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

Wondering how an airless paint sprayer works?

Well, luckily for you we created this guide to answer that question! In this ProPaintCorner.com 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?

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 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.

Did you know: Airless spraying not only cuts down on time (sometimes more than 50%-75%!) but it also creates a much cleaner finish than other traditional methods.

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

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Process Takes About 30 Seconds

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?

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds


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.

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

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 works and 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 for professional 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 a Graco Magnum product or 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!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Matthew Cain

Matthew Cain

Painting has always been more than just a hobby in my life. Since I first started small painting jobs on the side in high school and early college, I loved the chance to test out new tools and refine my painting skills. In fact, it became much more than a hobby - I used it to pay my way through college and then some while I was looking for jobs after I graduated. I may not be the most seasoned professional on the block, but painting is in my blood - and on most of my shirts. I earned my Master Painter Certification right after college, and I believe the lessons I learned can be useful to others. Hopefully I can help you learn how to not accidentally stain the side of a house while painting a pergola or avoid ruining your brand new table with some off color paint as I teach you how to navigate the world of painting with ProPaintCorner.

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Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Matthew Cain

Matthew Cain

Painting has always been more than just a hobby in my life. Since I first started small painting jobs on the side in high school and early college, I loved the chance to test out new tools and refine my painting skills. In fact, it became much more than a hobby - I used it to pay my way through college and then some while I was looking for jobs after I graduated. I may not be the most seasoned professional on the block, but painting is in my blood - and on most of my shirts. I earned my Master Painter Certification right after college, and I believe the lessons I learned can be useful to others. Hopefully I can help you learn how to not accidentally stain the side of a house while painting a pergola or avoid ruining your brand new table with some off color paint as I teach you how to navigate the world of painting with ProPaintCorner.

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