How to use a paint sprayer

How to use a paint sprayer

Tess, painting & decorating consultant, Brighton

Guide written by:

Tess, painting & decorating consultant, Brighton

17 guides

Paint sprayers should be used in regular motions and held around 20 to 30 cm away from your surface. It's important to ensure your paint is the right viscosity and to prepare both your surface and the paint sprayer before application. Follow our guide to find out how to use a paint sprayer.

Important features

  • Protect any surrounding surfaces
  • Prepare the paint sprayer and paint
  • Apply the paint using the sprayer
  • Clean the sprayer, nozzle and container
  • Remove protective sheets and clean
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The advantages of using a paint sprayer

Want to paint your ceiling, freshen up a wall or give your outdoor woodwork a makeover? Using a paint sprayer is a great way to save time and avoid roller marks and patchy paintwork. Paint sprayers are designed to apply paint or varnish and are becoming an increasingly popular addition to paint kits alongside brushes and rollers.

Paint sprayers offer a number of advantages: quick results, a cleaner and more uniform finish and fast drying. What's more, paint sprayers can be used on any surface from bedroom walls and ceilings to shutters and fences. They are also great for large areas or surfaces that are tricky to paint.


  1. Protect any surrounding surfaces
  2. Prepare the paint sprayer and paint
  3. Apply the paint using the sprayer
  4. Clean the sprayer, nozzle and container

Required skills

Paint sprayers are becoming easier and easier to use. Start by reading the instruction manual carefully, attaching the right nozzle for your paint type and performing a test run on a surface you don't mind messing up to get used to holding the tool (cardboard will be fine). Then you'll be ready to go!

Time required

Set aside a full day to paint a room measuring approx. 15 m²

Number of people required

1 person

Tools and equipment

  • Paint sprayer
  • Paint
  • Painting sheets;
  • Masking tape
  • Cloth

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Please note: this is a non-exhaustive list; be sure to match your personal protective equipment to the job at hand.

1. Protect any surrounding surfaces

  • Take care to cover up any surface that you don't want to paint with painting sheets.
  • Use masking tape to cover up small areas like plug sockets or light switches. If possible, move all the furniture out of the room. Otherwise, cover everything up carefully as sprayed paint can settle on any unprotected surface.
  • Make sure that the surface you want to paint is clean, dry and dust-free.

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Masking tape

2. Prepare the paint sprayer and paint

Preparing the paint sprayer

  • Make sure that your paint sprayer is working correctly. If it is new, follow the instructions provided to attach the correct nozzle to the paint sprayer. Remember: the thicker the paint, the bigger the nozzle.
  • If your paint sprayer has already been used, check that it is clean and free of blockages. If you do have a blockage, use a synthetic or cellulose paint thinner to dilute the dried up paint.

Preparing the paint

First of all, you'll need to check the viscosity of your paint using a viscosity cup. This measuring tool should generally be supplied with the paint sprayer. It is used to determine the viscosity of the paint by measuring the time it takes for a certain volume of paint to pass through the nozzle.

Refer to the table provided to find out if your paint is thin enough. If your paint is too thick, you'll need to thin it out – but never more than 5 to 10%. Start the test again to find out whether your paint has reached the required viscosity. If you've added too much thinner, mix in some more undiluted paint to thicken up the paint mixture.

Once you've got the right level of viscosity, pour the paint into the paint sprayer container and screw it onto the base. You can then check the pressure of the paint sprayer and nozzle by performing another test run on your scrap cardboard. Adjust the nozzle as required.

3. Apply the paint using the sprayer

  • If you have a gravity feed paint sprayer, you must always keep the sprayer perpendicular to the wall and 20 to 30 cm away from your surface.
  • Stand facing the surface and be sure never to spray for too long on one spot to avoid drips.
  • Work slowly and steadily, making sure to keep the sprayer perfectly vertical to the surface. Always work from high to low.
  • Work your way across the wall, overlapping each section as you go
  • until you've finished your first coat.
  • Leave the paint to dry.
  • For the second coat, paint in the opposite direction in horizontal motions.
  • If you're working with a large surface, paint in sections measuring about 1 m².

4. Clean up your paint sprayer and workspace

Clean the sprayer, nozzle and container

Cleaning your paint sprayer is an important step not to be overlooked if you want to use your tool again in the future.

  • Clean the paint container and nozzle with water or white spirit, depending on the type of paint used. To do so, fill the paint container with water or white spirit and spray onto a cardboard surface.
  • Repeat the process if the nozzle and paint container are still marked with paint.
  • Next, clean the nozzle using a small brush or paint brush.
  • Finish by cleaning the paint sprayer body (outer casing).

Cleaning up

  • Remove the masking tape. Ideally, you should do this before the paint has dried.
  • Wait for the paint to dry before tidying away any protective sheets as they may contain dust which will lift up and stick to the wet paint.
  • Gather all your rubbish into bin bags or store anything that can be reused.
  • Throw your bin bags away.

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Bin liners
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Guide written by:

Tess, painting & decorating consultant, Brighton, 17 guides

Tess, painting & decorating consultant, Brighton

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