History of the Spray Gun

The history of the spray gun is one of smart innovation.

One man named Joseph Binks was employed by Marshall Field’s in Chicago and part of his job was to paint the walls of the basement in the store.

This wasn’t just your average basement – it had multiple floors which needed to be whitewashed.

If Binks sent his crew down there to get the job done with brushes, they wouldn’t finish the job for several weeks.

There had to be a better way.

history of the spray gun
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History of the Spray Gun

Who Invented Paint Sprayers?

In 1887, Binks invented the very first spray gun for paint. It was a pump which had to be operated by hand, but a spray nozzle would disperse the paint thanks to the pressurization container which kept the contents under pressure.  Basically, old school paint sprayers work like the pump sprayers you would use today in your yard.

Binks’ invention used compressed air to atomize the paint, creating a fine mist that was then sprayed onto the surface. The machine had a nozzle that could be adjusted to control the spray pattern, allowing for more precise application of the paint. This new method of painting was a game-changer and allowed for faster and more efficient painting, particularly in industrial settings.

This saved everyone an enormous amount of time and in 1893, after his work for the Colombian Exposition, Binks would become a household name throughout the US Midwest. Over the next few decades, the technology continued to evolve, with new materials and designs being developed to improve the performance and efficiency of the spray gun.

The Invention of the Atomization Process and DeVilbiss

The modern spray gun does more than just put paint under pressure so it can be sprayed outward. It also atomizes the paint so a fairly even coat of paint can be sprayed onto the surface being worked on.

The invention of this process actually started with a doctor who was looking for a better way to treat his patients.

Dr. Allen DeVilbiss was trying to solve the riddle of a sore throat. If he gave patients a liquid medication for their pain, it wouldn’t be very helpful. Pills and tablets weren’t working either.

To create a spray, Dr. DeVilbiss would use some tubing, a container base, and a rubber bulb to help create pressure and a lower overall atmosphere to create a vacuum that would create “droplets” of medicine. These droplets would then stick to the back of the throat.

Like Father like Son : History of the Spray Gun

It would be his son, Thomas, who would take this technology and apply it to a spray gun for paint in 1907.

Thomas discovered that when compressed air was blown across the pickup tube after it was submerged in paint, a spray pattern which users could directly control would result.

In the 1920s, the DeVilbiss company introduced a new type of spray gun that used a two-stage system to atomize the paint. This new design allowed for finer control of the paint flow, which resulted in a smoother and more even finish. This technology was immediately picked up by the furniture industry because using spray guns reduced their finishing time.

What is a Spray Gun Used For?

The paint sprayers available from the 1920s-1960s would go through some unique evolution. Users could swap out paint sprayers to spray different colors with ease.

People discovered they could use food dyes in paint sprayers, so smaller models were made for the kitchen. Fabric makers were using spray guns to apply fire retardants and other protectors.

World War II would also create a unique future industry: automobile paint sprayers. Many soldiers involved in the painting of ships, trucks, and other vehicles would find themselves able to use the same type of equipment to paint vehicles in Detroit.

This would eventually lead to the development of gravity and siphon sprayers, which would then lead to electric models.

Over the years, advancements in materials and technology have continued to improve the performance and efficiency of the spray gun. New materials like plastics and composite materials have made spray guns lighter and more durable, while new technologies like electrostatic spraying have made the process even more efficient.

You can spray almost anything with a spray gun including nail polish, tanning spray, undercoats, stain, fire retardant materials, oil based paints, lacquers, varnishes, latex paint, the list goes on and on. They are an essential tool in the painting and finishing industry and have helped to improve the quality and efficiency of the painting process.

HVLP Paint Sprayer History

Today the HVLP development, which started in the 1980s, has again changed the paint spraying industry. Results are more consistent and less screening is required to create results.

The history of the spray gun has helped many people complete DIY projects with ease. Have you found the right sprayer for your next project?


The spray gun has come a long way since its early beginnings in the late 19th century. What started as a simple machine used to paint the walls of a factory has evolved into a sophisticated tool that is used in a wide range of industries.

Over the years, advancements in materials and technology have continued to improve the performance and efficiency of the spray gun, making it an essential tool for painters and finishers around the world.


Who invented paint sprayers?

Joseph Binks in 1887, it was pumped and pressurized by hand into a spray nozzle.

4 thoughts on “History of the Spray Gun”

  1. Thanks. Great job giving credit to those of the past that are still making things easier for those of us today! You are too!! Gratefully, Karen

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