Do Paint Sprayers Use More Paint Than Rollers? (Solved!)

Using a paint sprayer instead of a roller saves time and money, providing an paint evenly and professional coat of paint to any project.

Does a spray gun use more paint than standard rolling? We have all you need to know down below.

The short answer is that paint sprayers do tend to use more paint than hand rollers. There are a few factors that affect how much overspray, or lost paint, you end up with - weather, paint sprayer gun type, pressure level, skill, and more all play a role.

Spray guns tend to lose paint to the air in a process known as atomization. When paint mixes with air, it comes out as many tiny droplets.

These lightweight small drops can be lost to the air or blasted onto other surfaces or items than what you are painting.

spray painting wood slabs

Atomization is the biggest reason for overspray, and high pressure spray gun blasts tend to have a higher chance of overspray.

Because of this, it is recommended that you have more paint than you think you need to accommodate for a higher-than-expected transfer rate. You may use more paint with a spray gun, but you do receive a clean, professional finish like professional painter in a much faster time than with rollers.

Let’s break down the paint sprayer types and their overspray chances.

Airless Sprayers

Airless sprayers are great for both interiors and exteriors and are simple to handle. These popular types work by simply pumping more paint through the system to force atomization and a powerful jet.

Whether you rent or buy an airless paint sprayer, we recommend choosing one with 2000 psi or more for a proper coating.

In terms of the airless sprayer vs roller overspray issue, you may need to purchase up to fifty percent more paint for similar coverage; however, the airless paint sprayer coverage per gallon will vary depending on the model and size.

Handheld Airless Sprayers

Handheld airless paint sprayer are a smaller, more portable version of the standard airless sprayer and work similarly. These guns are best for small to medium projects such as decks and fences. These models are typically on the lower side of the pressure scale, meaning there is less paint overspray. This airless sprayer use less paint i.e. saving paint.

HVLP Paint Sprayers

High volume low pressure - HVLP models are highly accurate, easy to control, and require no training to use. We recommend spray painting with these when dealing with furniture or other smaller projects due to the lower pressure. Lower pressure spray means less overspray, which makes them cheaper to use in the long run.

Compressed Air Spray Gun

Compressed models are high-pressure spray guns that are difficult to control. It is mostly used by professionals due to its high-difficulty nature, as those with little skill will cause an enormous amount of overspray and wasted paint. It waste much more paint than necessary.

Gravity Feed Spray Guns

You will most often find car repair or renovation companies using a paint sprayer in this style. It is highly easy to control but only really used for spraying paint onto cars.

LVLP Paint Sprayers

LVLP paint sprayer models are both low volume and low pressure, meaning there is less overspray, and they are easy to control. However, they are not very flexible as they are not compatible with water based latex paint.

You will not often see these models on the market as they are being replaced by their airless counterparts.

How Much Paint Do Sprayers Use?

Paint Sprayers Vs Roller

When deciding the amount of paint you need, the tools you use play a major role in the cost of your painting project. If you use a gallon of more paint with a roller, we recommend purchasing an extra 20 percent amount of paint for HVLP sprayers, 40 percent amount of paint for airless, and 50 percent if you have poor skill or a high-power model.

If you are unsure, the item description or sprayer brand may have some advice on model-specific needs and instructions. Often 1 to 1.5 cans is a good ratio to consider when it comes to paint sprayer or roller projects.

paint roller

Paint Sprayers Vs Brush

Brushes are very similar to rollers but brush painting give you more control when trying to conserve more paint.

For brushes, we estimate that a gallon of exterior latex or acrylic paint could cover around 400 square feet of a large surface with proper preparation and masking. 

Use similar estimates to the above when figuring out how much extra paint you need. Calculate the extra paint you need from experience.

Paint Sprayers Vs Spray Paint Cans

To spray paint walls (exterior and interior walls) and other surfaces using either cans or paint sprayers is an easy way to save time and save paint. Both styles work with atomized paint and give similar results.

However, spray paint cans are better for painting small projects and giving a fresh coat or patch job. Paint sprayers, on the other hand, can easily handle most projects.

Calculating How Much Paint You Actually Need

Tools are not the only deciding factor when calculating how much paint you need. It is vital to consider your room's shape, how many square feet it is, and whether you are going to be painting the ceiling.

Once you have measured the square footage, minus any windows or doors in the room for your total.

While the specifics may be different depending on the prep work done, whether anything will be covered in plastic sheeting, the condition of the large room, and other factors that are at play, we do have a general guide.

We estimate that one gallon can cover around 400 square feet, and two gallons can cover 800 square feet. If you need specifics, contact a professional, check the item description, or use one of the many online paint calculators to help.[1]

How to Minimize Wasting Paint When Using Spray Guns

As we discussed when breaking down why paint sprayers use more paint, there are many factors to consider when it comes to reducing cost and trying to save paint.

Pick The Right Type Of Paint Sprayer

To get the best paint job possible, you need the right tools for the job. Consider our tips above and research brands and customer reviews to find the right model for you. Take note of how much psi your chosen models have before buying to ensure you get the right pressure for you.

Throw Away Worn Or Rusted Tips

If you are renting or using an older model, make sure to inspect your paint sprayer tips before apply paint spraying. Rusted or worn tips will negatively affect the finish and end result, so we recommend replacing them as soon as possible.

Be Prepared Before Spraying Paint

Preparation is key for a good paint job, regardless of whether you are using airless paint sprayers, a brush, or a roll. Before anything gets painted, ensure that you cover and mask anything that you do not want to be painted.

Be careful to properly sand, clean, prime, and dry a surface before getting start spraying with your paint cover. This will clog up any holes and remove any debris, ensuring that you use less paint with airless paint sprayers.

preparing to use paint sprayer

Set an Accurate Pressure Level

The higher the pressure, the harder the paint sprayer will be to control and the higher percentage of overspray.

We recommend starting on the lowest setting and using the gun on a scrap piece of cardboard or paper. Slowly turn up the pressure until you find something suitable for your project and your comfort level.

Select the Suitable Tip

Most spray guns will come with a couple of tip options for variety. Consider which one will work best for this project - not all tips will work for painting a house or a fence, for example.

As a rule, the larger the surface or layer thickness, the bigger the tip you need.

Spray Technique Is Important

Your technique is just as important as your tools and preparation. Poor technique will lead you to eat through your supplies, increasing overspray and the chance that there will be no paint left.

As a rule, stand relatively close to the project and keep your gun both square to the project and the same distance away throughout the painting process.

Practicing on another surface reduces the chance of ruining your finished product and wasting paint. Your paint sprayer should also have tips on proper technique in the manual.

Pick The Right Application Tools

Will you be painting indoors? Is the project outdoors? Will you be painting ceilings or other high-up things? Get the right tools for the job beforehand to have a safe and easy painting experience.[2]

Keep An Eye on the Weather

Windy days almost guarantee a dramatic increase in overspray, even with coverings. If it is a windy day outside, either take the project indoors or wait until conditions are better.

Water and paint thinner are two effective ways to thin paint for a paint sprayer. How much more paint does a paint sprayer use than a roller? A paint sprayer uses more paint than a roller.

Common Paint Sprayer Versus Roller Questions

Do you need 2 coats of paint when spraying?

It varies depending on what you're painting and the color. Typically, most painting projects require two coats. Using a paint sprayer allows for thin and even coats, resulting in faster drying time between coats.

What happens when you spray too much paint?

Spraying too much paint can lead to increased overspray, uneven coats, longer drying times, poor finishes, and wasted time and money.


Overall, there are a lot of factors that can affect how much paint a sprayer uses.

However, you now know what you can and cannot control as well as how to calculate how much paint you need. Get the right tools, do proper preparation, and practice beforehand for the best results.