Spray Paint Vs Spray Gun – What’s The Difference?

Spraying paint makes DIY projects more effortless than ever before. A simple spray with use a paint sprayer, and you're left with a clean finish!

Spray or paint cans have also become widely used for home projects rather than just graffiti or art or other projects. 

When deciding which is right for your paint job, how do you decide between the two?  

Hey guys, if you’re looking to answer which is ideal for your furniture touch-up or for your back patio furniture, look no further!

This guide will look into spray paint vs spray gun and which is more effective to do it yourselfer.  


It should come as no surprise that a spray gun will give you a better finish. A spray with paint sprayer can gives you an even and clear coat and a clean spray, but a spray gun doesn’t use gasses or chemicals which could affect the thicker coat. 

You’re also able to choose the paint you use, which means you can use better quality paints as opposed to the can. You’re also more likely to get splatter from a spray can, which can affect the paint sprayer job.  

Verdict: Spray guns let you choose the quality rather than settle for what’s given 

Surface Coverage 

Depending on your project, a spray with paint sprayer can might just be better for your coverage. If you’re freshening up your garden furniture, a spray with paint sprayer can would be better and cheaper. For painting a fence you’re going to want a spray gun 

Objectively, a spray gun will have more coverage; you’ll be able to paint a bigger surface and more than one object. But determining which one is better comes down to the type of project you’re working on.  

Verdict: A spray gun has more coverage, and a spray can covers more detailed or smaller areas.  

Ease Of Use

With a spray can, you simply remove the lid, remove any safety mechanisms, and you're good to go! They’re widely used in art, DIY projects or for doing graffiti because they’re so simple. 

A spray gun/ spray paint gun, while easy to use, can take some time to master. In your first few attempts, you'll find the paint will splatter a lot more because you need to find the right air pressure (low pressure or high pressure) point on the trigger.

Most models will come with a tester sheet to practice spraying on before moving on to your main project.  Also, spray guns give you pretty fine more control since you can manually adjust flow rate and air pressure to adjust how much paint you're spraying and you can add thinners or mix paints to get different effects and colors.

Spraying with less air pressure also has the advantages of less overspray, less waste and greater control for the painter.

Verdict: Spray cans take the title with easy application and spray technique.  
man using paint sprayer


Both methods of spraying aren’t the cleanest; they both can drip or produce paint bubbles. Spray  or paint cans also frequently overspray, which leads to dripping that needs to be fixed.

You may also find that a spray can tends to leave tiny drops of paint surrounding the area. Cleaning up after a successful paint sprayer job is pretty simple; throw the can away. Check if you could even recycle it.  

With a spray gun, you'll get a cleaner paint job and clear coats with fewer splatters or drips, but cleanup is much more complicated, especially when cleaning HVLP guns.

A spray gun is going to produce a finer and more even pattern, which will help with that annoying "orange peel" effect you get from a rattle can. 

You need to disassemble the HVLP gun or HVLP paint gun each time and clean every component thoroughly with drop cloth to avoid clogs. The paint cup will need a good scrub, too, so that old paint won't mix with any different paints you might use.  

Verdict: Spray can’s can be messier, but with easy cleanup. Spray guns provide cleaner smooth finish but need a thorough cleaning.  

Environmental Impact 

We're told regularly that aerosols are bad for the environment. Spray paint is no different; using them contributes to ground-level ozone, and, if not disposed of correctly, can lead to hazardous waste for landfills.

Ultimately, a spray gun is much more environmentally friendly [2], as it’s reusable after cleaning. The fan doesn’t contain any pressurized gasses either. It does use mains electricity, but the overall effect is much less.  

Verdict: Spray guns are more environmentally friendly than cans.  


Spray paint with paint sprayer doesn't produce the same quality finish as a spray gun. In fact, if you’re working on a car, users recommend using a polishing compound to get a gloss finish. Generally, using poor-quality paint sprays will leave a botched job done by a person sprays. This can be avoided by buying higher-quality paints from local store or Harbor Freight store. 

Spending all that money seems pointless; however, a spray gun will naturally give you a cleaner finish than paint sprayer with little after work. If you're repairing chipped paint, spray paint might be ideal. For bigger projects, a spray gun might be your best option. 

When You Have Details and Texture of the Same Color Paint sprayers make short work of complicated textures, such as those found on crown molding, popcorn or cottage cheese ceilings, bare metal built-up baseboards, deep exterior textures, cornices, dentils, or masonry.

Verdict: Spray paints don’t deliver the same high-quality finish as a spray gun.  

Spray Paint (Overview, Pros & Cons) 

Spray paint, or aerosol paint with use a paint sprayer, has existed since the late 1940s as a method of quickly and evenly applying paint [1]. Inside of airless paint sprayer, the paint is mixed with pressurized gas or compressed air.  

The valve button at the top of the airless paint sprayer is pressed to release the paint quickly through a small dip tube to release a fine mist. It comes mostly in oil, but also in enamel, gloss, matte, and stain, to name a few. They’re used for smaller-scale projects like sprucing up furniture or fixing scuffs on your patio.  

In every major city you'll see graffiti that's notoriously hard to remove. This is almost always done with spray paint. Their portable method makes it an easy way to use anywhere you need to.

It works well on brick, wood, aluminum, or ceramics. It’s cost-effective, too. Cans of spray can retail for as little as $5, making it a much cheaper renovation tactic. 

You may find it harder to find exact matches or colors you like with spray paint, as you’re only limited to the options available at retail. And if you’re using  them on paint sprayers a larger surface, be prepared to fork out for more than one can. 

If you’re going for higher-quality paint sprayers, the price can add up. Ultimately, homeowners choose spray cans rather than paint sprayers to spruce up or for small-scale DIY projects. 


  • Quick Use 
  • Easy Application 
  • Cheaper 
  • Portable 
  • Clean Finish 


  • Not suitable for big projects 
  • Limited paint options 
  • Only One Type Of Sprayer 
spray paint

Spray Guns (Overview, Pros & Cons) 

The spray gun is an innovative piece of tech; it works similarly to a spray can, but the compressed air is made through a mechanism attached to the gun. There are different models that can have compressed air supply directly through a tube or pneumatic pistons pushing the paint out. 

An HVLP model (as an example) comes with a fan, a spray nozzle and trigger, and a cup or tank for the paint and is usually chorded.

When you pull the trigger, the paint is pulled from the cup and mixes with the air from the fan to create a fine mist that is applied to walls or fences. Some models come with different nozzles and settings to help your application, and they will cover a bigger surface area.  

You can use lots of different paints; emulsion, matte, gloss, chalk, or milk-based. The paint doesn't require much thinning, and most sprayers will work  even spray pattern with unthinned paint. 

They're designed for bigger projects with large surfaces. While the retail price can be expensive, you’ll save money in the long run by only having to buy paint for later use.  

A spray gun is easy to use, but for novices, it can be tricky. Many users find on their first try that paint will have lots of air bubbles, or will spurt rather than spray or brush paint or roller method for rolling paint.

Rolling paint is the frugal homeowner's choice. Painting professionals agree rolling paint produces a thick paint layer and excellent color consistency. However, sprayed paint won't adhere to a dirty surface the way rolled paint will.

It can also be a hassle to clean up; the paint can dry up and clog the flow or stick to the cup if not done quickly. But with correct use and a bit of practice, the spray gun is better than brush painting. 


  • Quick Application 
  • Bigger Coverage 
  • Works With All Paints 
  • Requires Little Thinning 
  • Different Models For Different Jobs 


  • Difficult To Master 
  • Expensive 
  • Requires Electrical Input 
paint sprayer

Spray Painting and Spray Gun FAQs

Can you use all different paints in a spray gun? 

Ultimately, it depends on the type of sprayer and type of paint you have.  Water based latex paint can be used in an airless sprayer with no thinning. An HVLP model will work better with oil-based paints, but latex would clog the components. Pneumatic sprayers work well with acrylic paints. 

Do paint guns use more paint? 

Yes. Paint guns will use more paint because of the vaporization process. 

Does spray paint save time? 

Yes, paint spraying is faster than spray guns, as they require less setup and cleanup. They’re also using an aerosol base, which will work faster than a fan or air compression.  

What base is spray paint? 

Commonly, spray paint is oil or water-based. This is because an  oil based paint doesn’t usually need a primer coat, and they’re durable. Spray paint will attach to most surfaces you spray on, even ones that are beyond their prime.  


Deciding on a spray gun vs spray paint for your DIY projects doesn’t have to be complicated, and finding what's right for your project is a necessary process. Now with the knowledge of both, you can choose what's right for your needs and what will give you the best outcome.

Spray guns generally are more durable, but cost more and require more maintenance, and a spray can is quick and easy, but you risk an uneven coverage of spray. Whatever you choose, spray with confidence and get your projects the love they deserve.  


1. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/magazine/who-made-spray-paint.html

2. https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/hvlp-spray-guns-cost-effective-environment-friendly-technology