Guide to the Different Types of Paint Sprayers


Paint sprayers are a great tool for painting a variety of surfaces when efficiency and convenience is the priority. They can be several times faster than the traditional methods like using brushes or rollers. Along with saving time and energy, you also get a uniform finish without the unsightly brush strokes.  

However, there are several kinds of paint sprayers to consider before starting a project. There are various systems, sizes, and paint types to choose from as well. Taking some time out to shortlist the most useful paint sprayer for tasks at hand can save a lot of frustration and hassle. 

Why is it so important to select the right paint sprayer?

Not all paint sprayers are created equal and a certain type or brand might be more suitable for a particular need than others. Whether you’re a DIY hobbyist or a professional painter/decorator, reading up on the various kinds of paint sprayers can ensure a smooth finish and a more satisfying painting experience as well as durable results. The types of paint sprayers are just the initial considerations; we should also have a detailed insight into the ups and downs of using these tools.

Types of Paint Sprayers

A spray paint gun on a black background

The following are the usual choices of paint sprayers available today:

A. Airless Paint Sprayers 

These are usually the most popular and reliable choice for both professionals and hobbyists. They pump paint at high pressures to provide even coatings for both exteriors and interiors, using thick or thin paint. 

Advantages of Airless Paint Sprayers

  • Can be easily found in most hardware shops
  • Reliable performance for most of the common applications
  • Versatile across a variety of paints and surfaces

Disadvantages of Airless Paint Sprayers

  • There might be a risk of overspray and mess
  • Takes some time to clean properly

B. HVLP Paint Sprayers 

A High Volume Low Pressure Sprayer pumps out the paint in drops on a large, steady air volume. The pain travels slowly, but is released on the intended surface in high volume. 

Advantages of HVLP Paint Sprayers

  • Waste less paint than airless options
  • Leave a smooth, even finish for most projects

Disadvantages of HVLP Paint Sprayers

  • More expensive than regular models
  • Do not work too well with very thick paints, unless we use a commercial-grade sprayer

C. Compressed Air Paint Sprayers 

Also called pneumatic paint sprayers, these require an air compressor to function. If you already have one, a sizable hose is all you need for connecting it to the paint gun and start spraying. 

Advantages of Compressed Air Paint Sprayers

  • Results in smooth and even coats
  • Less expensive than airless sprayers

Disadvantages of Compressed Air Paint Sprayers

  • Usually emit more spray than any other types

D. Cordless Paint Sprayers 

These come in both airless and HVLP versions and are powered by a battery. 

Advantages of Cordless Paint Sprayers

  • Provide a convenient handheld solution for DIYers
  • Portable
  • Some models are easy to use at any angle, even upside down
  • Affordable price range

Disadvantages of Cordless Paint Sprayers

  • Limited battery life: The power source may not be as strong or long-lasting as with corded versions
  • Limited paint capacity
  • Not so common
  • Usually designed to be held in one hand, which can be challenging because of the weight

E. Piston Pump Paint Sprayers 

Piston pumps are the most common airless spray painters. These use a single piston to get enough pressure for atomizing and propelling the liquid paint. 

Advantages of Piston Pump Paint Sprayers

  • Produce a high pressure, which means easier spraying even over long distances
  • Makes it possible to apply high-viscosity coatings 
  • Provides good paint atomization
  • Lower risk of paint spitting
  • Easy to repair

Disadvantages of Piston Pump Paint Sprayers

  • Can’t supply as much volume as other options
  • Might have spray fluctuations at lower pressures

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Paint Sprayer

Before choosing a sprayer for a paint job, it can be useful to consider the following factors:

A. Project Size and Type: Painting large areas might work better with regular airless spray painters, while smaller projects may require different models. Consider the surface area, details, and paint you have to work with and choose accordingly. 

B. Experience and Skill Level: If you’re experienced in using paint sprayers, you might be comfortable with a more advanced model. For beginners, though, a pneumatic sprayer is considered to be the best option (if they already have an air compressor).  If you don’t have an air compressor yet and are planning to buy one, you can read our Guide to Using the Right Air Compressor.

C. Paint Type and Consistency: If your paint is textured or has an otherwise unusual consistency, you may want to look into the types of airless spray pumps. There might be sprayers made especially for the kind of paint you want to use. 

D. Budget: Make sure to cross-check the prices in your local stores with the ones on online platforms. Paint sprayers can come in all sorts of prices, so keep your budget in mind and order when you think it’s the right price for a decent sprayer. 

E. Availability of Replacement Parts: If your paint sprayer has parts that are easily available in the market, that’s a great bonus point. There’s little logic in buying a rare paint sprayer if it isn’t open to easy repairs or upgrades.

F. Power Source: Some paint sprayers might be cordless while others run on compressed air, gas, or electricity. Your requirements and current budget will mostly decide what works best in your specific situation. 

G. Easy to Clean: If possible, look for a paint sprayer that you can attach to a hose for fast, easy cleaning. Without this option, manually flushing out a spray painter can take hours. 

How to Use a Paint Sprayer for Your Home and DIY Projects

A. Choosing the Right Paint Sprayer

The first step is to select the right kind of paint sprayer for the specific task at hand. An airless paint sprayer will work for larger areas, especially if we’re talking about exteriors. The kind of paint and other materials you’re using will also determine the most suitable choice.

B. Preparing the Room and Surfaces

When working indoors or near any surfaces that you don’t want to be painted, make sure to cover up your surroundings. Put drop cloths over furniture and masking tape over frames, electric outlets, and other small areas where the paint spray shouldn’t go. You may also want to move furniture around to ensure a comfortable workspace.

C. Preparing the Paint

Mix your paint according to the instructions on its packaging. With a sprayer, it’s wise to have extra paint on hand. This method makes use of more paint than brushes or rollers.

D. Setting Up the Paint Sprayer

Read the manual before setting up your paint sprayer for the first time. Different models may require different handling.

E. Protect Yourself

Protective clothing, a face mask, and goggles are useful in protecting your skin and lungs from fumes. Before spraying, ensure that there’s decent ventilation in the work area. 

Applying the Paint

Spray painting a deck

Before the application, it might be a good idea to run through the following precautions:

A. Testing the Sprayer

Test with a piece of cardboard or plywood; practice moving your nozzle in long and straight strokes.

B. Adjusting the Sprayer Settings

While spraying, ensure that the distance from the sprayer to the painting surface should remain the same throughout. Anything else will result in an uneven coat.

C. Spraying Techniques

Work carefully and deal with one sq.ft at a time. A paint sprayer can dispense quite a bit of paint in one go, so the coats can be very uneven if you’re not careful. While painting, overlap between spaces so the patchy areas don’t stand out much. When you’re in a corner, point the spray vertically and be as quick as possible. This will prevent overpaint in that area.

D. Finishing Touches

Once you’re done with a few sections, make sure to check the work. There might be a few light patches or missed spots. See if another coat will help to cover the imperfections, or if you should do it by hand.

Cleaning and Maintenance

It’s important to clean the sprayer after every use. Make sure to keep the directions/manual provided with your model and follow the cleaning instructions. 

Why is it so important to clean the paint sprayer every time?

Paint starts drying up the moment it’s exposed to air; any paint sprayer will have paint lingering inside its motors, pumps, and nozzles after it’s used. If the pain is left like that, it can destroy the function of the sprayer or at least significantly diminish its efficiency. 

How to store your sprayer for a short time

After cleaning, put a storage fluid through the system to flush out any remaining water. Afterward, wrap some plastic on the intake tube end, securing it to prevent any remaining fluid from getting on the storage surface. 

Maintaining your paint sprayer will help in ensuring its good performance in the next session. If you want to store this tool for longer periods, it may help to learn how to winterize it properly. 

Tips and Tricks

When you know how to handle a paint sprayer, it’s possible to maximize its paint efficiency. This will help you avoid wastage of paint, especially through drips and unnecessary messes. With the following tips, you can also expect to protect the surrounding areas as best as possible:

  • For an even finish, keep the spraying distance the same throughout
  • Practice with the sprayer and be comfortable with moving it around
  • The spraying distance should be around 12 inches at a perpendicular angle
  • Move the arm while spraying, don’t fan it with your hand
  • Only work where you can easily reach; don’t use different angles while standing in one place
  • Move the sprayer before using the trigger; continue with the stroke after the trigger release
  • Spray corners by aiming directly at them

When to Use Paint Sprayers

Large areas

A paint sprayer comes in handy when you need to cover a large space. Some examples include exterior siding, a fence, a large room, etc. 


  • Easy to cover a large space quickly and efficiently
  • Smooth and even finish
  • Can paint on detailed work or hard-to-reach places


  • The prep work might take a lot of time
  • Sprayers use more paint than other methods
  • Several painting sessions will also mean more cleaning sessions

Painting exteriors

If you prep the area, you should be able to use a paint sprayer for exterior work. This is a good idea since a sprayer can even cover complex architectural work and various textured surfaces. 

Painting interiors

A paint sprayer can make interior renovation tasks much easier and faster. It should cover details and different textures efficiently and with smooth results. 

Detailed Work

Most homes have some sort of trim or molding on their walls. These have certain details that may not give the best result when you’re using a brush or roller to paint. The same goes for furniture; not everything has smooth surfaces. This is where a paint sprayer can be very useful:

Pros and Cons of Using a Paint Sprayer for Detailed Work


  • They allow the user to override imperfections like cracks, dents, gaps, etc
  • Can enhance details
  • Easier to work with corners and trim work, even on cabinets


  • Requires more prep
  • Uses up more paint
  • Requires you to cover up any area that you won’t paint

Special Situations

Spray painting a rood

Painting with Textured or Specialty Paints

Spray painting also allows you to use specialty paints or textured paints. This is especially true if you need to use these paints on a large surface area where you don’t need too much accuracy. 

Painting in Tight or Hard-to-Reach Spaces

A paint spray allows you to reach places such as corners, latticework, shutters, balustrades, high shelving, the top of doors, etc, quite easily. Rolling or brushing on paint won’t give you that luxury. 

Pros and Cons of Using a Paint Sprayer in Special Situations


  • You can reach tight and cramped spaces
  • Won’t take as much effort as brushes and rollers


  • Will use up more paint than other methods
  • More time required for prep work

Maintenance and Cleaning

Properly storing and maintaining your paint sprayers will increase the longevity and performance of your equipment. Here are some tips on maintaining and cleaning the sprayers after each use:

Recovering the coating

Around a quart of paint might be left in your sprayer at the end of the day. Find out how to reuse this material for touching up your project. 

Have water handy

A gallon might be enough to clean a paint sprayer. However, don’t use the slop water from cleaning the paint sprayer; it is considered a hazardous substance now. 

Remember the filter

Flush out the filters with a splash of water, and then remove them. Agitate them under running water for proper cleaning, and then do a final rinse with water before replacing the filters. 

Store the tips in thinner

Cleaning out a paint-clogged sprayer tip can take a lot of wear and tear. It will also take a lot of time, so one solution is to store the tips with some thinner in a container. This way, the tips will be all ready when it’s time for a new project. 


Air sprayers come with a lot of options, so it’s best to be careful when making a decision. Once you know about the different types of paint sprayers, it will get a bit easier to identify what kind you need. Consider the job you need it for, the possible challenges in completing it, and how much you want to spend on this investment.