Paint Sprayers vs Rollers

You want to finish your painting shop quickly and with the least amount of mess possible. That means you’ve got two options from which to choose: paint sprayers vs rollers. 

Which one is the better choice? What will make the job easier? Are paint sprayers any good?

Here are the key points to consider when choosing between paint sprayers vs rollers. 

spraying vs rolling paint
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Spraying vs Rolling Paint

Paint Sprayers vs Rollers and Prep Work

It can take a lot of time to prepare a room for paint spraying vs rolling. Because the paint is atomized, it can linger in the air while you work.

That means you’ll need to mask the entire room before spraying. You’ll also need to cover the entire floor with a layer of plastic.

Paint rollers require prep work as well, but you can work in sections. Instead of masking the entire room at once, you can work along each wall with a drop cloth.

Protective Equipment

You should always wear a painting mask or respirator, whether you use a spray gun or a paint roller.

If you choose a paint sprayer, then you’re basically forced into the purchase of a respirator. Half-mask options can prevent dust and debris from entering your lungs.

They do not prevent noxious odors from affecting you while you’re working.

With a paint roller, you may be able to get away with a simple dust mask to prevent breathing in some paint. If you’re using oil-based products, however, you’ll need to use a respirator as well.

Paint Sprayers vs Rollers and Consistency

With a paint sprayer, using a good technique will provide you with a thin layer of paint that has a low risk of running or gathering into thick spots.

If you do not have a good technique, however, then you can end up with spots, dots, and runs with your finished product.

Paint rollers place a thicker layer of paint on your wall that you can thin out as you roll it. That offers a higher risk of thicker areas and runs happening.

For that reason, you must always work your way from the top to the bottom when painting to avoid problematic spots.

Does a Paint Sprayer use More Paint than a Roller?

Yes.  Depending on which type of spray gun you have, HVLP, Airless or Gravity Feed, a paint sprayer will use between 20% and 40% more paint. 

If you don’t maintain your sprayer and its tips, that could increase to 50%.

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Large Spaces

Do paint sprayers work?  Yes, especially if you have a large space to paint like an indoor wall, with only the occasional window or fixture in your way.  Is it better to roll or spray a ceiling? For those large areas, a paint sprayer is the best choice.

You can finish your prep work in a few minutes and then paint very quickly.

Paint rollers do well in this type of environment as well. The difference is that you’ll move with greater speed using the sprayer when compared to the roller.

Is it Better to Roll or Spray Exterior Paint?

Large areas, such as the exterior of your home, are completed faster with a paint sprayer.

Texture: Paint Sprayers vs Rollers

Are paint sprayers better than rollers?  If you have an old-fashioned popcorn ceiling that needs to be painted, then you need to use a paint sprayer.

You’ll tear up a paint roller on that stuff, even if the product says it will work for you.  This is where paint sprayers really shine.

Masonry, cornices, dentils, baseboards, and other deep textures also benefit from the use of a paint sprayer.

What are you painting?

If you have some furniture to paint, or a craft project to finish up, you can’t beat the fast painting time, smooth finish and professional look that a paint sprayer will give you.

If you tried to use a paint roller on texture, you’d find that the paint pools between the texture peaks. That creates extensive runs.


Should you use a paint sprayer or a paint roller on your next project? Consider these key points and you’ll be able to make the right decision.

Quick FAQs

Are sprayers better than rollers?

Sprayers leave a smoother more even finish and paint more surfaces faster while leaving less chance for runs and uneven paint. Spray paint also dries faster, meaning you can apply a second coat in no time. Rollers are cheaper and don’t require any technical skills.

Does a paint sprayer use more paint than a roller?

Yes, a paint sprayer can use anywhere for 20 – 50% more paint.