What is an HVLP Spray Gun (And How It Compares)

Updated: Aug. 21, 2023

A standard spray gun—usually connected to a compressor—aggressively propels finish onto your project.

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For all the DIY enthusiasts out there, achieving that flawless finish on your projects is now easier than ever with HVLP spray guns. Gone are the days of aggressive spray applications that waste most of your finish. Embrace the HVLP spray gun, a favorite among cabinetmakers and furniture builders, which ensures less overspray and a finer finish. Dive in with us as we explore the ins and outs of HVLP systems, how they compare with LVLP guns, and how to choose the best one for your project needs.

What is an HVLP Spray Gun?

A standard spray gun—usually connected to a compressor—aggressively propels finish onto your project; so aggressively, in fact, that as little as 25 percent of the finish may actual wind up on your project. HVLP spray guns dispense finishes at high volume, low pressure (HVLP) which results in less overspray and, when used properly, a finer finish. Cabinetmakers and furniture builders love them.

Types of HLVP Spray Gun Systems

HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) spray systems are primarily categorized based on their method of generating air volume. Here are the main types of HVLP systems:

  • Turbine HVLP Systems: Turbine HVLP systems utilize a turbine, often powered electrically, to produce the high volume of air essential for the HVLP spray gun. Typically, the turbine is a multi-stage unit, with stages ranging anywhere from two to five or even more. The more stages there are, the higher the air pressure, enabling the user to spray thicker materials. These systems are portable, making them a popular choice for both DIYers and professional painters who need mobility on a job site. Additionally, they operate without the need for an external air compressor.
  • Compressor-based HVLP Systems: These systems employ a traditional air compressor to generate the required air volume. A specific regulator is implemented to decrease the output of the compressor to the low pressure that HVLP spray guns need. Compressor-based systems offer versatility, as the same compressor can be utilized for different tasks beyond just powering the spray gun. However, it’s worth noting that they can be a bit more cumbersome and louder than their turbine counterparts.
  • Conversion HVLP Guns: Conversion HVLP guns are a sort of middle ground. They are designed as HVLP spray guns that convert the high pressure from a standard air compressor to the low pressure typical of HVLP spraying. While they offer the advantages of HVLP spraying, they may not deliver the performance as optimally as dedicated HVLP systems.
  • Gravity Feed HVLP Guns: In gravity feed HVLP guns, the paint reservoir is strategically placed above the gun, ensuring that gravity aids in feeding the paint into the spray gun. These guns are generally lighter and allow for enhanced precision. They are frequently used for tasks that demand detail, such as auto detailing.
  • Siphon Feed HVLP Guns: Contrastingly, siphon feed HVLP guns draw paint from a reservoir positioned beneath the gun. They often boast a more considerable paint capacity compared to gravity feed guns, making them an ideal choice for more extensive projects.

When selecting an HVLP system, it’s crucial to factor in the specific requirements of your task. Your choice can be influenced by the type of material you intend to spray, the project’s size, your budget, and the portability you desire.

Which is a Better, HVLP or LVLP?

Both HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) and LVLP (Low Volume Low Pressure) spray guns have their unique advantages and applications. Choosing the best option depends on the specific requirements of the task, your equipment, and personal preferences. Here’s a comparison to help you decide:

HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure)

  1. Usage: HVLP systems are commonly used in automotive refinishing and projects that require a high-quality finish. They’re ideal for detailed work and provide precision, making them the choice for applications where finish quality is paramount.
  2. Efficiency: HVLP spray guns are known for their high transfer efficiency, which means less paint is wasted. Most of the paint ends up on the surface, leading to reduced overspray and less wasted material.
  3. Air Consumption: These systems require a high volume of air, typically provided by large compressors or turbines. As such, if using a compressor, it needs to be powerful enough to sustain the required CFM (cubic feet per minute) for the gun to operate effectively.
  4. Versatility: HVLP guns are versatile and can handle a variety of paint types, including thicker paints. However, with some really thick paints or primers, it might be necessary to thin the material for optimal spraying.

LVLP (Low Volume Low Pressure)

  1. Usage: LVLP guns are useful for smaller tasks and are often found in hobbyist settings or smaller workshops where a large compressor might not be available.
  2. Efficiency: Similar to HVLP systems, LVLP spray guns offer good transfer efficiency, resulting in minimal material waste. However, the finish might not always be as refined as HVLP, especially for more intricate projects.
  3. Air Consumption: The main advantage of LVLP guns is that they operate at a lower CFM, meaning they can work with smaller, less powerful compressors. This makes them more suitable for situations with limited air supply.
  4. Material Limitations: LVLP guns typically work best with thinner materials. Thicker paints might pose challenges, limiting their versatility in certain applications.

Choosing the Right Spray Gun

Whether you should opt for an HVLP or LVLP largely depends on your specific needs:

  • If you’re seeking the highest quality finish, especially for detailed work such as automotive painting, and have access to a suitable compressor or turbine, HVLP is likely the better choice.
  • If you’re working with a smaller compressor, handling smaller projects, or painting in a hobbyist capacity, an LVLP might be more appropriate due to its lower air consumption.

Always consider the type of materials you’ll be spraying, the scale of your projects, and your available equipment when making a decision.