The Best Paint Sprayers for Your Money
For fast and easy painting with great coverage, nothing beats a good paint sprayer.
Unlike traditional painting tools like brushes and rollers, a paint sprayer atomizes the material being used — turning it into a fine mist — which makes it easier to evenly apply on the surface you’re working on. In theory, this makes spraying much faster than the old-fashioned way of painting.
Paint sprayers come with knobs to control air flow, pressure and paint volume, which helps limit the amount of paint applied. Even so, paint sprayers generally use up more material than you would brushing or rolling the material onto the surface. In other words, you'll probably have to spend more on paint if you're using a paint sprayer, yet many people happily agree to the added cost since it saves them time and energy.
Picking the best paint sprayer for your projects isn’t as straightforward as buying a disposable set of brushes and rollers. The type of paint or stain jobs you’ll be working on, as well as how often you expect to use the tool, will help determine which model to choose.
Safety guidelines for paint sprayers are also different compared to rollers and brushes. Because of the amount of paint fumes that these tools produce, wearing a mask and goggles is highly encouraged outdoors and absolutely necessary indoors. It’s also worth noting that ventilation can be an issue with indoor jobs, since the work area needs to be sealed off to prevent paint particles from drifting into other rooms/outside. Likewise, outdoors jobs should be avoided on windy days since the paint can fly off and make a mess everywhere.
Regardless of the type of sprayer you choose, keeping it clean after every use is very important. Clogs are common, and if not addressed are a quick way for your sprayer to break down.
If you only need a sprayer for a one-off project, many businesses such as hardware and home improvement stores rent them. Renting can be more expensive in the long run, however, with a day’s rental costing just under $100 on average.
Types of paint sprayers
For personal use, there are three main types of paint sprayer models available:
Air-based sprayers use an air compressor to atomize and apply the materials you’re working with. Due to the immense amount of pressure that air compressors produce, they’re very good at blasting large volumes of paint in a short span of time. However, this also produces a lot of overspray, which means more wasted material (and, potentially, more of a mess). These models are generally very affordable, usually costing under $50.
Airless sprayers have their own electric or gas-powered generators that help atomize the materials without the need for air, spraying more in a shorter amount of time. Like air-based sprayers, they’re very powerful and can produce a lot of overspray if not properly adjusted. Airless models can range anywhere from $100 to $400, depending on size and features.
Lastly, high volume, low pressure (HVLP) models also use air to atomize paint, but they do it at a much lower pressure than models that use air compressors — about 20 PSI compared to a traditional sprayer’s 1,000+. They’re also much more compact, integrating the fan or turbine directly into the sprayer’s design. Because they spray at lower pressures, HVLP models are better suited for smaller projects with hard-to-reach areas such as cabinets and doors. (Think of the difference between using a brush versus a roller.) Like airless models, HVLP sprayers can cost between $60 and $400, based on accessories and features.
Every type of paint sprayer can theoretically be used for any surface, as long as it takes the appropriate type of paint. For example, brick surfaces require thick latex paint, which is usually best handled by air/airless sprayers, but an HVLP model with a large enough spray tip can do the same.
Paint sprayer buying guide
• GPM. Gallons per minute, or GPM, is the measure of how much paint your sprayer uses. A lower rate of paint consumption is good for small projects, while the opposite is true for larger jobs.
• Spray tips. The size and shape of your sprayer’s tip affects the type of paint or material that you’ll be able to use. The largest size they come in is 0.017”, which is suitable for thick latex paints. A tip with an adjustable spray pattern is also recommended, since it means you won’t have to turn your sprayer to adjust the paint flow while painting.
• Pressure power, or PSI. Small area projects like cabinets, doors, decks and complex surfaces (like custom-made furniture) benefit from sprayers with low pressure, typically less than 100 PSI (pounds per square inch of pressure). This helps avoid spraying excess material on areas where you don’t want it to go.
Similarly, painting rooms or exterior walls is better handled by high-pressure sprayers with over 1,000 PSI of power. Bear in mind that when you’re painting a large area, excess paint is more likely to end up dispersing into the air or landing in unpainted areas that, hopefully, you were going to paint anyway.
Best paint sprayers
1. Best overall: Graco Magnum X5 Stand Airless Paint Sprayer
Airless sprayers are great for big projects that need a lot of paint in a short amount of time, but they require careful cleaning after each use to make sure they last. Graco’s Magnum X5 delivers on power while making cleanup a cinch. Its paint pump can be hooked up to a garden hose to make flushing leftover paint easy.
This model supports tip sizes up to 0.015 inches, which lets it handle most materials with ease, and some thicker latex paints with proper thinning. It can also pull directly from paint buckets from one to five gallons in size, allowing you to work uninterrupted for long periods of time. Hose lengths of up to 75 feet are allowed, which helps for wide area projects.
Despite its power, the X5 is not optimized for very large exterior projects because its maximum tip size sprays at a lower rate than larger models. It’s also quite heavy at 20 pounds, making it inconvenient to move around when painting for long periods of time. Even so, the X5 is a solid choice for DIYers who expect to use it several times a year.
2. Editor's pick: Wagner Spraytech 518050 Stain Sprayer
Paint sprayers can be used with a range of materials such as varnishes, lacquers, stains, and paints, of course. Wagner’s Spraytech model performs especially well with varnishes, lacquers, and stains, making it a great choice for spraying decks, fences, and other wooden surfaces.
It’s also versatile for an HVLP sprayer, able to handle latex paints with appropriate thinning, which makes it a viable alternative for other sorts of paint projects. Even though it’s not recommended for large projects due to its relatively slow spray speed, having the option to do so with a sub-$100 sprayer is a great deal.
3. Best for low prices: SPRAYIT SP-352 Gravity Feed Spray Gun
Although paint sprayers are a useful alternative to rollers and brushes, buying one is only worth the money if you’re expecting many painting projects in the future. But SPRAYIT’s SP-352 model is a very affordable alternative to renting for anyone who already owns an air compressor (or planned on buying one, anyway).
Unlike more expensive sprayers, the SP-352’s spray tips can’t be swapped out for larger ones, which means it should only be used for smaller projects such as cabinets, doors and the like. Despite this, it includes knobs to control the spray pattern, air pressure and paint flow, giving you better control over the painting process. The fan pattern can be anywhere from 5.5” to 7.5” wide, letting it cover small areas quickly.
To help prolong the life of this sprayer, it’s very important to thoroughly clean it after each use to prevent clogging. Thicker latex paints should also be avoided, due to the small sprayer tip size.
4. Best carted paint sprayer: Graco Magnum X7 Cart Airless Paint Sprayer
The Graco Magnum X7 is very similar to its cousin, the Magnum X5 (see our "Best Overall" pick). It can spray virtually any material, packs enough juice to cover large areas quickly, and is easy to clean.
However, while the X5 is a compact model that can tackle large indoor jobs, the X7 comes with a cart and doubles down on size and power so it can handle professional-grade exterior jobs, too.
Tip sizes up to 0.017” are supported, letting it handle even un-thinned latex paints with little issue. It’s a carted model, meaning that the sprayer sits in a cart that holds a paint bucket and can be wheeled around from spot to spot, making big projects less of a hassle than with the X5. While that might be overkill for the occasional renovation project, handymen and fans of DIY are sure to get the most out of this workhorse spray painter.
5. Best HVLP sprayer: HomeRight Paint Sprayer Super Finish Max
HVLP sprayers are a great choice for smaller paint projects that require a more delicate touch, such as cabinets and carved furniture. Their only downside, if you can consider it that, is that they usually don’t have the power needed to handle thicker latex paints. HomeRight’s Super Finish Max avoids this by adding a little more “oomph” to its motor and allowing the use of 0.017” spray tips, so it can work with any material with little to no thinning.
This model comes with three different-sized spray tips, as well as three different spray patterns to give you more flexibility for tackling any job. Since it’s more powerful than standard HVLP sprayers, it can handle larger projects like walls, decks, and fences at a reasonable pace.
The increased power does mean that it will produce some overspray, leading to wasted material if you’re not careful with the spray settings. It’s simple enough to use, however, and reading through the instruction manual will help get the best performance out of this model.
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