Historically, spray guns needed to be attached to big, powerful air compressors. Many of the professional models you see in today's auto repair shops are still like this.
However, High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) paint sprayers don't require that much size or power.
Another modern option is the airless paint sprayer — a unit that delivers HVLP performance with a much smaller pump.
In these ratings, we look at various paint spray guns and kits. There's something for every home and garden in this review.
Our top five paint sprayers include the following:
When you buy a paint sprayer, you need to know whether you're getting a complete painting kit or if you'll need to buy additional items. Disgruntled owners often complain that this information wasn't made clear to them at the time of purchase. In this section of our ratings, we tell you what you get for your money — and what, if anything, you might need to buy separately.
Basic, budget spray guns typically include little more than a cup to put paint in and a trigger to pull! Other products offer more choice. Some alter pattern shape to suit particular tasks; others offer a wide array of spray finishes. We give a detailed description of each product's extra features here.
In this part of our ratings, we discuss each product's actual painting performance. This includes information from our research as well as feedback from owners who have real-world experience with each product.
The priciest paint sprayer in our review is still a very affordable machine — and yet, it's exponentially more expensive than our cheapest contender! In this section, we look at the cost of each item and its overall value.
Richard is a seasoned small business owner in the hardware industry. He also owns a pool maintenance business and serves as an advisor on groundskeeping committees for a number of prominent organizations. He’s a regionally renowned safe cracker/locksmith expert, and in his spare time, he renovates and repairs vaults, safes, appliances, and a number of other products.
If you already have a compressor, hose, and filter (to remove small water or oil particles that can get into your paint from the compressor), there's a lot to be said for the basic HVLP Campbell Hausfeld Pressure-Feed Spray Gun. This tool definitely takes a no-frills approach to getting the job done, but it's a well-established, proven design. Although a professional would likely use a more advanced version, the Campbell Hausfeld shares the same underlying technology as the type of gun used to paint automobiles.
Like the Campbell Hausfeld, the Neiko Professional HVLP spray gun requires a compressor, hose, and filter (not included). Whereas the Campbell is a suction feed gun (a tube sucks the paint out of the can below), the Neiko is a gravity feed gun. (A gravity feed sprayer typically requires less pressure to create the same material flow.) The Neiko is easier to clean than the Campbell Hausfeld because the paint travels a shorter distance.
At first glance, you might wonder what type of gun the HomeRight Finish Max Fine Finish Sprayer is. After all, it appears to have both suction and gravity cups. In fact, it's an HVLP suction gun; the top “cup” is a chamber for the internal pump. Everything is self-contained, so all you need to do is plug it in. (However, given the HomeRight's short cord, you might want to keep an extension cable handy.) There's a lot of plastic in the construction, which is intended to keep the weight down, yet the gun still weighs three pounds. Several owners have complained that the plastic HomeRight is not as durable as they hoped it would be.
Wagner supplies all necessary components in their Control Spray Max HVLP kit. You get a matched set of small compressors (with built-in filters), 20 feet of hose, and a suction gun with two cups. While it works perfectly well as a kit, buyers shouldn't count on using the Wagner sprayer's compressor and hose for other jobs. The compressor itself only produces a maximum of under three psi, and the hose is a thin, lightweight tube that won't accept standard compressor fittings (and wouldn't be strong enough, anyway). That's not to say it doesn't work perfectly well with this spray gun — but that's all it's for.
In complete contrast to the Wagner, the Graco Magnum's ½-horsepower pump can produce up to 3,000 psi. And, as you might guess, the 25 feet of included hose is suitably reinforced! The Graco uses airless technology, so neither a suction cup nor a gravity cup are needed. Instead, paint is pumped straight from a one or five-gallon paint container to the metal gun at a rate of up to 0.27 gallons per minute. Though it's clear from the power output that this is quite a serious motor, the Graco is still relatively portable.
The Campbell Hausfeld spray gun is an entry-level model for people who already have a pretty good idea of what they're doing. It's a basic spray gun with a fixed, 1.2-mm tip. The manufacturer tells us it has a “ball-burnished finish” that's easy to clean. This may be true, but like the rest of the gun, it appears to be simply the least expensive way to do things. Some owners were disappointed that the manufacturer, in an attempt to cut costs, did not include a wrench or cleaning brush for basic maintenance.
You get a single, 1.7-mm nozzle with the Neiko HVLP paint sprayer. (For the purposes of this review, we'll assume "tip" and "nozzle" mean the same thing.) Despite its low cost, you also get several useful accessories. First is a spanner that fits all the nuts and connectors on the gun to simplify maintenance. A cleaning brush and air-adjusting valve are also included. (While not strictly necessary, the latter can be a great help in maintaining finish quality.)
The HomeRight Spray Gun is the only model in our ratings that comes with a viscosity cup — a useful device that lets you measure the thickness of the material you want to spray and tells you whether you need to thin it or not for best performance. (It may sound complicated, but it's actually quite easy to use!) You also have the ability to set horizontal, vertical, or round spray patterns from one to six inches across. Much of this spray gun is plastic, but the nozzle itself is brass, a material that promotes longer product life and painting accuracy.
In saying that the Wagner HVLP paint sprayer is a complete painting kit, we've already covered most of the extras: compressor, hose, and filters. The compressor has an easy-to-use wheel for pressure adjustment, though the range, at 1.50 - 2.63 psi, isn't great. As with the HomeRight, you have three pattern shapes to choose from and a similar method of fluid flow control (adjusted from the trigger). The Wagner includes two cups as well (1 and 1.5 quarts).
The Graco Magnum spray gun comes with a 0.015-inch tip, though others are available for separate purchase. That might seem very small when compared to the 1.7mm of the Neiko (.015 inch is about .38 of a mm), but the size has more to do with the way an airless sprayer works than any lack of ability to transfer material. There's a filter built into the gun handle, a “power flush” adapter for faster cleaning, and a function that helps reduce inconsistencies in paint flow called “auto-prime.” To prevent rust or potential damage when being stored, buyers get eight ounces of Pump Armor storage fluid. An explanatory DVD, quick start guide, and helpful sizing chart are also included.
The Campbell Hausfeld Paint Sprayer is not the best gun for beginners. It will handle a tremendous variety of materials (some may need to be thinned), and it is capable of producing a decent finish. However, any pressure changes have to be made at the compressor, which can lead to inconsistent fluid flow and runs or blemishes in your surface's final appearance. Also, because you can't change pattern shape, there's the temptation to turn the gun on its side — but this can also interrupt paint delivery. It's likely you'll get quite a lot of over-spray, so plenty of masking is advised if you're painting window frames or other items of that sort. To be fair, over-spray is something that most spray guns are prone to. No matter which spray gun you use, precautions should always be taken.
Much of what we've said about the Campbell Hausfeld also applies to the Neiko HVLP Air Spray Gun. Two of the biggest differences between the products are nozzle size and gravity cup layout. The size of the Neiko nozzle impacts the type of material you spray, (though you may be able to find alternatives), and it's definitely too big to be used on a vehicle. With the weight of the paint in a cup above your hand, the balance changes. Most people adapt to this rather quickly, but it is definitely different from the traditional "suction cup under the gun" layout. Professionals use this type of gun, but professionals would also be likely to choose a more precise version of this instrument that costs hundreds more. Owners report fairly good results with the Neiko when they use household paint (everything from water-based exterior stain to latex), but the latex may need to be thinned.
Advertising photos often tell you a lot about how a product is best used. In the HomeRight Sprayer's photos, you'll frequently see it being used on things like cabinet doors, chairs, and garden railings. That's not to say it can't be used to paint walls or fences, but given its relatively low pressure — and subsequently slow transfer rate — it's at its best with smaller items. In terms of materials, it is capable of handling everything from lacquers to liquid waxes to chalk paint. However, owners tell us it often takes more than one coat to get the job done.
As an all-in-one solution, it's no surprise that the Wagner HVLP Sprayer is very popular. Happily, most people seem to be as delighted with its performance as they are with its convenience. Owners recommend carrying out a patch test first — a decent-sized chunk of old cardboard will usually suffice — but the majority say it's easy to adjust the Wagner to the setting you need. Because of its consistency, interior latex paint is notoriously difficult to work with. Nevertheless, it's very popular because of its color retention and durability. Users of the Wagner are, in general, very pleased with the way it copes with latex (and other materials as well). It's true that the Wagner doesn't deliver a lot of pressure, and there can often be an element of trial and error when it comes to thinning latex, but professional painters always expect to adapt their technique to the material being used. Home users users should take a similar approach to get the best from their Wagner HVLP Sprayer.
The Graco Magnum Paint Sprayer may not be the kind of tool a full-time contractor would use, but it certainly does blur the boundaries between “home use” and “professional use.” The majority of owners are highly pleased with their purchase. The Graco will spray any interior or exterior household material (with appropriate thinning as necessary), and it can cover large areas very quickly. One or two people complained about paint splattering and poor material delivery. Given the high quality of this product, ti's much more likely that incorrect paint preparation was the culprit it most of these cases. Set-up and use are fairly straightforward processes, but owners tell us that reading the manual and watching the DVD is time well spent.
At first glance, a price of just $26 would seem to make the Campbell Hausfeld Spray Gun a tremendous bargain. It's definitely a proven design that professional painters love; the technology behind it (and the Neiko as well) has been around for over 100 years. Nevertheless, this is a very basic spray gun with none of the adjustability or precision of its professional "cousins." If you don't already own a hose and compressor, you're looking at $100 or more before you're ready to paint. Owner feedback is mixed; whether you're new to this kind of equipment will likely have an impact on your opinion of this product. Experienced users say it's a decent, cheap spray gun, but some others didn't like it at all.
Costing just $36, the Neiko Professional HVLP spray gun is a direct competitor of the Campbell Hausfeld. As with that model, you'll need to buy a compressor if you don't already have one. The Neiko's function is much the same as the Campbell Hausfeld (though it comes slightly better equipped), so for most potential buyers, the only real question is whether you prefer to have the weight of the paint above or below your hand. Automotive painters generally prefer the Neiko style, but having said that, the tip on the Neiko is way too big to spray automotive paint. What it will do surprisingly well is handle deck stains, polyurethanes, latex, and so on.
The HomeRight Finish Max fine finish sprayer costs $61. For some consumers, it is the perfect choice. Unlike other guns on our shortlist, it's a small, self-contained unit — you just plug it in and go. On the other hand, it does have relatively low fluid delivery; some owners have noted that spraying large surfaces gets tiring. The variety of materials it can handle is fine, and it has sufficient adjustability for most household tasks. However, several people have complained about poor transfer rates and the need for multiple coats. Having said that, plenty of people think it does a great job, and with a bit of practice, the HomeRight renders an excellent finish.
You'll pay around $104 for the Wagner Control Spray Max HVLP sprayer, and if you look at what it would cost to buy either the Campbell Hausfeld or the Neiko (plus a compressor, etc.), that's a very competitive price. Many owners find this all-in-one solution to be a lot more convenient than buying a compressor, hose, and connectors separately. Several people complained about slow material transfer, but comparing the Wagner sprayer to professional outfits is unfair, and coaxing paint into its ideal viscosity can be quite tricky.
If you have large areas to paint, nothing compares to the $281 Graco Magnum Airless Paint Sprayer. How you view this higher price will depend on your needs. A professional would expect to pay that much for a spray gun alone; Graco's product is a complete, top-quality DIY paint spraying kit from a manufacturer recognized for its expertise in this area. Airless spray guns like the Graco are known for their material handling capabilities. If there's a down side, it is that you could inadvertently burn through a lot of paint very quickly. Because the high-pressure Graco can give off quite a bit of over-spray, masking is an important step in paint prep. Of course, this high pressure also means that big jobs don't take very long!
Each of our finalists suits a particular need, but when all of our ratings are considered together, the Best of the Best title goes to the Graco Magnum. The Graco requires a bigger investment than any of the other paint sprayers on our shortlist, but that's often the case with quality equipment. This terrific machine will repay its cost many times over.
The Graco, unlike some other products on the market, is a complete spray gun kit. Not only is this convenient, it's also reassuring that all of the pieces were designed to work together for peak performance. The Graco provides a powerful, ½-horsepower airless pump that delivers up to 3,000 psi of pressure. And yet, it plugs into an ordinary household outlet! Paint is fed from a one or five-gallon container through 25 feet of reinforced hose to a light, ergonomic spray gun. The pump is sturdy yet manageable, and the ample hose length means you won't struggle to reach any spot you wish to paint — even a high ceiling.
The sprayer copes successfully with all household and exterior finishes; often, these materials don't need to be thinned because of the significant pressure generated by the Graco. A useful instruction manual and DVD are also included with purchase. According to owners, these materials are worth studying.
The Graco Magnum is designed to cover large areas quickly. If you're painting near windows or in door frames, care must be taken to mask your items properly, as there can be quite a lot of over-spray. Most owners do admit that the Graco takes a while to get used to. It's not difficult to use, but because it's highly adjustable, spraying a test piece is recommended. That way, any challenges with viscosity can be sorted out prior to painting your fence, wall, garage door, etc.
The only complaint we encountered of any note was that even with the power flush, it is quite a job to clean the Graco after use. However, that's true of all good spray guns, and the time you save painting should more than compensate! Owner feedback is largely positive regarding this powerhouse painting tool, which is why we declare it to be the Best of the Best.
Although a strong argument could be made for any of our paint sprayer finalists, our Best Bang for Your Buck paint sprayer is the Wagner 0518080 Control Spray Max HVLP.
If you already have a compressor — and a little experience — the Campbell Hausfeld and Neiko are remarkably cheap spray guns that get the job done perfectly well. If you've got small areas to paint, the HomeRight Finish Max will do a good job for very little money. But most of us want the speed and convenience that the Wagner provides. And this all-in-one kit, priced at only $104, is a tremendous deal.
It's flexible and easy to use. It includes a compressor, hose, and spray gun, as well as two cups, two filters, variable pressure, and an adjustable spray pattern. Note: the included compressor is not an item you could use with other tools. Rather, it's a dedicated Wagner paint sprayer that is quite small and exudes very low pressure. Potential buyers should not plan to use their Wagner compressor for other purposes!
What most people want from a home paint sprayer is versatility. You want to be able to stain the deck, protect the fence, and paint the walls. You want the freedom to choose between water and oil-based paint. The Wagner provides all of this, provided you take the time to thin your paint as necessary and learn how to get the best performance from your spray gun. This is not a professional device; a pressure rating of 1.50–2.63 psi is quite low, even for an HVLP paint sprayer. Owners often remark that they need to apply more than one coat.
The Wagner can't compete with a spray gun like the Graco in terms of material delivery, but at just $104, it costs a lot less than the Graco. Our research turned up a few complaints here and there, but the vast majority of owners say the Wagner Control Spray Max HVLP produces a good finish and provides an excellent value.