Paint Sprayer Or Paint Roller: Which is the Best For You?

A painter’s job is one that requires not only skills but also proper equipment. A person’s skills in handling the job come from experience. While it affects his output of the job, the result can still be enhanced or made better if he is using the right equipment.

That is why when it comes to proper equipment the debate as to whether a paint sprayer is better than a roller has been around for a long time now.

Paint brush and rollers have been around the industry ahead of the sprayer so that they are already tried and tested. Rollers are excellent for covering large, flat areas quickly.

This is why it is the obvious choice when painting a wall or a ceiling. If that is the case, why should you choose a paint sprayer over a paint roller?

Which Is Best For Interior Painting Jobs?

undercoat paint

Do I paint or do I roll? That’s a question most painters will ask themselves at least once in their lives. Rollers work best on smooth flat surfaces like ceiling and walls.

So, if you’re only painting one moderately sized room, the roller is the way to go. You’ll have it done in a snap. But for the trim, I’d choose a sprayer with a fine finish 215 or 315 tip.

Using a roller to paint trim like baseboards is very unwieldy and a brush just doesn’t cut it if you want a professional finish. 

Rollers are likely to result in a stippling effect and with brushes, the brush stroke will be visible. If you don’t have an airless system like most contractors, try a small portable HVLP system, which is easy to use and can get into all the nooks and crannies and can handle the finer details of the trim.

If you’re painting multiple rooms or one giant room, then it’s worth breaking out your airless system for the walls and using the roller just for the ceilings. The contractors I’ve consulted always advise using a roller to do ceilings because sprayers tend to leave lag marks. But, if you’re painting the walls, ceiling and the trim with the same paint using the airless for the entire job makes sense.

Which Is Best For Exterior Painting Jobs?

Black and decker roller painting wall blue

If you’ve got a lot of time and need an upper-arm workout, sure, go ahead and use the roller on the exterior of your home. It’s tolerable exercise if your house is small and the walls are smooth.

Rolling uneven surfaces like cladding is perfectly possible but it’ll take longer. If time is an issue, the sprayer is the much better option. 

It’s worth remembering that if the surface you’re spraying is porous like stucco or wood, back-rolling is advised. That’s where you go over your sprayed surface with a roller.

The advantage is that it leaves a more uniform finish overall. Back-rolling is usually a two-person job because the paint needs to be wet when back-rolled.

If you’re painting the trim or soffits the same color as the walls, then you can just spray them. If not, most contractors just use a small 4-inch roller on the trim, which does the job really well. 

Also when choosing between a roller and sprayer, consider what your house is surrounded by, like fencing, established decking or playground equipment. If close enough to the house, they might get covered by overspray, which you definitely don’t want. It might be better to use a roller in these cases.

Does A Paint Sprayer Use More Paint Than A Roller?

The short answer is yes. There’s no getting away from it. Sprayers can use up to 33% more paint than rollers. A sprayer vaporizes paint so paint molecules hang about in the air, eventually settling on some other surface than the intended target. Painting things like a lattice is especially wasteful because you cannot accurately target the individual strips of wood with the sprayer.

An airless sprayer is much faster than an HVLP sprayer but uses considerably more paint. An airless can gobble up paint at a rate of two gallons a minute. HVLP sprayers, because of the low psi, are much more comparable to rollers in terms of paint usage. The HVLP still uses more paint – maybe up to 20% more – than a roller, but is nowhere near as wasteful as the airless.

Let us take a closer look at how the roller stands against a paint sprayer.

Paint Sprayer vs Roller - Efficiency of Results

Woman painting interior brick wall

It is true that with rollers, you can easily cover a large portion of your painting project in a short time.

However, the spray painter can cover the same area at a much faster rate. A spray painter provides a thick layer of coat so that a single spray achieves the same output that rollers achieve after the second coating. 

This means that because the painter no longer needs to do second coating, he can proceed to other areas and ultimately finish the entire project half the time it would take him if he is using a roller.

This is significant whether you are a professional contractor or a DIY enthusiast. Why? Because if you are a contractor, you can cater to more clients since you can finish a project a lot faster. More clients simply mean more income. If you are a DIY homeowner, you can go about dealing with other concerns such as your family and your job or business a lot easier.

Even Finish

The paint roller, just like the paint brush does not always produce even finishes. The paint would usually be thicker where you initially landed the roller and gets thinner as you go on. This means that you have to make extra effort to even them out. However, even doing that would not yield to a completely smooth finish.

The paint sprayer lets out a fine mist of paint so that it evenly covers the area it encounters. As a result, the finish is a lot smoother and even.

Ease and Comfort

Spray painter also provides ease and comfort for its user. With paint rollers, you would need to strain your arms so much because on top of the upward-downward motion while painting, you also need to exert effort in controlling the roller. The longer time you spend in a project, the more tiring it becomes. Not so with spray painters.

Spray painters are lightweight and very easy to control. You only need one hand to point it and move around as you go through the project. This means that you can easily switch hands to allow the other to rest. This is something you cannot do with rollers.

Wide Range of Uses

Perhaps the greatest advantage of a paint sprayer vs roller is that it can do not only the roller’s job but also that of the paint brush. Paint rollers would be inappropriate for small areas as well as for nooks and corners of walls. For these, you would need the paint brush. On the other hand, spray painters can easily deal with any project; big or small, flat surfaces or not.

What Is A Paint Sprayer Pressure Roller?

Head of black and decker roller

It’s what you get when you cross a paint sprayer and a roller. And it offers the best of both worlds.

You can buy a pressure roller as an attachment for most airless sprayers.

It simply attaches to the end of your spray gun with an extension rod and you would use it similarly to you would an ordinary roller.

The roller itself is specially adapted and has holes in it to distribute paint. The roller cover also has corresponding holes.

The pressure roller has a number of advantages over normal rolling. It is a lot faster, for one. 

Because it is constantly fed with paint, you don’t have to stop painting to dip your roller in the paint. As a result, the finish should be better with no lapping marks and patchy paint distribution. And despite it being a pressurized system, there is very little overspray.

It also cuts out the need for back-rolling, so the amount of work you have to do is dramatically reduced. You’ll even have time to sit back afterwards and enjoy your work.

2 Good Paint Rollers Reviewed

1. Graco Pressure Roller (Kit)

Graco 244512 Pressure Roller Kit

Best Features

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    Easy to use
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    No dripping
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    Can be used with any sprayer system

My Overall Rating

The Graco comes with a stainless steel 9” roller frame, a 45 deg swivel adapter, a 20” extension and a ½” nap cover. The roller attaches directly onto any sprayless gun with a 7/8” thread, so you don’t necessarily have to use it with a Graco airless system. It works great where you can’t use an ordinary airless spray system, like outdoors in a breeze or indoor spaces that are finished and furnished. There is much less overspray than with a sprayer.

It is slower than an airless but can get the job done in half the time it would take you with a roller. Its Evenflow technology means no dripping and ensures even paint distribution. The trick is to keep the pressure at the lowest setting, and only to depress the trigger when you need more paint. Also, make sure the roller is moving when you press the trigger. If you’re used to the speed of an airless without the roller, the slower pace will probably irritate the heck out of you. But your patience will be rewarded with a smooth, even finish.

I have a few gripes though. Because it is made out of stainless steel it is heavy, so be prepared for fatigue to set in at some stage. Another irritation is the synthetic roller cover, which begins to compress over time and is a real hassle to clean. I wish they’d provide lamb’s wool covers, which last so much longer. All in all, if you’re used to the set-up and clean-up of any sprayer system, the Graco is a pleasure to use.


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    Usable with any sprayer system
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    Easy for anyone to use
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    Doesn’t drip
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    Includes everything you’ll need
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    Comes with a warranty


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2. Wagner Pressure Roller (Telescopic)

Wagner 0156113 TR10 Telescopic Pressure Roller

Best Features

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    Comfy inline trigger
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    Telescopic handle

My Overall Rating

The two things I like most about the Wagner are the inline trigger and the telescopic handle. The inline trigger is comfortable to use and the handle can be lengthened from 18” to 48”, which makes painting ceilings a cinch. As with the Graco, you have to get used to painting technique and when to press the trigger. I’d test it out first to avoid splatters and splutters. The Wagner is manufactured mostly from plastic so it is really light to use.

However, if you’re hard on your tools, the plastic bits won’t stand up to rough treatment. This tool isn’t really for the contractor, but it should last you a couple of jobs, to make the expense worth your while. It only comes with a polyester-fiber nap; a natural fiber roller would last so much longer. Like the Graco, it can be used with any sprayless system. But, again, if you use the correctly it will cut down on your rolling time by half and use about as much paint as a manual system too.


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    Has telescopic handle
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    Easy to use trigger
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    Cuts down on rolling time
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    Usable with any system


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    Made from plastic
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    Uses a polyester-fiber nap instead of a natural fiber roller


The next time you would be doing a painting project, it would be more efficient to use a paint sprayer or pressure roller. Either of these options will cover your paint job quicker and easier!

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