Few things can upgrade an outdated kitchen like repainting its most visible feature: the cabinets. A fresh coat of paint can make the entire space look like new—but only with a job done right. Using a quality paint sprayer can help you achieve professional-looking results while saving you hundreds of dollars in labor costs.
A paint sprayer consists of a canister that holds the coating (paint, stain, etc.) and a trigger-operated nozzle that sprays the product onto the surface. Since they distribute paint quickly and produce a smooth finish, they’re a much better option for painting kitchen cabinets than standard brushes or rollers. This guide will dive into the types of paint sprayers, shopping considerations, and top recommendations, to help you find the best paint sprayer for cabinets—and more.
- BEST OVERALL: Wagner Spraytech 0529091 FLEXiO 5000 Paint Sprayer
- RUNNER UP: Graco TrueCoat 360 Handheld Paint Sprayer
- BEST PNEUMATIC: Wagner Spraytech 0518080 HVLP Paint Sprayer
- BEST GRAVITY FED: SPRAYIT LVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun Kit
- ALSO CONSIDER: Fuji Spray 5175G – T75G Gravity Spray Gun
Types of Paint Sprayers for Cabinets
There are four different types of paint sprayers, each offering distinct advantages for painting kitchen cabinets.
A compressed air paint sprayer—the traditional version of these devices—applies paint in thin coats using a spray gun attached to a pressurized tank via a high-pressure hose. Conventional air sprayers can cost more than a thousand dollars, so renting one may be the most viable option. This type of sprayer is ideal for kitchen cabinets because it creates a smooth, professional-looking finish. Though you’ll need to apply more coats than you would with other sprayers, the look and feel of the results are great.
There’s a learning curve to using a conventional compressed air sprayer. These machines use a powerful air compressor and tend to produce a significant amount of overspray—which can make them harder to control. Fortunately, you can fit spray guns with different size nozzles that optimize the spray pattern and flow. Once you get the hang of using it, a compressed air paint sprayer is an excellent tool for repainting kitchen cabinets.
High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) paint sprayers use a small built-in electric turbine that compresses air to apply paint. With HVLP sprayers starting at under $100, these are the most affordable sprayers, making them popular for home projects. HVLPs have less output than compressed air sprayers, which makes them inadequate for large jobs but ideal for smaller ones, including kitchen cabinets.
This type of sprayer produces minimal overspray and applies small amounts of paint at a time, making it much easier to paint with accuracy while minimizing mess. Some models struggle to handle thicker paint, requiring you to thin the paint with water before use. Whereas compressed air spray guns use tips, HVLP sprayers deliver paint using air caps that you can adjust for flow, spray pattern, and paint thickness. While they may not produce as smooth a finish as a conventional compressed air sprayer, you can still achieve excellent results with an HVLP sprayer.
Like compressed air sprayers, Low Volume Low Air Pressure (LVLP) paint sprayers use an air compressor with a hose to power a spray gun. The difference is LVLPs only need between 3 and 10 pounds per square inch (PSI) to operate. This means they will work with smaller, less powerful air compressors.
Like HVLP sprayers, LVLP sprayers produce smaller spray patterns than conventional air sprayers. While this means it will take more time to paint a kitchen cabinet, LVLP sprayers produce very little overspray, allowing for more precise painting and minimal waste. But because they use less pressure, some sprayers may require thicker paints to be diluted with water to prevent clogging. LVLP sprayers are a great option for those who already own an air compressor.
Airless sprayers are powered by an electric motor and are the most powerful paint sprayer option. They function by pumping paint at a pressure up to 3,000 PSI through a hose and out a tip that diffuses the paint into tiny droplets. They produce thick coats of paint, minimizing the number of coats you’ll need to apply, ultimately saving time. Like conventional air sprayers, airless paint sprayers come with various tips for different spray patterns.
Due to the power behind airless paint sprayers, they produce a significant amount of overspray. These powerful sprayers are suitable for large projects like fences and home exteriors but can be overkill for smaller indoor projects such as kitchen cabinets. In order to achieve a smooth finish with an airless sprayer, you’ll need to use a smaller tip, such as a 311 size, and allow for a 12-inch buffer between the sprayer and the cabinet while painting, to avoid applying too thick of a coat. Airless sprayers are a good option for those who plan to use a paint sprayer for multiple projects.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Paint Sprayer for Cabinets
In addition to understanding the types of paint sprayers available, it’s crucial to know what factors and features to look for when shopping for the best paint sprayer for cabinets and furniture.
Since paint sprayers vary in the amount of paint they can apply, your project’s size is an important factor when selecting a sprayer. A sprayer that’s too powerful for the job will produce excessive overspray, resulting in a messy work area, a poor finish, wasted paint, and, due to the amount of overspray released into the air, a potentially hazardous work environment. Low volume, handheld paint sprayers present the best option as they are easier to control and more affordable.
Unlike HVLP sprayers, which use adjustable air caps to regulate spray pattern and size, airless paint sprayers use a tip that diffuses the paint as it leaves the sprayer. The tip size determines how much paint is delivered and the size and shape of the spray pattern. Choosing the right tip size is essential to achieving a good finish and preventing frustrating clogs.
Tip sizes are delineated by a three-digit code. The first number multiplied by two tells how wide of a spray the fan tip will apply at a distance of 12 inches. The second and third numbers delineate the size of the orifice to the thousandths of an inch. For example, a 425 tip will apply an 8-inch wide fan of paint from 12 inches away and have a 25 thousandths of an inch opening.
The key to success lies in using a tip rated for the coating you’re using. Lacquers and stains are much thinner than paint, and thus require a tip with a smaller orifice, such as .009 to .013. Oil-based and latex paints are thicker and require a wider orifice, between .013 and .019. Viscous enamels and primers require even larger tips ranging from .025 to .035. Too small a tip can result in clogs, while too large a tip can cause excessive overspray. Keep in mind that tips will eventually wear out, affecting their size, so replace paint sprayer tips between projects.
Manual vs. Electric
Paint sprayers use two power methods: compressed air and an electric pump. Each has its pros and cons. When it comes to adjusting the spray intensity, compressed air wins out for the following reasons:
- The release of compressed air can be fine-tuned more easily than the pumps that power electric sprayers.
- Air-powered sprayers are easy to clean, as most of the paint is cleared out of the lines by the air, whereas a sprayer operated by an electric pump will cease to move paint once the reservoir is too low, forcing you to clean significant amounts of paint out of the lines manually.
- Air sprayers have a significantly higher transfer rate (the amount of paint that reaches the material) of 90 percent versus just 50 percent for electric sprayers. This means significantly less waste and mess.
While you can achieve a great finish with both types of sprayers, airless sprayers have an advantage. Air can mix with the paint producing bubbles in the finish. This is less likely to happen with an airless sprayer.
Power has a significant impact on the amount of paint a sprayer can deliver. The more power, the higher the volume of output. Higher-powered sprayers are capable of producing larger spray patterns, allowing them to coat surfaces more quickly. While this is an advantage for large projects such as painting a house or a fence, too much power can be overkill for a kitchen cabinet repainting project. Sprayers are rated differently for electric versus air-powered sprayers. Most paint sprayers range between 450 and 800 watts for electric sprayers and 26 and 29 PSI for paint sprayers.
Controls on paint sprayers allow you to adjust the amount of pressure pushing the paint through the sprayer. If the pressure is too low, the coating will be uneven, resulting in what’s known as “tails” or “fingers” in the finish. If the pressure is too high, you could likely end up with excessive overspray and misting.
For top-notch results, use just enough pressure to atomize the coating you’re spraying. This can vary based on the viscosity of the coating. In order to get the proper pressure, you need a sprayer that allows you to adjust the pressure.
The higher the capacity (i.e., the amount of coating the sprayer can hold), the less often you’ll have to stop and refill. Most HVLP paint sprayers include metal or plastic cups that fit onto the sprayer and hold approximately one paint quart. Spray guns include a cup that fits on the top or bottom of the gun and holds around 20 ounces. Airless sprayers pull paint directly from the paint bucket, and therefore, offer the highest capacity.
Ease of Use
With pressure that’s easy to control and many options for making adjustments, HVLP sprayers are the easiest to use. They produce a relatively small amount of overspray, making them optimal for smaller projects like painting cabinets. They also come as a complete package; there’s no need to purchase a separate air compressor to power an HVLP sprayer.
While airless paint sprayers offer superior performance, they are mainly designed to handle big outdoor projects such as fences and home exteriors. They can produce a significant amount of overspray, which can make spraying smaller projects challenging and messy.
While the adjustability and smaller volume output of LVLP spray guns make them an ideal option for cabinets, like a conventional air sprayer, they require an air compressor, which might mean an additional purchase if you don’t already own one.
Tips for Using a Paint Sprayer for Cabinets
Using a paint sprayer is an effective way to apply a smooth finish to your cabinets, but working with them can take some getting used to.
- The first key to success is choosing the proper tip. Spraying cabinets is a relatively small job, so use a tip that delivers a smaller fan of paint. A 311 tip, which delivers a 6-inch fan, is a good option.
- Calibrate the sprayer by conducting a few practice sprays. Before you begin spraying cabinets, conduct a few test sprays on cardboard or scrap wood. This will allow you to practice your technique and fine-tune the sprayer’s adjustments for an optimal finish.
- Apply the paint by making overlapping passes while maintaining a 12-inch distance from the cabinet. When spraying, make slow, even passes with the sprayer, overlapping each pass by about half to ensure proper coverage. Keep the sprayer perpendicular to the cabinet as you make each pass. Resist the urge to fan the sprayer by bending your wrist, as this will result in uneven coats.
- Clean up immediately after the paint job. Once you’re done painting, clean the sprayer immediately, making sure to disassemble all removable parts. Delaying the cleaning process will allow the paint to dry in the sprayer, making cleaning much more difficult.
Our Top Picks
The following products are quality sprayers for painting kitchen cabinets. They’re reasonably priced, easy to use, and offer plenty of adjustment options.
When it comes to painting cabinets, a sprayer should provide good coverage with control, accuracy, and a minimal amount of overspray. That’s what you get with this HVLP sprayer from Wagner, which features a host of adjusters that allow you to change pattern width and direction, flow control, and power all on the fly.
Some paint sprayers house both the paint and the compressor, making them a little unwieldy and tiring to use for long periods. Wagner houses the motor in a turbine located in a separate base that connects to the sprayer via a hose, making it more lightweight. The stationary base also doubles as a convenient storage bin for the sprayer and attachments.
Thinning paint, unclogging nozzles, keeping up with accessories, cleaning the sprayer for color changes—these are all inconveniences that can be frustrating when working with a paint sprayer. The Graco addresses these issues with solutions that add convenience while speeding up the process.
This tool includes a powerful steel piston pump that generates plenty of pressure for spraying paint that hasn’t been thinned. A reversible nozzle makes fixing clogs a breeze: Just flip the nozzle and continue spraying. Disposable bag liners make color changes easy, too—simply switch the bag, and you’re ready for the next hue. And when you’re all done, a convenient storage case holds the sprayer and all its parts conveniently together until the next job.
With panels, trim, and cutouts to navigate, spraying cabinets takes some skill—and a sprayer that will give you ample control to achieve a quality finish. This Wagner sprayer provides that control, letting you adjust the spray width from 1/2-inch to 12 inches. Pressure control and flow control dials allow you to fine-tune the amount of paint you’re spraying to suit the material and desired finish.
Minimal overspray means a smoother finish and less mess. The sprayer is powered by a separate hydraulic pump that connects to the sprayer via a hose to lighten the load, reducing arm fatigue.
For DIYers who already own an air compressor, a quality paint sprayer is just a spray gun purchase away. SPRAYIT’s LVLP Gravity Speed Spray Gun Kit can turn that compressor into a paint sprayer so you can freshen up those kitchen cabinets.
This kit includes an aluminum body spray gun that works on low pressures between 28 and 45 PSI. With minimal overspray, this is a great option for smaller projects such as cabinets and furniture. The LVLP sprayer features an adjustable fan pattern ranging from 7 to 10.9 inches. The SPRAYIT kit includes a host of accessories too, including three tip sizes, an air regulator, a cleaning kit, and a plastic storage case.
This precision spray gun from Fuji offers pro-level performance. The sprayer contains stainless steel, which makes its parts less likely to gum up—translating to fewer clogs during use and easier cleanup post-project. A pattern control knob and adjustable aircap allow for a fine finish with minimal overspray.
Fuji’s sprayer is also well balanced, helping to eliminate the fatigue associated with top-heavy gravity-style spray guns. This is a premium sprayer, significantly more expensive than other models. It’s a solid option for pros or serious DIYers who plans to tackle other projects after those kitchen cabinets are done.
FAQs About Your New Paint Sprayer for Cabinets
Read on for answers to the most common questions about spraying kitchen cabinets.
Q. How much does it cost to spray paint a kitchen cabinet?
It costs between $385 and $1,118 to paint kitchen cabinets, according to industry data, with the majority of that cost coming from labor. The cost of supplies ranges between $200 and $600.
Q. What size of tip should I use to spray paint cabinets?
A small tip is best to achieve a good finish with minimal overspray. A 311 size tip, which will produce a 6-inch fan, is a good tip size. If you’re using a sprayer that uses a cap, adjust the sprayer to achieve a 6-inch fan width.
Q. How should a DIYer prepare kitchen cabinets for spray painting?
Since kitchen cabinets are in close proximity to cooking and food, degrease them by using TSP (Trisodium Phosphate), which is a cleaning agent that cuts through grease and grime. Once clean, paint the cabinets with a quality primer. Lightly sand the primed cabinets just enough to smooth the surface, then you’re ready to begin spraying.