Airless Vs HVLP Paint Sprayers

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When looking for a paint sprayer, you could be deciding between and Airless vs HVLP paint sprayer. 

Which one is best for your DIY projects?  Why choose an HVLP vs an airless spray gun? 

Let’s find out… 

airless vs hvlp
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Airless Vs HVLP 

If you’re spraying thicker materials and have some technical painting experience an airless paint sprayer would work for you. 

Unfortunately, airless spray guns increase paint waste and paint pollution. 

However, if precision at impact is important, you would choose an airless vs an HVLP paint sprayer. 

For beginners, an HVLP vs an airless paint sprayer would work best.  Modern HVLP spray guns don’t require as much experience. 

HVLP will paint thinner materials easily and with professional results. 

If you are working on smaller projects, or using water based materials, this would be your choice sprayer. 

SpecsAirlessHVLP
Best ForLarge JobsSmall Jobs
Best MaterialThick Paints, OilThin Paints, Stains
Prep
Time
MoreLess
Price
Point
LessMore, w/compressor
Project SpeedQuickSlow
Volume1-2 gallons/min20 oz/min
Transfer Rate40-50%90%
Smooth FinishNoYes
PSIUp to 2000Up to 10
Skill
Level
TechnicalBeginner
CompressorNoYes, unless turbine powered

Airless vs Air Assist Paint Sprayers 

The difference between air and airless paint sprayers is simple.  Airless spray guns do not require you to add/use an air compressor. 

Airless operate at higher PSI, somewhere close to 2000, to deliver the fan pattern. 

Air or air assisted paint sprayers, by definition, require you to use a compressor (or a turbine) to build up enough pressure to spray the paint. They work at less pressure than airless models.  

They also use an aircap to deliver a small amount of air to aid in delivering the fan pattern.  They deliver a finer finish because of the softer delivery. 

What Are the Different Types of Paint Sprayers? 

 There are many types of paint sprayers.  We will focus here on the benefits and drawbacks of Airless vs HVLP. 

When you start thinking about the purchase of a paint sprayer, then it becomes important to purchase one that is equipped to do the job that needs to be completed.  

The types of spray paint you’re planning to use is one of the most important consideration in the purchasing process.  

Second, when choosing between and HVLP vs an airless sprayer, your final choice will depend on the project you are working on. 

PRO TIP

Always wear breathing protection and be careful not to shoot any paint into your skin. 

Choosing a Paint Sprayer: Airless vs HVLP 

When choosing a paint sprayer, and picking between airless vs HVLP, you should take a step back and think about the types of projects you will be working on and your overall project needs. 

HVLP High Volume Low Pressure Paint Sprayers 

High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) Spray Guns use a steady volume of air to allow the paint droplets to stick to surfaces. 

The LP stands for low pressure.  Paint is atomized and sprayed from the gun at low pressure.  This creates less mess and waste. 

HVLP sprayers typically work only for thinner paints because they are low pressure.  You will need to thin thicker materials and even latex paint with most HVLP sprayers. 

Thinning latex paint is super easy even for beginners, just follow our directions on how to thin water based paint for your spray gun.

Unthinned latex will need to be sprayed with a gun that uses higher pressure such as an airless spray gun 

airless vs hvlp

Pros

  • Smooth Finish
  • Less Overspray
  • Less Prep Time
  • Fast Clean up

Cons

  • Slow Pace
  • Only sprays thinned latex
  • Small Jobs Only
  • Need Compressor

HVLP sprayers are a better option when coverage is more important than precision. Imagine that you’re painting the leg of a chair.  You don’t care if paint goes to either side. 

HVLP vs Airless sprayers are better for smaller jobs like painting furniture or a small area. 

 HVLP sprayers also offer these advantages. 

  • Spraying distances of up to 6 inches 

  • Detailed work where overspray around your project is not a concern 

  • Less paint waste and paint pollution (up to 40% savings vs an airless model) 

  • Compatibility with stains and most paint types 

  • Usually faster clean up than airless 

  • Less masking and prep time vs airless 

For spraying with an HVLP vs Airless paint sprayer, you will mostly likely need an air compressor unless you purchase a spray system with a built in turbine. 

Industrial or commercial versions will give you lacquer or varnish options if you’re willing to make the needed investment.

Editor’s Choice: Top 3 HVLP Paint Sprayers

PictureNameOur Rating

Airless vs HVLP
Fuji Mini Mite 44.8

Airless vs HVLP
Fuji Semi Pro 24.8

Airless vs HVLP
Earlex HV55004.4

Whoa.fuji mini mite 4  

The Fuji Mini Mite 4 delivers some level up performance and results. 

The HVLP spray system means it doesn’t require an air compressor to spray paint.  The powerful 4 stage turbine, which is the same as on the Q4 models, allows for less thinning of paints than any other 3 stage model. 

The Mini Mite gets up to approximately 8.5 PSI. 

It comes with the Fuji T-70 Spray Gun that has a pattern control knob to adjust fan size from small to large. 

Comes with a 1.3mm standard air cap set for general purpose fine finishing and a 1 quart cup.  Noise levels on this model are less then the Fuji Semi Pro but similar to other HVLP turbine systems.  

The hose on this model may be a bit large for fine finishing work, but the results make up for it. 

Get top rated results without any mess with this premium HVLP system.

The airless vs hvlpFuji Semi Pro 2 HVLP Spray Paint Machine gives users a comprehensive painting system that they can use almost immediately.

Even though it has a premium price, you’ll get the results that you paid for.

The Fuji Semi Pro 2 is a bit on the noisy side, so hearing protection is a must if you’re using this sprayer indoors.

Your results will be so accurate that you’ll forget about the noise.

Overspray is minimized in seconds as you can create the perfect atomization levels.

This gravity feed version of the Fuji gives you total control over the final results. There is still a bit of a mist that occurs while you’re working with this spray system.. but it’s minimal.

Your cleanup is always quick and painless, especially if you’ve taken the time to mask off before getting to work.

Earlex 5500 best hvlp spray gun
The push and click design for the spray pattern adjustment is our biggest like on the Earlex.  It is a spray station which means you don’t need a compressor because it comes with a turbine and generates its own air.

Simply push the button to receive the adjustments for your project.  Much better than fiddling with knobs and dials.

The delivery from the nozzle is still HVLP.

It gives even contractors the power they’ll need to get some of their jobs completed on time.

Get yourself the specialized Earlex Spray Gun Cleaning Kit to get your unit super clean after use.

This pro spray gun is able to generate up to 42 CFM thanks to its 650w turbine, giving you consistent coverage on your shutters, trim or similar medium-sized projects.

Airless Paint Sprayers 

 

Airless paint sprayers pump out paint at high pressure versus low pressure, like HVLP spray guns. They use high levels of energy to force paint out of the tip.  airless vs hvlp

It emerges from the sprayer in a pattern stream that is based on the tip used and the strength of pressure being commanded from the trigger. 

Once the stream hits the air, it atomizes to create paint droplets that eventually impact the surface being painted to create a clean and consistent look.  Airless paint sprayers give you precision at impact. 

Airless sprayers provide more consistency throughout the entirety of the spray. That gives you more control over the final outcome. 

End results: a more even coat of paint. 

Pros

  • Large Jobs
  • Weighs Less
  • Handles Thick Materials

Cons

  • More Overspray
  • Longer Prep Time
  • Not Really Beginner Friendly

Airless paint guns can conquer interior paint, residential outdoor DIY projects like a fence, your house, a deck, or ceilings. 

They are more of a high volume project sprayer vs an HVLP which is designed more for smaller woodworking projects like shutter or a piece of furniture. 

Unlike an HVLP gun, airless sprayers can handle thicker paints and materials.  Some models will spray unthinned latex, cutting down on your prep time. 

Choosing between airless vs HVLP depends on what the specifics of the job happen to be. 

Airless takes less time to complete your project.  At the same time, you know that you will have fewer touch-ups after you get your painting done. Both options require masking off before spraying the area.

Airless sprayers also feature these advantages. 

  • Spraying distances of up to 12 inches 

  • A reduction in paint thinning 

  • Large-scale uniform paint coverage 

  • Get jobs done faster than HVLP 

  • Weighs less than HVLP models 

PRO TIPS

#1. Always strain and filter your paint before using it for best results.


#2. Thicker paint typically works best with Airless Paint Guns.


#3.  Here are 6 paint sprayer disasters and our tips to fix them!

Editor’s Choice: Top 3 Airless Paint Sprayers

airless vs hvlp

  • Powered by DEWALT XR Lithium Ion System
  • Fully Repairable for Extended Life
  • Uses RAC X FFLP Spray Tips
  • Triax Triple Piston Pump with ProConnect

Get dual benefits of a cordless and an airless sprayer with this Graco paint sprayer.

The pressure controls are the nicest feature of this Graco Cordless Paint Gun. You can adjust your PSI levels to work at the speed you are most comfortable.

Get the perfect finish at any speed and reduce your prpe time.  Most paints don’t need thinning with this model.

It features a triple piston pump and RAC X FFLP spray tips to provide a strong and consistent spraying experience. Two 20V lithium-ion batteries from DeWalt are included with your purchase as well.

This upgrade from the older models is amazing.  The Graco Ultra Cordless Airless Handheld Paint Sprayer provides an incredible experience. We found it to be well worth the investment.

If you’re interested in taking a look at a few more cordless sprayers, we take a look at a few of the best models available in our cordless sprayer reviews.

airless vs hvlp

  • HEA technology that decreases overspray by up to 55%
  • Max operating pressure of 1500 PSISpray up to 300 gallons per year
  • 0.60 horsepower pump that can spray unthinned paints and stains up to 0.33 gallons/minute

Save your paint budget with the Titan 1700.  It reduces overspray by over 55% compared to other similar sprayers. The Titan 1700 model was definitely designed with the professional painter in mind.

The spray is softer as well, which means you have more control over the consistency of the finish.

There’s little downtime with the design of the fluid section, while the pump’s durability is extra-strong compared to the competition.

There may be a few limitations on the Titan because its maximum PSI is 1500, so be aware.

airless vs hvlp

  • Fully adjustable pressure
  • Spray unthinned paint directly from paint can or bucket
  • Easy clean up with PowerFlush adapter
  • Annual Use up to 50 gallons/year

With this Graco airless spray gun, you receive a paint sprayer that is fully adjustable. You stay in control of the flow of the paint as you work to create specific results.

The stainless-steel piston pump is strong enough to let you spray paint that hasn’t been thinned at a high enough pressure for consistent results.

This airless spray gun works best with latex paints and stains that are a thicker viscosity.

This sprayer will take paint directly from the can and get started painting almost right away.

It works with both 1 gallon and 5 gallon cans because its’ paint supply hose is flexible instead of rigid like other models with a similar design.  Get a 20 inch extension rod and save your back when painting ceilings, fencing or your deck.

Put some Graco Pump Armor into your sprayer to protect the pump parts while you’re not using it.  You’ll thank me later.

Weighing only 15 pounds, this unit is super portable and you can take it anywhere to achieve professional results.

Paint Sprayer with the Least Amount of Overspray: Airless vs HVLP 

If you are looking to minimize paint pollution in your workspace, and save yourself some money on your paint budget, look for the paint sprayer that delivers precision paint to your surface with the least amount of overspray.   

When choosing between an airless vs HVLP paint sprayer, you will always find that HVLP delivers results with less overspray than an airless model. 

HVLP

Airless

90% Paint Gets onto Your Surface Only 40-50% Gets onto Your Surface

HVLP or Airless for Lacquer Spraying? lacquer and hvlp

Lacquer is a thinner material.  It doesn’t require a ton of pressure to lay down a coat on a piece of furniture.   

Also, lacquer isn’t the type of material that is used in detailed work.  We recommend using an HVLP spray gun to spray coats of lacquer.  There is minimal overspray, it’s easy to spray for beginners, and easy to clean up.   Typically, a 1.2mm tip is what you need for effective application of lacquer.   

Make sure to do your research and make sure the model you’re looking at delivers a consistent spray.   

Airless and HVLP Paint Sprayers for Automotive Applications 

The modern HVLP paint sprayer does a great job when it comes to laying down car paint in a finish that is smooth and even. 

Eliminate a ton of overspray by using an HVLP design for a car paint sprayer.   

Less overspray means you save time on prepping your vehicle. 

You’ll find that some HVLP automotive spray guns come with multiple gun options. 

HVLP spray gun kits typically come with both detail and standard paint guns so you can get all the steps of your project completed. 

Gravity feed auto paint sprayers tend to work the best.  The way they are designed brings your paint down effectively so it can be sprayed, even if your cup or canister is nearly empty. 

PRO TIP

Each sprayer has its own CFM requirements necessary for proper air consumption.  Make sure to double check the rating on the sprayer you are looking to buy.  


You might be surprised to learn that some require 9-12 CFMs to lay down the paint with a professional finish.  

Airless Vs HVLP Paint Sprayers and Painting Your Car 

There are many paint sprayer options available for painting your car including airless sprayers, siphon feed and other types of sprayers.    

If you’ve got skills at painting vehicles, then airless sprayers get the job done faster than HVLP. 

Airless vs HVLP sprayers require different technical skills to operate.  Those technical skills are what are required to use an airless sprayer to paint your car.  Airless sprayer generate more overspray, so you have to watch it if you’re on a paint budget.  

So an airless spray gun is not the best automotive paint gun for beginners.   

We recommend choosing an HVLP vs an airless paint sprayer if you are just starting out and learning automotive painting techniques. 

Conclusion 

Now that you have all the info about why you should choose airless vs HVLP paint sprayers, you are ready to conquer your next project and get those professional results you’ve been looking for. 

Quick FAQs

Is HVLP better than airless?

For beginners, an HVLP vs an airless paint sprayer would work best.  Modern HVLP spray guns don’t require as much experience. 

HVLP will paint thinner materials easily and with professional results. 

If you are working on smaller projects, or using water based materials, this would be your choice sprayer.

Is an airless paint sprayer better?

If you’re spraying thicker materials and have some technical painting experience an airless paint sprayer would better work for you.

What is the best HVLP paint sprayer?

Fuji Semi Pro 2 HVLP

What is the best airless paint sprayer?

Graco Cordless and the Graco Project Painter Plus


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