When choosing between paint sprayers and rollers, it’s important to pick the right method for your project type, skill level and budget.

To help you decide which tool is right for you, we asked two painting industry experts to break down the pros and cons of each: Doug Curving, a sales and service representative with Valspar for Sherwin-Williams; and Rachel Otto, a Benjamin Moore paint specialist at Fleury Lumber in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

By the end of this story, you’ll be ready to pick the perfect tool to transform your space.

Benefits of Using a Paint Roller

Great for beginners, a paint roller is a simple, yet effective tool. “I generally recommend a roller to the handyperson or DIYer, and leave the sprayers to the professionals,” Otto says. Curving agrees, especially for interior work.

Here’s why:

Beginner-friendly: Paint rollers are easy to use and require no special training. They’re also widely available for purchase.Cost-effective: “Paint rollers are a much more economical option than a paint sprayer,” Otto says. An entire setup of a roller cage, pad and tray costs less than $30. They can also be re-used for future projects.Versatile: Paint roller covers come in different sizes and materials for use with latex, oil and acrylic paints. They work on a variety of surfaces drywall, masonry, metal and wood. They’re particularly effective on flat surfaces like walls and ceilings.Easy to clean and maintain: Roller covers clean up easily with soap and warm water. Roller cages are made of non-porous plastic for fast paint removal.

Drawbacks of Using a Paint Roller

While rollers have plenty of benefits, they’re not great in all situations.

Slow: Edges and inside corners need to be painted with a brush since paint rollers can’t get into tight spaces. That adds to the project time.Textured finish: Even the thinnest nap roller will leave a lightly pebbled finish. If that’s not what you’re after, better to go with something else.User error: While beginner-friendly, there’s still a learning curve to get the best results. “If you apply too much pressure to the paint roller, you might see some uneven application lines,” Otto says.Limited surfaces: Uneven or intricate surfaces are difficult to paint with a roller. A thicker nap roller covers porous, uneven surfaces like brick or stone, but it’s slower than a paint sprayer. They’re also not effective at painting intricate surfaces like furniture or chain link fences.

Benefits of Using a Paint Sprayer

Paint sprayers are powerful tools that provide efficient, uniform coverage on lots of surfaces, making them a favorite among professionals and DIY enthusiasts. Homeowners will most likely encounter airless sprayers and high-volume low pressure (HVLP) tools.

Here’s why sprayers are so good in many applications:

Fast: Sprayers deliver a high volume of paint in a short amount of time, making fast work of large projects like siding, home interiors and fencing. “It goes a lot quicker, because you’re able to cover a larger surface at once,” Otto says. On interior work, sprayers eliminate the need to pre-coat corners and edges with a brush, which also saves time.Versatile: Sprayers can be used with most paints and stains including acrylic, latex and oil. They’re good for painting drywall, wood, masonry, stone and metal, and work especially well on intricate surfaces like furniture or shutters.Smooth finish: Paint sprayers deliver a fine mist of droplets that covers the surface completely and evenly. “Done correctly, a sprayer will give you a nicer finish,” Curving says. While brushes and rollers leave texture behind, paint sprayers leave a perfectly smooth finish.Easy cleanup: Water-based paints clean up easily with soap and water, while oil-based products need a solvent. All components of the sprayer need to be cleaned, then flushed with water to remove any remaining paint.Entry-level options: For homeowners or beginners, easy-to-use and inexpensive HVLP sprayers start at around $50.

Drawbacks of Using a Paint Sprayer

Paint sprayers are great, but do have their disadvantages.

Learning curve: Paint sprayers take practice and experience to master. You need to maintain the right distance from the surface, spray properly and adjust settings for the specific project. Curving recommends novices practice on a scrap piece of wood outside to get the technique and nozzle adjustment right before beginning a project.Time-consuming prep: Protecting nearby surfaces from overspray requires time and effort. “Any time-saving you think you’re going to achieve with a paint sprayer, you’re going to lose in the amount of time spent taping and masking things off,” Curving says. Plus, the paint itself often needs to be thinned with water or solvents.Specific outdoor conditions: Using a sprayer on a windy day is messy and not advised, because paint can drift far from your work site. Even in a light breeze, take extra precautions to protect surfaces like driveways and cars from overspray.Can be expensive: Air sprayers marketed to homeowners can cost $200 to $1,000. “If you’re not a professional, or you don’t think you’ll be using it frequently, an air sprayer may be more than you want to spend,” Otto says.Read More