Refinished Furniture

Choosing The Right Paint Sprayer For You

I recently celebrated (well…had. I wasn’t overly excited for it) my 29th birthday and my husband got me one of my favorite gifts… a Home Depot gift card. I had been talking about getting a paint sprayer for a year so I could take my projects to the next level. Since I am very particular about my tools and doing all the research to get the perfect one, the gift card along with an encouraging, supportive note was the perfect gift.


I have never used a paint sprayer before nor do I know someone that has so I didn’t have anyone to ask for firsthand advice. I started doing research… days of it. I figured if I am going to put so much time into figuring out the best paint sprayer for me I might as well share the knowledge. After 25-30 websites and 10 pages of notes I have come to some conclusions about what is best for me and what I want to do… painting furniture. 
Before I start with explaining each kind of paint sprayer there are a few basic questions to be answered. While researching different sprayers, sites kept talking about latex paint and thinning it. They weren’t really talking about what kind (brand) of paint was being thinned. Maybe I’m just slow, but I didn’t know exactly what latex paint was. I’m over the age of 13 so I knew what latex was, but I had never got to know a latex paint (at least I didn’t think I did).

I’m the kind of person that reads the entire manual before I start using a product, so I wanted to be very sure what exact kind of paint they were referencing.I found out you can either use latex paint or oil paint. I found that most sprayers that I was researching use latex paint.

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A few things about oil paint.

  • It is hard to clean. You have to use a paint thinner to clean it.
  • It is thinner than latex so you don’t have to thin it if using it in the sprayer.
  • It doesn’t dry fast.
  • It doesn’t clog the spray gun nozzle like latex paint can. 

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Since I hate working with oil paint I did more research on latex paint. Come to find out I almost always use latex paint, I just never realized it.
A few things about latex paint and how to tell if a paint is latex.

  • It is a water based paint so it cleans easily with soap and water (big plus)
  • If a paint is latex it will have the words latex, water-based or acrylic on the can.
  • If you can’t find those words look for the clean up instructions. Latex cleans up with soap and water.

There a some questions you should ask yourself when you start looking for the right sprayer.

  1. Do the materials need to be thinned? Do I want to mess with thinning paint?
  2. How hard is the clean up?
  3. How hard is it to master the technique? Some sprayers are harder to control than others
  4. What will you be spraying? How big is the area?
  5. What finishes will you be using?
  6. What size of sprayer? Is it too heavy to handle?
  7. Quality of the sprayer? Many times cheap sprayers malfunction after just a few times of use.
Now on to the interesting stuff, the four different kinds of sprayers.
1. Cup Sprayers 2. Air Sprayers 3. Airless Sprayers 4. HVLP

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Cup Sprayers

  • Ideal for small projects like repainting furniture, cabinets, touch up work, craft and hobby projects
  • Paint will probably have to be thinned
  • Mask is needed when using this product
  • Compact and easy to use

These are all-in-one paint sprayers. No air compressor is needed, you simply plug it into the wall, fill the cup with paint and start spraying. Good fit for do-it-yourselfers that don’t want to spend a lot of money on a sprayer. 


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Air Sprayers or Compressed Air Sprayer

  • Ideal for small projects, small to medium indoor and outdoor projects, automotive work, high quality finishes
  • Paint thinning is sometimes needed
  • Need a high quality mask when using air sprayers
  • Air compressor needed to use

This sprayer uses compressed air to scatter droplets of paint to the surface for a smooth, even finish. Often a more uniform coat of paint than the airless sprayers. It can be used with many different paint types and finishes. This type of sprayer often waste large amounts of paint with the overspray and can be messy. These can be hard to handle so it requires some skill to hold and steer. On the plus side they are usually cheaper than airless sprayers or HVLP.


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Airless Sprayers

  • Ideal for large exterior or interior spaces
  • Paint thinning is not usually needed
  • Good quality mask is suggested
  • Usually portable

Airless sprayers work under high pressure so they work with a wide variety of paints products including thick latex paint without having to thin them. I have never used an airless sprayer, but during my research I found credible websites that said they have a lot of overspray, which is why they are good for outdoors and new construction site. Other sites said the overspray is minimal if using the correct tip. So I am not sure which to believe. The paint is drawn into a small cylinder and pressed out under high pressure by a piston. The piston pump makes them noisy. These, like all sprayers, must be kept clean because the spray tips can clog easily. So if you don’t mind the noise and don’t want to mess with thinning paint this is the sprayer to go with.
 * Users must be extra safe when operating airless sprayers because of the high pressure used to force the paint out. It can inject paint into the skin. 


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HVLP -High Volume Low Pressure

  • Ideal for work that requires high accuracy, detail and precision. Better for small projects and small interior or exterior spaces
  • Paint usually needs to be thinned
  • Mask is suggested
  • Easy to control, handheld and portable

These sprayers use a high volume of air to break up paint and push it to the nozzle, a low pressure air stream then comes through the nozzle, meets the paint and this creates a fine, mist-like spray pattern. The mist-like spray means less overspray. Consumer grade HVLP lack the power to spray unthinned latex paint. So paint will almost always need to be thinned. 


After choosing which kind of sprayer you need the next big choice/ a ton of research is what brand and which model. My next blog is all about how I chose my sprayer. It took about 90% longer to chose a sprayer than it took for me to pick out my daughter’s name. It was a hard decision. 
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