Whether you enjoy painting or consider it a chore, opting to use a paint sprayer can dramatically reduce application time by pumping paint onto your surface with high, steady pressure. This results in even coats and reduces those dreaded paint drips or brushstrokes that can be tough to avoid with rollers and brushes.
In this guide, learn how to prime a paint sprayer before use so that it performs as efficiently as possible—giving you the best results every time.
How To Prime A Paint Sprayer In 6 Easy Steps
So, why should you prime a paint sprayer before you use it? Simply put, “prime” in this case means “prepare,” the same way you’d clean and maintain other equipment to make sure it works the way it should.
Before you begin, wear goggles, a dust mask, and gloves. You may also want to wear high-coverage clothing or a jumpsuit. Never aim a paint sprayer gun at someone, and always engage the trigger lock when the gun is not in use.
1. Move The Tubes
Put the paint sprayer’s intake (suction) tube in your paint after it’s stirred and strained, then put the return tube (which is smaller and sometimes called the prime tube) into an empty waste bucket.
2. Begin The Prime Process
Turn the valve to the "Prime" setting and switch on your sprayer's pump. You should notice paint begin to flow through the tubes—in the suction tube and out through the smaller prime tube. Do this until the flow is steady and then move your prime tube to the paint bucket.
Secure it to your suction tube and let the sprayer pump run until the air bubbles stop.
3. Fill The Hose
Aim the paint sprayer gun over the waste bucket, remove the spray tip, and switch the valve over to “Spray.” Engage the trigger and spray until the paint flows in a steady and consistent manner.
4. Relieve The Pressurization
First, lock your trigger and turn off the device using the power switch. Switch the valve back to “Prime.” Point the paint sprayer gun into the waste bucket, unlock the trigger, and pull it. This relieves any built-up pressure in the machine. Re-lock the trigger.
5. Reattach The Tip And Guard Per Manufacturer Instructions
Change valve setting back to “Spray.”
6. Test Your Sprayer
If you’ve primed it correctly, you should easily be able to get an even, consistent spray on a piece of cardboard or another test surface. Adjust the pressure until you’re happy with the results.
Note: some of these steps will vary based on your particular paint sprayer. Below, you’ll find more specific priming instructions for some of the most popular paint sprayer brands.
Should You Use A Paint Sprayer For Primer?
Using a paint sprayer instead of a brush or roller has several advantages. The main one is time. Although setting up a paint sprayer takes a little more work than simply pouring paint into a tray, it’s minimal compared to how much time the sprayer will save you.
Another advantage is the lack of drip marks or brush strokes, and the fact you can easily coat irregular or detailed surfaces such as elaborate trim or window shutters.
You don’t have to limit using a paint sprayer to your main coats, either: applying a primer coat with your paint sprayer can be done, as well. This ensures an evenly-primed surface to make your main paint job look even better.
Priming Paint Sprayer FAQs
Can you spray self-etching primer over paint?
No, you should not spray self-etching primers over existing paint. These formulas have sulfuric acid and will corrode the paint. They’re meant for unpainted metal surfaces.
Can you prime a paint sprayer with water?
Using water can help clean your sprayer and flush out storage fluids, but no, it’s not a substitute for priming with actual paint.
The purpose of priming your paint sprayer is to make sure the tubes, gun, and tip are filled with paint and free from air bubbles before you begin applying it to your surface, and that the machine’s not overly pressurized.
How long does a paint sprayer take to prime?
Once you get the hang of the process, priming can take only a few moments. For those new to priming paint sprayers, the process might take a bit longer—but it’s well worth the result.
How do you get oil-based primer out of a paint sprayer?
You will need to clean your sprayer using mineral spirits or another appropriate solvent.
The process is very similar to priming or flushing out storage fluids, as you’re letting the suction tubes take in the cleanser, then running the machine until the outtake tube dispenses clean solvent.
Priming a paint sprayer may seem daunting if you've never used one before. Fortunately, the process is much more straightforward than it seems.
By priming your paint sprayer before use, you'll save yourself from uneven pressure problems, air bubbles, and other headaches—and keep your machine working efficiently for much longer.