There are 4 main types of paint sprayers available, these include conventional compressor systems for car spraying, airless spray systems for home spraying, HVLP sprayers for more detailed work (such as spraying cabinets) and lastly, portable handhelds.
Whilst many of them can be dual purpose, it’s important you have the best for YOUR task. The technology used by each type differs greatly and therefore the finish and technique involved are vastly different, learn more about what paint sprayers are and what they’re used for.
The 4 Main Different Types of Paint Sprayers
Below is a summary break down of the four main different types of paint sprayer and what type of work they are best suited for.
Considering the type of work you will be doing now, and in the future is an essential step in ensuring you get the best paint sprayer for your needs and help make your mind up between the different types of sprayers.
Airless Paint Sprayers
Airless sprayers are one of the most common types of paint sprayers in the home improvement industry, for both DIY users and professionals.
They are normally designed to suck straight out of a pot (which as a rule of thumb, generally doesn’t need to be thinned too much) with a hose and use an extremely fast piston with specialized chambers to build up pressure inside the machine. These attributes make them the best paint sprayers for interior walls for professionals and DIYers.
There is a wide range of types of paint guns at different price points that you should understand before splurging on the new best model. Prices range anywhere from $250, up to several thousand dollars.
So what’s the difference between the types of paint spray guns? Mainly the motor size with electric spray guns, but of course the overall build quality is much better with a professional sprayer.
If you’re wondering how does an airless paint sprayer work, head over to our other article for more detailed information.
Many of the large, expensive commercial sprayers you see on the market are built for heavy daily use and are able to spray thicker, more specialized materials.
Common household paints are relatively easy to spray, but when it comes to fireproof, roofing or marine grade coatings, the thickness can be up to 3x that you would find in the average household.
Have you ever wondered can I use exterior paint inside? Read that blog post first.
The thicker the material, the greater demand will be on the motor to be able to pick the material up, push it through up to 20 meters of hose and atomize it at high pressure.
Professional decorators often need some of the best sprayers on the market, that are built to withstand the tens of thousands of piston revolutions per day, along with the daily wear and tear of being full of sticky coatings, thinners and withstanding high pressures.
Airless systems come in all shapes and sizes, so we’ve rounded up our best airless paint sprayer reviews in a separate post.
Conventional Compressor Sprayers
Conventional type compressor setups are normally associated primarily with being the best automotive and car paint sprayers. They require large and noisy compressors to operate, along with some technical knowledge on how to hook everything up, run a compressor, connect the airlines and manage pressure.
Compressor based spray systems are able to provide a very high end, factory finish when used correctly with professional grade spray guns, however, due to the large size and complexity of these setups they are rarely used by the average homeowner for decorating purposes.
When it comes to compressor setups, the quality of the end result primarily lies in the quality of the gun and needle used, and there’s a lot of different types of spray guns for these setups.
These types of spray guns alone can run into the $300+ range and are built to be fully disassembled to allow the user to customize, clean and repair to their heart’s content.
For the average home car enthusiast, a full compressor set up with a mid-range gun will most likely set you back around $300-$500, this should provide you with a reliable compressor, a gun that gives a quality finish and all the airlines and fittings to go with it.
Handheld Paint Sprayers
Handheld sprayers are a popular choice among DIY enthusiasts and professionals because of how small, versatile and easy to use they can be.
According to the Persistent Market Research, they are the second most purchased type of paint sprayers in the US.
If you’re thinking that all types of spray guns require the gun to be ‘handheld’ you are correct, but a handheld is considered an airless or turbine system with no hoses, compressors or turbines.
A handheld gun is a self-contained unit that holds fluid in a cup attached to the gun and runs on either a lithium-ion battery or with a power cord straight into the wall.
The best handheld sprayers such as those from Graco and Wagner, operate with a simplified ‘airless technology’, using a powerful electric motor to suck the material out of the pot and build high pressure within the machine.
Handheld machines are considered among the best paint sprayers for interior walls and DIY projects, but reputable branded handheld units still are not cheap, however, with some of the best sellers like the Graco Truecoat 2 handheld retailing for around $300-$500.
But what you get for that money, is a very versatile, small & portable handheld unit that is fast enough to spray large surface areas such as interior walls but also controllable and agile enough for smaller projects such as furniture and trim
HVLP Paint Sprayers (High Volume Low Pressure)
HVLP spray guns are often confused with compressor sprayer setups, which causes a nightmare for both retailers and consumers. HVLP and compressor spray guns are very different.
HVLP setups don’t require compressors, they use a low pressure ‘turbine’ which can be thought of as a reverse vacuum cleaner, relying on an electric motor spinning a fan to create airflow. This air is pushed up an air hose and into the gun which commonly has a 1l pot either on top or below the trigger (gravity fed or suction fed guns).
HVLP paint sprayers are a modern technology that has exploded in recent years, it provides a small, cost-effective solution that provides high quality, near flawless finish and significant control for detailed work such as trim work and other DIY or professional projects.
HVLP technology is considered the best types of paint sprayer for cabinets and the best spray gun systems for furniture restoration. HVLP spray guns are also considered one of the best technologies for home use as they can be used for large surface areas such as home interiors.
That said, they are much slower than airless technology and other types of paint spray guns, and can only hold around 1 liter of fluid in the pot, meaning there are many refills needed to decorate a whole room.
Consider this when choosing between different types of paint sprayers if you have different jobs in mind.