Airless vs Air Paint Sprayer | What’s the Difference Between Them?

Airless vs Air Paint Sprayer

You need to use a paint sprayer when you are painting large objects like cars, houses, ships, etc. The reason why most workers use these paint sprayers is that they can quickly cover a large surface area with paint which saves you a lot of time. These paint sprayers are much faster than using traditional paint brushes and rollers.

There are two types of paint sprayers that you can get in the market: air paint sprayers and airless paint sprayers. Both of them serve the same purpose but there are many key differences between the two. In this article, we will be discussing what air and airless paint sprayers are, what are its differences, their pros & cons are, and which one you should get.

What Is An Air Paint Sprayer?

An air paint sprayer, more commonly known as an HVLP sprayer (high volume – low pressure) among professionals, uses an air compressor or an onboard turbine to atomize the paint and spray it through the nozzle. The high volume of air turns the paint into an aerosol and the low pressure causes it to be released uniformly while reducing overspray, air pollution, and material consumption. 

What Is An Airless Paint Sprayer?

An airless paint sprayer uses high-pressure fluid instead of compressed air to atomize the paint. These sprayers are great for mid to highly-viscous paint and are popular for their speed and transfer efficiency. An airless sprayer works by forcing paint through a hose and out a small hole in the spray gun tip at a high pressure of up to 3,000 psi. The tip’s purpose is to uniformly disperse the paint into a fan-shaped spray pattern of small droplets.

What Are The Main Differences Between An Airless Vs Air Paint Sprayer?

Although air and airless paint sprayers ultimately do the same thing, there are quite a few key differences between the two of them. 


Oil-based paints work best with air sprayers, although lacquer and acrylic coatings can also be used. You will need to thin them out in most cases as this sort of sprayer can’t take the greater pressure. Air sprayers are great for home jobs and automobile work, but they are lacking when it comes to bigger projects.

When it comes to painting big and medium interior and exterior projects, airless sprayers are perfect. There are various models designed specifically for professional contractors and DIY enthusiasts. Airless sprayers apply paint in a uniform manner, which is ideal for uneven walls and ceilings. When comparing airless and air sprayers, you’ll notice that an airless unit sprays thick latex paints and primers more effectively. These mediums can also be sprayed without thinning. Some units can also handle block fillers, which are one of the thickest coatings available.


When it comes to performance, airless paint sprayers are the best because they can produce a thick layer of paint and can cover a large surface area very quickly. However, air paint sprayers allow the user to have a lot more control over the air pressure, which means they are a lot more flexible to use than airless sprayers. In addition, the hot compressed air from air paint sprayers allows the paint to dry much more quickly. Lastly, air paint sprayers are much quieter than airless sprayers. 

Transfer Rate

Air paint sprayers have a transfer rate of approximately 90% of the materials. Whereas airless paint sprayers have a transfer rate of about 50% only. Thus, when it comes to the transfer rate, air sprayers are the better choice. 

Operating Pressure

Airless sprayers push the paint out of their nozzle using very high pressure. These sprayers are designed with speed in mind. However, fast speed also means a lot of instability when it comes to painting. On the other hand, air sprayers only produce pressure equivalent to the compressor it is equipped with. So, you can adjust the pressure of the paint as per your requirement. 

Paint Finish

Since airless sprayers operate at a higher pressure, there is no chance for air to mix with your paint and form an uneven coating or air bubbles. However, some practice is recommended so that you can get the proper feel of things. As for air sprayers, they don’t produce the best coat of paint as the paint is sprayed with air mixed into it. So, the chances of you getting air bubbles increase quite a bit when using air paint sprayers. 


The portability of paint sprayers varies from product to product. But if you want to know which type of sprayer is more portable, then we will have to give it to the airless paint sprayers. That is because air paint sprayers require an air compressor to operate whereas airless sprayers don’t. This makes airless sprayers comparatively more portable. 

Price Range

Air paint sprayers are cheaper than airless paint sprayers. You can get air sprayers for between $20 to $100. Whereas, airless paint sprayers can cost around $200 to $1000 if not more. But do keep in mind, airless paint sprayers produce a better quality of paint which justifies the higher price point. 

Pros And Cons Of Using An Air Paint Sprayer

The pros of using an air paint sprayer are: 

  • They are great for performing delicate paint jobs.
  • Provides excellent control due to low pressure.
  • Has great flexibility.
  • Ideal for beginners.
  • Cheaper than airless sprayers.

The cons of using an air paint sprayer are:

  • An additional compressor or turbine is needed for operation.
  • Slower than airless sprayers.
  • Not ideal for performing large-scale paint jobs. 

Pros And Cons Of Using An Airless Paint Sprayer

The pros of using an airless paint sprayer are: 

  • Can quickly cover a large area with paint.
  • Thicker coatings of paint can be used. 
  • Available in a variety of configurations.
  • No need for an external compressor or turbine.
  • Ideal for contractors and expert DIYers.

The cons of using an airless paint sprayer are: 

  • More expensive than an air paint sprayer.
  • Not ideal for beginners.

Which One Should You Pick?

Air paint sprayers are ideal for beginner DIYers who want to learn about painting. They are also great for contractors who want to give the finishing touch to their projects. Additionally, air sprayers are the only type of paint sprayer that can be used to paint automobiles. 

However, if you are a professional painter and want to paint an entire house or other large objects, then you have to use an airless paint sprayer. They are fast and can cover a large surface with paint very efficiently and without much wastage.

The most ideal solution would be to get both types of paint sprayers. This is not only recommended by us, but by professionals as well. But that would be very expensive, so your best bet is to pick one that will best suit your needs. This article highlights everything you need to know about air and airless paint sprayers so that you can make the best decision for yourself. 

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