If you’re a paint spraying virgin, figuring out how to use an HVLP spray gun will be extremely high on your agenda.

However, while these machines are the most DIYer-friendly of the paint spraying formats — with a bit of extra guidance, you can achieve results like the pros. Hence, why I’ve put together this handy HVLP paint sprayer how to use blog.

There are few key points to address before you get started — including:

    • How to set up an HVLP spray gun.
    • How to adjust an HVLP spray gun.
    • HVLP spray techniques.

So, enough chat, let’s get down to business.

How To Use an HVLP Spray Gun

What Is an HVLP Spray Gun?

HVLP spray guns expel finely atomized coatings at a high-volume yet low-pressure. This technology results in a reduction in overspray — making them an ideal solution for home improvers planning to complete indoor projects (where minimum mess is crucial) and also for adding intricate finishing touches. That said, these machines can also be used on exterior projects.

And, when compared to an airless spray gun, HVLP units are far more efficient in terms of transfer efficiency. In that, using the former, as little as only 25 percent of your paint will end up on your actual project. If you want to know more about the differences between the two formats, check out my Airless Sprayer vs HVLP comparison.

There are two types of HVLP paint sprayers — turbine-driven and compressor-powered (also referred to as pneumatic). The former provides a compact all-in-one device that’s easy to transport, while the latter tends to carry a lower price point but does require an external compressor. Admittedly, if you own plenty of air-powered tools, this may not be an issue for you. Although, if you need to buy one especially, it can ramp up the cost of your project.
However, as HVLP machines operate at a low PSI, smaller units such as the DeWalt 6 gallon air compressor should be more than adequate for the job.

But owning all the gear with no idea on how to use an HVLP paint sprayer will not get you very far — so let’s move swiftly on.

How To Properly Adjust a HVLP Spray Gun

What You Need To Follow This Tutorial

For the best preparation possible, make sure you have everything to hand before you start.

    • Paint sprayer and manual.
    • Compressor (if required).
    • Fluid nozzle.
    • Chosen coating.
    • Scrap cardboard or paper.
    • Personal protective gear (including goggles, face mask or respirator, gloves, and coveralls).

How To Set Up an Hvlp Spray Gun — Step by Step Instructions

When learning how to set up an HVLP spray gun, it very much depends on whether you’re using a pneumatic or turbine-powered unit. But as the fundamentals are the same, I will keep it to two simple sections — preparation and how to properly adjust an HVLP spray gun.

Step 1 — Prepare Your Sprayer

1. As with any DIY task, preparation is key. The first step is to read your owner’s manual for any specifics. From this, you can determine the exact air requirements for your device and have the correct sized compressor at hand (in the case of a pneumatic spray gun).

For a turbine sprayer, there should be a quick setup guide on how to use the HVLP sprayer to check the best operating pressure for your unit. You can adjust this via the pressure control dial on the spray gun.

2. Selecting the appropriate nozzle size is all part of the how to use an HVLP paint gun process — it’s not a case of one size fits all.

For example, if you’re planning on using a dense coating on an expansive surface area, you’ll need a larger-sized tip — nozzle size is responsible for the atomization and width of your fan pattern. This is where a sprayer such as the Wagner FLEXiO 5000 could be a great investment — it includes two different spray nozzles, which gives you extreme flexibility.

Conversely, if you’re spraying a less viscous medium (such as stain) on a detailed task, then a narrower diameter orifice will be better suited for use with an HVLP spray gun.

Hence, ensure your nozzle is compatible with your chosen material. For more information, check out my How To Find the Right Paint Sprayer Nozzles article.

Tips for easy paint clean up

How To Adjust an Hvlp Spray Gun — Step by Step Instructions

When you initially set up your sprayer, you’re unlikely to achieve the perfect settings. Hence, it’s odds-on you’ll need to make a few adjustments — even if you know how to use an HVLP spray gun.

Step 2 – Test Spray and Adjustment

1. Before you start working on your actual project, it’s a great idea to complete a quick test run. This allows you to check how your current settings lay down the coating. The best way to do this is on a piece of scrap cardboard or paper.
2. Set the volume and material dials following the instructions in the user manual — this will give you a rough baseline of where to start.
3. Keep the nozzle around six inches away from the surface of your test paper and gently pull the sprayer trigger for a split second, then release — to deliver a quick burst of coating. This action should result in an elongated pattern (similar to the shape of a cigar).
4. Adjust the pattern control dial until the length of the pattern is six inches when the nozzle is at a distance of six inches from the surface. Once this is achieved, don’t twist that dial anymore.
5. Now, move the spray gun away to a distance of around nine inches from the surface and spray another short burst of coating. This time, the length of the pattern should be between nice to ten inches long. The pattern should provide total coverage in the center, which gradually fades away toward the edge.

If you notice coating pooling in the center of the pattern, you’re holding your sprayer either too close or in one position for too long. If you feel that there is too much coating being delivered, dial down the material control setting slightly.

In case that doesn’t make a difference, and you’re using a pneumatic spray gun with an air regulator, slightly reduce the pressure output on the regulator.

6. Once you have fine-tuned these settings and you’ve completed the test, you shouldn’t need to make too many further adjustments while operating.
Spray painter on low power setting

HVLP Spraying Techniques

Now you have all the settings adjusted to your chosen coating, let’s take this opportunity to give you some handy hints and tips. Whether you plan to use a turbine or compressor-powered device, the spraying techniques are the same.

1. Elevate Your Project

When spraying a small to midsize item, try to elevate it to a comfortable height — so that your HVLP spray gun setup permits a proper posture when working. This will increase your productivity significantly as you won’t need to take breaks due to an achy back or neck.

If you have a workbench, cover the surface with a drop cloth and position your object on top. If you don’t have a workbench to hand, you can place it on top of some wooden blocks or bricks.

2. Straighten Your Spraying Arm

When using an HVLP spray gun — keep your arm straight. By doing so, you’ll maintain a consistent distance between the nozzle and the base medium. This will lead to even coverage of your coating.

A lightweight unit, such as the HomeRight Super Finish Max that weighs around the 3-pound mark (with an empty container) will significantly reduce tired arms. Alternatively, a pneumatic compressor-fed gun like the Iwata 4920 mini spray gun keeps the bulk of the unit on the floor — which is a huge step in busting fatigue.

3. Aim for Thin Coats

The key to a professional-looking finish is to use thin coats. Applying thicker layers will cause paint drips and all kinds of undesirable issues.

Build the even layers by laying one pass of thin coating, then overlap it with another pass by at least 50 percent. Continue this process until you’ve completely covered your entire surface. If subsequent coats are required, repeat the process.

4. Go With The Grain

When staining or painting a wood-based project, use the HVLP paint sprayer so that it follows the same direction as the wood grain. If you work with your base medium and not against it, you’ll achieve a far superior finish.

5. Spray Beyond Your Project

Although it’s not always possible, for instance, when painting a wall or ceiling, ensure you start spraying just before your target surface and just after it finishes. This will prevent any stop-and-start markings or paint pools. Additionally, try to work in one fluid pass across the length of the project for the same reason.

6. Use The Correct Orientation

When spraying right-to-left or left-to-right (laterally), for the best coverage, opt for a vertical fan pattern. In contrast, select a horizontal spray pattern for up-and-down strokes.

7. Be Aware of Environmental Conditions

More applicable when working outdoors but try to choose a non-breezy day. This will maximize the transfer efficiency as well as reduce mess and clean-up time. When operating indoors, ensure that the room is well ventilated to avoid inhaling coating fumes.

8. Personal Protection

Sometimes overlooked by weekend warriors, always wear appropriate protective gear. This can be in the form of a face mask or respirator, eye goggles, gloves, and coveralls. Not only will this save your day-to-day clothes from damage, but it will also prevent the coating from coming into contact with your skin — which could cause an allergic reaction.
How to find the right paint sprayer nozzle


As we sadly come to the end, I hope you now understand all the key aspects that go into using your new power painter. We’ve covered everything, from how to set up an HVLP spray gun concerning adjustments to material, volume, and pressure outputs — as well as suitable nozzle sizes.

What’s more, when using your device, keep my eight helpful hints at the back of your mind — they will ensure you end up with flawless results.

And, if you found this How To Use an HVLP Spray Gun blog enlightening, feel free to share it with your fellow DIY buddies.

How To Use an HVLP Spray Gun FAQs

Q: How Do You Set Up an HVLP Spray Gun?

If you’re unsure where to begin, check out my helpful guide above.

Q: Do You Have To Thin Paint for an HVLP Sprayer?

This depends on the individual paint sprayer’s output capabilities and how thick the medium is you intend to apply. Some HVLP machines such as the Central Pneumatic Gravity-fed sprayer don’t shy away when working with denser coatings.

Q: Should an HVLP Gun Be Cleaned Between Coats?

If you need to allow the paint to dry overnight (or for a considerable length of time) before applying the next coat, you should clean the unit.

Q: How Do I Get a Smooth Finish With an HVLP Sprayer?

Make sure that your settings are appropriate for your base medium and paint combination — plus, follow my eight helpful hints above for blemish-free finishes.

Q: Can I Leave Paint in My HVLP Sprayer Overnight?

You shouldn’t leave a coating in the sprayer any longer than is necessary — and certainly not overnight. This could cause irreparable damage to the unit.

Q: Can You Clean a Paint Gun With Acetone?

As a general rule, water-based coatings need to be cleaned with water and oil-based mediums with thinner or mineral spirits. Acetone can be used if you have a particularly stubborn paint. For more handy hints, take a look at my How To Clean a Paint Sprayer guide.