HVLP Sprayer, Conventional Air

An HVLP sprayer is well suited for wood finishing and light duty painting. Conventional air spray painting can be used for fine finishing and production painting.

HVLP Paint Sprayers

High volume low pressure sprayers, better known as HVLP sprayers are an efficient tool for wood finishing and light duty painting. These sprayers use air flow to atomize the paint. They consist of an air turbine, air hose, and a spray cup gun or spray gun and detached pressure pot. The air turbines produce a large volume of air at low pressures.

The test for any HVLP paint sprayer is its ability to atomize the paint. The smaller, less expensive units are only useful with relatively thin paint materials such as stains and lacquers. The larger units are somewhat effective with more viscous paint coatings. Thicker water base and oil base paints do require moderate reduction.

One clear advantage that HVLP units have over other types of spray equipment is their ability to greatly reduce paint overspray. Typical air pressure less than 10 psi translates into greater control and less paint masking.

HVLP Spray Guns
A standard HVLP spray gun is specifically designed to be used with an HVLP air turbine and is not compatible with high pressure, compressed air typically used for conventional spraying. In contrast, an HVLP conversion spray gun is designed to convert high pressure air from an air compressor into low pressure air suitable for HVLP spraying. If you already own an air compressor and want an HVLP setup, the conversion spray gun is a solution. The challenge is to have a large enough air compressor to handle the necessary air volume demand.

Setting up an HVLP sprayer only requires following a few simple steps. The goal is to create a spray fan with sufficiently atomized paint that optimizes your spraying requirements.

Place properly thinned paint material into the paint holding cup and attach it to the spray gun. Connect the air hose to the air turbine and cup gun. Turn the on/off switch located on the air turbine, to the on position. At that point, adjust the fluid control knob on the spray gun to the desired setting. Turning the knob counter clockwise increases the amount of paint material. Next direct the air fan knob located on the back of the spray gun, to sufficiently atomize the paint. Position the air cap for a horizontal, vertical, or circular spray pattern. Test the spray fan on a piece of cardboard before you begin spraying.

Cleaning an HVLP sprayer is very simple. Remove any excess paint from the paint cup. Clean the inside of the cup with a small amount of the proper solvent (water, mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, or denatured alcohol depending on the paint used). Place 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of clean solvent inside the cup, attach it to the spray gun, and spray the solvent through the spray tip into an empty bucket. The easy clean-up also makes it simple to switch colors.

Conventional Air

Conventional air spray painting is well suited for quality wood finishing and fine painting. It uses high pressure compressed air from an air compressor, to atomize the paint. The system consists of an air compressor, oil/water filter, air hose, spray gun with cup attachment or spray gun with separate pressure pot for paint, and the appropriate hoses.

Conventional air offers more control of the spray fan and the degree of atomization than the other forms of spraying. A disadvantage of spray painting with high pressure compressed air is a much lower level of transfer efficiency compared to an HVLP. Paint overspray is more substantial and requires much the same paint masking as with airless spray painting.

The setup for conventional air spray equipment is similar to the HVLP setup.

  • An air hose is connected from the air compressor to an in line oil/water filter.
  • An air hose is connected from the oil/water filter to the spray cup gun or a fluid pressure pot.
  • An air hose and a separate fluid hose are connected from the fluid pressure pot to the spray gun.

Cleanup is much the same as with HVLP equipment.


Carefully read all the instructions that accompany the HVLP sprayer or conventional sprayer before use. Always provide proper ventilation when spraying indoors. Always wear respiratory protection (paint respirator) when spray painting.

Final Thoughts

For some painting applications, spray painting is the best and perhaps only option. Because paint sprayers are most likely the highest priced items among all the tools for painting, you should decide whether to purchase or rent the necessary equipment. Renting HVLP or conventional spray equipment may be a good alternative to purchasing it. For jobs that can be completed in a short amount of time, the savings could be substantial.

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Professional Painting, Inc. is a full service painting company serving the San Francisco Bay Area since 1988.