Paint Sprayer Buying Guide

Nothing beats a paint sprayer for making quick work of a paint job. At the press of a trigger, the paint comes to you — no more dipping and dripping! Since sprayers are available in a variety of sizes and power ratings, use our buying guide to discover which one is right for you.
Woman in jeans and a pink shirt spraying stain onto a wood fence

Power Up with a Paint Sprayer

Whether you're a homeowner looking to make a few small changes or a full-time contractor, a powered paint sprayer makes the job a lot easier. Find one that matches your needs, from applying stain to flooring to giving a room a new look on the walls.

Types of Paint Sprayers

The basic components of a sprayer include a hose, gun or roller, spray tip, and power supply. Tips are available in various sizes and types for different spray patterns and the type of covering being applied.

There are two main types of powered paint sprayers: airspray and airless. Airless applicators can be further subdivided into two kinds, based on the pump they use: diaphragm and piston.

Woman with a white mask on spraying bluish paint onto a table

Airspray Units

Also known as HVLP (high volume low pressure) units, they combine a large quantity of air with the desired covering material. The low pressure allows smooth coverage with very little overspray. They're best used for smaller areas where a glossy smooth finish is desired, such as shutters and cabinets. Other airspray models use an air compressor.


Airless powered paint applicator with hand holding a part of the equipment

Airless Units

The most common type for the do-it yourselfer, paint is pushed under high pressure through an applicator tip, eliminating the need to reach for a bucket or tray to reload. Since the pressure is provided by a pump rather than air, overspray and waste are reduced. Airless sprayers are great for painting walls or other large areas, as well as smaller areas. The paint capacity ranges from one quart in a self-contained handheld sprayer to a basically infinite capacity for units that pump straight from the paint container. In addition to handheld, units are available for use with a shoulder strap/backpack or mounted on wheels for portability.


Person spraying white liquid into a silver bucket that

Diaphragm Pumps

The basic homeowner/do-it-yourselfer models use a simple diaphragm pump. The painter primes and delivers material to the applicator.

Man in white clothes spraying yellow paint onto the side of a stucco house

Piston Pump

A piston pump enables the user to spray conventional coverings but can also deliver thicker liquids, such as block fillers.

At the high-end of the power painter spectrum, double-stroke piston units deliver material on both the up and down piston strokes for maximum power. Consistent pressure delivery at slower speeds provides good coverage and prolongs the life of the machine itself. Depending on the model, more than one user can paint at the same time by adding additional hoses. These models are usually the machine of choice for professionals.

Before You Purchase

First determine the types of jobs you'll be doing with the paint machine.

Man in white shirt, white mask and ballcap spraying paint onto the side of a shed

Area To Be Painted

Large, even spaces such as walls require less power than irregular areas like lattice or fencing. Various spray tips adjust and direct the paint just where it's needed. Multiple speeds let you turn down the volume for smaller, tighter areas.

When it comes to how much you need — from a one-quart handheld sprayer, to a one-gallon backpack unit, to a five-gallon piston pump model on wheels — you'll find one that fits your project.

Two hands holding the spray tip insert piece

Type Of Liquid To Be Sprayed

Painters with higher psi (pounds per square inch), GPM (gallons per minute), and HP (horsepower) are able to spray thicker materials. Spray tips are designed to accommodate each type of covering. The basic classifications of thickness are:

  • Thin: Clear stains and sealers.
  • Thicker: Thinned latex, oil-based paints, or stains plus some un-thinned latex or oil based paints.
  • Thickest: Elastomerics or block fillers.

Person spraying stain onto a wood deck floor

Location Of The Job

Indoors or outdoors, if you're working from a ladder make sure the length of the hose or cord is sufficient. Smaller painters are available in corded or cordless models. Check the battery run time on a cordless unit to make sure it's enough for the job. If you don't have access to electrical power, use a generator.

Quick Tips to Handle Your Paint Sprayer

Make the most of your painter and your project. Remember the following:

  • Thoroughly prepare the area to be painted or stained.
  • Spray painting requires a steady hand. Hold the applicator parallel to wall when using. Don't flex your wrist.
  • Sprayers offer excellent coverage, but expect more wasted paint than with a brush or roller.
  • Sprayed paint will dry quickly, more so than when applied by brush.
  • Clean the paint sprayer after each use. There will be a lot of parts to clean, but cleanup is no more difficult than conventional brushes and rollers.

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