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If you’re a kid, you can paint with anything, and we mean anything. You can use fingers, fruit, squeeze bottles, leaves, your pet (don’t do this) and someone will praise you for your creativity.

But when you’re a DIYer or a pro, you have to use the tools of the trade. And since we’re talking about painting, that means paint sprayers, brushes, and rollers.

Now when it comes to home improvement projects, you may be wondering: what should I use? Rollers or paint sprayers? To help you pick a side on the paint sprayers vs rollers debate, let’s take a look at their respective advantages and disadvantages.

roller dipped in green paint

The Case for Paint Sprayers

You know that we can talk all day about paint sprayers. In fact, rather than hiring a contractor, we encourage people to buy the right kind of sprayer to handle bigger projects.

So does that mean we’ve already declared a clear winner in the paint sprayers vs rollers debate?

Not quite.

You see, while paint sprayers are crazy awesome for finishing cabinets and furniture, as well as walls, ceilings, and trim, we know that there are cases where they’re just not the best choice. 

For one thing, there’s the safety issue. With airless sprayers, for example, you have to be careful not to let any part of your body get too close to the tip. Extremely high pressure may be good for getting the job done in minutes instead of hours but it can also mean a trip to the ER.

If you’re not too experienced handling airless paint sprayers and you find yourself injected under the skin with paint, you must seek immediate medical attention. Even with an injury that doesn’t look too bad, you still want to have it checked as most coating materials contain hazardous toxins.

masked man spray painting garage door white

And then there’s the overspray problem. 

If you don’t know, paint sprayers use up a lot of paint. Compared to brushing or rolling, paint spraying uses twice if not thrice the amount of paint. Some of the extra paint end up in the hose line, while most of it end up as overspray.

There are exceptions to this, though, such as HVLP (high volume low pressure) spray guns, where more air and less pressure equals more paint reaching the surface you’re painting. HVLP spray guns are also friendlier to the environment (high transfer efficiency), affordable, and can give a final clear coat that doesn’t require buffing.

 On the other hand, paint sprayers can’t be beaten when it comes to speed. What takes a roller hours to complete, a paint sprayer can do in minutes. Paint sprayers can also get into those hard to reach areas can give a smooth finish without those unsightly roller marks. 

Paint Spraying Tips

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of paint sprayers, here are some tips so you can perfect your paint spraying technique.  

  • Practice makes perfect. If this is your first time, don’t test on your wall. Practice on a cardboard and when you’ve gotten the hang of it, move on to the surface you need to paint.
  • Check the temperature. If it’s too hot, the paint will dry too fast. If it’s too cold, your gun might clog and since it will take longer for the paint to dry, it might start attracting dirt and insects. 
  • Look for snags. That includes objects that could get in the way of the sprayer’s hose. You also want to clear the area of anything that might cause you to trip.
  • Be protective. Are there areas you don’t want to get paint on? Cover them or mask them off. 
  • Avoid clogs. Stir and strain your paint. Don’t skip this step for a smooth paint spraying experience.
  • Movement is your friend. To get an even coat, keep your gun moving. A static hand equals drip, drip, drip.
  • Gauge the distance. Too close and you apply more paint than necessary. You want to be about 10 to 12 inches from the surface you’re painting.
  • Go light. If you’re heavy-handed, you’ll overload the surface with paint. Light coats dry evenly and won’t peel. 
  • Minimize buildup. Use a rag to wipe the tip guards to avoid paint buildup. 
  • Be prepared for touch-ups. That means having a roller or brush on standby if you missed a spot.

What About Paint Rollers?

Are paint rollers the sure winner in the paint sprayers vs rollers debate?

Well, from our perspective, the debate’s just heating up. It’s too early to declare a victor. And here’s why.

For large, flat areas such as walls, floors, and ceilings, rollers are always a good idea. But they’re time-consuming to use. If you want a smooth finish, you have to back brush with a paintbrush or use shorter nap rollers. Either way, the word ‘fast’ is not something you would associate with rollers. 

Another point against rollers in this paint sprayers vs rollers debate: ugly streaks. You have to be careful and use the ‘V letter’ painting technique so you can cover large surfaces uniformly in the shortest time possible. 

Still, you can’t just dismiss rollers, especially when it comes to indoor painting. You don’t have to be particularly skilled to use a roller. Once you get the hang of it, you can easily control the flow of paint.

paint roller

Roller Painting Tips

It won’t be fair to those on Team Paint Rollers if we let the paint sprayers vs rollers debate end without sharing some tips to make roller painting quick and easy.

And so without further ado, here are some of our tried and tested roller painting tips.

  • Wetness is the essence of a good paint job. You want to apply paint onto paint that’s still wet to avoid lap marks. 
  • Invest in high-quality equipment. Notice how we didn’t say expensive. You can get an affordable roller kit that does an excellent job if you know where to look. 
  • Roller tray or bucket? That’s easy. If you’re painting small areas, go for a roller tray, otherwise, use a bucket for large areas that need more than a gallon of paint.
  • Remove excess paint before washing. You can use a putty knife or a scraping tool to do this. You can then wash your roller with warm water and detergent.
  • Keep it cool. If you can’t finish the job, put your roller in the fridge. Just make sure you wrap it in a plastic bag.
  • Burn the fuzzies. Use a lighter to remove loose fibers or cover your roller cover with masking tape then peel. This will help reduce shedding. 
  • Clean as you go. If you see lumps, remove them with a wet rag. You can also avoid lumps by straining your paint beforehand.
  • Small is good. We know you want to cover a lot of areas to save time but it’s better to work two to three square feet at a time. Load your roller with more paint as soon as your roller starts to become dry.

    The Verdict: Paint Sprayers vs Rollers

    The truth is it’s hard to declare a clear winner in the paint sprayers vs rollers debate because they each have their own pros and cons.

    And while we can’t deny that we’re partial to paint sprayers, whether they’re handheld, HVLP, or airless, we know that they’re not the friendliest option for beginners.

    Rollers, on the other hand, offer more control but can’t satisfy us when it comes to speed. As Sweet Brown puts it, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” 

    So where does this leave you?

    You don’t need to be solid Team Paint Sprayer or Team Roller. This paint sprayers vs rollers thing does not have to apply to you. You can use the one you’re most comfortable using or you can use both.

    If you’re still confused, you can refer to this questionnaire.

    1. Are you painting large areas like walls and ceilings? Use a roller.
    2. What kind of paint are you using? If you’re using oil-based and latex paints, use a paint sprayer.
    3. Which one will last a long time? A paint sprayer.
    4. What’s the safer option? There’s a chance of injury with paint sprayers if not used correctly.
    5. How about surfaces that aren’t flat? Use a paint sprayer.
    6. Which one’s cheaper? Rollers, of course.
    7. Which will give me that extra texture look? Sprayers can give you different kinds of painting patterns. Therefore, use a paint sprayer.

    Okay, we know we’ve built up this paint sprayers vs rollers debate and now we want to know what you think about it. Leave us a comment and tell us why you’re Team Paint Sprayer or Team Roller or if you think there shouldn’t be a paint sprayers vs rollers debate at all. We’d love to hear from you.

    man using paint sprayer

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