Painting Tips by a Professional

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Best Paint Sprayer Airless & Project

worker using paint sprayer on interior walls
No long reviews here: we cut to the chase. We found the best paint sprayer for walls in each price range worth your hard-earned money. Based on our experience and after extensive research on airless paint sprayers, here are the only quality interior paint sprayer we trust for the money.
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Review updated in October 2019

We have used a number of quality paint sprayers that use air compressors (a.k.a. electric paint sprayers), and every kind of airless paint sprayer: we’ve boiled it down to the best paint sprayer for 3 budgets.

1. Lowest Budget: There are really two separate worlds of paint sprayers: airless and air. The lowest budget model is an electric paint sprayer (mixes paint and air), we recommend the Wagner Flexio 590, check it here. – it is a very good quality paint sprayer gun for the price: the most quality for the least cost, thus the best price paint sprayer. Read our review below.

2. Medium Budget: The best airless paint sprayer simply pumps liquids, not air. We have broken this down into the best paint sprayer for 3 budgets. The Graco Magnum is the man: see this powerful machine. For a medium budget, it is a high-quality airless sprayer. Taken care of, this excellent paint sprayer will last a lifetime. Read our review below.

3. Top DIY budget (many pros use this): The Graco Pro201ES. My baby. More below.

We list important paint sprayer tips and the supplies you’ll need at the bottom.

Is the airless paint sprayer better? With an airless sprayer, you get a better finish and faster results (higher flow rate) compare to an electric paint sprayer, but you will pay more. Plus, no brush marks are left on the painted surface when you use a high-quality airless paint sprayer. Just be sure to use one of the best paint sprayers, as using a quality sprayer will live longer, and the results will be much better.


For comparison, the Titan (company website) has a selection of airless sprayers. They are a smaller company and I prefer Graco (company website) because of the reputation, but many pros do like Titan too. Graco replacement parts are much easier to find.

Low Budget: Best Paint Sprayer for Walls 

The best paint sprayer maker of low-end sprayers today is Wagner (company website). If you have a low budget, you really don’t want to buy an airless paint sprayer: you will not get your money’s worth for your interior paint spraying.

The only reliable choice that is not an airless paint sprayer:

  • Very good reviews for this Wagner Flexio 590.
  • No need to re-prime every time the siphon sucks air.
  • Need to refill the reservoir frequently.
  • Ideal for fences, etc.

Rexbeti -Honorable mention: a reader tells us she loves her 500-watt Rexbeti. Very good reviews and growing.

Low budget sprayer notes:

If you have only one project like interior paint spraying and you want to spray and then sell the machine (you only need it for a while), you can be sure the Wagner below will get you through.

  • These cannot be used with a power roller extension: you need a separate unit for that or the sprayers just below. We explain power rollers in a post just for them.
  • If you go low budget, you’ll eliminate a lot of painting hassles and save a lot of time, but you won’t have it for many years to come. For the money, they cannot go that distance.

Medium Budget Best Paint Sprayer: Graco Magnum

  • The winner in the DIY race, from Graco: the Magnum X5 Stand Airless Paint Sprayer.
  • Comes with RAC 4 latex tip and guard (“515” tip)
  • On sale for at time of publication: they seem to always be “on sale” if you know what I mean.
  • Classified as a “DIY”, but used by many professionals (but check the high-budget below).
  • Can be paired with Graco Pressure Roller Extension (buy the special roller covers on this page too). You’ll fly with this.
  • We have a post just on power rollers.
  • Can be used with the Graco extension wand (it comes with the Rac4 Tip Guard). The extra paint spraying speed is well worth the cost. We use the 30″. Unlike the low-budget models, airless paint sprayer tips can be reversed and cleaned on the fly if clogged.

Watch a video of an airless sprayer get cleaned quickly. I chose a Titan video because it is exactly the same as Graco or any other airless model. It’s all in your manual anyway. When he says ‘pump terps’ it means paint thinner (turpentine), blimey, mate.

Note: There are 2 versions of the Magnum 5: X and LTS. The LTS is sold only at Lowes so you get limited to them in away.


High Budget, Professional Grade: the King of Airless Paint Sprayers

There is nothing like the Graco Pro 210 ES. The pros in the chat rooms rave about this best paint sprayer as being one of the top quality you can get at such a price. Worth every one of the 900 dollars it costs. It is certainly the highest quality airless paint sprayer for ceilings and walls.

You can spend a lot more and you will not find a better machine. No, we receive no money from the Graco for saying this. 

We have stripped away all the many choices in the high-end market based on experience with interior paint spraying and many other painters’ paint sprayer reviews. Surprise: we pros don’t spend thousands. What you see below is a high-quality pump that you will put in your Last Will.

You will get a great price online, but be sure you know where you will take it for service as paint stores tend to only like machines they sold you.

Enjoy. Lucky you.


Accessory: tip extension for paint sprayer

The paint sprayer “wand” is a very helpful add-on. This page offers different lengths: my choice is the 30-inch wand, but you can have bigger or smaller. Size matters!

Worth the small amount of extra cash for control and speed (and less ladder work); excellent for indoor paint spraying. Other extensions at the Hyde tool website: we love Hyde tools and wish more stores would carry their items: they last.


How to Use an Airless Paint Sprayer

You will find all of these supplies on our paint sprayer accessories page

The best paint sprayers are easy to maintain
The best paint sprayers are easy to maintain as in this Graco X5

The best paint sprayer is useless if not used properly. You need to maintain your paint sprayer and clean it well.

Why does my sprayer tip get clogged? Two reasons.

  1. You let the sprayer tip get dry when not in use: to prevent this, just rest the sprayer gun in a bucket of water/solvent).
  2. You need to strain every bit of paint, even new-right-from-the-store paint (this paint is already old and will have some coagulation).

How to set up your paint spraying workspace:

  1. Pick a home base and clear the spraying area of anything that could get in your way: you’ll not be able to see obstacles and you could trip…and the hose can get stuck and hold you up.
  2. Drop off everything! You can never have enough drop cloths. As a rule, I use old sheets from 2nd hand stores to cover furniture (sometimes doubled with a sheet of plastic) and keep the canvas on the floor. Always stir your paint well and then strain it to prevent clogs in the tip or at any internal filters. Clogging is the number-one complaint about spray-painting.
  3. Use a strainer bag and keep the reservoir bucket covered with a clean piece of plastic: not an old drop cloth. Strain all paint, even right from the store (it can have small lumps from storage time).
  4. Spend a fair amount of time masking everything in the area and covering cars outdoors. Indoors use plastic and green painter’s tape (not the tan stuff) on windows. The best use of your time is to not try and make the masking perfect except around the odd piece of hardware. For example, to mask a window, use tape to cover some of the frame and all of the glass, then brush the frame later. It’s MUCH faster that way.
  5. I never really used spray suits but some painters do. My clothes were fine unless spraying oil-based stains or something nasty. If you get a spray suit, get 2 sizes too big and cuff the pants and arms: thank me later. The respirator is really the biggest necessity.

Spraying tips for beginners: how to use an airless paint sprayer

  • Before spraying the main work, test the spray fan in a different area (or on some cardboard) to get the pattern that you want: always mask nearby items.
  • Keep the paint sprayer fan perpendicular to the surface about 12″ away (don’t swing in an arc): this keeps the width or fan of the pass even and saves paint.
  • Keep your pump pressure as low as possible and still be able to get a good spray pattern and this also reduces overspray. This saves on tip life and paint.
  • On each pass, get the gun moving just before you pull the trigger. Paint in rows as long as possible before you start to arc away from perpendicular. A tip extension wand is great for this: a real money-maker.
  • While you are first learning, you will want to let off the trigger at the end of each stroke (before the gun stops moving). But as you get better, you’ll discover how to ‘flip your wrist’ at the end of a long stroke and jump to the next row in the opposite direction. Don’t rush that or your get drips and runs and sags.
  • Overlap passes of the fan slightly. If you don’t, the coverage will have gaps.

Final tips on spraying paint with an airless paint sprayer

  • Contours like door panels can leave ‘shadows’ if you don’t angle the gun to get the indentations evenly. Accomplish this by applying sHigh quality paint sprayer in actioneveral light coats from different directions, each perpendicular to one of the contoured pieces. In other words, hit anything that sticks out or is sunk in from both sides to prevent one side from being in the ‘shadow’.
  • When doing primer, or the first of multiple coats, it’s best to ‘backroll’ the paint/primer for penetration and bonding. The topcoats can just be sprayed after that. Pros: let your customers know that you will do this: many painters will not and the paint job will not last as long. Really paint sprayers are simply a method of application and are not known for great penetration. Still, they cut your time greatly.
  • Ventilate well indoors, and be careful of wind outside (cars nearby could be damaged!)

List of supplies for painting with a sprayer:

(These are all on our accessories page)

  • Respirator, safety glasses
  • Fingerless gloves recommended (we cut the fingers off old work gloves)
  • Solvent (water for latex, etc)
  • At least 3 large buckets for paint, cleaning and trashy paint
  • Strainer screens
  • Rags and a small bucket for keeping rags wet
  • Small bucket to keep spray gun tip soaking while not in use (prevents clogging)
  • Drop cloths, plastic and tape, and hand masker (combines paper and tape—see our video below)
  • Cardboard for use as a shield (you can buy a special cardboard holder – almost a necessity

See our recommended products


Just the tips on tips:

These come from my experience of 35+ years as a professional painter, having sprayed hundreds of gallons of paint. Plus, a paint spraying tips from the maker: Graco website’s tip info chart.

Basic tips for beginners:

      • Every sprayer comes with a tip. Most Graco sprayers such as the Magnum x5 and the 210 ES ship with a “515” tip. The first digit, 5, is half the fan width, so 10 inches. The ’15’ means the opening size which is a measure of volume that comes through. The 515 is a great medium volume tip and is part of the Graco RAC family (see below in Advanced Tips). See the sprayer accessories page for the actual tips.
      • Paint pressure near the spraying tip of the interior paint sprayer is enough to inject paint into your skin: be careful.
      • Wear a respirator. The number of filters is mind-numbing.  (My post simplifies the crazy complex world of respirator masks).

Advanced tips:

  • Strain every gallon of paint, even right out of the can (also prevents clogging).
  • RAC tips (Reverse-a-Clean), are better even though they cost more, they save time. These tips can be reversed. When your tip seems to be clogged or is showing ‘fingers’ in the spray pattern, you simply reverse, spray into a bucket, and it is clean. The RAC tips from Graco go in the orange tip guard (on the accessories page also). This guard and one RAC 4 (size 515 tip) come with both the Magnum and the 210ES above.
  • Every time you stop for even a short break, soak the entire paint gun in a bucket (water for latex, thinner for oils, etc). This keeps the tip from clogging.

Finally, to make this post complete, we recommend [asa2 lt=”a garden sprayer for spraying stains: but careful here. Read my research on how backpack sprayers not made for stains will die in a day. (Staining a deck? See one of our six posts on decks and staining).

The Chapin shown here can handle light stains and it does not cost much more than most good garden sprayers…but for semi-transparent… you have to jump up in cost. The backpack sprayer post explains.

Tip: Keep the paint sprayer tip (and interiors) clean, disassemble, and let the hose dry all winter and it will last and still be useful in the garden for years! A bit of petroleum jelly on any gasket helps.

 

paint sprayer diagram

 

Recommended Tip Sizes for Common Coating Materials

Lacquer or Stain.009 – .013
Oil Based Paint.013 – .015
Latex Paint.015 – .019 (Magnum max size = .015)
Heavy Latex or Smooth Elastomeric.021 – .025
Elastomeric & Blockfiller.025 – .035+

 


Here is how to efficiently mask a window when spraying indoors or out.

If you will probably only use an interior paint sprayer once or twice, I recommend you spend your money on the low-budget electric paint sprayer: save money and save lots of time. Are the airless sprayers are better? Sure, but the electric paint sprayer will be enough (then you can sell it on eBay!)

Let us know if we forgot anything in the comments below. Thanks.

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4 thoughts on “Best Paint Sprayer Airless & Project”

  1. I read that airless is less desirable than HVLP for interior walls because the paint doesn’t go on as smoothly due to the higher pressure. Do you agree? I’ve never used a sprayer before, but plan to paint all the walls in our house so I think it is a worthwhile investment.

    • Yes, it is certainly worthwhile: and when done you can get most of your money back on ebay or local ad sale. The airless machines do have a pressure control knob, but there is a minimum. As you wrote, the HVLP has the ‘low pressure’ right in the name, LP (HV is high volume for other readers)… We think of them as more for furniture…like a spray can that you refill. From memory, the airless goes on just as smooth, but you are working with latex on walls usually, so your goal is not the same as furniture painting etc. Good luck!!

  2. Hello, great article and appreciate the insight. I have various painting and sealing projects in the short term prior to moving into a house. I really want a sprayer to make it less work but am divided on the low budget or mid budget sprayer which one would be better. I need to paint various rooms and also reseal some wood cabinets. I may use it again in the future but unsure which way to go. Is either one better as an “all around” sprayer for both sealers (varnish and similar) and paint (interior and maybe exterior projects).

    • Hi. No doubt you would want the airless. The Graco Magnum is the one priced for homeowners.. the other one is great, but built to really work day-in and day-out for years… Price reflects that. You can spray all that you listed: just do some practice and gather all the buckets, solvents and rags, not to mention masker/tape/plastic, drop cloths.
      For the amount of work you plan to do, the small budget (Wagner) will just fustrate you. It can spray a quart at a time, then you re-fill. A medium sized bedroom needs about 3/4 gallon per coat…just for walls. Go Graco is my view. The re-sale value will get you 1/2 of what you paid especially if it’s only a few months old…So you will be laughing. Good luck!

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