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The basics of an airless paint sprayer and spraying safely

What are the benefits of spraying with an airless paint sprayer?

More decorators are beginning to incorporate spraying with either an airless paint sprayer or HVLP into their decorating jobs. In the USA spray painting is common place and nearly all decorators will spray a job if it warrants it. In the UK however, we seem to be slower at incorporating spraying into everyday jobs.


Why are decorators in the UK still shying away from spraying with an airless paint sprayer?

In the UK we are known for being very traditional in our ways and we tend to shy away from new ways of working. No one taught us how to use an airless paint sprayer either via our first employment, self-employed learning or even those studying an apprenticeship, I’ve seen how colleges do very little in the way of spraying. All these factors, and a stubbornness to change, means that many decorators still do not spray even though we are in the 21st century.


Download Now: Safe operation of an airless spray machine

There are 5 main benefits to spraying with an airless paint sprayer.

First, it is faster.

There’s no questioning the fact that with training or experience you will be able to do more work in less time. This also means more money because you charge for the work that you produce, the more you produce the more you can charge.

How much faster is it?

One of the main questions we get asked is how much faster each job could be. Well, it will depend on the job. If you are decorating a bathroom, it may only be slightly quicker than if you are painting a warehouse. A warehouse may be around 4 or 5 times quicker, as spraying on scale speeds up the process. On average we found that it’s twice as fast as brushing and rolling. That means if at the moment you decorate one apartment per week, then with spraying with an airless paint sprayer you can do two. Doubling your money.


The second benefit is that the finish is amazing.

If you look at the paint finish on a new car, you’ll notice the flawless finish that lasts, with spraying you can achieve a similar level of finish on all your jobs. Ceilings look amazing when sprayed, customers will comment and refer you to more people because of the finish that you have produced beyond what they have been used to. Woodwork is even more amazing. A door that has been sprayed looks factory finished and this is what customers expect these days.

Personally, we think that the finish is more important than the speed. Yes, speed means more money for you however, an amazing finish will give you a good reputation as a decorator and mean that you will get more work than you can handle. This is a nice place to be.


The third benefit is that you will need less staff.

If you own a decorating company, you will know how hard it is to get staff. If you spray all on all your jobs then a team of 4 will be able to turn out as much work as a team of 8 or 12, depending on the type of work that you do. This allows you to have less staff that you can pay more.

This means it is easier to attract and retain staff. You will also make more money. It is easier to manage four decorators than twelve decorators and if those four are producing as much as twelve then you could make enough money to come off the tools and manage your company properly.


The fourth benefit is that it’s physically easier.

It’s easier to spray than brush and roll a ceiling. There is no need for steps, dipping a roller or putting pressure on the roller to apply the paint. It is also easier to spray skirtings than to get down on your hands and knees to brush them. For those of us decorating into our 40’s or 50’s we are always keen to make the work easier, I’ve seen many decorators who are considering jumping ship and changing their career because decorating was simply getting physically hard. However, once they start spraying they discover a new lease of life.


Finally, it’s fun.

Yes, that’s right we have listed “fun” as a benefit of spraying. We see many people who enjoy spraying, find it fun, and enjoy going to work on a Monday morning. This is our favourite benefit. We all need a little fun in our lives.


Here are some resources you might find helpful

There are many resources that could help you, but here are some of the best we could find for you.


Setting up the airless paint sprayer safely.

When using an airless sprayer, you need to be aware that you are working with a machine that pumps paint at around 2000 psi. This is a dangerous pressure especially as you are pumping the paint through a tiny hole (the tip).

If the paint sprayer is in paint mode, under pressure and a tip connected at the end of the gun then you need to be careful, if not you can inject yourself with paint. The tip does need to be close to the skin, but we have seen situations happen. The same can happen if the system is under pressure and the hose gets ruptured where you put your hand over the hole. It’s a tempting thing to do without thinking about it.

To prevent this from happening you need to take some precautions when setting up, using and cleaning out the paint sprayer.



Only pressurise the paint sprayer when you are about to spray. When setting the sprayer up and running the paint through the hose, keep the trigger pulled and do not have a tip in the tip guard (We remove the tip guard for ease). Keeping the trigger pulled stops the pressure from building up.



When testing the spray pattern before actually spraying, make sure that you only point the gun at the paper that you are testing the pattern on and nowhere else. If there is a blockage do not point the spray gun at your face to inspect the end. It may sound stupid, but in the moment these things happen.



Once the system is set up and ready, depressurise and put the trigger lock on the gun until you are actually ready to spray.

If you are going to leave the paint sprayer for any length of time like during a lunch break, you need to follow our 6-point safety check.

The 6-point safety check.

  1. Put the trigger lock on the gun.
  2. Turn the tip 90 degrees or remove the tip and take it with you.
  3. Turn the pressure down.
  4. Dump the pressure by turning to “prime”.
  5. Turn the sprayer off.
  6. Unplug the sprayer.



Make sure that you are spraying at the correct pressure, do not have it higher than you need. It is never safe, but lower pressures are better than higher ones for many reasons.

When you are spraying, keep the gun pointed at the surface and nowhere else.

When you finish spraying you need to do these 3 things every time.

  1. Take your hand off the trigger and put your fingers behind the trigger holding just the handle. It then becomes impossible to pull the trigger.
  2. Put the trigger lock on.
  3. Depressurise the sprayer.

Releasing the pressure from the paint sprayer is like taking the bullets out of the gun, it is the only way to make the system truly safe. If you leave the sprayer under pressure the hose could still rupture and inject you with paint if you are standing close.


The basics of airless paint spraying

When you are spraying there are a few basic rules that you need to follow so that you achieve a good finish and minimise runs or overspray.



Make sure that you are the correct distance from the wall with the gun. This is around 30cm or 12 inches. Too far away and you will produce lots of overspray and too close and you will get runs. The best way to know if you are at the correct distance is to spray a band and measure the width. If you are using a 517 tip, the fan width should be 10 inches.


Trigger on and off after each pass. This is to prevent putting too much paint on when you change direction and it will give you more control.


Overlap each pass by 50%, this will give you good coverage of paint on the surface. Point your gun at the end of the last pass as a guide.

Finally, do not arch your arm. Always keep the gun parallel with the surface. If you arch your arm the gun won’t be parallel to the surface and you will get much more overspray and you will waste paint. You will also get uneven coverage of the paint.


Next steps

At PaintTech Training Academy, safety is one of our top priorities for anyone operating airless machines. We recommend for everyone spend a few hours completing our free course to ensure you are using your airless machine safely at all times.

Safe operation of an airless spray machine


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