Painting at home can be stressful. The color, the finish and the brand of paint are only a starting point as getting the paint on the walls is no easy task.
Do you want your home to look like a professional painter did the job?
Then it's your lucky day, as I am here to help inexperienced DIYers turn their home into stunning works of art that all the neighbors will be jealous of.
Read on to find out if a paint sprayer or paint roller is best for your paint job.
Do I paint or do I roll? That’s a question most painters will ask themselves at least once in their lives.
So, when it comes to painting your home, there are two main options: using a paint sprayer or using a paint roller.
Both of these methods can be used by professional painters to create an even, striking finish, however, there are some differences that might affect your choice.
Which is Best For Interior Painting Jobs?
When it comes to interior painting jobs, a paint roller is typically the best choice to apply paint as it allows for more control over the paint surface application.
Rollers are a traditional painting tool that has been around for many years.
They work by rolling the paint onto the surface, which results in a thicker and more textured finish.
One of the main advantages of using a manual roller is its ease of use and require little preparation and they work best on smooth or flat surfaces like ceiling and painting interior walls.
So, if you’re only painting one moderately sized room, the roller is the way to go to get textured surfaces. But for the trim, I’d choose interior paint sprayers with the fine finish 215 or 315 tip.
Using a paint 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 a basic interior paint sprayer like most contractors for painting interior walls, 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.
It will take longer to paint multiple rooms or one giant room, so it’s worth breaking out your interior paint sprayer system for the walls and using the paint roller just for the popcorn ceilings.
The contractors I’ve consulted always advise using a paint roller to do the popcorn ceilings because paint sprayers tend to leave lag marks.
But, if you’re painting the flat walls, ceiling and the trim with the same paint using the airless paint sprayer for the entire job makes sense.
Which is Best For Exterior Painting Jobs?
When it comes to exterior painting jobs, using a paint sprayer to apply paint is generally the best option.
Paint sprayers provide a much smoother and more even coverage than rollers, resulting in a professional-looking finish that won’t require additional touch-ups.
Paint sprayers are also much faster than rollers when it comes to apply paint, so you can complete larger projects in less time. It’s a tolerable exercise if your house is small and the paint walls are smooth.
Spray paint provides excellent results when used for detailed tasks like edging and trimming. For larger, exterior painting jobs, a paint sprayer is the best option and it ensures even coverage on every surface and helps reduce labor time.
Different types of textured surfaces will require different settings or adjustments on your paint sprayer.
Keep in mind that overspray is common with many types of paint sprayers. This means that extra precautions need to be taken before and during use to avoid spraying areas not intended for painting.
Finally, make sure you take frequent breaks throughout the process as using a paint sprayer requires strenuous activity and can cause fatigue.
However, 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 paint them. If not, most contractors who handle large painting projects just use a small 4-inch roller for the trim, which does the job really well.
Also, when choosing between a paint roller and paint sprayers, 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.
Spraying Paint Vs Rolling Paint – Pros and Cons
Paint rollers have their place in both DIY and professional painters markets. This is also true of paint sprayers.
Virtually anything a roller can do, a paint sprayer can do just as well or better.
What matters the most is the result and how efficient the project is for you to achieve the final product.
Below I cover some of the factors in both efficiency and getting the results you are after by comparing paint sprayers to paint rollers in various categories.
The paint roller, just like the paintbrush, 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 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 painters also provide ease and comfort for its user. With paint rollers, you would need to strain your arms so much because of the need to exert effort in controlling the roller. The longer time you spend on 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 paint project. This means that you can easily switch hands to allow the other to rest. This is something you cannot do with most 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 paintbrush.
Paint rollers would be inappropriate for small areas as well as for nooks and corners of walls.
For these, you would need to cut in with a paintbrush. On the other hand, spray painters can easily deal with any large painting projects, big or small, flat surfaces or not.
When all things are considered, a paint sprayer is faster. Even with the initial setup, you can be painting and finished quicker with a sprayer than you can a roller.
However, a roller has a much easier cleanup process, which can make the project end at the same time, no matter which method you use.
The actual job, though it is done much faster with a sprayer. If you are looking for a quick application of paint, a sprayer is the better option.
If, however, you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing maintenance and cleaning, the roller is a better option.
One important factor is the overall cost. Initially, a paint sprayer will cost more than a roller.
You need to purchase the machine, tips, paint, and other materials or tools.
With a roller, you need the roller, the paint and drop cloths, and perhaps a telescoping handle.
A paint sprayer will also go through more paint than a roller will, so the added cost of the paint should be a factor as well.
In the long run, though, a paint sprayer will end up being a wiser investment.
With minimal purchases after the initial cost, a paint sprayer will only cost you in supplies that you will normally buy anyway (sanders, drop cloths, etc.) and perhaps some new tips or nozzles.
A paint roller is generally good for a few uses and then needs to be replaced. While you can keep the handles, and the paint tray, you still need to buy new rollers every time.
If you are doing a lot of large painting projects, the final costs can even out or even begin to benefit the paint sprayer.
One good thing about paint rollers is that there is little worry in the way of safety.
You still need to use goggles and respirators, of course, but a paint sprayer poses other issues.
Static electricity build-up, for example, is a common occurrence. This can lead to sparks that can ignite paint fumes or the fumes and liquids of your cleaning supplies.
Extra precautions are needed for paint sprayers versus their paint roller counterparts. However, with proper care and use, these are minimized anyway.
Cleaning, Maintenance & Storage
When it comes to cleaning, rollers are much easier.
If you are going to keep the paint roller for another use, washing it off in warm water (water-based paints) or a water and mineral spirit solution (oil-based paints), a simple soak and scrub, and air dry and you are done.
You need to flush the system with your cleaning solution, then disassemble the gun, nozzle, and paint cups and clean them thoroughly.
Once dry, they can be reassembled. The process isn’t difficult, just time-consuming.
There is no maintenance for rollers. You either wash them or toss them.
With a paint sprayer, you do have maintenance. You need to use throat seal liquid (if required), replace tips, nozzles, and filters, as well as lubricate seals and o-rings.
While this isn’t required every day, it is more involved than with a paint roller.
Storage is about the same, though, find a clean, dry spot to put your equipment and cover it to protect against dust and debris.
As long as you have ample space for the sprayer equipment, storage isn’t an issue for either the roller or sprayer.
Does A Paint Sprayer Use More Paint Than A Paint Roller?
Yes, paint sprayers use about 33% more paint than rollers.
Paint sprayers vaporize 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 paint sprayer is much faster compared to an HVLP sprayer but uses considerably more paint. A basic airless paint sprayer can gobble up paint at a rate of two gallons a minute.
HVLP paint 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.
Our Favorite Roller & Sprayer
Alternative Option - Paint Spraying Pressure 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 paint 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 the 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.
Sprayer and Roller FAQs
Are paint sprayers or paint rollers safer to use?
When it comes to safety, paint rollers are generally seen as the safer option. Paint sprayers can be more dangerous, as they use compressed air and can create a mist of paint that can irritate the lungs if the proper protective gear is not worn. On the other hand, paint rollers have little to no safety risks, making them the ideal choice for most home projects.
Will paint sprayers or rollers last longer?
Paint sprayers will last a lot longer than a roller. While you will need to replace tips and nozzles, the entire unit will last for years, while a paint roller will last for a single project before needing to be replaced.
Which one is cheaper - sprayer or roller?
In most cases, a paint roller is cheaper than a sprayer. However, the cost of both can vary depending on the type and quality of the product used. Ultimately, the type of project you are completing will determine which is the most cost-effective option.
Are rollers or sprayers better to use with oil-based paints?
Rollers are the best choice when painting with oil-based paints. They provide a smooth and even finish, whereas sprayers tend to cause runs and drips.
Do paint sprayers or rollers give that extra texture look?
Paint rollers will leave a more textured finish than using a paint roller. This is just the nature of the material a roller is made with. However, some well-equipped paint sprayers will have texture tips that can mimic a roller texture when needed.
Conclusion - Begin Painting!
Painting your home can seem like a daunting task, but with the right equipment, it doesn't have to be.
This complete guide on paint sprayer vs paint roller will help you make a right decision.
Whether you choose to use a paint sprayer or a roller, you can achieve a flawless finish.
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!