How to Choose the Best Paint Sprayer for Your Next Furniture Painting Project

By on March 5, 2014

how to choose best paint sprayerHave you been leery of taking that next step with your furniture painting passion? You know the one I’m talking about: purchasing a spray gun. You’ve probably thought about it for some time but always figured it would be too costly or too difficult to master so you simply held off.

Well today, I’m going to help you with that decision because it may just be the best purchase you’ll ever make for your DIY home refinishing projects. Yes, it will be fantastic for furniture painting, but trust me, you will get a lot of use out of a paint sprayer and it will be one of your favorite tools to use.

Once you make your selection after reading some of my tips on how to choose the best paint sprayer, you may wonder why you waited so long. And because not all projects are created equal, we’ll be looking specifically at the best paint sprayer for painting furniture.

This is a rather extensive article so you might want to grab a beverage and your most comfy chair. You may even want to bookmark it so that you can find it again later.

Why Can’t I Just Use Cans of Spray Paint?

That’s a good question because you can for those crafts and small furniture projects but if you’re serious about creating that near-professional look, you really should consider a spray paint applicator. Plus just think about how tired your index finger and your wrists will get after emptying a few cans. Trust me, I’ve walked away from spray paint projects with monster claw looking hands from all the strain.

With the spray paint applicator you will achieve a smoother, more even flow of paint than you will from a standard can of spray paint. Plus a spray paint applicator will help you get the job done faster, easier, and with superior results to that of a standard can of spray paint.

*Tip – Before we take a look at each of the types of paint sprayers that work well for painting furniture let’s go over a few trusty tips.

  • With any paint sprayer, practice first so that you get a feel for how the paint sprays out, how the sprayer feels to hold, and how much over spray there is. I suggest simply spraying paint on pieces of cardboard and then onto objects resting on the cardboard.
  • Start by spraying the paint on the cardboard first and then the furniture to avoid spurts of paint on the furniture. Then maintain even, steady, and long strokes to apply a smooth layer of paint and lastly, stop spraying when off the furniture and again onto the cardboard. This will help to avoid any spatters as the spray paint stops.
  • Depending on the type of paint sprayer you use, you will also want to apply thin coats rather than thick coats, but you will find that the thickness of the coat can differ based on the type of sprayer.
  • Always be sure you are painting in a well-ventilated area and wearing appropriate breathing and eye protection, as paint particles will be present in the air. Plus always have plenty of drop cloths and plastic for covering walls, floors, and other objects in your work area.

Handheld Electric Cup Sprayers

handheldwagnerspraypainterTypical handheld electric cup sprayers are moderately priced and look much like a handheld drill but with a spray nozzle and paint container attached. For some the familiar grip makes it easy to hold. Handheld electric cup sprayers are airless meaning that only paint comes out, not extra air as with the air compressor backed units.

For best results, have your arm in motion when starting the sprayer and as mentioned start on the cardboard and not on the furniture so as to avoid a sudden burst of paint or blob on the chair, table, or hutch…nobody likes blobs. Once you get the hang of the sprayer you will find it puts out a fairly thick coat which will make your project move along quickly and avoid the need for fewer coats of paint.

Cleanup is fairly easy with the handheld paint sprayers but do watch the spray tips for clogging. Since it shoots out paint directly and heavily the tips may clog sooner than expected. Some handheld electric cup sprayers come with controls for adjusting the pressure which is a nice feature.

Conventional Air Sprayer

Pressure SpotThe conventional air paint sprayer is definitely a step up from the handheld models and geared more to the dedicated do-it-yourselfer. The cost of the spray gun itself may be less than that of the handheld but you must also have spray hoses, tubes, an air compressor, and cleaning kits.

The conventional air gun as they’re called has been around for years; your parents may have used them, and is considered a high volume paint sprayer that can get a job done quickly. The conventional air sprayer connects to the hose of an air compressor which allows the paint to be blasted out of the gun which also causes a sizable amount of over spray leaving paint particles flying through the air.

Once you get the hang of using the conventional air sprayer you’ll find it does a terrific job refinishing your furniture quickly and with a very smooth application. The downside is that it transmits roughly 70% of your paint into the atmosphere which means you will use more paint and you most certainly must wear appropriate breathing apparatus.

Another major downside is that the conventional air sprayers are not environmentally approved by the EPA. You can still find them available for home furniture renovation projects but you should consider the newer HVLP spray guns as a better option.

HVLP Paint Sprayer

HVLP Spray GunThe newer version spray gun is the high-volume-low-pressure spray gun or HVLP. The HVLP sprayer is both EPA and government approved mainly because more paint goes on your furniture and not into the air. Instead of 70% paint loss the HVLP spray gun may lose only 40 to 50% but because it is also advised to spray closer to your surface more paint actually adheres to the furniture.

Another advantage of the HVLP paint sprayer is that it produces a softer spray which makes it easier to control and helps to apply an even coat of paint. Some models also come with adjustable spray patterns to account for different types and thicknesses of paint. Plus this sprayer is one of the easiest to clean.

Now as the name infers the HVLP paint sprayers do require a source of air pressure to push the paint through. The most common is the standard air compressor. When it comes to air compressors, you want to try and get the most CFM and highest PSI that your budget allows for if you want to get the most use out of it and be able to use it for other non-furniture painting jobs. Of course if budget is a concern and you only plan on using it for your spray gun, just check the specs on whatever spray gun you purchase and be sure your compressor meets those requirements.

In addition, there are also turbine HVLP sprayers which don’t require an air compressor. Instead these units use an air turbine instead of an air compressor and propel a more concentrated amount of paint. They are more expensive than but then again there is no need to purchase an air compressor so your total cost will be lower.

Spray Can Gun
Spray Can GunYou may be wondering why we mention the spray can gun when it seems like such a basic spray painting tool. The reason is simply because there are those small projects that are easier to handle with the spray can gun, and the gun may just fit your budget better.

Most models of the spray can gun attach right over the top of your spray can and are controlled by pressing the trigger of the gun not pressing the can button with your index finger, which makes them very easy to use – simply pull the trigger and paint. This is a simple tool for making furniture painting projects easy, affordable, and fun. No extra equipment and easy breezy cleanup.

Just a Few Final Thoughts…

The best paint sprayer for your next furniture painting project is really the unit with which you are the most comfortable. It can be a Handheld Electric Cup Sprayer, a Conventional Air Sprayer, the HVLP Paint Sprayer, or the Spray Can Gun. The best paint sprayer will be the unit that you’re excited to use, that produces superior results, and makes you the envy of the DIY crowd.

What’s your favorite paint spray gun?

About Misty Spears

I absolutely love all things DIY, especially when it comes to decorating my own home. I’m a thrift store junkie and my head just explodes with ideas to repurpose old junk into something practical and beautiful when I come across that perfect treasure. I’m a wood furniture rebel and try to paint every surface I can to bring color into my life. My life revolves around my family and enjoying every moment that life serves up to me. You can connect with me on Twitter @diyhomeinterior, Instagram @mistyspears and see my pins on Pinterest for a sneak peak into all the DIY projects I am working on and crazy life happenings.

4 Comments

  1. Jen

    March 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! These tools have always seemed so intimidating to me, and I’ve never used one. I pinned this for reference and I’m going to think about which will be the best for me before it warms up here in Jersey and we start going to town on all our projects again.

    • Misty Spears

      March 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks for your comment Jen! I highly recommend the HVLP ones if you can get your hands on a compressor. Although I recently got my hands on an electrical cup sprayer and I have to admit it was pretty nice and the cost is far less since no compressor is needed.

  2. Bonnie Gean

    March 9, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    Luckily for me, I use the excuse that I can’t handle a sprayer. The partner does this work and to convince him of the best one to use is another story entirely. You know men and their toys. :)

    Great read, Misty!

    • Misty Spears

      March 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Oh yes, my husband has his toys…although, I’ve got my own stash of toys too. He’s been funny about the whole paint sprayer thing though. When I brought up needing one, he couldn’t understand why I just didn’t want to use a spray can if I was going to spray it anyway. Although…I think he was just being cheap with that comment.

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