Paint Sprayer Vs. Roller: Which is Best for Your Project?

Paint Sprayer Pros and Cons

If you’re looking for fast paint coverage on cabinets, walls, furniture and ceilings, nothing beats a paint sprayer. A paint sprayer can do in minutes what a paint roller can do in hours. Paint sprayers are also less labor-intensive than rollers, provide better coverage and are excellent for corner and trim work, as they can reach smaller crevices.

However, paint sprayers require more intense preparation work because every surface must be covered. Cleaning the sprayer is also time-intensive, as the paint must be removed from the paint sprayer and tubing before it dries. Lastly, paint sprayers aren’t ideal for small projects because the prep time exceeds the amount of time you would spend painting.

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Paint Sprayer Learning Curve

As with any piece of machinery, there is a learning curve associated with operating a paint sprayer. Learning how to work the paint sprayer will lessen the risk of injury, as well as paint mishaps. Test the paint sprayer on pieces of cardboard or drywall scraps so you can get the feel of using the sprayer. Holding the paint sprayer closer to the surface results in a narrower spray, whereas having the sprayer further from a surface covers more surface area but can also result in the paint drying before it reaches the surface. You can test different techniques until you find one that works for you and results in your desired outcome.

Keeping safety top of mind is of the utmost importance when using a paint sprayer. Ingesting fumes and high-pressure injection injuries are safety risks associated with paint sprayers.

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Sprayer Reach and Costly Overspray

You can use a paint sprayer either up close or from a distance. Using a distanced spray will allow you to reach higher quadrants of your paint surface; however, you can also lose paint. Paint sprayers can use up to two to three times more paint than paint rollers because most of the paint doesn’t end up on your surfaces, it winds up as overspray. This overspray should also be factored into the paint budget.

Because of the overspray on the surfaces and in the air, paint sprayers should be used outdoors or in an empty house. If you’re painting an interior with a paint sprayer, it should ideally be before you move in or in an empty room.

Extra Prep Time

When using a paint sprayer, covering your belongings is crucial before you begin painting. Tape plastic or newspaper over floors, windows, and doors and remove or carefully cover furniture. If you’re renting a paint sprayer, factor in the time you will need to familiarize yourself with the equipment.

Paint Rollers Pros and Cons

Paint rollers are less expensive than sprayers, cover surfaces thoroughly, have minimal prep time and require very little skill to use. The downside is that they’re messy to clean up and are slower than a paint sprayer.

roll paint project

Time and Effort of Using a Roller

Painting a room with a paint roller requires a bucket or a paint roller pan, a drop cloth and your paint roller. You will need to lay down your drop cloth to catch any inevitable spills. Because paint rollers take longer than paint sprayers, you will also need a healthy dose of patience. It can take anywhere from several hours to several days to paint a room with a paint roller.

So, Which One Is the Winner?

While there isn’t a clear winner in paint sprayer vs. roller, they each have pros and cons. Paint sprayers are fast, but they’re expensive, involve time-consuming prep, and because of the learning curve, they’re not the best option for beginners. On the other hand, rollers offer more control and use less paint, but they sacrifice speed.

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Learn more about our simple, one-stop-shop painting services. You can also get free 8″ x 8″ paint swatches of PPG paints to help you pick exactly the right paint color, no matter which tool you use to apply it.


Kelley Rebori

Kelley Rebori has written for national brands like Paintzen, HGTV, the DIY Network and Trulia for more than a decade. She loves home renovation projects, chocolate icing and small poodles. She and her husband split the year between their homes in Tennessee and Italy.