Airless sprayer Vs HVLP turbine


When decorators decide that they want to look into spraying they are faced with too many options, and it can be very confusing if you have no knowledge at all. When I used to teach apprentices at college there were 2 systems that they were taught.

In their second year they were shown HVLP, or High Volume Low pressure systems

Airless sprayer Vs HVLP turbine

Above – a typical High Volume Low pressure turbine system.

There were two reasons that the students were taught this system first. It is a slower system and therefore easier to control, it is also a safe system because it only sprays at low pressure. More about HVLP later.

In their third year the apprentices are taught how to use an airless system. This is very fast and takes some getting used to. It also has the hazard of injection injury which students need to be aware of before they use the airless in the workshop. I always supervise student one to one when they are learning to use the airless sprayer just to be on the safe side.

When we are teaching students at the academy, we always have small groups and supervise students one to one when spraying.

Airless sprayer Vs HVLP turbine

Above – a typical Airless system. 

What does all this mean to you as an experienced decorator, which system should you choose, and which system is best. The main purpose of this blog is to outline the pros and cons for each system to help you make an informed decision.  

I am going to split the blog up into categories and these are – cost, pressure, speed, versatility, and finish. 


If you are buying a HVLP system you need to be spending around £1000 for a new one, don’t kid yourself and think you can get a good one for £300, you can’t. Most HVLP’s are used by spray tanners and these people spray a very thin product, almost like water. We on the other hand are spraying paint so we need something with a bit of power, at least a 4-stage turbine, even better a 5 stage. More on this in the next section. 

A decent airless is going to cost you £2,000, again I know you can get small airless systems for under a grand but in my opinion if you are going to get an airless you are going to be spraying big stuff and therefore a little pump just won’t cut it.  

You can see that if budget is an issue, then a HVLP turbine wins this round.  

HVLP 1 : Airless 0 


High-Volume Low-Pressure turbine systems run at low pressure (yeah, I know it’s in the name) which is around 9.5 psi. The advantage of this low pressure is that you get very little overspray, and it is safe to use. The disadvantage is that the system will only spray thinner products designed to be sprayed or you need to thin the paint if it is just a standard decorative paint. It also makes it a little slow when spraying compared to airless. 

Airless sprays at a very high pressure (around 2000 psi) making it very fast and also meaning that it will spray most paints, even the thicker ones. The disadvantage is that you can inject yourself with paint if you are not careful and this can be serious. You need to know what you are doing with airless. 

I think we have a tie in the pressure category with both systems having advantages. 

HVLP 2: Airless 1 


I know that we have touched on this in the last category, but this is a big factor to a decorator. Speed = money at the end of the day. HVLP is much slower than airless and for that reason HVLP is good for small stuff like doors, windows and stair spindles. 

Airless is good for bigger areas such as large areas of blockwork and new plaster areas. One of the reasons that I like airless so much is that it is fast. When I am spraying student apartments, I will typically use a 10 litre tub of emulsion every 15 minutes which gives you an idea of the area that I am covering. HVLP could not keep up with this and for that reason airless wins this category. 

HVLP 2 : Airless 2 


By this I mean which system can spray the widest range of paints in the most situations. Let us start with HVLP.  

HVLP is good with thinner paints (Zinsser BIN for example) and it is good for spraying smaller areas. If you tried to spray neat acrylic satin with a HVLP sprayer it would struggle, you would have to thin it a lot. If you tried to spray the ceilings and walls of a full house in emulsion it would struggle, it would be quicker to roll it, 

If I were stain blocking some oak doors with Zinsser BIN then HVLP would be ideal. 

Airless on the other hand will spray all paints even if they are not thinned, you can use a smaller tip to spray small areas and you can use a bigger tip to spray larger areas. I have a tip with a 24” fan which is ideal for large blockwork areas. 

Airless is the clear winner here. 

HVLP 2: Airless 3 


Traditionally HVLP will give you a better finish than airless. These days technology has moved on and with the new fine finish” airless tips I can get a great finish on my woodwork with airless that is every bit as good as HVLP.  

I am going to say that this one is a tie. 

HVLP 3 : Airless 4 

There you have it, airless wins but only by a small margin, maybe it won because I am writing the blog and I favour airless, who knows. Typically, I use airless 95% of the time and HVLP 5%. I feel that all decorators should have both systems to cover every situation but if you are choosing one or the other then I think it depends on what kind of work that you do.  

If you are only dipping your toe into spraying and you do mainly domestic work, then you are probably best to start with a HVLP turbine system. If you do a lot of bigger commercial work, then airless is the way to go. 

Both systems can be complicated so do your research on which ever system you choose plus consider getting some independent training  

Training is the best way to understand each system. Check out our website for courses on both HVLP and airless and we will show you the benefits of the systems and how to get the best from them. 

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Airless sprayer Vs HVLP turbine