Three best paint sprayers

William Miller

Some paint sprayers cost as little as $50, but many of these low-cost models need to be connected to a compressor that is not included.

If you're skilled with a brush and roller, you may be wondering why you'd need a paint sprayer. It's true that a careful DIYer can get good results painting the old-fashioned way. But you can get great results with a paint sprayer, and you don't need a high level of skill to do so.

A quality paint sprayer outshines the traditional brush and roller in terms of both smoothness of finish. What's more, you can cover a large area in a fraction of the time it would take you to paint by hand. With all the affordable options today, it makes more sense to buy a paint sprayer than rent one. Read on to find out what you need to know before buying a paint sprayer.

Considerations when choosing paint sprayers

Paint sprayer types

There are three basic types of paint sprayers: high volume low pressure (HVLP), airless, and conventional paint sprayers that work via a compressor.

HVLP paint sprayers

These sprayers produce a high volume of air that shoots paint through the tip.  A low-pressure air stream creates a fine spray pattern. You can adjust the amount of paint that comes through the tip -- helpful if you're working on a project that requires a great deal of detail and control.

HVLP sprayers are easy to clean and operate, but they don't do as well with thicker paints, and some have to be thinned first.

Airless paint sprayers

Airless paint sprayers use high pressure to pump out paint and are excellent for covering large surface areas. They can be electric or gas-powered and usually feature sophisticated pressure controls. Most models are capable of applying thicker paints.

Conventional paint sprayers

Conventional paint sprayers that use compressors are usually inexpensive and easy to operate. However, you don't enjoy the degree of control with a conventional sprayer that you might with another type. Furthermore, the performance of the sprayer depends on how large and powerful it is.

The best sprayers have brass tips, which are more rugged and dependable than plastic and also easier to clean. Many models come with a convenient array of tips offering different spray pattern widths, allowing you to quickly customize projects.


When it comes to paint sprayer power, the more the better -- although 400 to 450 watts is really all you should need.

If you're concerned about noise output, note that HVLP sprayers are quieter than the average airless model.

When choosing a paint sprayer, give higher marks to one that can draw paint straight from the can or has a large hopper capable of holding up to a quart. That will make faster work of big projects that require frequent refilling.

Pay attention to the length of the hose (longer is better) and the weight of the sprayer before you buy. Some heavy-duty models come equipped with wheels to reduce operator fatigue.

If you're new to paint sprayers, you may not want to start out with the most powerful model available. The most powerful paint sprayers are heavy and could cause injury to an inexperienced user.

A note about safety

People using paint sprayers should wear a respirator, especially when working indoors.  Remember to wear painting clothes and gloves and to prep the work site carefully with painter's tape, drop cloths, and sheeting (if needed) to avoid an extensive cleanup.

And, of course, you should read the operating manual carefully before using your paint sprayer for the first time.

Paint sprayers we recommend

Best of the best:  Graco Magnum X5

Our take: This excellent airless paint sprayer gives professional results indoors and out. It's well-built and powerful.

What we like: This is a good choice for large painting areas. It's capable of spraying right from the can and accepts unthinned paints.

What we dislike: It's more expensive than other DIY models.

Best bang for your buck: Wagner Control Spray Max

Our take: This popular, easy-to-use HVLP sprayer gets the job done at a bargain price.

What we like: It's versatile and lightweight and includes a compressor and hose. It's extremely affordable, and it produces a smooth, professional-looking finish.

What we dislike: It's not as durable as some models.

Choice 3:  Campbell Hausfeld General Purpose Spray Gun

Our take: This is a no-frills, entry-level paint sprayer for DIYers.

What we like: It's affordable and can handle a large number of paints and stains. It produces a fine finish that's great on furniture or cars and motorcycles.

What we dislike: You supply the hose and compressor.

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