How To Paint With An Airless Paint Sprayer

Spraying with an airless sprayer is the fastest way to cover large areas with a uniform coat of paint and is probably the best way to proceed with exterior painting. We’ll introduce you to spray painting inside (if you must) and out.

Considerations: Spray painting equipment is expensive and spray painting inside entails taking more precautions to avoid overspray and to ensure safety.

IMPORTANT: If you intend to paint with more than one color, especially inside then you should probably go with rollers and brushes. Unavoidable paint mist from spraying means that every surface will have to be thoroughly masked.

Be prepared to mask and mask and mask. You will also use more paint if you spray rather than roll or brush.

Spray painting is three times faster than brushing or rolling however quality control is better and easier to maintain with rolling and brushing.

Spray painting becomes more viable in the following situations:

  • Painting large outdoor surfaces with clear perimeters (no plants, trees or fixtures adjoining the paint surface)
  • Large interior spaces that have not been fitted out apart from plumbing stub outs and windows.
  • Complicated and varied textures and surfaces like masonry and mortar, textured ceilings, crown molding and built up baseboards. Paint sprayers will inject paint into small crevices whereas brushes and rollers in these cases will cause drips and pooling of paint.

What Tools Will I Need To Spray Paint?

Test cardboard 100 – 120 grit sandpaper Goggles
Spatula Sanding block Coveralls
Knives for drywall repair Coarse sandpaper Breathing mask
Drop sheets – plastic Compound Cap and Gloves
3M handheld masker Old shoes Trim Shield.
Painters tape Hairnet
Peel and stick patches for drywall

How To Prepare For Spray Painting

Spray painting inside creates a paint mist that will cover everything in that room which means that everything has to be removed or covered.

Buy plastic drop sheets or cheap sheets from the $2 shop or opportunity shop to cover the floor – be sure to double them up. Mask light switches, dismantle or cover light fittings with plastic bags, the same for ceiling fans. Cover windows, doorways, doors and room openings.

Use a 3M handheld masker

The rule is if you can see it, cover it before the paint does.

  • Wash walls with warm water and dishwashing liquid to remove tobacco stains and kitchen grease. Use a stronger floor cleaner for tougher stains. Wash off with fresh hot water.
  • Repair Damaged Drywall before painting.
  • Sand to a smooth finish with 120 grit sandpaper
  • Wipe down with a clean rag or soft broom.

Protect Yourself:

You are going to find yourself in a room full of paint mist so you will need a full breathing apparatus, goggles, coverall clothing, hat, gloves and coverall facemask. If you don’t look like you’re going to the moon you haven’t finished dressing.

Place a fan in an open window with the mesh removed to extract paint mist. The fan is going to get painted too.

What Paint Sprayer Should I Use?

Choosing the right spray paint system is important because some handyman level systems don’t handle the thicker paints well; they tend to clog and sputter.

A good quality air sprayer rather than a cheaper cup sprayer is the best option especially if you intend to paint several rooms. Air sprayers are fast and give a good finish. Overspray can be reduced by lowering the pressure. Some air sprayers, however, don’t work very well with thick paints like latex.

Probably the best all-round handyman DIY spray paint system is the Graco Magnum 262800 X5.

How To Paint With A Spray Painter

If you’re new to spray painting practice on a large flat surface outside. You can even practice spraying with plain water; make sure the surface is dry before actually painting.

(Thank you CJSprayinc)

Step 1.

Read the paint product use instructions on the paint of your choice. Ask your paint supplier for a copy of the paint product’s Technical Data Sheet (TDS), not the Material Safety Data Sheet. The TDS will tell you exactly how you should apply their paint product.

Step 2.

Use large pieces of cardboard to test the evenness of the paint application. Start at the lowest pressure on the spray gun then gradually increase it until arriving at the right setting.

The spray pattern should be even and consistent. Streaks indicate the pressure is too low. If streaking occurs at the highest pressure setting you may need to use a smaller hole tip or to thin the paint.

Step 3.

Apply the paint at about 12” from the surface. Move across the surface keeping the tip 12″ constantly by flexing your wrist at the beginning and end of each stroke. Don’t swing the gun in an arc because this will cause the paint to be thinner at the beginning and end of each stroke.

Cut in corners with a brush. Spray the outer edges first. Move at a constant rate overlapping each previous stroke by half. Keep the spray tip moving before and after triggering the gun to avoid blotches of paint forming at the end of each stroke (feathering)

Alternatively, you can cut-in using a paint guard:


Paint the ceiling first and allow it to dry before proceeding to the walls.

Use a 3M handheld masker and a paint trim shield at the top of the wall to protect the newly painted ceiling


Start at the top and work your way down. Paint cornices, eves and overhangs first so that you will smooth out drips as you go. Angle the spray gun upwards slightly when painting siding in order to paint the lip of the siding.

Allow the skirting to dry thoroughly before removing masking from trim to ensure clean lines.

Tips For Spray Painting

  • Keep a damp cloth on your person to wipe the spray tip clean to prevent clogging. You will need to do this frequently. If you keep the tip clean as you go you’ll be rewarded with great results.
  • Remember to adjust the nozzle: horizontal for vertical strokes, vertical adjustment for horizontal strokes.

Related Questions 

How much paint is lost to misting when spray painting?  25% or more of the paint is lost to misting. No paint is lost when rolling or brushing.

What is the best kind of paint for spray painting? Non-Toxic Spray Paint is Finally a Thing! Definitely worth the read here.

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