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How Do Airless Paint Sprayers Work

Airless paint sprayers are a special class of paint applicators that make use of a high-pressure fluid supply atomized by hydraulic force instead of compressed air, to deliver the paint material onto a surface, with special emphasis on smoothness and speed.

Using an airless paint sprayer is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to guarantee you finish a remarkably large amount of paint job in an equally remarkable amount of time, with a smooth finish just like professionals do.

Given our propensity for speed and effectiveness, it isn’t a surprise that more people tend to go for an airless paint sprayer rather than, say, a brush or a roller.

Yet, like most good things, airless paint sprayers do have their shortcomings and scenarios where these tools may be less preferable.

We’ll take a further look at their pros and cons below, but first, let’s take a closer look at their mechanism and the science behind their operation.

How Do Airless Paint Sprayers Work

Airless Paint Sprayers – The Mechanism

Whereas air paint sprayers (also known as HVLP) work through the use of an air compressor to push out the coating material, airless paint sprayers work by releasing paint through a tiny outlet at very high pressure.

The optimal pressure at which most airless sprayers work is usually calibrated at around 3000 psi (pound-force per square inch), which is a quite significant amount of force over a small area.

The paint passes through a specially calibrated hose, before being delivered to the tip outlet, which is designed to break paint into tiny droplets and distribute them evenly.

Different airless paint sprayer tips can be used for different spray patterns and materials. For example, lighter paints such as lacquer and varnish need different tips than thicker paints such as elastomeric and latex paint.

In the beginning, airless paint sprayers may require a bit of practice before one gets familiar with its operation. It doesn’t take long to achieve the desired result though, and after a short time, it starts to get much easier to operate and to apply even on the most difficult tasks, including surfaces such as doors, fences, and cabinets.


You can buy an airless paint sprayer online or at B&M stores for about 50$ – $200. There are many brands and many models out there, some of them being more expensive than the average.

Though not necessarily more efficient, they do offer some extra benefits, such as having better performance, better longevity and being less prone to faults.

There is also the option of renting instead of buying. Though we do not recommend it, this can be an option for people seeking to make use of the tool for a short amount of time and do not want to commit to long-term purchases.


There are three major advantages of painting with an airless paint sprayer. Let’s take a look at these characteristics below:

1. Speed: With an airless paint sprayer, thanks to its incredibly high pressure, you can cover a large amount of surface in a significantly shorter amount of time compared to, let’s say, a brush or a roller.

2. Ease of use: As mentioned earlier, using an airless paint sprayer might take a few tries to get used to, but once you get convenient with it, paint application on virtually any surface type becomes remarkably easier and much more convenient than using a roller or a brush.

3. Smoothness: Airless paint sprayers give a glass-smooth finish especially on woodworks, with an almost flawless level of glossiness and uniformity.


It seems all good things must come with its fair share of drawbacks, and airless paint sprayers, as you’ll see below, are no exception to this. Here are a few attributes/scenarios where they might not be the most suitable tool.

1. Paint wastage: In situations where you’re on a budget, airless paint sprayers may not be the best option to consider.

This is because a fair amount of paint will end up escaping from the outlet, literally vanishing into thin air, instead of sticking to the surface onto which you need it to be applied.

The percentage of paint lost from an airless paint sprayer application is estimated to be about 20-30 %.

2. Maintenance: Maintaining an airless paint sprayer may be a tedious chore to some. An airless paint sprayer requires some extra activities, such as cleaning out paint from the pump and the hose and then cleaning up the spray gun and filters, all of which may take significant time and energy.

However, that’s nothing compared to the time saved from painting a large project.

3. Accidental overspray: Airless paint sprayers may also not be suitable in environments where there might be certain areas and plants that may be affected by accidental overspray and spills.

Despite all the inconveniences, though, airless paint sprayers remain one of the most effective and time-saving methods of paint application.

*Follow the link to read more about the pros and cons of airless paint sprayers on my other article.

Safety Measures

There are some important safety precautions to follow for a risk-free operation of your airless paint sprayer.

While most sprayers come with a manual, we have listed some important measures below, so you won’t leave scratching your head.

1. Always keep your sprayer’s trigger locked when not in use, which includes both cleaning and active maintenance.

2. Due to the high pressure being used, make sure your hands never go in front of the sprayer’s tip (orifice) at any point during the application.

The high pressure can cause painful injection injuries that can even lead to nasty infections.

3. Safety glasses and a face mask should be on at all times during application.

Troubleshooting and Common Errors

For optimal use of your airless paint sprayer, always ensure to follow the guidelines below during operation.

  • Adopt a uniform spraying sequence, either choose to spray from top to bottom or side to side.
  • Always move the gun parallel to the surface on which you’re spraying.
  • Ensure your gun stays perpendicular while spraying, never titled.

Troubleshooting an airless paint sprayer typically involves checking for clogs and verifying gun’s tip compatibility.

You can fix problems involving clogging easily through careful cleaning and consistent proper maintenance practices.

Making use of wrong tip sizes may cause uneven surface coverage and paint runs. Switching tips to a more compatible size can solve this problem quite easily.


Airless paint sprayers are a favorite tool from pros and amateurs alike. Their high-pressure spray mechanism ensures a fast, smooth, and effective method of paint application.

They do have their shortcomings, but that’s nothing in comparison to the numerous benefits deriving from the proper usage of an airless paint sprayer.

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