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Review: Best Paint Sprayers

Of all the methods which have been devised for applying paint, nothing has approached the efficiency and finish quality of spraying. That’s why spraying paint is used throughout manufacturing industries, as well as being the number one means for applying paint to new residential and commercial construction.

Granted, there are places where spraying isn’t always appropriate, such as the inside of a furnished house. In that case, the overspray from using the spray equipment would cause unacceptable damage to the furnishings. Another such case is for doing fine detail work. In those cases, a brush often can give better results, with less time invested, that what would be required to mask everything in order to paint those details with a sprayer.

However, not all paint sprayers are appropriate for all uses. You must pick the right type of paint sprayer for the paint you are going to use, as well as the category of item that you are painting. For more information on what to look at in selecting the best paint sprayer in 2021, check out our paint sprayer buyer's guide. It will tell you the most important specifications to watch out for and what they mean to you.

The Best Paint Sprayers in Detail

Graco Airless Paint Sprayer

Graco has long been considered the “crème de la crème” of construction painting equipment. While others may argue with me about this, they can’t show you a better unit, both in terms of usability and reliability. This is actually one of Graco’s lower end units, the lowest of their medium-duty sprayers. Even so, with its 5/8 HP motor it’s rated at 3300 PSI, moving .41 GMP, with a max tip size of .021. The intake filter is designed to be easy to remove, along with the intake valve; making on-the-job clogs from debris easy to deal with. The pump is designed for long endurance, with long-life packings, a chrome plated rod and hardened stainless-steel cylinder. Comes with a reversible tip gun.

best Ryobi Airless Paint Sprayer Station RAP200G

Ryobi Airless Paint Sprayer Station RAP200G

This is a true home paint sprayer, although it has some pretty impressive specifications. It is true variable pressure, running from 800 to 2800 PSI, with the pressure being automatically set to match the viscosity of the paint being used. The half HP motor will give you a 0.24 GPM flow rate, which although less than professional units, is probably plenty for a homeowner who wants to paint their house. A nice feature is that it is designed for use with a spray gun or external feed roller and comes with both. The gun has a reversible tip for clog removal. The base is designed so that the paint bucket can be put on it, and rolled around, making it easier to cover a large area.

best Binks Trophy Air Spray Gravity-feed Gun

Binks Trophy Air Spray Gravity-feed Gun

This gun is extremely lightweight at only 410 grams, with an extremely ergonomic handle for worker comfort. The gun has larger air passageways than most, increasing the available power at the nozzle. One needle size fits all spray caps, reducing part inventory. The spray cap has built-in spreaders, allowing you to adjust the shape of the spray pattern from round to a full fan. The control knobs are asymmetrical, making them easy to grip and use, even with gloves on. All stainless steel fluid passageways allow using the gun with a wide variety of paint materials.

Graco-Sharpe Razor Conventional Gravity Feed Gun

Sharpe’s Razor series comes with all stainless steel needle, nozzle and fluid passageways, making it ideal for all types of materials. A wide variety of nozzle sizes are available as well, so that the right nozzle can be selected to match the paint material being applied. The handle is ergonomic with low trigger pull for comfort. It provides a 13 inch spray pattern, with a width of 1.2 to 2.5 mm width, depending upon the nozzle. This gun is nickel finished for easy cleaning and provides the best possible finish quality.

Ingersoll Rand 210G Edge Series Gravity Feed Spray Gun

For those that are looking for quality in a lower-priced spray gun, Ingersoll Rand has been in the air tool business for many a year. This gravity-feed gun has a non-drip cup, with a locking lid to prevent drips and spills as you turn the gun to get into difficult to reach spots. A fluid adjustment knob is located at the back of the gun and an air pattern control at the handle’s base. While this doesn’t provide as exacting adjustment as we’ve seen for the higher priced, guns, it will still provide a quality finish.

Campbell Hausfeld DH580000AV Gravity Feed Spray Gun

Campbell Housfeld is another company well known for their wide variety of air tools. This gravity-feed gun comes with a cup which holds 20 ounces of paint material. The housing is polished aluminum. It provides a fan with a pattern which adjusts from 1.5 to 9 inches. For those that need to do an occasional paint job, this gun provides exceptional value.

Graco-Sharpe FX3000 HVLP Paint Spray Gun

As a company, Graco is better known for professional paint equipment for architectural painting, rather than automotive painting. However, the principles are the same and they do provide equipment for both markets. This gun offers unmatched spray pattern size, with a 14-inch wide fan. That’s up to four inches wider than other guns, most of which only provide a 10-inch pattern. It’s a gravity feel design, as most modern HVLP (high volume low pressure) guns are. The cup on this one holds 600 cc of paint, making it a bit smaller than the DeVilbiss we looked at. However, all the fluid passages are stainless steel, so it can be used with water-based paints as well as solvent-based ones. The nozzle provides an extremely smooth paint pattern for superior finishes. Low trigger pull reduces operator fatigue and errors.

Wagener 518080 Control Spray Max HVLP Sprayer

Wagner is one of the best known names in residential paint equipment. Their tools have helped many a homeowner repaint their homes with excellent results. This HVLP painter is much like the Earlex system we also have listed, but at a much more reasonable price for the homeowner. It comes complete with gun, two paint pots, and its own turbine air pump. This system is designed to work with architectural paint finishes, rather than automotive finishes. Fluid control is adjustable to match the various types of painting jobs that are done in the home. It also has three spray patterns, allowing you to fit the pattern to the job at hand.

best Graco-Sharpe RAZOR Compliant Siphon Spray Gun #288293

Graco-Sharpe RAZOR Compliant Siphon Spray Gun #288293

Although a conventional spray gun, this one is designed to provide the same high paint transfer efficiency that is normally provided by HVLP. This higher fluid flow increases production speed, allowing you to get more work done. As a conventional gun, it provides an extremely smooth spray pattern for exceptional finish quality. The low trigger pull, along with an ergonomic handle design reduce operator fatigue. This gun works with a siphon cup.

Campbell Hausfeld DH6500001AV Siphon-Feed Spray Gun

For those that need an economical spray gun, Campbell Hausfeld offers a model which works off a pressurized cup. This gun is ideal for finishing furniture and works well for automotive finish as well. It includes a one quart anti-drip, quick release canister, for faster filling with no mess. The spray pattern is adjustable for fan size. The gun has controls for both fluid flow and air flow, allowing you to adjust the spray pattern to your needs.

Buyer's Guide

Paint sprayers come in many types, each of which is created to meet a particular need. You can’t effectively paint a building using automotive spray equipment (trust me, I know; I learned that the hard way as a teen). Nor can you paint a car with an airless paint sprayer and latex paint. Just like there are different types of paint, created for different applications, there are also different types of paint sprayers, created for use in applying those different paints.

Paint Sprayer Types

Paint sprayers basically fall into three different categories, depending upon how much air they use to spray the paint.

Air Paint Sprayers

Air paint sprayers are the most traditional category. They use compressed air to atomize the paint and propel it to the surface being painted. These paint sprayers also allow for changing the height and width of the spray "fan",  allowing the painter to set the sprayer for the most efficient use of the paint.

Generally speaking, air paint sprayers are used for automotive paint applications. However, they can literally be used to paint just about anything. The tips are interchangeable so a tip can be chosen that’sthe right size for the viscosity or thickness  of the paint being used.

There are two different ways that air paint sprayers can receive the paint to be sprayed; via a gravity feed cup or a pressurized paint pot. The cup is great for smaller jobs, such as touching up a car after replacing a fender. The pressure pot is used when larger amounts of paint are needed, such as painting an entire vehicle. Typical pressure pots hold one quart of paint, although there are also some that hold two gallons if you need to paint something like a 747 or something else large like that.

Airless Paint Sprayers

While theoretically it’s possible to use an air paint sprayer for architectural painting, it's not really practical. Painting homes and commercial structures uses so much paint, that you would end up refilling the paint pot on an air paint sprayer constantly. Therefore, airless paint sprayers are used.

An air paint sprayer creates a stream of air that draws the paint along via the venturi effect. This works well with low viscosity paints, such as those used for automotive painting. However, it doesn't work all that well with high the viscosity, high solids paints used for homes and businesses, especially latex paints (which are higher viscosity than oil-based paints). Instead of this, an airless paint spryer pumps the actual paint to the gun at high pressure where the pressure causes the paint itself to atomize through the nozzle of the gun.

To accommodate this, the design of the spray gun must be different. It is not receiving both paint and air, but only paint; this makes for a simpler gun design. However, the higher viscosity paint has more of a possibility of clogging the nozzle, so the better airless paint sprayers have reversible nozzles, so that you can blow out a clog and keep on painting.

HVLP Paint Sprayers

HVLP, short for "high-volume, low-pressure" is the new kid on the block. It has been developed to deal with the problem of overspray, caused by paint bouncing back off of the surface being painted. Since only low air pressure is used, there is less bounce back, hence less overspray.

The secret is using a higher volume of air to carry the paint. This allows the lower air pressure, while still causing the paint to be carried to whatever is being painted. While there is no such thing as a HVLP for normal latex paint, HVLP is used with oil-based paint for painting door and door frames, as well as for applying stain and varnish, in architectural applications. HVLP is also currently used extensively in automotive manufacturing.

The one problem with HVLP is it tends to provide more orange peel than high pressure air spray guns. The newer spray guns have gone a long way towards eliminating this, with improved airflow and improved nozzle technology.

Orange Peel

When we talk about finish quality in painting, the major factor being considered is what’s known as “orange peel”. If you think of how the surface of an orange looks, that pretty well demonstrates what orange peel is. For automotive, furniture and other applications that are viewed up close, orange peel is essentially considered unacceptable. Of course, runs and drips can exist with any type of paint application and those are unacceptable in all circumstances.

Technically, orange peel refers to the roughness of a surface finish provided by the paint sprayer. All spray guns create some orange peel, due to the way that the paint droplets hit the surface being painted. How much orange peel is created is caused by a combination of paint gun design, paint viscosity and how fast the paint dries. Slow drying paints have more of a chance of "flowing out," eliminating the orange peel texture.

Orange peel is the worst when only a light coating of paint is applied. The more paint that’s applied, the more of a chance for it to flow out. However, there’s a point where enough paint can run or sag before it can dry. Ideally, you want to stop just short of this point when applying the paint.

For extremely fine automotive finishes, the paint is sanded and buffed once it’s dried  in order to cut the tops off of the orange peel and provide a glass-smooth finish. This is then often covered with several coats of clear coating  which is treated in the same way, sanding it and polishing it to provide the final finish.

Airless paint sprayers tend to cause a lot of orange peel, but it is not normally noticed, as architectural applications are normally done over textured surfaces. The one place where they are most likely to be noticed is in the case of interior walls which are almost always textured.

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