What Is an HVLP Paint Sprayer?

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This article describes HVLP paint sprayers and details their different HLVP paint sprayers atomize paint, allowing it to be applied in thin, even coats. They are great for detail work as well as covering large areas. This article describes HVLP paint sprayers and details their different parts. It will also explain the pros and cons of using an HVLP paint sprayer.

What Is an HVLP Paint Sprayer?

When it comes to applying paint or finish, there are several different methods to choose from. Most people are familiar with brushes and rollers. A third category is paint sprayers. HVLP refers to a specific type of paint sprayer within this category. They are also sometimes called ‘turbosprayers.’

Man using an HVLP paint sprayer to paint a chair

HVLP stands for ‘high volume, low pressure’. These machines use compressed air or turbines to force paint from a reservoir through a series of tubes and out of a nozzle.

Simultaneously, they pump forced air through another tube. The stream of paint meets the stream of air just outside the nozzle, and the gentle pressure directs the now-atomized paint towards it’s intended targets. 

Read our HVLP spray gun review to find the top options on the market.

HVLP Paint Sprayer Qualities

In professional painting environments, HVLP sprayers are prized for their quick, accurate, smooth and even surface coverage. They cover large areas faster than a traditional brush and/or roller, but with less wasted material than a conventional air sprayer. They are also appropriate for detailed work. 

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Automotive, marine, and furniture painters all use HVLP sprayers in their work, and they can also be found in auto body repair shops. The best HVLP sprayer for furniture allows you to quickly apply a finish like lacquer in an even and complete fashion.

Parts of an HVLP Paint Sprayer

HVLP paint sprayers have several different parts, including the trigger, nozzle, pressure source, and controls. 

Trigger

Usually a squeezable handle, the trigger is responsible for starting and stopping the flow of air and paint. 

Nozzle

This is the point at which the streams of paint and air exit the sprayer, combining just outside the nozzle tip to make atomized, airborne, directable paint particles. 

Pressure Source

HVLP sprayers either have an on-board turbine, or must be connected to an air compressor. 

Controls

You can control the amount of air that flows through the paint sprayer, as well as the volume of paint. 

Controls/Features of HVLP Paint Sprayers

HVLP Paint Sprayers are highly customizable. With an HVLP spray gun, you can control the spread, volume, and pressure of the paint as it exits the nozzle. These settings are manipulated using controls on the spray gun. 

Man holding HomeRight HVLP paint sprayer

Spread

Spread refers to the shape of the paint/air stream as it leaves the nozzle. A fan shape is the most common. The fan can be very narrow, for detail work or trim, or much wider, as when covering a large surface like a wall

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Pressure

HVLP machines use low pressure — only about ten pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI). On many models, it can be adjusted slightly using the controls on the spray gun. 

Volume

Also called ‘coat’, volume controls dictate how much paint comes out of the reservoir at one time. While HVLP are capable of high volume transfer (a thick coat of paint), you can also decrease the volume when lighter coverage or a gentle mist is desirable. 

Pros and Cons of HVLP Paint Sprayers

When evaluating paint application options, it is helpful to review the benefits and drawbacks of HVLP paint sprayer. 

Pros

There are many reasons to choose an HVLP sprayer, including high transferability, lower air pollution, and even speedy coverage. 

Transferability

HLVP paint sprayers have high transferability. In the hands of an experienced operator, it’s possible that up to 90% of the material in the reservoir will end up on the intended target.

Conventional paint sprayers blast paint into the air at such high pressure that up to 60% of the atomized particles may drift off and stick to things other than the surface you are painting.

Even Coverage

Painting with a brush requires constant attention to avoiding drips and minimizing brush strokes. With an HVLP paint sprayer and appropriate settings, there is no need to worry about dripping or running paint, and there are no brush strokes to speak of. 

As an example, using a highly reviewed HVLP sprayer to refinish cabinets keeps drips to a minimum and allows you to move through an entire kitchen’s worth of cabinets fast.

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Speed

A wall that takes five minutes to cover with a paint roller can be coated in about one minute with an HVLP paint sprayer.

However, you can’t just walk into a room and start spraying. Because atomized paint travels through the air and adheres to the first surface it encounters, you must cover absolutely everything in the room that you don’t want to paint. This adds to the total time of your painting project. 

Man using an HVLP paint sprayer on a furniture

Lower Air Pollution

It’s always best to minimize the amount of paint introduced to the natural environment. When painting outside, it is important to cover vehicles, sidings, shrubs, bushes, or plants that you don’t want to expose to overspray.

Since HVLP has significantly less overspray and higher transferability than conventional sprayers, it is a more eco-friendly choice than a conventional paint sprayer.

Cons

While HVLP paint sprayers have many benefits, there are some drawbacks as well. They include the cost, urgency of clean-up, and the lack of versatility.

Cost

HVLP paint sprayers are expensive. For professionals who use them daily, they quickly pay for themselves. They may not be an economical choice for hobbyists and DIYers. See our reviews on the best paint sprayer for interior walls if you are looking to repaint your home.

Clean-Up 

If you spray on paint, stain, or another finish, there are no rollers or paints to clean up afterwards. However, the spray gun, nozzle, and paint tubes of an HVLP paint sprayer must be completely, carefully, and immediately cleaned to ensure continued operation of the machine.

Dried paint will clog the tubes and nozzle and can completely ruin your HVLP sprayer. 

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Versatility

HVLP paint sprayers work best with thin paint, stain, or wood finish. Thick paint, like latex-based paints, are more likely to clog the nozzle.

Attachments are available to increase your likelihood of success when applying latex paint with an HVLP paint sprayer. Thinning the paint is another option. 

Conclusion

HVLP sprayers use high volume and low pressure to apply an even coat of paint. They come with adjustable controls. The benefits of HVLP paint sprayers include high transferability and even, smooth coverage. The cons are the high cost of purchasing an HVLP unit, demanding clean-up, and low compatibility with latex paint.

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.