3 Different Types of Paint Sprayers (The Ultimate Guide)

Paint sprayers are great if you want to save time and get a nice finish without all of the hard work. You can use them on all kinds of surfaces so they’re a good investment whether you’re painting furniture, fences, walls and ceilings, or possibly even your car.

However, you need to do your research first because there are 3 different types of paint sprayer; HVLP, pneumatic, and airless. Understanding the differences between them and which type is most suitable for your purposes will help you when buying a paint sprayer. This guide will tell you everything you need to know.

Table of contents

3 Different Types of Paint Sprayers:

1. HVLP Sprayers

furniture flippa holding 2 HVLP Paint Sprayers
Me holding 2 HVLP Paint Sprayers, the Wagner Flexio 590 and the HomeRight Super Finish Max.

What Are HVLP Sprayers and How Do They Work?

HVLP stands for high volume, low pressure. This type of sprayer uses a high volume of air with low pressure to control the spread of the paint. To achieve this, a HVLP sprayer ‘atomizes’ the paint as it comes out of the nozzle. This means that the paint is separated into tiny particles as the air blows it out of the sprayer.

In a HVLP sprayer, the air flow is separated from the paint. A turbine on the back of the sprayer blows air through the gun and out of the nozzle. The paint is stored in a container below the nozzle, separated from the air flow. When the trigger is pressed, air is released into the paint container, increasing the air pressure and pushing paint through a tube towards the nozzle. Here, it meets with the air flow and gets sprayed out of the gun in a fine mist.

HVLP sprayers allow you to control the thickness of the coat by using different sized fans and nozzle openings.

What are HVLP Sprayers Used for?

HVLP sprayers can be used for a range of projects including:

  • Furniture
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Cabinets
  • Trim
  • Fences
  • Decking
  • Garden furniture
  • Garage doors

A HVLP sprayer is suitable for use with a range of paint and stain products including emulsion, chalk paint, oil paint, primers, wood stain, wood preservative, and primers.

What are the Pros of HVLP Sprayers?

Electric HVLP paint sprayers are a lower costing spraying option. Most of the HVLP sprayers on the market are a fraction of the cost of pneumatic paint sprayer systems and also airless paint sprayers.

Another plus is the cleanup is often much easier than other spray options, especially airless sprayers. Simply empty the paint, add water to the sprayer holder and spray the paint out of the spray gun!

My favorite pro for HVLP handheld sprayers is that they are small in size and take up little space in your workshop. Other sprayers may need air compressors, a stand, and other large pieces. Plus, the simplicity is nice, just fill it up, test your settings, and get to work.

What are the Cons of HVLP Sprayer?

The downside to these handheld HVLP paint sprayers is that you need to practice with them a lot to get professional level results. They are not designed for extra-professional finishes like pneumatic sprayers can provide. It is easier to get a better finish with pneumatic sprayers for jobs like cabinetry refinishing, but it does cost a significant amount more. It’s only worth the upgrade if its a job, not so much a hobby.

Also HVLP sprayers will need more thinning to get the right results as they are not as powerful, which can be tough in certain situations.

Lastly, paint can spit up with these sprayers, especially at the beginning of a spray. Be careful and watch my YouTube videos below to see how these sprayers work.

Example HVLP Sprayers:

1. HomeRight Super Finish Max
holding a homeright super finish max sprayer
My HomeRight Super Finish Max Paint Sprayer

See the HomeRight Super Finish Max here on Amazon.

The HomeRight Super Finish Max is an excellent multipurpose HVLP sprayer with some good customization options, so it can be used for most painting jobs. It comes with 3 different sized brass tips (1.5mm, 2mm, and 4mm) for different types of paint. You can also change the nozzle spray pattern for vertical, horizontal, or round spray, and you can change the output for more delicate projects too. I show all of this in my detailed video of the HomeRight Super Finish Max here on YouTube.

There are additional tips available, which allow you to paint large areas like fences or decking. You get excellent coverage with this sprayer, so you’ll have a lot less waste than you would with rolling or brushing. If you have never used a sprayer before and you want an all-round product that will handle most home DIY projects, this is a great beginner option i truly recommend.

2. Wagner Flexio 590
A picture of my Wagner flexio 590

See the Wagner Flexio 590 here on amazon.

The Wagner Flexio 590 is another brilliant HVLP sprayer that will suit all of your needs, I love this sprayer. The great thing about this one is that it comes with a detail nozzle, which is ideal for precise work, I use it for all my furniture makeovers.  The width selector and the material flow control give you complete control over how much paint is applied and what shape you spray in, so you can avoid the drips.

It has a nice big paint container on the regular nozzle, so you can finish a full 10-12 foot wall on a single refill. You’ll also find that this is much quieter and lighter than other sprayers on the market, so it’s a pleasure to use.

3. Fuji Spray 2202 Semi-PRO 2 – HVLP Spray System

If you want a sprayer that is closer to the kind of thing a professional decorator would use, the Fuji Spray 2202 Semi-PRO 2 – HVLP Spray System is ideal. It is more expensive than other HVLP sprayers you will find, but if you’re going to use it a lot, it’s worth investing in a quality product that lasts a long time.

The powerful motor offers faster spraying than other HVLP sprayers, but the adjustable controls mean that you still don’t sacrifice precision or waste paint. It’s designed for use with almost all types of paint, without the need to thin them first. The high-quality stainless steel spray gun is easy to take apart and clean properly, and it is durable enough to withstand regular use.

Even though it’s not the cheapest, it’s excellent value considering the features and the quality of the sprayer. If you do a lot of painting, this is the one to go for.

2. Pneumatic Air Sprayers (Compressed Air Sprayer)

Spray gun on wooden stand, closeup

What Are Pneumatic Air Sprayers and How Do They Work?

A pneumatic air sprayer works in a similar way to a HVLP sprayer, but with some slight differences. The paint is still introduced to the air flow as it comes out of the nozzle, causing the paint to spray. But in a pneumatic air sprayer, there is no turbine. Instead, a compressor is used to push air through the gun and force the paint into the air flow, where it is atomized.

Different sizes of compressor can be used to adjust the power of the paint flow. A pneumatic air sprayer uses less volume of air than HVLP, but it sprays at a higher pressure, meaning that the paint comes out faster in larger droplets.

What are Pneumatic Air Sprayers Used for?

The high pressure from a pneumatic air sprayer can apply most types of paint in an even layer. They are used for many of the same jobs as a HVLP sprayer including:

  • Furniture
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Fences
  • Decking
  • Garden furniture
  • Garage doors

If you are working with a large area, a pneumatic sprayer may be better than a HVLP sprayer because the additional pressure makes it easier to cover a large area in a short space of time.

What are the Pros of Pneumatic Air Sprayers?

There are a few reasons to opt for a pneumatic air sprayer. If you already own an air compressor they are super affordable, you just buy the paint sprayer attachment which can cost as little as 20 to 30 dollars. Although, try spending a bit more for a better quality product.

Secondly, they apply paint very quickly, especially if you set it to a high pressure. If you have a big garage door or a whole room to paint, a pneumatic sprayer will make short work of it.

What are the Cons of Pneumatic Air Sprayer?

They are expensive if you do not have an air compressor already. Air

The high pressure spray is messier than a HVLP sprayer and the paint droplets are larger when they come out. You can still get a nice finish, but you get a lot more overspray and wasted paint, so it’s not ideal for small precision jobs.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?

The power of an air compressor is measured in psi (pounds per square inch). You will need a different pressure depending on what you’re using the paint sprayer for. Choosing the right size air compressor can be a challenge and there are a number of factors to consider:

  • Continuous or intermittent use?
  • Air consumption rating of your gun
  • The project you are painting

If you are spraying continuously for an extended period of time (painting a large surface like a wall or garage door) you will need a bigger gallon compressor. But if you are only doing small detail and you won’t be continuously spraying, you can possibly get away using a smaller one. You should use a minimum 20 gallon tank, but it’s recommended to have 50 gallons or bigger so you don’t have to wait for the tank to fill up if you keep running out of air.

Your spray gun will also have an air consumption rating, often called CFM (cubic feet per minute). This is the maximum output of the gun at a given pressure, and you need an air compressor with a CFM rating that exceeds the gun. 12-15 CFM is suitable for most spray painting jobs.

The most important thing to consider is the project that you are painting and the type of paint you are using. Here are a few common examples:

  • Car – 15 psi for paint, 20-25 psi for a clear coat. Use a 20 CFM paint gun
  • Walls and ceilings – 25-40 psi for painting. Use a 12 CFM paint gun
  • Furniture – 45 psi. Use a 12 CFM paint gun

However, you should always remember that different spray guns are designed for use at different pressures. Check the optimum operating pressure for your particular spray gun and follow those guidelines.

Example Pneumatic Air Sprayers:

1. Astro Pneumatic Tool Spray Gun with Cup

The Astro Pneumatic Tool Spray Gun with Cup is a high powered sprayer that is capable of handling all jobs. It’s powerful enough to be used for professional applications as well as DIY jobs around the home. However, it does require a lot of pressure to get the most out of it, so you will need a large air compressor. The adjustable settings offer a lot of customization but it can take some tweaking, so it’s best to practice on a piece of scrap until you have the right flow.

2. Husky Spray Guns

Husky do some excellent old school style paint guns. They’re very simple but well built and reliable, so they’re a good investment. You can use them for a range of projects, including cars and furniture. They’re also much better than other guns for painting enamel surfaces, which can be tricky.

The Husky spray guns come in two options; the Gravity Feed or Siphon Feed. The gravity feed is a more efficient option because gravity does most of the work of feeding the paint into the nozzle, so you don’t need as much air pressure to make it work. You also get less overspray and a more controlled mist, so you waste less paint and the cleanup is easier. However, the siphon feed does still have its benefits. It is better for certain coatings and types of paint, usually those used for spraying cars. So, for general purpose spraying, the gravity feed option is the way to go but the siphon feed is best for automotive work.

3. Dynastus 20 Oz. Pneumatic Paint Sprayer

The Dynastus 20 Oz. Pneumatic Paint Sprayer offers excellent value. It’s on the cheaper end of the scale but that doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality. In fact, this matches up to a lot of other more expensive pneumatic paint sprayers you can buy. The pressure is excellent and the nozzle gives you a very clean spray pattern. The anti-drip paint paint canister helps you avoid making a mess too. The only downside with this one is that it’s not great for painting cars. But for any other job, this is a great sprayer that gives great value for money.

3. Airless Paint Sprayers

airless sprayer held up in air by blue arm

What Are Airless Paint Sprayers and How Do They Work?

As the name suggests, an airless paint sprayer is a sprayer that atomizes the paint into a mist without blowing air through it. Instead of pressurized air, a motorized pump is used to push the paint out of the gun using a piston.

The piston, at the head of the gun, moves up and creates a vacuum, drawing paint into the chamber. Then, it moves down and forces the paint out of the end of the gun at high pressure. The massive amount of pressure that builds up in the paint tube from the piston sprays the paint out in a mist.

What are Airless Paint Sprayers Used for?

Airless paint sprayers are usually used for covering large areas. This includes:

  • Garage doors
  • Fences
  • Exterior walls
  • Large pieces of furniture, or numerous pieces at once.

In most cases, an airless paint sprayer is not the best choice for smaller, more detailed work.

What are the Pros of Airless Paint Sprayers?

Airless paint sprayers are the fastest way to apply paint. They are more efficient than a HVLP or a pneumatic paint sprayer, so if you want to cover a large area quickly, they’re your best choice. The finish that you get with an airless sprayer is excellent too. You get a very even, smooth coverage that is superior to other types of paint sprayers.

You will often see these sprayer in use to paint exterior walls because of how quick they can get the job completed.

What are the Cons of Airless Paint Sprayer?

The big downside to airless sprayers is the cost. Because they are more complicated pieces of equipment and they give you better results, they cost significantly more. They’re also more difficult to use, especially if you have never used a paint sprayer before. You get more wasted paint with an airless sprayer too, so it’s not the most cost effective option for small projects like furniture..

Example Airless Paint Sprayers:

1. Graco Magnum X5 Stand Airless Paint Sprayer

The Graco Magnum X5 Stand Airless Paint Sprayer is a brilliant sprayer for big projects. The hose sits straight in the paint bucket, so you can spray for extended periods without having to stop and fill up a container. The pressure is fully adjustable so you have complete control over the spray, making it ideal for jobs of all kinds. The high power piston allows you to spray most paints without thinning them first. Once you’re done, you can attach it to your garden hose and flush it out for a quick cleanup.

This is an excellent airless sprayer with some nice features that make it quicker and easier to use. You’ll get a brilliant finish on any home DIY jobs with this and it’s robust enough for regular use.

2. Himalaya Airless Paint Sprayer Spray Gun Power Painter

The Himalaya Airless Paint Sprayer Spray Gun Power Painter is designed for professional use as well as DIY projects, so you can expect a high level of quality from it. The simple pressure control knob makes adjusting the spray quick and easy, so it’s suitable for all kinds of jobs. The hose on this sprayer is 25 feet, which is quite a bit shorter than other sprayers (like the Graco Magnum) but you can fit an extension to it if you need it.

This sprayer is easy to use for a beginner, which can’t be said of a lot of airless sprayers. But even though it’s simple and quick to set up and use, it still gives you professional finish.

3. Wagner Control Pro 130 Power Tank Airless Paint Sprayer

Overspray is one of the big downsides of using an airless sprayer, but the Wagner Control Pro 130 Power Tank Airless Paint Sprayer is better than most sprayers. It’s designed to cut overspray so you don’t waste as much paint. You can’t put the hose directly into the paint tub, the tank needs to be filled. However, the 1.5 gallon tank is big enough to handle most jobs without the need to refill too many times. The price is very reasonable for a sprayer of this quality too, and even though it’s not suitable for professional painters, it’s great for an avid DIYer.

Paint Sprayer Prices:

What’s the Most Affordable Paint Sprayer Option?

Pneumatic paint sprayers that work with an air compressor are the cheapest option if you already have an air compressor. The HVLP electric sprayers are the most affordable option whne starting from scratch, you can simply purchase the sprayer and all the required components all in one box. Expect to pay anywhere from 100-200 dollars USD for a decent HVLP sprayer.

What’s the Most Expensive Paint Sprayer Option?

Airless sprayers are the most expensive type of paint sprayers you can buy. They do give great results, but a HVLP sprayer is adequate for most paint jobs around the home. If purchasing an air compressor and a pneumatic air sprayer the cost catches up quickly as a 60 gallon compressor can cost upwards of 700 to 1500 dollars.

The Best Type of Paint Sprayers for Different Projects:

What Type of Paint Sprayer is Best for Furniture?

All types of sprayers will work for furniture, so it’s really down to the price and the quality of the finish you want to achieve. HVLP electric sprayers work fairly well but you will get a more professional finish with an airless or pneumatic sprayer. It may be worth spending the extra money if you want a high quality paint job.

I use the HVLP electric handheld sprayers and get great results! If you are just starting out the HVLP sprayers are a perfect option for painting furniture.

What Type of Paint Sprayer is Best for Cabinets?

Usually, a pneumatic or HVLP sprayer is best for cabinets. An airless sprayer gives you a lot of overspray and can be quite hard to control, which isn’t ideal for painting kitchen cabinets indoors. Most professionals spray cabinets in their workshop using their pneumatic air sprayers to get a smooth looking finish. If you are DIYing your cabinets you can use a HVLP sprayer but you must practice first to understand how to get the smooth finish you want.

What Type of Paint Sprayer is Best for Walls and Ceilings?

When you’re trying to cover a large area and you’re not too worried about intricate details, airless sprayers are great. They’re the fastest sprayer and they cover a large area easily. If you want a cheaper option, a pneumatic sprayer is also good, but a HVLP is your best value option and will get the job done just as nice.  Walls do not have to be wicked smooth so an HVLP sprayer will do a fine job. at a good speed compared to a brush or roller.

What Type of Paint Sprayer is Best for Vehicles?

Pneumatic HVLP sprayers are perfect for painting cars. There are a lot of small details like bumpers, fenders, and body panels that require a precision paint job. It’s much harder to get a clean paint job with an airless sprayer. Autobody shops use air compressors along with professional paint spray guns, these are often HVLP gravity fed sprayers designed to attach to air compressors via an air hose.

What Type of Paint Sprayer is Best for the Exterior of a House?

Airless sprayers are ideal for the exterior of a house. You don’t need to worry too much about overspray when working with a large area, you just want something that gets the job done quickly. Pneumatic sprayers can also get the job done quickly too! HVLP sprayers may take longer but can still get exterior walls painted quicker than a brush and roller.

What’s the Best Paint Sprayer for Home Use and DIY Projects?

In general, a HVLP sprayer is the best for home use and DIY projects. They’re easy to use and you get a nice controlled spray that doesn’t make too much of a mess. They can be a bit slower for some big projects, but they’ll make light work of most jobs.

Paint Sprayer Questions Answered:

What Paint Sprayer Provides the Smoothest Finish?

An airless sprayer gives you the best finish, which is why they’re more expensive. However, to achieve that excellent finish, it takes a bit of practice because airless sprayers are more difficult to use.

What’s the Difference Between Gravity Feed and Siphon Spray Guns?

The difference between gravity feed and siphon spray guns is in how the paint is pushed towards the nozzle. A gravity feed sprayer has a container on top of the gun. When the trigger is pulled, a valve is opened and the paint flows down into the tube. A siphon feed gun, on the other hand, creates a vacuum that draws the paint up into the tube and through the gun.

Gravity feed air guns don’t require as much pressure, and most HVLP sprayers use a gravity feed system. Siphon spray guns are, in most cases, the worse option because gravity feed gives you a nicer finish. However, they are good for spraying cars.

Can Each Type of Sprayer Handle Thicker Paints?

No, HVLP and pneumatic sprayers may struggle with thicker paints. An airless sprayer, on the other hand, can handle anything you put through it. You can still use thicker paints with other types of sprayer, but you will have to thin them first to get a good coverage and stop the nozzle from clogging up.

There are a lot of excellent brands out there selling high-quality paint sprayers. If you are buying one, look out for these names:

  • Wagner
  • Graco
  • Titan
  • Fuji Spray
  • HomeRight
  • Magnum

Can You Rent Paint Sprayers?

Yes, you can rent a paint sprayer from big hardware stores like Home Depot or Lowes. You will be able to find local tool hire places if you search online too. This is a good option if you only need a sprayer for a relatively small job and you won’t use it that often. However, there isn’t a massive difference in price between renting and buying, so if you are painting a lot, it’s worth buying one.

Which Paint Sprayer is Easiest to Clean?

All paint sprayers require more cleaning than a brush or roller, and it’s important to do it as soon as you finish, so the paint doesn’t dry inside. HVLP sprayers are the easiest to clean because a lot of them can be washed through with water quickly.

What Respirator/Masks are Best When Using a Paint Sprayer?

You should always wear a mask when using a paint sprayer. The fine paint particles can easily be breathed in and cause serious irritation of the lungs. You need a high-quality mask or respirator that will filter out these fine particles and keep you safe. The 3M Paint Project Respirator is a good choice. It filters out 95% of solid and liquid aerosols, and it can filter out particles much smaller than the fine paint, so it will keep you safe.

The 3M Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6800 is a more robust option for longer jobs or regular painting. It’s a full face mask with a nice comfortable design. You can change the filters when needed, so it’s a good mask for people that do a lot of paint spraying.

Final Thoughts

Paint sprayers make life so much easier, even if you’re not a professional. If you want to invest in a sprayer for your general DIY jobs around the house, go for a HVLP option. They’re more affordable than an airless sprayer and they can paint most surfaces with a nice finish.