There are 4 main types of paint sprayers available, these include the conventional compressed air sprayer, used mainly for paint spraying cars nowadays, airless paint sprayers, for large home projects, HVLP sprayers for more detailed work, such as kitchen cabinets and lastly, portable handheld spray guns, used mainly for smaller DIY painting projects or the occasional project.
Whilst they are all multi-purpose some are better than others for certain tasks so it’s important you have the best for the type of work you will mainly be doing.
The technology used by each type differs greatly and therefore the finish and technique involved can be different, and require different skills. 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 sprayers 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.
Airless sprayers are generally designed for larger projects and therefore use a suction tube to pull straight from a 1 – 5 gallon paint pot.
The best paint for spraying with the airless sprayer is the thinner materials such as lacquers and varnishes that don’t need to be thinned, the thicker latex paints can be used but may need to be thinned in some cases as this will avoid an uneven finish and clogging in the spray tip.
Most sprayers will come supplied with a viscosity cup that allows you to work out how much thinning you need to do and you should always do a spray test before you start your job.
They use an extremely fast piston pump with specialized chambers that build up extremely high pressure of up to 3000Psi, this then blows the paint through the hose and out of the tiny spray tip breaking the material down into tiny paint particles that will cover most surfaces quickly and easily.
Remember, when painting with airless sprayer it works on such a high pressure that you will get overspray, the tiny paint particles that will be floating in the air, meaning that the correct preparation of masking and covering everything will be needed. This also brings with it the need to have the correct paint safety equipment, and if spraying indoors a respirator may also be required.
But it will cover large areas in a short space of time while still giving you a professional finish and it is that high pressure that makes them the best paint sprayers for interior walls or any large surface area for both professionals and DIYers alike.
The main difference is the motor size with these electric paint sprayers, but of course, the overall build quality is much better with the higher-priced professional sprayer.
If you want to know more about how does an airless paint sprayer work, head over to our other article for more detailed information.
Many of the larger, more expensive commercial sprayers you see on the market are built for heavy daily use and have the durability and quality to cope with what is required of them.
Don’t forget the thicker the material, the greater demand will be on the motor to pick the material up and push it through up to 20 meters of hose, while still have the pressure to atomize it at the spray tip. If you are in any doubt do a test spray because using paint that is too thick can seriously shorten the life of the motor.
Maybe you have got some paint leftover from painting the outside of your house and your wondering can I use exterior paint inside? why not read our blog and find out more.
There is a wide range of airless spray guns, with very different price points, depending on your needs so if you think they are for you why not check out our more specific Best Airless Paint Sprayer Reviews.
Conventional Compressor Sprayers
Most people will think of compressed air sprayers when thinking about what a paint spray gun is. This conventional type of compressor setup is normally associated primarily with being the best automotive and car paint sprayers. Although it can do the DIY job you might want it to do, unless you already have the compressor and gun it is not the one we would recommend to the average homeowner.
As the name suggests the compressed air sprayers require a large and noisy air compressor to operate, along with some technical knowledge on how to hook everything up, run a compressor, connect the airlines and manage the pressure of the compressed air.
Compressed air sprayers are able to provide an extremely high end, factory smooth 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 or for decorating purposes.
When it comes to an air compressor setup the quality of the end result also lies in the quality of the gun and needle used, and there’s a lot of different types of spray guns available.
Top of the range spray guns alone can run into the hundreds of dollars 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 compressed air set up with a mid-range spray gun will is an investment but it will provide you with a reliable compressor, a gun that gives a quality finish, and all the airlines and fittings to go with it.
This form of spraying will take some practice to reach the level of an experienced sprayer and is not generally used on DIY projects.
Handheld Paint Sprayers
Now for the third out of the different types of sprayers and its, the handheld paint sprayer which is a very popular choice among DIY enthusiasts and professionals because of how small, versatile, and easy to use they can be.
According to the PMR (Persistence 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 paint sprayer is a self-contained unit that holds fluid in a reservoir 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 cup and build high pressure within the machine.
Handheld spray systems are considered among the best paint sprayers for furniture and doors, but, remember with this form of painting sprayer you are restricted to the capacity of the cup and will need to top up. So although they are good and will give you a smooth finish for larger areas it is not always practical if that is what the main use is to be.
Brilliant for any DIY painting project, they are the ideal, very affordable, solution for homeowners that want a paint sprayer for the odd job around the house. Maybe you have a lot to paint and don’t mind making an investment with some of the best-sellers like the Graco Truecoat 2 handheld.
But what you get for that money, is a very versatile, small & portable handheld unit that is fast enough to spray large surface areas but also controllable and agile enough for smaller projects such as furniture and wood 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 is a high volume low-pressure setup that doesn’t require an air compressor as 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.
The air is then pushed up through an air hose and into the spray gun which commonly has a 1000cc capacity cup that is either on top of or below the trigger, commonly called gravity fed or a bottom feed, (suction fed) paint sprayer.
High volume low-pressure HVLP sprayers for paint are a modern technology that has exploded in recent years, it provides a small, cost-effective solution that gives high quality, flawless finish, and significant control for detailed work such as trims, cabinets, and furniture along with many other DIY or professional projects.
Find the best HVLP spray guns here for more detailed reviews on HVLP sprayers.
HVLP sprayers use is considered the best type of paint sprayer for cabinets and the best paint sprayer 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. Without the high pressure of the airless paint.sprayer these are a great paint sprayer for wood and do not have the vast overspray, therefore saving on the amount of paint you use and the need for extra safety accessories.
That said, they are 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 will be a need for refilling if you are looking to decorate a whole room.
Now you have seen a quick insight into the four main types of paint spray systems and have a rough idea of the best sprayer for paint projects of different types. We have hopefully included all the different links that will take you, quickly and easily, to the different blogs and articles that you might want to look at for further information and tips about the things you are interested in.
To summarise –
The Airless Paint Sprayer is great for large jobs such as interior and exterior walls, but has the drawback of being messy with overspray.
The Handheld Spray Guns areideal for most homeowners that want to get a professional finish but have the flexibility of a small unit. Not really the gun to spray the whole interior or exterior of your house.
HVLP High Volume Low-Pressure paint system is great for detailed work, cabinets and furniture without being too messy, but is slower and not quite so good for the larger projects as you will need to refill the cup.
Compressed Air Systems are fantastic for the auto trade but can be tricky to set up and start using. With the need for a separate compressor that can be very noisy for everyday use around the home.
Which is best, well we will have to let you decide as it is very much debated throughout the industry. All we can do is point out the pros and cons as they are.