Using a Paint Sprayer Step-by-Step

A paint sprayer being used on house siding.

A paint sprayer is a great way to cover an interior or exterior wall in paint in half the time as traditional methods. But while painting with a spray gun is faster than using a roller or brush, there are certain techniques you should learn to get the best finish possible. Here are five steps on how to use a paint sprayer for the perfect coat.

Step 1 - Prepare the Paint

Preparing paint for a sprayer is a lot different than preparing it for traditional methods of painting. First, you need to stir the paint until it's well mixed, just like you would if using a brush or roller. But you also need to filter the paint through a strainer to remove any chunks because these chunks can get into the tip of the sprayer and block it up. Clogs are one of the biggest issues when it comes to spray painting and most of them can be avoided by simply straining the paint ahead of time.

Step 2 - Do a Test Run

A paint sprayer test run on a piece of wood.

It's a good idea to test your equipment before you start painting the house. Grab a piece of scrap wood and spray out a few lines to test your technique. This will help you refine your skill and give you an idea of how your particular gun distributes paint. Each gun is different and you may need to adjust distances accordingly. Most sprayers come equipped with adjustable tips so that you can change the pattern of the spray. The recommended width for paint sprayers is anywhere between eight to 12 inches in width.

Step 3 - Maintain Proper Technique

Using the proper spray techniques will prevent uneven layers and paint runs. Begin by placing the gun a foot away from the wall and move the sprayer before you begin painting. Keep your hand straight and try to maintain the same distance at all times, keeping the same pace as you would with a brush or roller. Keeping the sprayer parallel to the wall will result in a nice, even coat of paint. If you hold the sprayer too close, you risk applying too much paint, while tilting the gun at the end of a run will distribute the paint unevenly. This often manifests itself with a "bow tie" look, where the center paint is heavier than the outer coat. Slightly overlap each line to get the best coverage and work in sections as you go along.

Step 4 - Start Painting in the Corners

Someone using a paint sprayer to paint the corner of a door frame.

Start painting walls in the corners, leaving the wider areas for later. Begin spraying vertically in the corners and use a faster pace than normal to avoid thicker layers on the edge. After a round of spraying, step back and examine your work. Fix any missed portions of the wall or places where the paint is too light. As a general rule of thumb, it's always easier to darken light spots than it is to fix heavier ones. After you've finished the corners and protrusions, work your way to the middle of the wall and complete the job.

Step 5 - Prevent Clogging

Sprayers usually come equipped with a guard that protects you from paint splatter. The guard should be cleaned occasionally with a damp rag. You should also use a rag to clean the tip of the sprayer every 10 minutes or so. Paint can easily build up on the tip of the sprayer and affect the overall pattern of the spray. Maintaining the sprayer while you paint should help prevent clogging and save you some time in the long run.

Consider a Back-Rolling Sprayer

There are certain paint sprayers that are used for back-rolling or back-brushing. These types of sprayers are basically used to get paint on the wall faster than a brush. A roller is then used to smooth things out and improve the look of the coat. This method is particularly useful when staining wood and is recommended when using sealers or primers.