Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
Choosing the Best Paint Sprayer for Kitchen Cabinets
With a little practice and a good sprayer, spraying your cabinets, instead of brushing and rolling, is the best way to paint them in less time. I use an airless sprayer for all of my cabinet painting projects, but a long time ago, I used a brush and roller exclusively. The problem with brushing and rolling cabinets is that it takes too long and the finish is subpar compared to a sprayed finish.
The most challenging part of painting cabinets with an airless sprayer is avoiding runs when spraying vertically for the frames, but cabinet doors and drawers are easy. Simply uninstall them from the frames and spray them on a flat surface to avoid runs. I use a rotating spray rack to spray cabinet doors and drawer fronts. I store them on my drying racks after spraying each coat.
Airless vs HVLP: Which One's Best for Cabinets?
I own both, but from a production standpoint, an airless sprayer is the time-saver and what I use for my cabinet projects. The biggest disadvantage of an HVLP sprayer is the limited capacity of the fluid cup. Most cups hold only one to two quarts, which is plenty for spraying cabinet frames in a small kitchen, but for multiple doors and drawers, you would have to refill the cup several times.
The finish: When set up right, no doubt, an HVLP sprayer produces a finer finish than an airless because the material is sprayed at pressure as low as 9 PSI. Compare that to an airless rig that sprays at pressure as high as 3,000 PSI. That's a huge difference. That doesn't mean you can't get a smooth finish with an airless. You can get a beautiful finish spraying at the right pressure with the correct spray tip size.
The spray gun settings: By far, an HVLP sprayer is more versatile when it comes to fine-tuning your spray fan and finish. The spray gun comes with adjustments for controlling the flow of air and fluid, as well as the size of the spray fan itself. With an airless, you're limited to the pressure setting and the spray tip to control your finish.
The clean-up: Cleaning a paint sprayer is messy regardless, but I hate cleaning my HVLP spray gun. The fluid nozzle and needle have to be removed and carefully cleaned. The inside of the gun has to be cleaned too, along with the cup. With my airless, I flush cleaner through the pump and spray hose, wash off the filter, and I'm done.
Cheap Paint Sprayers: Should You Buy One?
I'm a firm believer in the phrase "you get what you pay for", at least when it comes to paint sprayers and power tools. If you're going through the tedious process of prepping and painting your kitchen cabinets, why would you use a low-quality sprayer to paint them? You don't have to buy a high-end sprayer to get a nice finish on your cabinets, but it's important to know what to look for and what to expect with a cheap one.
The pump: Similar to power washers, low-cost paint sprayers often have low-quality pumps that won't last as long as a more expensive model designed for long-term use. They're best for occasional projects, not frequent use. Every sprayer includes a maximum gallons per year specification recommended by the manufacturer. Consider how often you plan to use it.
The gallons per minute: The paint flow rating, referred to as GPM (gallons per minute), is lower on a cheap sprayer. This impacts the amount of time it will take to spray paint onto the substrate. It also dictates the spray tip size that can be used for the material being sprayed. For cabinets, a GPM of .38 to .50 is good. A higher GPM allows you to use the sprayer with larger spray tips.
Beware of the Flammable Hazard
Cheap paint sprayers sold at home improvement stores don't always have an enclosed motor and cannot be used safely with solvent-based coatings, such as oil-based primer and paint, shellac, or lacquer. A spark from the motor can ignite a flammable coating and cause an explosion. Since cabinet painting often involves the use of solvent-based primer this is an important consideration. The sprayers I use have sealed motors and can be used with any coating without worry.
My Favorite Airless Sprayers for Painting Cabinets
I own a Graco HVLP sprayer and use it for painting fireplace mantels and other small projects, but for spraying cabinet doors and frames I use an airless sprayer, specifically the Graco GX-19 Finish Pro. With a lower GPM of 0.38, it is perfect for use with fine finish spray tips and spraying paint, lacquer, or polyurethane. I've used this little sprayer to paint cabinets in well over twenty kitchens without any performance problems, spraying both enamel and pre-catalyzed lacquer. While you can certainly use this sprayer for spraying walls, it is designed and best suited for smaller projects and fine finishing.
Out of the four sprayers I own, it is the best paint sprayer for cabinets and the easiest one to clean. The sprayer is equipped with a one-and-a-half gallon hopper that holds your paint on top instead of using a siphon tube underneath like other models. Paint flows from the hopper directly into the small pump and into the spray hose in very little time. I rarely get clogs with this sprayer, and the hopper is easy to wipe down and clean. I haven't had to replace the pump in my Finish Pro yet, but it is designed to allow easy on-the-job replacement without having to take apart the sprayer or take it in for service.
My second favorite sprayer for cabinets is the Titan 440 Impact. If my primary sprayer ever breaks down in the middle of a project, I'll use my Impact. With a higher GPM of 0.54, you can use larger spray tips and take on bigger projects without destroying the pump. For those who want a more versatile sprayer for multiple types of projects and coatings, the Impact is a good choice, but my one gripe is the annoying clean-up, at least with the skid model. Unscrewing the paint-saturated filter underneath the unit for cleaning is messy. The cleanup process takes longer too than my Finish Pro with the hopper. Either of the airless sprayers I recommend is a great option for cabinets, but don't forget to choose the right spray tip size.
The Best Paint Sprayer Tips for Cabinets
Using the correct spray tip is really important when spraying cabinets. Spraying with an oversized tip wastes material and produces excessive over-spray. You're also more likely to get paint runs when spraying vertically. The spray tips I use exclusively for most of my spray work are the green Graco FFLP tips from the RAC-X series, which can only be used with their blue tip guard.
My favorite spray tip size for cabinet doors and interior trim is a 310. The 310 tip produces a 6-inch fan that covers the surface of doors faster than smaller tips. This tip works great for spraying multiple types of coatings. You can use a 410 too, but the wider 8-inch fan is a little too wide for spraying the frames. A good combination is a 310 tip for the doors, or a 410, and a 210 for the frames to reduce over-spray.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Matt G.