How To Prime A Paint Sprayer (Easy Step-By-Step Guide)

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.  

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.  

How To Prime A Paint Sprayer

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 


Popular Paint Sprayer Brands & How To Prime Them

Titan 440 Paint Sprayer

How To Prime A Titan 440 Paint Sprayer
  • Press the Shurflo pusher valve
    This will ensure the lower ball valve on the Titan air sprayer is free. 
  • Lubricate the piston, packings, and seals
    Push the auto oiler 2-3 times to distribute the lubrication. 
  • Set the prime spray valve to “Prime.”
    It will be located on the side of the machine.
  • Move the tubes
    Place the siphon (intake) tube and the return (prime/output) tubes into the paint bucket. 
  • Turn on your paint sprayer
    Adjust pressure slowly, and let the pump run until the sprayer is circulating smoothly and free from air bubbles. 
  • Remove the tip and tip guard
    From the spray gun. If they are already off, leave them off for now. 
  • Unlock the trigger
    Press the sprayer gun against the inside of the waste bucket, aiming downward to the bottom of the bucket. 
  • Relieve the pressure in the machine
    Pull the trigger, then—while still engaging the trigger—turn the spray valve to “Spray.” 
  • Once the paint is flowing consistently, let go of the trigger
    Lock the trigger for safety.
  • Turn off the sprayer
    Move the spray valve to the “Prime” setting once more. 
  • Install the tip and tip guard
    On the Titan, this threads onto the gun. 
  • Turn on the sprayer, unlock the trigger
    Then squeeze the trigger while aiming over the waste bucket. Change the valve back to the “Spray” position and pull the trigger. 
  • Once paint is spraying evenly and consistently
    Turn off your machine. You are now ready to test your sprayer, adjust the pressure, and begin painting. 

Magnum X7 Paint Sprayer

How To Prime A Magnum Sprayer
  • Flush out storage fluid
    Do this if your paint sprayer is new and you're using it for the first time or if you've kept it in storage for a while. 
  • Turn the prime spray valve to “Prime.”
  • Separate the inlet and outlet tubes
    Then place the outlet tube into a waste pail. 
  • Put the inlet tube (suction) into a bucket with mineral spirits
    Or other appropriate cleaning solvent if you'll be using oil-based materials in the sprayer. If you are using water-based paint, you can perform this step with water instead. 
  • Press the Prime button twice
    Turn your sprayer on. Slowly adjust the pressure to start the pump, then allow it to run for 30 seconds until the fluid coming from the outlet tube runs clear. 
  • Turn the machine off
    You are now ready to prime the sprayer with paint. 
  • Prime your Magnum sprayer.  
  • Place the intake/suction tube into your paint
    The outlet/drain tube should be in a waste bucket. 
  • Set valve to “Prime” position
    Turn the machine on. 
  • Let the machine run
    Once paint flows from the outlet tube, turn the machine back off. 
  • Unlock the trigger
    Aim the gun into the waste bucket, then squeeze the trigger. Keep it engaged while you turn the valve to the “Spray” position, then turn the power back on. Let the machine run until paint flows freely from the gun. Release the trigger, then re-lock it. 
  • Clip the outlet tube to the inlet tube
    Both tubes should now be in the paint bucket. 
  • Install the spray tip and guard
    Ensure the metal seal and black gasket are inside the guard before attaching it to your gun. Tighten the retaining nut by hand. 
  • Adjust your machine pressure
    Test, and begin painting. 

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.  

  • Prepare your surface
    Anything you’re priming should be clean and free from dust, grime, old peeling paint, or coatings that might interfere with adhesion. 
  • Lay down drop cloths, use painter’s tape, and wear your safety gear
    Prepare the area exactly as you would if you were applying your topcoat. Wear a dust mask, gloves, and goggles to avoid getting spray particles on your skin or in your eyes, nose, or mouth. 
  • Prime your sprayer
    Instead of using paint, you’ll be using primer for this step. Follow your paint sprayer’s instructions for exact steps. 
  • Test your sprayer
    A piece of cardboard or other disposable surface will work for this. Make sure the pressure is adjusted to deliver exactly the coverage you’re after. 
  • Begin applying primer to your surface
    Keep your distance from the object/wall the same during this process, as well as the angle at which you hold the spray gun. It's helpful to start moving before you engage the trigger so you don't apply too much paint in one spot. 
  • Move in even, steady motions
    You want to keep moving, so the paint goes on evenly. 
  • Clean your paint sprayer per manufacturer instructions
    Re-prime the machine with your topcoat paint.  Once the primer coat has dried, apply your main coat as usual. 

Priming 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. 

Conclusion

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.