How Does an Airless Paint Sprayer Work? (Step-by-Step Guide) - Pro Paint Corner (2023)

Wondering how an airless paint sprayer works?

Well, luckily for you we created this guide to answer that question! In this guide, you'll learn:

  • What an airless paint sprayer is
  • What the advantages of using an airless paint sprayer are
  • The steps to using an airless paint sprayer right

And much more!

How Does an Airless Paint Sprayer Work? (Step-by-Step Guide) - Pro Paint Corner (1)

Using a spray gun is a right of passage for many in the painting industry.

When you graduate from handheld spray guns and brushes for your paint jobs, you enter a new world with the benefits of an airless system.

Spray painting and painting projects can be simplified and you can produce a much more smooth finish when you switch to an airless spray gun.

So as you get into this level of work, you may ask yourself "how the heck does this thing work?"

So, let's dive into the world of airless paint sprayers and how you can use one to make your DIY projects much easier!

What's In This Guide?

What is an Airless Paint Sprayer?

What are the Advantages of an Airless Paint Sprayer?

How Does an Airless Paint Sprayer Work?

How to Use an Airless Paint Sprayer (Step-by-Step Guide)

What are the Different Types of Airless Sprayers?

Other Resources for Airless Sprayers

Final Thoughts on Airless Sprayers

What is an Airless Paint Sprayer?

An airless paint sprayer is one of several types of paint sprayers which deals with a high volume of paint and uses an electric motor instead of an air compressor for atomization, creating a high-pressure spray pattern that allows you to paint effortlessly and consistently.

All paint sprayers are used for high volume projects and can handle any amount of paint.

These power tools are useful for DIY projects, commercial and industrial projects, and everything in between.

An airless sprayer differentiates itself from other types of sprayers because it doesn't use any pneumatic pressure. Instead, the internal pressure within the creates a more effective spray pattern than typical HVLP sprayers.

These airless paint sprayers have become the industry standard for professional paint jobs and paint spraying work because they offer many benefits over traditional spray guns, and they can still tackle the large paint jobs and handle the vast amount of paint that is required for these jobs.

How Does an Airless Paint Sprayer Work? (Step-by-Step Guide) - Pro Paint Corner (2)

What are the Advantages of an Airless Paint Sprayer?

An airless paint sprayer has several major benefits over traditional High Volume, Low-Pressure Spray guns.

The first and most obvious benefit is that airless sprayers do not have a bulky air compressor.

Instead, with a piston pump or diaphragm pump, along with the attached electric motor, these machines are significantly less bulky and more portable, which makes them much easier to use and much more efficient, particularly for large paint projects.

A second benefit is that these airless paint sprayers can provide a cleaner, more smooth finish than their traditional counterparts.

We'll get into the details of why that's the case when we explore the mechanics behind airless paint sprayers, but this results in higher quality work which requires less touch-up and cleanup, in the end, making your life much easier.

Finally, these airless paint sprayers can produce a higher pressure, which is great for speeding up the painting process. This can also have its drawbacks, both with the risk of overspray and as a potential safety concern, but with pressure control, you can maintain safe usage even with thicker paints.

Read More >> How to Clean a Graco Airless Paint Sprayer?

How Does an Airless Paint Sprayer Work?

An airless paint sprayer provides a higher pressure than traditional HVLP spray guns exactly because it doesn't use an air compressor.

While a typical spray gun builds up a pressurized block of air that is forced through the spray tip, the airless sprayer does not do that.

A pneumatic spray gun uses the stream of air to create an area of low pressure that draws the paint into the flow, creating a mixture of atomized paint and flowing air, which drives the paint to the surface.

This, unfortunately, introduces air into the process very early, severely increasing the risk for bubbles and defects appearing, which can be detrimental to the quality of your project.

If you examine examples of painting jobs performed by airless paint sprayers and High Volume, Low-Pressure Sprayers, you'll see a marked difference between the quality of the finish.

An airless spray gun uses a motor to power a diaphragm pump or something similar to build up pressure within the paint itself.

As the paint becomes compressed, it becomes an aerosol and is forced through the gun tip.

Because the paint itself is holding the pressure, it becomes more pressurized than the lower pressure air flows from a pneumatic spray gun.

This has been criticized as potentially dangerous, but adjustable pressure control and safety technology have made these power tools just as safe as the alternative, meaning you can easily use them without any additional risk of injury, and you can also provide a better-finished product than with a pneumatic tool.

Read More >> What Are the Top Professional Airless Paint Sprayers?

How to Use an Airless Paint Sprayer (Step-by-Step Guide)

When you are airless paint spraying you will use the tool exactly like a pneumatic version. Using the attached suction tube, you can use a bucket of paint and begin to draw paint through your setup.

Standing a small distance away from the surface, simply point and spray.

The paint will come out in a fan pattern depending on which different tip you decided to use for your sprayer.

You can adjust the hose length and the pressure of the device. Make sure to go in overlapping swathes to ensure you get complete coverage and to make sure the project looks even all around.

You will have some overspray, which is unavoidable since the paint is literally floating in the air. Once your surface is painted, just make sure to properly clean your tool when it's out of use. That way, next time you plan to use it, you won't have any issues.

Read More >> Top 5 Gravity Feed Spray Guns

What are the Different Types of Airless Sprayers?

There are a couple of different types of airless sprayers on the market, and all of them have their own various benefits.

Handheld Spray Gun

A handheld spray gun is a very small version of the larger power tool which is perfect for DIYers.

These handheld spray guns hold a very small amount of paint or lacquer and sometimes even use a battery to power the small motor.

These are much more portable and easy to use, but they cannot handle large projects since they simply do not have the capacity.

Cart Airless Spray Guns

Cart Airless Spray Guns are airless paint sprayers with the motor and tank mounted on wheels. This way you can roll it around to all the different areas of your project.

These combine the capacity of large paint sprayers with the portability of a handheld gun, so you can reach distant parts of your project.

Stand Airless Sprayers

A standing airless spray gun is mounted on a stand. These are typically the largest and most powerful.

They also usually have very long hoses so you can stretch them farther without having to move the airless sprayer anywhere.

Other Resources for Airless Sprayers

These devices are powerful tools, not toys. As such, they need some education on how to properly use.

If you're interested in purchasing one, there are some great tools available online to teach you how to load, spray, and clean these devices.

If you're interested in a more technical discussion of the inner workings of the motor and pressure tank, this video explains how an airless paint sprayer worksand can give you a good introduction.

When you feel you've learned enough, you can get out there and start using one of the best tools in the painting industry.

Final Thoughts on Airless Sprayers

Airless paint sprayers are one of the most superior tools available to professional painters.

These devices are stronger and easier to use than pneumatic ones, and give you a smoother, cleaner finish in the end, essentially making them the ultimate tool.

There is a reason why they have become the gold standard forprofessional painting jobs. We've explained a bit about how they work, but it's a different thing entirely to get out there and see how well they perform.

Go grab aGraco Magnum productor something similar and test it out for yourself. If you compare it with a pneumatic air sprayer, you'll immediately see the difference.

These products will change the game when it comes to industrial paint jobs, so take some time to learn about them today and then get out there and start painting!


How does the airless paint sprayer work? ›

Airless spray atomizes, or breaks up fluid into small droplets without the use of compressed air. In an airless system, fluid is pumped under high pressure through a spray tip. The tip size and pressure is what determines the material flow rate. The tip also creates the fan pattern.

What is the number one rule when using airless spray guns? ›

Keep a constant distance/angle

The general rule when using an airless paint sprayer is to try and maintain a distance of 12 inches (1 foot) from the surface you're spraying and keep the sprayer perpendicular to it.

How does the electric paint sprayer work? ›

An airless paint sprayer uses a small electrical pump motor that forces paint through a small hole or orifice to beak it up into a fine spray. The shape of the spray cone can be adjusted for various patterns to match the job.

How do you touch up paint on corners? ›

Paint tight corners with a foam or bristle brush.

Dip the ends of your brush into the paint and wipe off any excess so it isn't too thick. Only use as much paint as you need or else the touch up will be noticeable. Lightly dab or drag the brush through the area you're painting to get a textured or smooth application.

How do you spray corners? ›

When spraying on broad, open surfaces such as ceilings and bare walls, spray the outside edges first; then spray the middle. To properly spray inside corners such as where two walls meet, aim the spray gun directly into the corner, spraying each of the adjacent walls that form the corner evenly and in one pass.

Do you have to dilute paint when using a sprayer? ›

Yes! Actually, most beginner or hobby paint sprayers require the paint to be thinned because they don't have enough power to suck up and push out anything thicker than stain. But, thinning the paint a little bit is even a good idea with a professional grade paint sprayer too – it creates a prettier, less bumpy finish!

What are the disadvantages of airless spray gun? ›

Over spray can be managed by taking extra time covering and masking off every surface that you do not want paint to get on. The other downside of using an airless sprayer is the extra time it takes to clean up the spray gun and flush the paint from the hose and pump.

What are the disadvantages of airless spray? ›

Disadvantages of Air-Assisted Airless applicators include:
  • Fixed spray pattern size. ...
  • Atomization quality. ...
  • Difficulties achieving low material builds. ...
  • Cost of Ownership.
Feb 25, 2022

Do you need to thin paint before using airless sprayer? ›

Airless pain sprayers work with oil-based paint or stain. Typically, you shouldn't need to thin paint for an airless sprayer. HVLP paint sprayers work with oil-based paint. Thicker paints, such as water-based latex, can clog the sprayer.

How long do you leave paint in a sprayer? ›

I would recommend a few things if you are considering leaving paint in your sprayer. But don't do this for prolonged periods as you could damage your machine and warranty. But overnight or a few hours will be fine.

Is it hard to use an airless sprayer? ›

Airless spraying is the fastest way to complete most painting jobs. Learning how to use an airless sprayer is quite easy, but like anything new, practice and a little knowledge will help you achieve professional-quality results in no time.

Do you paint corners or walls first? ›

For painting wall edges, it is best to paint the edges first, then paint the rest of the wall surface with a paint roller. There are two ways to paint wall edges near the ceiling. You can either use a paint edger device or use a good-quality angled paintbrush.

How long can paint sit in an airless sprayer? ›

Short 3 days - 3 months

This is probably the most common storage method for most airless paint sprayers. Most painting professionals and contractors fall into this time span. Clean your airless paint sprayer first! Water left in a paint sprayer will corrode and ruin the pump!

How far away to hold airless paint sprayer? ›

A good rule of thumb for an airless spray gun is to hold the gun about 12- 14 inches from the products surface.

How do you paint corners without brush marks? ›

Additives like water or linseed oil can help smooth out your paint and prevent brush marks. If you don't have additives on hand, try using a roller instead! It's faster, easier, and less messy than using a brush. Rollers are great for getting large sections of paint on walls without having to worry about brush marks!

How many coats of paint do you use with a sprayer? ›

How Many Coats of Spray Paint Do You Need? It is recommended that you apply two coats and allow the proper time frame for drying. Be sure to also sand between each dried coat. Once the final coat is painted and allowed time to dry, it's time for a clear coat.

Do you do two coats of paint with sprayer? ›

One coat of paint using a sprayer can achieve over the 4 mil thickness and provide the most uniform paint job, while a roller brush often requires two coats to achieve the 4 mil standard and takes more time and labor cost.

Do you have to roll after using a paint sprayer? ›

As a minimum, the first coat (ASU) on ceilings should always be back-rolled after spray application, unless ceilings are to be sanded. The back-rolling of subsequent coats is highly desirable as it enhances the uniform soft texture and light scattering capability.

Do you need to roll with a paint sprayer? ›

When to Back-Roll After Spraying. Back-rolling is typically most impactful when applying the primer for the interior walls of a home or a new construction build. While the primer is the coat that bonds with the substrate initially, airless spraying itself does not penetrate or enhance adhesion.

Why do painters water down paint? ›

To “thin” paint, an exterior painter will add water to the paint bucket, increasing the paint's workability and slowing down the speed with which it dries. This is especially helpful in hot climates, including summers in the Sun Belt.

How long does it take for paint to dry from a sprayer? ›

Spray paint can take anywhere from five minutes to eight hours to dry. It's a good idea to wait 24 hours for the paint to dry fully. Dry time factors include the paint type, material, surface, and climate. Choose a fast-drying paint to speed up the drying time.

What type of paint is best for airless sprayer? ›

Airless paint sprayers are tricky for novices and are used mainly by skilled DIYers and professionals for large surfaces such as interior walls and house siding, decks, and fences. This motorized sprayer uses pressurized force to atomize the paint; it works well with thick-bodied latex paints.

Is it worth getting an airless spray gun? ›

For larger tasks, where you'll be using 3 or more gallons of paint, an airless sprayer system may be a better fit—generally, professional painters use airless sprayers to quickly cover big surfaces, such as lots of rooms or spaces with vaulted ceilings, and to paint building exteriors.

What are the disadvantages of a paint sprayer? ›

Spray paint is more expensive per square foot of coverage. Spray paint requires ventilated area in which to work. You can't use it indoors. Drips are tricky.

What are airless paint sprayers good for? ›

Airless paint sprayers are ideal for job sites and projects with a large surface area to cover or difficult to spray places. Paint finish: Airless paint sprayers provide a smoother finish than other options.

What is the number one rule when using a airless spray gun? ›

With airless spraying, paint is applied at high pressure so the right technique is important. To achieve the best possible spray results, the spray gun must be moving before pressing the gun trigger. This applies the paint evenly to the surface without leaving streaks.

Do you have to clean airless sprayer between coats? ›

Spray guns should absolutely be cleaned between coats if you are switching from paint to lacquer, or will need to use a second type or color of paint.

How much water do I need to thin paint for an airless sprayer? ›

Add ½ cup (118 milliliters) of water for every gallon of paint. Mix thoroughly. Check the thickness by running the paint through a funnel. If it flows freely through the funnel, you know the paint is thinned enough.

Which paint sprayer is better air or airless? ›

Air spray is best for products requiring a high-quality finish, but doesn't have a good transfer efficiency rate. Airless has a higher transfer efficiency rate and is often used for protective, rather than decorative coatings. Air-assisted airless offers high production levels and a high-quality finish.

Is it hard to use an airless paint sprayer? ›

Airless spraying is the fastest way to complete most painting jobs. Learning how to use an airless sprayer is quite easy, but like anything new, practice and a little knowledge will help you achieve professional-quality results in no time.

What type of paint sprayer is best indoors? ›

HVLP sprayers are the best choice for interior paint spraying because they have the proper power and precision to quickly cover surfaces smoothly and evenly without much effort on your part. This is because HVLP paint sprayers can apply thinner, more even coats with minimal overspray.

Is rolling paint better than spraying? ›

When it comes to speed and ease of use, using a paint sprayer is the way to go. This is the main reason why so many professional painters use them. But for those looking for quality, nothing beats a roller. It offers a more even finish, a superior texture, and adheres much better.

Why does my airless sprayer use so much paint? ›

A worn tip will cause loads of overspray. Some sprayers use a brand new tip in every new outside job to minimise overspray. Thirdly, do not fan the gun. You need to keep you gun parallel to the surface, if you wave your gun about then you will cause directional overspray.

Do you water down paint for airless sprayer? ›

A simple rule of thumb is always thin emulsion before spraying through an airless sprayer, at least by 10%. Second, you have finish paints for woodwork. Typically, water-based satin these days.

How many square feet does a gallon of paint cover with an airless sprayer? ›

In general, one gallon of paint will cover roughly 250-350 square feet of surface.


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