For DIY jobs and contractor work where only a flawless coat is acceptable — you need
an LVLP gun. Guaranteeing the minimum of overspray, fine atomization, and low wastage, these tools remove the usual issues of pooling, dripping, and drenching — enabling you to create a blemish-free coat on crafting work, cabinets, and vehicles.
However, while LVLP’s are generally multi-medium compatible, care needs to be taken when selecting the correct paint for the project in hand — with some prep required when utilizing more dense mediums.
Here’s my ultimate guide to different types of paint for LVLP spray gun — and pro-tips to ensure you achieve the perfect finish.
As the most commonly used motor spraying mediums are low viscosity — such as pearlescent, clears, and topcoats — LVLP guns with their relatively small 3-5 PSI output have no issues knocking out these car body coatings.
That said, there is one crucial exception — primers.
As a dense paint, LVLP’s can struggle to both propel and sufficiently atomize the liquid, leading to a poor basecoat. And, if you screw up the base, the topcoat will look equally unimpressive and amateur-like. Furthermore, this medium may require dilution to allow adequate delivery, details which I explain in my Thinning 101 Guide.
While there are some LVLP guns that are marketed as primer compatible — like the wide-tipped Transtar 7718S — industry pros usually utilize an HVLP unit instead, such as the Eastwood Concours Pro. A true high-volume low-pressure machine not only guarantees the capable delivery of viscous paints, but also ensures a smooth coat giving your project a solid base.
Latex and Acrylics
However, while these units can knock out this thick medium — in practice, trade pros rarely use them for this purpose.
Latex paints are typically indoor spraying staples, being the go-to paints for wall and ceiling coverings. Therefore, if you were to utilize an LVLP gun to redecorate your bedroom — you’d not only have the unpleasantness of an oily and noisy compressor chugging away on your plush carpet, but also have to undergo the back-breaking effort of lugging this behemoth pneumatic machine up your staircase.
Hence, contractors and experienced DIYers typically use a more portable turbine HVLP unit — like the Wagner FLEXiO 5000.
After automotive paints, lacquers are perhaps the second-most commonly used medium with LVLP guns. Creating a durable, moisture-resistant, and clear layer — lacquers are a staple for cabinet finishing and furniture restoring. Furthermore, while robust, they’re still pliable, permitting base materials such as wood to flex under temperature changes, and ensuring the topcoat doesn’t crack.
Although lacquers are available in four main types — catalyzed, acrylic, cellulose, and water-based — they all possess the same low-density characteristic, making them ideal for LVLP guns. Furthermore, as lacquers are typically used on materials where a fine finish is crucial — their superfine atomization guarantees an eye-catching coat.
Modern lacquers have become the umbrella term for urethanes, shellacs, and varnishes. If you want to be technical, they differ in that lacquer utilizes mineral spirit as the solvent, while shellacs and varnishes use oil — however, as trade pros use the words interchangeably, you aren’t going to have the lacquer-police knocking on your door if you mix them up.
In my opinion, the best LVLP gun for lacquer is the gravity-fed SprayIt SP-33000K, which requires just 3.5 CFM (cubic feet per minute) at 30 PSI — meaning it will run off the smallest of home-style pneumatic units. Although, if you don’t own a compressor, you can still achieve impressive results using the lacquer-compatible HVLP handheld Control Spray 250.
If you want more detail on using lacquer paints with a spray gun, take a look at my guide to Lacquer Spraying.
Stains and Sealers
Used to shield against moisture, enhance the wood grain, and to protect from knocks and bumps — stains are ideal LVLP mediums.
As one of the lowest viscosity paints, they require little pressure to be either atomized or propelled, making them suitable for the low PSI characteristic of LVLP guns. Furthermore, using a pneumatic shooter also removes the risk of lost bristles and brush marks ruining your topcoat.
While you can purchase stains in either oil or waterborne types — the oil-based version is the most popular format, due to its water-repelling features. However, as the medium has a sticky nature, it’s crucial that after using this coating in your LVLP gun, you thoroughly dismantle and clean the unit to prevent clogging of the internal components. If you need any advice on rinsing out your LVLP unit, check out my Guide to Cleaning.
When using stains, it’s crucial that you keep the power output to a minimum on your LVLP gun, and use the narrowest nozzle that suitably delivers the paint — as this medium can easily be oversprayed. For more tips on using wood stain in a power painter, dive into my Stain Spraying Guide.
Due to stain’s low viscosity texture, even budget-level LVLP units — such as the siphon-fed SprayIt SP-31000 — will provide a satisfying finish. Alternatively, if you lack a compressor, consider the turbine-powered Control Spray Max.
With a waterproof, durable, and hard coat finish, enamels are typically applied to areas that are subject to frequent touching and high-traffic use — as well as to model crafting and small outdoor surfaces. Hence, you would usually find this paint on veranda furniture, kitchen units, banisters, and door and window frames.
Whether cellulose or oil-based, this paint has the characteristic of being incredibly fast-drying. Hence, you need to plan your project to ensure that you’re not applying wet paint onto a recently dried coat — which would lead to tell-tale overlapping marks.
And, this is one medium that benefits from using an LVLP sprayer.
Enamels are seriously unforgiving — apply with a handheld brush, and you’ll experience the headaches of stroke marks and stippling. Furthermore, with a high adhesive rating, it’s infamous for pulling bristles from budget brushes. Hence, utilize a power painter, and you can avoid these pitfalls.
That said, choose your LVLP gun carefully.
While not as dense as latex, chalks, or milks — enamels have a higher viscosity than stains, sealers, and automotive paints — meaning you need a shooter with a sufficiently wide nozzle to propel the medium. Personally, I’d suggest checking out the SprayIt SP-33310K, which comes complete with four tip sizes, enabling you to choose the optimum head for the enamel.
Alternatively, if you build model airplanes, restore vintage toy cars, or army-build Warhammer figures, I would take a look at a mini-LVLP gun — like the SP-352. However, if you just want a basic handheld sprayer without the hassles of a compressor unit, I suggest trying out the Wagner Opti Stain Plus. For hints and tips on spraying this multi-purpose medium, check out my Guide to Spraying Enamel.
Just a swift heads-up.
If you’re at the bar with your buddies knocking back a few cold ones, and the conversation strays into enamel paint spraying — don’t make a fool of yourself by confusing enamel paint with vitreous enamel. The latter is a medium that’s applied to porcelain and baked in a kiln — and it has no enamel in it, it’s manufactured from glass.
Alternatively, be more interesting, and talk about the ball game or something.
The popular use of modern enamel paint has virtually eliminated the demand for alkyds — although, some hardcore traditionalists still utilize this controversial medium.
Despite what other people will vehemently tell you — even trade pros — alkyds aren’t oil-based, they use spirits or alcohol as the paint solute. The mistake arises in that it has a bright finish with a reflective sheen — mimicking the characteristics of oils.
The medium is hard-wearing, easy-to-clean, and moisture resistant — features the alkyds share with enamels. And similarly, it’s used in high-traffic areas such as bathrooms, the kitchen, hallways, and stairs.
Additionally, as the paint has powerful polyester or resin binders — it’s highly adhesive, allowing you to spray it onto fresh timber, chalk, acrylic, or latex walls — without having to apply a priming coat.
However, these binding polymers can make spraying a little difficult, as their sticky nature can create clogs and spitting — if you’re using a too narrow tip with an LVLP gun. Hence, always use a unit that features at least a 2.0 mm tip — such as the SprayIt SP-33310K — allowing the unit to satisfactorily propel the medium. That said, personally, I wouldn’t use an LVLP — I feel an HVLP pneumatic like the Sagola 475, or an external turbine such as the FLEXiO 5000, would provide a more even paint flow.
A quick word of warning.
Alkyd paints aren’t great for your health. With a high solvent content, they emit noxious fumes — so always wear a respirator mask when spraying with your LVLP gun. Furthermore, containing heavy metals such as cobalt, they poison rivers, kill aquatic life, and can even cause cancer. I’d forget about them and use enamels instead.
LVLP guns are the ultimate units for delivering the perfect finish — but only when used correctly with compatible paints.
Remember, when utilizing more dense materials, it’s crucial that you have an LVLP gun with a wide diameter nozzle — as their low-pressure nature prevents you from cranking up the power to propel the medium — which you would do with airless and turbine formats.
Furthermore, post-project cleaning of your gun is essential — as the finely-tuned components can easily clog with more adhesive paints, such as enamels and lacquers.
I hope that this guide to the different types of paint for LVLP spray gun has been informative and useful — and if you believe that any of your DIY buddies would benefit from this article, please feel free to share!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How Do I Set Up a LVLP Gun?
Setting up your LVLP gun isn’t difficult, and follows the same process as utilizing an HVLP unit. For a complete 101 on using a low-volume low-pressure machine, take a look at my How To Use a Paint Gun With a Compressor.
Q: Can You Paint a Car With a LVLP Gun?
Yes! LVLP guns are the choice of automotive pros, due to their low overspray and ultra-fine finish. One of the best units for motor vehicle work is the Astro EVOT14.
Q: Does Latex Paint Work With an LVLP Gun?
Yes, although ensure you have a gun with a sufficiently wide tip, such as the SprayIt SP-33500K, to deliver this dense medium. Alternatively, consider a turbine machine such as the FLEXiO 5000, which not only guarantees fuss-free delivery but is also much more portable than a mammoth compressor.
Q: What Does LVLP Mean?
LVLP stands for low-volume low-pressure — indicating that the gun uses low air volume combined with low pressure from a compressor to propel the coating medium.
This means a steady and accurate flow with high transfer efficiency — cutting back on overspray and wastage, and delivering the ultimate fine finish coat.
Q: Can I Spray Epoxy Paint With An LVLP Spray Gun?
No. Epoxy paint is highly viscous, which is unsuitable for the low-pressure output of LVLP guns. Instead, consider an airless machine such as the Titan 440 Impact — which with its mighty 3300 PSI of grunt will effortlessly knock out thick epoxy paint.