Spray painting is all about practice, but having the right equipment that is well maintained is also essential. There are some general principles to keep in mind when trying to decide on your spray-painting equipment. In general, you will want a larger spraying device with a larger capacity cup to hold more paint if you are planning to cover large areas (like a whole car). For spraying smaller objects or just for touch-up repair jobs, there are smaller sprayers. In addition, there are different types of paints that can be sprayed as well as varnishes and other solvents and importantly, the viscosity of the paint or solvent can determine the nozzle size that the sprayer should have. In general, the thicker the paint, the larger the nozzle size should be or the paint should be thinned accordingly in order to prevent clogging. Trial and error is usually what’s needed, but just to give you an idea, 1mm to 1.5mm nozzles are usually used for spraying thin solvents such as clear coat, whereas for non-thinned latex paints, a 2mm nozzle would normally be used. Again, trial and error and adjusting the viscosity of the paint with the correct thinner is the way to get the best results.
Of course, no one likes to spend a fortune on quality tools if you don’t have to and especially if you are a novice and just want to ‘test out the waters’ to see if it is worth the investment in the first place. Fortunately, there are some air sprayers out there that are both affordable and quality products, some of which are reviewed below.
Top-Rated HVLP Air Sprayers
|Sprayer||Pressure||Avg. Air Consump.||Nozzles||Cup||Inlet|
|Neiko (1.3mm)||40 psi||4.5 cfm||1.3 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
|Neiko (1.5mm)||40 psi||4.5 cfm||1.5 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
|Neiko (1.7mm)||40 psi||4.5 cfm||1.7 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
|Neiko (2mm)||40 psi||4.5 cfm||2 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
|Tool Force A-C1||43-50 psi||5.5 - 9.2 cfm||1.4 mm|
|Tool Force A-C2||43-50 psi||5 cfm||1 mm||125cc||1/4" NPT|
Dont be misled, although the company that manufactures Neiko tools is called ‘Neiko Tools USA’, it is not a US company but a Chinese one. That being said, the tools they make are pretty decent and you can’t really blame them for wanting to distance themselves from some lower grade Chinese products. These air sprayers are well-bulit and perform satisfactorily – in fact they are probably the ideal gun for beginners. However, one problem with them is that they are so well built that they are heavier than others in their class, which can become a fatigue problem with larger spray jobs or when spraying difficult to reach areas. Another issue is that getting replacement parts is a non-starter, so make sure that you treat these sprayers nicely, cleaning them thoroughly but gently after each use, if you want them to last. This is especially true for the 1.3mm Neiko which has smaller openings. The 1.3mm Neiko is obviously better for using with finer clear coat and not for thicker base coat paint. For thicker paints, use the Neiko 1.5mm or larger to avoid problems. The Neiko sprayers all come with an inline regulator which is useful but not absolutely necessary if you already have a regulator on your air compressor. The regulator itself is not the highest quality but it does do the job, but do be careful when cleaning the spray gun, the window of the gauge is made of plastic and will fog up if exposed to some organic solvents.
|Neiko® Air Sprayer||Nozzle Diameter||Cup Volume||Air Inlet|
|31213A||1.3 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
|31214A||1.5 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
|31215A||1.7 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
|31216A||2.0 mm||600cc||1/4" NPT|
Tool Force A-C1
This is the first of two Tool Force air sprayers being reviewed here. These air sprayers are high quality products with its components being made from stainless steel and brass and the sprayers themselves do a very good job once calibrated, so much so that countless experienced spray-painters and even professionals are surprised by the excellent results they get with the sprayers. The A-C1 is the bigger of the two and is good for larger spraying jobs. Unlike its smaller sibling, it comes with an air regulator attached however this falls a little short in quality so don’t expect it to last as long as the sprayer itself. One of the nice things about this air sprayer is that it comes with two nozzles, a 1.4mm nozzle for thinner solvent spraying and a 2mm nozzle for thicker paints.
Tool Force A-C2
The ‘A-C2’ is the smaller sibling of Tool Force ‘A-C1’ air sprayer reviewed above. It is more for smaller touch-up repair jobs or spraying of small work pieces. It has a tiny 1mm nozzle, so you will have problems with clogging if you try to use thicker paints such as latex. If you really do want to use a thicker paint, then it should be thinned first and tested until you are happy with the finish. The air sprayer has a tiny 125 cc cup capacity, so don’t even think about trying to spray your car with it. Once again, because of the small atomizer holes, it is crucial to clean it thorougly after each use otherwise you will have clogging issues. And don’t rely on getting replacement parts because they are non-existent without buying another sprayer and making it the proverbial sacrificial lamb. The fan control is excellent with the sprayer able to exercise a wide range of very narrow (about 1.5″) to quite a wide (6″) spray pattern. A common (fixable) problem encountered with this sprayer is that when reassembling after cleaning, it is important to tighten the fluid nozzle (underneath the air cap) otherwise the sprayer will sputter when in use. The quality of the sprayer itself is not bad. Although the instructions are pretty bad (if you are lucky enough for them to be included that is!) – broken English and illustrations that don’t always match up…I wonder where that came from! ;). And if you think that you can just buy the sprayer, some paint and off you go – you still have to by the oil/water filter, a regulator, and potentially an appropriate coupler if the male connector on the tool is not compatible with your air hose.
Other Spray-Painting Tips and Optional Accessories
There is steep learning curve to air spray painting for anyone that hasn’t done it before. So to make life just that little bit easier, this section will include some quick tips and tricks as well as advice on optional accessories, which more experienced users and even professionals have graciously shared with us. If you can, tune back in regularly to check for new tips, tricks, and suggestions as they come in from site visitors …
Optional Accessory: Oil / water separator – In addition to the sprayer and the compressor, you are going to want to have a few other optional accessories if you want the best quality result from your spray painting. Firstly, you will want an oil/water filter so that your spray painting has no chance of being contaminated with either oil (from an oil-based compressor) or water which tends to condense from compressed air in the air line leading to your sprayer.
Optional Accessory: Air sprayer regulator – Not all air sprayers come with a regulator attached and since pressure at the compressor regulator might not provide a good enough reflection of the pressure at the end of the air line where the sprayer is attached, having a good quality regulator at this point will provide you with the means to maintain consistent results even when changing equipment.
Tip : Paint cup lid – a relatively common mistake for novices is to end up with a paint cup that has formed an air tight seal either through paint spillage or having too tight a lid, preventing air from entering the cup as the paint tries to exit through the sprayer. Consequently, it is important to make sure you keep the lid clean and loose so air can enter freely otherwise paint flow will be impeded.
Tip : Sputtering paint – If you find that instead of a nice fine consistent spray exiting your air sprayer, you get sputtering, this is commonly due to too loose a fluid nozzle (found underneath the air cap). Tighten this up a bit (but be careful not to strip the threads by over-tightening!) and the sputtering problem should rapidly abate.