop of color can make my house feel like an exciting new place. Whether you’re preparing your home for resale or repainting the furniture for a funky new look, you probably won’t want to go at it with a traditional brush.
Basic painting techniques with brushes and rollers can be time-consuming and tedious. For the most efficient paint job, you’ll want a paint sprayer to help you out. If you’ve never used a paint sprayer before, you might wonder which one to buy.
You might also think any old paint sprayer will do. Before you go blow a bunch of money on whichever paint sprayer the home improvement store salesperson pushes, read the article below. We cover the different kinds of paint sprayers, their uses, pros and cons, and more.
1. Airless Paint Sprayers Are Great, but Not for the Faint of Heart
While many types of paint sprayers use compressed air, there are other options. Airless paint sprayers have an electric pump that pushes paint through the sprayer’s tip. When the paint reaches the tip of the sprayer, it fans out with the electric pump behind it.
Then, the paint clings to the wall or whatever surface is being painted. Because of the way this paint sprayer works, it creates a smooth finish in the paint. One huge perk of using an electric paint sprayer is that it involves almost no preparation before use.
This means you can take it out of the packaging and get cracking on your project. As most contractors and home DIYers know, time is money. Even if you aren’t being paid for a project, it’s still worthwhile to try to accomplish it in as little time as possible.
Naturally, you don’t want to rush the job and have to do it twice. Still, being able to take your paint sprayer out of the package and immediately begin painting will make the process feel smoother. Since this kind of paint sprayer does work quickly, you’ll have to keep up with its pace.
The one downside to this powerhouse paint sprayer is that it can “overspray.” Overspraying refers to a paint sprayer painting multiple coats in the same area. When you get overspray, you will have a patchy paint job.
This can cost you time and money as you have to re-do the area. It can also lead to frustration. When you’re doing the job yourself, frustration can cause you to want to abandon the project.
For the best results, either take the time to get comfortable and familiar with the electric pump paint sprayer. This way, you’ll have enough practice to handle its accelerated pace. Once you can keep up with the super-fast paint spraying speed, you’ll enjoy the feeling of getting the job done quickly and efficiently.
You’ll want to choose this type of paint sprayer when you have a big job that needs to get done in a time crunch. Also, when you have a large room to paint, the electric pump paint sprayer will be your best friend. It’s a tool that you’ll be grateful to have in your toolbox for those kinds of projects.
Additionally, you can use this kind of paint sprayer to varnish or add lacquer to existing walls of paint. It’ll make quick work of this type of project. Pros of the electric pump paint sprayer are its speed and ability to cover large areas.
This means that you’ll save time on your project. You’ll also be able to trust in your paint sprayer to get the job done. There’s nothing more annoying to a handyman than stopping a project midway because you have to replenish supplies.
That being said, the cons of this paint sprayer include its speed and lack of precision. If you aren’t experienced with paint sprayers, the speed might set you up for failure. If you find this paint sprayer hard to handle, you should not attempt to use it.
What’s more, this kind of paint sprayer does not work well outdoors. While all paint sprayers are not suited for outdoor use, the speed of this paint sprayer makes it especially poorly suited to outdoor work. These paint sprayers can also be expensive since they perform so well.
Also, their application is not the cleanest. Lastly, since it is designed to cover large areas and walls quickly, it’s not good for fine details. If your work has a lot of small crevices or corners to consider, you may think twice about using an electric pump paint sprayer.
When you’re buying an electric paint sprayer, it’s important to find the model that has the most horsepower and shortest timeframe for getting paint onto a surface. If you have a large job, you might also want to research paint sprayers that are known for covering larger areas. If you have never used a paint sprayer before, you might want to stick with another type of paint sprayer.
Otherwise, you might buy a second one anyway due to the challenge of using this one.
High-Volume Low-Pressure paint sprayers, also called “HVLP” for short, are more precise than their electric pump paint spraying counterparts. With a lower pressure behind the paint, these sprayers have a smaller output of paint. This means that you won’t waste gobs of paint if you aren’t a super experienced, speedy sprayer.
HVLPs use air to pressurize the pigment. Since they do this, they aren’t as messy as the airless electric pump paint sprayers or as difficult to keep a handle on. With these qualities in mind, HVLPs are more appropriate for work where precision matters.
While HVLPs might superficially seem like the superior paint sprayer for the inexperienced, they have their drawbacks. Since HVLPs are designed to have low pressure on paint delivery, they can only work with thinner paints and stains. Even when you use thin paint, you’ll probably find yourself cleaning them out more because of clogging.
With their low pressure, they’ll also get the job done less quickly than electric airless pump sprayers. These paint sprayers are not designed to cover large walls in a matter of minutes. Between the decreased output and increased time cleaning them, you’ll have to plan more time for doing the project.
Still, getting the job done once with an HVLP will take less time and resources than doing it twice with a sprayer outside of your league. For the HVLP, you can use it when you are finishing furniture, painting or staining cabinets and doors, and covering trims and molds. HVLPs are great for the smaller projects.
Large projects might become frustrating as you can only cover so much ground with an HVLP at a time. HVLPs also have to be moved and picked up often. As a result, they might tire out someone doing a larger job.
It’s one thing to move them around a piece of furniture. It’s quite another story to move them around a house. The pros of an HVLP sprayer include a lower price than airless sprayers, precision, safety for beginners, and low pressure for the inexperienced.
Cons of an HVLP include frequent clogging and causing exhaustion for users because of frequent moving. Additionally, they are incompatible with large paint jobs and only able to handle thin paint. When deciding whether an HVLP sprayer is right for you, you should consider your skill level, the type of paint you plan to use, and the specific project.
A basic trim job with thin paint should be fine to use an HVLP. For repainting a whole room with thick paint, though, an HVLP is not up to the task.
Closely related to HVLP, an LVLP is short for a Low-Volume Low-Pressure paint sprayer. Being perfect for beginners, LVLP only needs to use about 10PSI to work. This means that they are compatible with simple air compressors that are usually less expensive than high-pressure units.
They say great things come in small packages and LVLPs prove this to be true. These pint-sized paint sprayers are portable (try saying that five times fast!). Their portability is a perk because you’ll carry the sprayer and its tank or reservoir while getting the job done.
Unlike HVLP paint sprayers, LVLP paint sprayers are pretty versatile in their uses. You can paint whole walls with them (inside the house, of course) and may be able to paint large outside areas such as a fence. The pros of LVLP paint sprayers include their ease of use, low barrier to entry, inexpensive price point, and ability to cover large areas.
Cons of LVLP paint sprayers include low pressure and low volume, which could be a drawback for experienced painters. Also, LVLP paint sprayers can only handle thin liquids and paints. This means that they might not work on certain projects.
They may clog, as well, which could add to the time it takes to complete the project. These paint sprayers also require carrying. This means that anyone who might get tired of carrying their paint sprayer will probably not like them.
Compressed air paint sprayers are very beginner friendly. By forcing compressed air through the paint in the tank, these paint sprayers force paint out like airless sprayers. Unlike airless sprayers, compressed air paint sprayers are easy to use.
They are also less expensive than the airless models. While they might sound like a dream, they aren’t perfect. Compressed air paint sprayers are becoming a thing of the past.
The reason for this is because they don’t create a consistent, uniform paint job like airless sprayers do. The air compressor behind them tends to decide how well they perform. Artists and artisans don’t seem to mind this drawback, but home improvement enthusiasts are ditching them for other models.
Compressed air paint sprayers are great to use for painting furniture or cabinets. They’re also great as a starter paint sprayer when funds are low. Pros for compressed air paint sprayers include ease of use and inexpensive pricing.
Cons include inconsistency and the need for an air compressor to make them work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better, airless or air-powered paint sprayers?
The answer to this question lies in what you need the paint sprayer to do. Different paint sprayers will excel at different roles. As paintpro.net shares, “An HVLP is a substitute for a brush”.
An airless is a substitute for a roller,’ he says. ‘They’re actually complements for each other.’ Airless units have a product transfer rate of only 50 percent, while HVLPs can achieve up to 90 percent, Torntore says.
But airless units are also more powerful. They can achieve 1,700 psi at the nozzle, compared to 10 psi from HVLP units, says Rick Soto, director of marketing and sales for HVLP maker Benron Equipment & Supply Inc. You’re talking two different animals for two different types of spraying.
HVLPs are more fine production, not high production. When you think of them as different tools in your toolbox rather than substitutes for each other, you’ll know the answer. Start by asking “what kind of project am I completing?” and go from there.
If you need to get into fine details, go with an HVLP or LVLP. If you have a huge job that needs to be done on a short timeline, opt for the airless electric pump paint sprayer.
What kind of paint sprayers do professionals use?
While every professional is different, contractors tend to lean towards certain kinds over others. A professional is unlikely to prefer a compressed air paint sprayer over an airless electric one. Of course, we can’t leave HVLPs out of the mix.
According to pressurewashersdirect.com, “With the hardworking contractor in mind, HVLP paint sprayers (sometimes called turbo-sprayers) are professional paint-spraying equipment ideal for use on trim, finishing work, furniture staining, cabinet painting, and any detailed applications where high-accuracy, speed, and a smooth finish are needed.”
Do you need thin paint for an airless sprayer?
Since we need to thin paint for LVLPs and HVLPs, it’s good to ask whether we need to do the same for electric pump airless sprayers. As paintever.com clues us in, “Do you need to thin paint for an airless sprayer? The answer is no.
Airless sprayers don’t require paint to be thinned before spraying. Whether oil-based or latex, the paint formula is already designed to be sprayed without any thinner. Painting professionals, however, will attest that paint should be thin to achieve the desired finish.