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different colors of sprayer paint

Your paint sprayer is clean and ready. You’ve chosen your painting surface. You’re all ready to buy some paint, and that’s easy! Well, not necessarily.

Which paint should you pick for the job? Should it be a thicker, heavier paint or a lighter one? How many coats? And will it work with your sprayer?

The answer, as you’ll see, varies. By understanding the types of paint, you can pick the best type for your sprayer. This lets you ensure smooth painting every time.

Let’s dive right in.

Types of Paint

As mentioned, there are many types of paint you can use with a paint sprayer, including airless sprayers, compressed air sprayers, and high volume low pressure or HVLP sprayers.

Before you can get to work, you’ll have to thin your paint. This gets the paint at the right consistency for spray painting.

Thinning agents vary. Sometimes water works, and sometimes another material should be used instead. Consult the paint manufacturer for the best choice.

Now that you know that, let’s have an in-depth look at the best types of paint for your sprayer.


Before you start on any of your spray painting projects, you’ll need primer. Apply a few layers and let it fully dry. Then you can apply your other paints.

So why is primer so important?

Primer has many benefits. It allows paint to go on smoothly and evenly. Paint will also stick better.

You can choose from oil-based primer, water-based primer, metal enamel, and all-purpose primer. Water-based primer may dry more quickly. Oil-based primer tends to last longer, though.

Metal enamel is intended for wood and metal. If you’re painting with enamel, this is the primer you should use. You will have to sand the surface as you go.

With fewer chemicals and fumes, all-purpose primer works on just about any other surface. You can even use this indoors. Certain types of paint are more compatible with primer. Do your research before you buy.

visual of a white surface with half primer and half paint


Vinyl paint is made of a combination of plastic and water. It’s a somewhat lightweight paint. Its recommended use is for floors and siding. Vinyl spray paint may be waterproof and weatherproof depending on the brand you get.

You can choose from three types of vinyl finishes: vinyl silk, vinyl soft sheen, and vinyl matte.

Vinyl silk is, as the name suggests, a glossy finish. Its durability is another noteworthy feature.

Boasting just as much durability is vinyl soft sheen. This has less brightness than vinyl silk, though. If you’ve noticed any stains, you can use soap and water to clean these off of vinyl soft sheen. It won’t lose its luster.

Then there’s vinyl matte, which is ideal for ceilings, walls, and other large surfaces. There’s no shininess here. That makes this a favorite for interior and exterior painting.


Alkyd is a midweight paint. It’s mostly made of polyester, although it once included ingredients like organic acids and alcohol. In fact, alkyd paint was formerly called alcid. Now, fatty acids like carboxylic acid anhydride and polyols are combined with the polyester to produce this durable resin.

Alkyd may be nondrying, semi-drying, or drying. Nondrying alkyd paint is used as a coating. Semi-drying and drying alkyds dry more quickly depending on their oil and fatty acid content.

There are three kinds of finishes: alkyd gloss, alkyd semi-gloss, and alkyd flat.

lady glossing a white window frame with alkyd paint

Alkyd gloss is ideal for trim or wooden surfaces. It’s very glossy, as the name suggests. This is due to the oil contained within the paint.

Then there’s alkyd semi-gloss, which looks great on the same materials. While this is less glossy, the finished product will have a satin-like look. This paint may be made of glyptex or enamel.

Alkyd flat is not meant to be glossy at all. Instead, the finished product is matte. For that reason, this paint is ideal to use when painting ceilings and walls.


Once one of the most common paints back in the early-to-mid 1900s, lacquer was used on everything from furniture to cars. Lacquer has fallen somewhat out of favor because of the work that goes into using it. Larger surfaces sometimes needed up to six applications. You also have to sand after each application.

Like enamel (which we’ll cover later in this list of types of paint), lacquer prevents dirt and oil from damaging the surface of the item it’s on. This paint can be very shiny if you buy a high-gloss brand.

Lacquer is available with a resin or matte finish. A resin finish makes the paint heavier. A matte finish reduces shine.

You probably won’t use lacquer as much compared to the other types of paint on this list. That said, it could come in handy for the rare project.


You’re more likely to use enamel than lacquer for a spray painting project. This paint will often last longer on surfaces compared to lacquer.

Enamel does take even more work than lacquer to apply. You may need up to two coats. Due to the polymers within enamel, the paint will stay hard no matter what. Even in changing environmental conditions, you can rely on an enamel finish.

Enamel often isn’t used on its own, though. It’s more like the finishing touch over another coat of paint. It adds shine and luster to the finished product.

This paint is oil-based. It may have a semi-glossy or glossy finish depending on the kind you buy.

multiple silver buckets holding different colors of enamel spray paint


Can’t wait? Use acrylic paint.

It’s known for its short drying time and is generally available with a gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and flat finish.

Acrylic gloss goes best with ceilings, trim, and wooden surfaces. The gloss almost has a glare.

Acrylic semi-gloss has a strong sheen. This paint works well on the same surfaces, except it doesn’t look as good on ceilings.

If you don’t want as much gloss, acrylic satin is a good choice. This is somewhat shiny but smoother. It can also be used on ceilings. Acrylic eggshell toes the line between satin and semi-gloss. Then there’s acrylic flat, which is completely matte. It may even have a chalk-like finish.

latex orange spray paint poured from a metal bucket


Like acrylic paint, latex also has a shorter drying time. With synthetic polymers, this paint doesn’t get sticky. It can be heavier, so you may need to mix with water to lighten the consistency.

Latex paints work well with most types of paint sprayers. These paints don’t have a tendency to get backed up. That means you can paint longer with fewer distractions.

High Heat

High heat paint isn’t applicable for every type of job. If you’re painting a fireplace, heater, grill, or another surface that gets very warm, this is the best type of paint to use.

It can handle temperatures up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.


We touched on oil-based paints above. If not combined with a resin, these paints are often quite lightweight. They may be available with a glossy finish.

Oil-based types of paint are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. While not known for quick drying times, you maybe be able to paint a whole surface in a single coat. That saves you valuable time.

That said, the oil can sometimes give off fumes, so be careful. Work outside if you can. If not, choose a large space and make sure all windows are open.

You will have to touch up oil-based paint every few years. It may turn yellow, look faded, or even crack. With another coat, this should be good as new.


Known for how well it sticks to surfaces, epoxy paint has polymers, plastics, and other adhesives in it. It may weigh more because of this.

Epoxy is available as a coating or resin. It’s also not compatible with all types of paint sprayers; check your manual before you start.

painting floor with adhesive green epoxy

Rust-preventive paint

As the name implies, rust-preventive paint keeps metal surfaces looking their best. That makes this great to use for outdoor projects.

Depending on the type of paint you buy, it may dry with a metallic shine. If you want a matte finish, you can find that as well.

Rust-preventive paint works best on surfaces that could rust over time. These include motorcycles, cars, bikes, grills, and other metal outdoor equipment.

This paint can also help prevent a metal surface from cracking and fading.

Plastic paint

Plastic paint is considered a type of specialty paint. You’ll probably use it very rarely. Its recommended use is for plastic materials like chairs, tables, and other outdoor equipment.

This paint, while heavier, is fade-proof and chip-proof. Before applying, you may not necessarily have to use primer. You also may not have to sand the plastic surface.

speciality plastic paint color scheme cards


You put a lot of time into finding a paint sprayer. You need to do your research when choosing types of paint, too.

While many of the paints on this list are versatile, some are better for certain projects than others. Some of these are fast-drying, others are thicker, and others still should only be used as a finish.

Next time you pick up your paint sprayer, you’ll know just which paints to use.

Looking for more information about paint sprayers now that you’ve chosen your paints?

At Tool Nerds, you can read reviews and detailed information about all types of sprayers, including professional sprayers, airless paint sprayers, turbine paint sprayers, and more. We can help you pick the best sprayer for the job every time.