How To Use A Paint Sprayer (Expert Tips For Beginners)

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to use a paint sprayer for you. This will cover Airless, HVLP and spray guns with compressors.

Once you’ve finished reading through these instructions, you’ll be ready to paint like a pro.

Airless sprayers pump paint at high pressures, oftentimes up to 3000 PSI. The tip is designed to break up the paint evenly into a spray pattern made of small droplets.

Some models, such as Graco and Titan brands, will offer the ability to spray directly from a 1 or 5-gallon bucket. This means you can get the projects done faster. Read our Best Airless Sprayers Review if you need help finding the right model for your project.

Here are some simple steps to follow when learning how to use an airless sprayer.

How to Use A Paint Sprayer

Completing household painting projects is easy and quick with the right paint sprayer. Once you’ve determined the right model for your needs, you have to learn how to use a paint sprayer.

While this can seem intimidating at first, it doesn’t have to be. Most models, especially those geared toward home users, are simple to use, setup and clean. With a little practice, anyone can become a paint spraying professional.

Prime The Pump

Place the small prime tube in an empty bucket and put the suction tube into the strained paint. Turn the valve to “Prime” and switch on the pump.

When the paint begins to flow, move it into the paint bucket. Hold the spray gun over the empty bucket and pull the trigger. Continue until the paint begins to flow at a steady stream.

Also check out our guide on how to prime a paint sprayer for more details. 

Choose Your Tip Size

Most spray tips are labeled with a three-digit number such as 517. By doubling the first number, you can determine the spray fan width when the gun is held 12-inches from a surface.

For example, the 517 would have a 10-inch wide fan pattern. The other two digits determine the size of the spray hole by thousandths of an inch. Use smaller digits for thin liquids and larger digits for thicker liquids.


Turn your pump on the “Spray” position. Practice on a piece of cardboard or spare wood first. Adjust the pressure as needed.

Spray Techniques

It is important that you move the gun parallel to the surface you are spraying. Do not spray in an arc pattern. In addition, keep your gun perpendicular to the surface.

If you move fast, you will prevent runs. Keep in mind that using several thin coats is better than applying a thick one. Try to overlap your strokes by 30 to 50 percent.

How to Use an HVLP Sprayer

HVLP spray guns use high-volume and low-pressure. They are best for detail work and automotive projects. Wagner is one of the top brands when looking for an HVLP spray gun. Read about how to use a Wagner paint sprayer here.

Here are some simple steps to follow when learning how to use an HVLP sprayer.

Mix Materials As Instructed

Most materials will need to be mixed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Also read our guide on how to mix paint for a spray gun.

Prepare Your Cup

Fill the designated cup with materials and leave some room at the top. Never overfill your cup and make sure the lid is securely attached.

Adjust Gun

Turn the fluid adjusting knob clockwise. This prevents fluid needle movement. Then, turn the spreader valve adjusting knob counterclockwise to ensure it is fully open.

If your finish appears dry, reduce the airflow by reducing pressure. If the finish appears wet, reduce the fluid flow by adjusting the appropriate knobs. Likewise, you can adjust the pattern size and inlet pressures.

Spray Techniques

Hold your sprayer perpendicular to the surface. If you tilt or arc the sprayer, you’ll end up with an uneven coating.

Spray approximately six to eight feet from the surface. Start with spraying the edges and then overlap the strokes with a minimum of 75%. Keep moving your gun at constant speeds.

How to Use a Spray Gun With a Compressor

If you have an air compressor, you don’t need to purchase an HVLP system but could just use a Spray Gun.

These are more cost effective than purchasing an entire system, but you’ll need your compressor with you wherever you paint.

Here are some simple steps to follow when learning how to use a Spray Gun with a Compressor.

Prepare the Air Compressor

Turn on your compressor and set the pressure to 90 PSI. You can then adjust the pressure at the gun itself.

Attach the Gun

Secure your spray gun onto the compressor hose. Place the appropriate materials into you canister as recommended by the manufacturer. Secure the canister to the gun.


Practice spraying on a spare piece of wood so you can make the adjustments needed. Make sure you are using the proper fan spray for your project.

Spray Techniques

Hold your gun six to eight inches from the surface. Make sure it remains perpendicular at all times. Move the gun horizontally and start at the top. Slowly work your way down to minimize running.

Advantages Of Using Paint Sprayers

Paint Sprayers are ideal for a multitude of projects. One of the main reason people use them is to prime or paint new, large interior spaces.

This project goes faster than rolling alone. This is also valuable when working with new construction because the flooring and ceiling won’t be an issue.

When painting the exterior of a home that has a clear perimeter, sprayers will out-perform painting by hand.

If you don’t have a clear perimeter but have mature landscaping, sunrooms, playsets and other items in the yard, you can still use a paint sprayer, but prep time will be slightly longer.

If you are painting areas that have detail work or texture, a paint sprayer is a great tool. It makes short work of projects like crown molding or popcorn ceilings.

There are sometimes when using a paint sprayer won’t be ideal. These include:

  • Painting of areas that have many items requiring masked and covered
  • The need to save money
  • Painting a surface that isn’t completely clean

Overall, spray painting will generally save you time in comparison to painting with a roller and brush. If you are working on a large project, it can also save money over hiring a professional to complete the assignment.

Consider These Paint Sprayer Brands

When it comes to paint sprayers, you not only have to choose the type of sprayer but the brand you want as well. There are dozens of paint sprayer manufacturers out there, and each one has good points and bad points. The problem is that most of them have more bad points than good.

For that reason, you want to stick to a well-known, trusted brand that will stand behind their product. You want a company you know is going to be there tomorrow to help you is something goes wrong, or you need a new part for your older sprayer.

While we aren’t taking anything away from any brand out there, three brand names continue to jump to the top of the list.

Graco has been in the paint supply game for a long time. Their products are tried, tested, and abused, and they continue to perform day in and day out. From the professional, commercial painter to the once-in-a-while DIY homeowner, Graco has products designed for every project and skill level.

Fuji is a name that most professional painters know and trust. Homeowners and DIY experts are also onboard. Fuji makes paint sprayers for every budget and project imaginable and will have what you need when you need it.

One of the biggest draws to Fuji is their paint sprayer accessories, which allow you to expand your paint spraying venture beyond what comes in the box.

Wagner is geared more for the DIYer, though they do have a solid hold on the commercial market as well. If you are looking for a sprayer that won’t see a lot of use, you can save money with Wagner. You won’t lose out on quality, though, and that is why this home-name brand has stuck around for as long as they have.

How Much Should You Spend?

Depending on your budget, there is a paint sprayer for you. You can find budget models that cost less than $100, but these will generally be all-in-one styles that don’t offer accessories or extras. There are also commercial-grade sprayer systems than can top over $2000.

Whatever your budget calls for, there is a sprayer system that will work for you. Here at Paint Sprayer Judge, we attempt to find the best deals on the highest-quality paint sprayers.

We want you to be happy with your purchase. To that end, the brands and models we test, review, and compare typically fall in the $200 to $600 range.

Which Paints Work Well with Sprayers?

When deciding on a proper paint sprayer, you are going to want to make sure it will work with the materials you are using.

Most paint sprayers are versatile and can be used with a multitude of materials including stains, paints, lacquers and primers.

Make sure that you also refer to the user guide of your sprayer to ensure that you are applying proper materials. Most sprayers can be used with water-based exterior and interior materials. 

In addition, most sprayers are capable of applying oil-based exterior and interior paints.

Not all sprayers will apply solvent-based flammable materials. These include primers, shellacs, lacquers and sealers. Refer to the specific sprayer to determine if you can use it for these items.

There are also special materials such as undercoating and sealers that will require a specific model of sprayer. Keep in mind when using thicker materials; you may need a larger spray tip to accomplish the task.

paint tins by color

Clean Up, Maintenance & Storage

Cleaning a paint sprayer is a necessary evil that will require your tie, devotion, and attention. You will need to clean your entire unit after every use. This also means that you can't leave paint in the sprayer for very long or it will need to be cleaned.

Paint cures quickly and can form deposits in your sprayer system. You should always have a waste bucket, water, rags, and mineral spirits on hand. Cleaning with warm water and a mild soap will take care of most paints.

However, when you paint with oil-based paints, you will need to use mineral spirits to clean. Cleaning an airless sprayer will require you to spray solvent and cleaning solutions through the sprayer to clean out the internal tubes, suction hoses, and inner workings of the guns.

After that, you will disassemble the gun, tip, strainers, air caps, nozzles, rods, and paint cups to hand wash and scrub. Some models will require you to oil seals and o-rings, and some will need throat seal liquid added before the next use.

After a thorough cleaning, you should check all the parts and perform routine maintenance on the device. This can be as simple as putting in a new filter and spray tip or replacing tubing and suction hoses if they begin to wear out.

After inspection, maintenance, and cleaning, you can store your machine. Always store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, debris, and other hazards. Covering your sprayers can help keep them free of dust and dirt, and all sprayers should be stored in an upright position.

Final Tips!

Now that you know how to use your new paint sprayer, it is time to get the jobs done.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions found in the owner’s manual.

 Complete all your household tasks with ease and spend more time doing the things you love.