5 Different Types Of Paint Sprayers (Explained For Beginners)

Painting items, surfaces, and projects take time and skill. Using a paint sprayer can make the task easier and more efficient.

What you may not realize, though, is that there are various types of paint sprayers, each with different abilities, advantages, and disadvantages.

Choosing the right sprayer for your needs can be a challenge. This review will look at the five different types of paint sprayers and discuss what they are best used for and how they operate.

5 Types Of Paint Sprayers - Key Differences Explained

There are three primary types of paint sprayers: Airless, pneumatic or air compressor-driven, and high velocity/low pressure (HVLP)

1. Airless

Airless paint sprayers are the most common type and can vary in price range from affordable to expensive. These spray guns use high levels of air pressure (high pressure) to force the paint drops through a paint sprayer tip.

The result is an atomizing of the paint into minute particles pushed by the air pressure to the surface being painted.

An airless sprayer uses an electric pump to create the air pressure needed, which is high enough to cause physical harm to your skin. It can lacerate a fingertip or embed paint under the skin resulting in the need for immediate medical attention.

However, with proper safety gear, you can achieve a fine finish on almost any surface. Because you can swap the nozzle tips for different sizes, you can also use a wide variety of paints, finishes, and lacquers.

airless paint sprayer

Pros and Cons

Airless sprayers have a lot of benefits, but airless sprayers also offer some drawbacks you should be aware of.

  • Airless paint sprayer gives uniform paint coverage
  • Fast application of paint
  • Airless paint sprayers works well with all paint viscosities[1]
  • Ideal for large projects like spray painting rooms
  • Best option for varnish, water-based paint, and latex paints
  • Spray tips can inject paint into skin
  • Wastes more paint than other types
  • Not ideal for small projects
  • Not ideal for detail work

Which Paint Jobs Is It Best For?

Airless paint sprayers are ideal for indoor and outdoor jobs on a large scale. The airless paint sprayer includes walls, ceilings, exterior walls, fences, etc.

These types of paint sprayers are also great for using multiple paint thicknesses (known as viscosity) because of the high pressure and various tip sizes. An airless paint sprayer, unlike compressed air sprayers, are more expensive and messy, making airless paint sprayer not the best option for exterior painting furniture or detailed work.

Airless paint sprayers Airless paint sprayers use an electric pump rather than an air compressor to spray the paint. When the paint reaches the tip of the sprayer, it fans out with the electric pump behind it.


High Volume, Low Pressure (HVLP Sprayers) paint spray guns are a safer alternative to airless models. These spray guns are designed for precision work, detailed projects, and smaller-scale tasks.

Because of the lower pressure, less paint is used, and therefore less paint is wasted paint in these types of paint sprayers. Clean-up is easier, and there is less over-spray on high volume low pressure - HVLP sprayers.

What you will find, though, is that these units need to be carried around because of a shorter hose. The lower pressure requires things to be a certain way, and painting a large wall, fence, or outdoor area would take multiple days.

Inside, however, trim molding, craft projects, and smaller jobs are handled with ease. When using HVLP sprayers, you get exact coverage with a slower delivery of paint. Because of the low pressure, though, it isn't suitable for thicker viscosity paints.

HVLP Sprayer

Pros and Cons

Depending on the task, the HVLP spray guns or most HVLP sprayers system might be the best option for you. However, there are some downsides to using them as well.

  • Ideal for small detailed projects and detail work
  • Safer than airless sprayers
  • More affordable option
  • Not very high pressure
  • Best for oil-based paints
  • Offers smooth finish
  • Not ideal for large projects or interior walls
  • Can cause hand fatigue
  • Doesn’t work with thicker paints

Which Paint Jobs Is It Best For?

HVLP paint sprayers are one of the best types of paint sprayers that are best suited for indoor craft applications, small projects, or touch-up work. For larger projects, working outdoors, or automotive applications, though, you will need a different paint sprayer.


The other side of the volume and pressure coin is the Low Volume, Low Pressure, or LVLP sprayer. These are the most common DIYer spray guns used. They are simple to operate, cost a fraction of other styles, and don't require large, expensive air compressors.

LVLP works the same way as HVLP spray guns or HVLP sprayers but are designed for a larger application of paint using a low-pressure air stream. This means indoor projects, walls, ceilings, and outdoor projects like siding and fencing are perfect for LVLP. The lower-pressure air stream applies thick coatings and interior projects and small paint jobs or large paint jobs.

Because of the low pressure, you need to carry everything with you, even the air compressor. Most LVLP sprayers come as an all-inclusive unit with carrying handles or shoulder straps.

However, this also means that, like HVLP sprayers, thick paints are not ideal and can cause clogs or spattering easily. The lower pressure combined with the low-volume air compressor means that these thick paint much slower than the other options means pushing paint through the applicator tip onto your intended surface slowly.

LVLP spray gun kit

Pros and Cons

As with all other sprayer types, LVLP sprayers have pros and cons, too. Let's take a look.

  • Highly affordable
  • Lightweight paint sprayer, all-inclusive units
  • Can paint large surfaces or projects
  • Ideal for single tasks
  • Cannot use thicker paints
  • Doesn’t hold a lot of paint
  • Will not paint quickly
  • Not ideal for detail work

Which Paint Jobs Is It Best For?

LVLP sprayers are great for most projects around the home. This includes patchwork, a single large wall, or even a fence. However, you will refill the paint cups more often and the paint is slower, so painting an entire home inside or out may require a different option.

High-pressure hose attachments are an option, but hand fatigue will still affect larger projects. LVLP spray guns also have a smaller paint reservoir, and the paint tips aren't ideal for high-pressure air.

4. Compressed Air (Pneumatic)

Compressed air units are very easy to use but lack power and consistency in their paint application. To get the best results, you will need a high-quality air compressor, which can cost a lot more than the average homeowner models.

Pneumatic sprayers (compressed air sprayers) are losing popularity with commercial painters for these very reasons but remain popular with artists and designers for their ease of use and general cost-effectiveness.

The compressor canister can move plenty of viscous liquids and wood stain, and a new paint sprayer will provide a new finish.

However, DIY projects, painting cabinets, and smaller new projects are best with these types of spray guns, but anything else is best handled with an airless spray gun instead of a compressed air sprayer.

pneumatic paint sprayer

Pros and Cons

Compressed air paint sprayers have their concerns and their benefits.

  • Compressed air paint sprayers are highly affordable
  • Ideal for art projects
  • Great for indoor cabinets or furniture
  • Easy cleanup
  • Great for thinner paints
  • Not very powerful
  • Doesn’t offer consistent application
  • Not great for large area coverage

Which Paint Jobs Is It Best For?

Pneumatic sprayers are best used indoors on small to medium-sized projects. Pneumatic sprayer is often used for stencil work, arts and crafts style projects, and cabinets or other smaller, hard-to-reach areas. It doesn't offer a smooth finish like high-volume, low-pressure spray guns do.

However, if your paint job is for art projects or you are learning how to use these types of painters, a pneumatic paint sprayer is a good starting option.

5. Gravity Feed

Gravity-fed paint spray guns are named that because of how they operate. While technically not a category of their own, the paint cup is mounted on top of the paint sprayer instead of underneath, allowing gravity to drawing paint into the spray nozzle.

These most paint sprayers tend less pressure to operate and offer exacting precision even at odd angles. The most common use for these is in automotive painting and detailing, where you find the vast majority in use today.

Gravity-fed spray guns can use compressed air sprayers or any spray gun attachment, and you will find them on compressed air sprayers, High volume low pressure - HVLP sprayer, and other powered paint sprayers. Gravity-fed wet cups are more of a subset and not a paint spray gun type.

While the paint gun can use a gravity feed, which is useful for any project type, they are still primarily used in the automotive sector, where it excels.

gravity feed spray gun kit

Pros and Cons

Gravity-fed sprayers have their benefits, for sure. However, they carry some disadvantages as well.

  • Very precise application
  • Small to medium project size
  • Very little overspray
  • Simple clean up
  • Higher quality demands high-quality compressors
  • Not ideal for high-volume projects
  • Can be expensive

Which Paint Jobs Is It Best For?

Gravity-fed spray guns are best suited for the high detail and smooth application demands of automotive painting job.

In this capacity, there is nothing better to use, and you get smooth quality and even coverage of the thinner automotive paints, clear coats, and finishes.

When Should I Use a Sprayer Over a Brush or Roller?

What option is best for your painting project? Paint brushes and rollers have their place and do a great job when used correctly. Rollers are ideal for large, flat surfaces and large painting projects.

Brushes are ideal for corners, trim work, more detailed applications, and small projects. They are also more useful when you are changing colors.

Compared to brushes and rollers, a sprayer is best when covering large areas that need a uniform layer of paint. Corners, detail work, outdoor applications, and whole-home wall painting are best done with a paint sprayer.

One issue with the HVLP paint sprayer and handheld airless sprayer options is that the cup sprayers must be refilled often. However, brushes of airless sprayer don't hold a lot of paint and need to be rerolled as well. Roller and brush strokes can be avoided if you apply paint with a spray gun.

paint spraying doors

Features In Paint Sprayers That You Should Look For

When selecting a paint sprayer, there are several features, options, and part styles you need to decide on.

Adjustable Models

Adjustable models allow you to fine-tune the pressure, spray level, nozzle direction, and much more. The more adjustments your unit allows for, the more projects, paint types, and viscosity you can use.

Quick Cleanup

Some paint gun sprayers offer a quick cleanup. As you may know, after every use of a spray gun, you need to thoroughly clean every part inside and out. Higher-quality sprayers make disassembly and cleaning of the unit much easier.

Some brands and models can connect to a garden hose for easy clean up of thick latex paint and clearing the inside without disassembly.

Portability & Maneuverability

Short hoses, paint cups, and directional flow are all parts of these paint sprayers. Being able to quickly and efficiently refill, maneuver, and transport the units is a quality investment. While not all models offer these things, it is worth a slight price increase.

Power Source

Power sources come in just as many varieties as the paint sprayers themselves. Single-use batteries, rechargeable batteries, electrical cords, and air compressors all power paint sprayers. They obviously have their own pros and cons.

Depending on where you are painting, battery power is a better option. Larger projects in indoor areas may benefit from electrical power supplies.

Price Vs Usage

Some of the best paint sprayers have a higher price tag. While this can mean it is better quality and offers a better result, it may not be worth it. If you only plan to use the best paint sprayer once or twice, a higher cost may be more detrimental than it is worth.

paint spraying a chair

Types Of Paint Spray Gun Accessories - Why Do They Matter?

Accessories make the sprayer, as they say. Or at least, they should. Each accessory has its own use and should be heavily considered before making a decision.

  • Tips
    The tips not only put the paint on the surface but also come in different sizes, shapes, and spray patterns. You can use the same sprayer with all types of paint by changing the tip.
  • Extensions
    Nozzle extensions allow you to reach places you otherwise wouldn't be able to like to paint decks. Extension tubes allow you to paint high corners, ceilings, and walls overhead without relying on ladders and maintain control over the spray pattern.
  • Conditioners and Protectants
    Paint conditioners and surface protectants help prolong the life of your project, the sprayer, and the materials used for application. While they aren't required, they can make a tedious task finish better, faster, and with less reworking after you are done.[2]
  • Filters
    Impurities in the air or paint can or paint container or paint bucket end up on your wall or other surfaces like exterior surfaces and cause you to have to start over, or worse. With filters in place, these impurities are  in the paint container removed before they can affect the final output.
  • Hoses
    Various hoses come with most units. Larger diameters, lengths, and other variations allow you to use different viscosity paints or apply more paint to the tip for application. However, the wrong size can lead to malfunction, air bubbles, or spattering.
  • Protective Gear
    Proper protective clothing gear will protect you from injury or prevent the need for medical attention. Coveralls, gloves, and hats or hoods protect you from splatter, while gloves can also protect against lacerations or paint embedding.

Common Paint Sprayer Questions

What is the easiest type of paint sprayer to use?

Pneumatic paint sprayers are beginner-friendly, easy to control, affordable, and provide decent paint application.

Is there a difference between a paint sprayer and a stain sprayer?

Paint sprayers can generally be used for stain, but stain sprayers may not work well for paint due to their smaller tips and lower pressure. Paint sprayers often have adjustable pressure regulators and various tip attachments to accommodate different painting needs.

Can a beginner use a paint sprayer?

Beginners can use a paint sprayer by following the owner's manual and performing test sprays. While each type has pros and cons, getting comfortable with paint application from a sprayer is possible.

What type of paint sprayer has the least overspray?

HVLP sprayer and LVLP paint sprayers have low overspray and precise application, making them ideal for detail work with easy cleanup.

How long do airless paint sprayers last?

Well-maintained airless paint sprayers can last for decades, while commercial and industrial use may see higher turnover due to breakdowns.


Choosing the right paint sprayer for your needs will vary depending on those exacting needs. Whether you want to paint every wall inside a house, a fence outdoors, or small craft items, there is a paint sprayer for you.

Hopefully, with the help of this guide, you will know the differences, advantages, and project types for each type of paint sprayer available.


  1. https://www.paint.org/coatingstech-magazine/articles/optimum-viscosity-paint-application/
  2. https://www.lowes.com/pl/Paint-conditioner--Paint-additives-Paint-cleaners-chemicals-additives-Paint/4312142519065