Paint Sprayer vs. Roller – What’s the Difference?

Paint Sprayer vs. Roller

When you want to do some painting whether you are finishing up a new house or remodeling your old home, there are many decisions you need to make from the colors to use to how you apply the paint.

Many homeowners, DIYers, and professionals will not have any issues deciding on the colors and many other things. But when it comes to the painting tools, most will have difficulties deciding whether to use a paint sprayer or roller.

Both paint sprayers and rollers can do a good enough job and as the name suggests, one will spray the paint while the other rolls it onto the surface. However, these tools will differ in much more than this, and here we explain these differences to help you choose one.

Paint Sprayer Overview

Paint Sprayer

Photo: Wagner

Paint sprayers are the tool to go for if you are also looking for speed when it comes to painting. A job that would take an entire day when using a roller can be finished in just a few hours when using the paint sprayer. Better yet, it will take a fraction of the effort.

A basic paint sprayer will consist of a container that holds the paint, and air compressor that supplies the pressure (but some types are airless), and the sprayer tip that directs the paint.

Overall, these are much easier to use paint application tools because there is nothing much to do besides refilling the container, aiming and pushing the trigger to release paint. And unlike rollers, they will be ideal for a wide variety of uses.

Paint sprayers are perfect when working on large surfaces as they allow you to finish the job faster than when using a roller, and their design and working mechanism mean you will never have to worry about dripping.

However, to get the convenience that comes with the paint sprayers, you should be ready to spend more cash as they are generally more expensive when compared to rollers. And given that they are more complicated tools with more parts, cleaning them after use typically takes more effort.

Recommend: Graco Magnum X7


  • Perfect for working on large surfaces
  • Easier and more comfortable to use
  • Wider range of uses
  • Typically drip-free


  • Relatively more expensive
  • Harder to clean up after use

Roller Overview

Paint Roller


Rollers are one of the most popular paint application tools, and many users love them as they are just effortless to use, and you will not need any special skills to figure one out. But, to do a good job with a roller, you will need to practice using one a lot.

These paint applicators will consist of a frame, cover, and roller. In this setup, everything has a crucial part to play with the roller being what spreads the paint on the surface you are painting and the frame holds everything together and is what you use to roll the roller.

Many users prefer to use rollers for indoor painting tasks as they will provide better control over the paint flow which minimizes the likelihood of getting paint into unwanted areas.

Because you can control how much force you use when painting with a roller, you can even use it to paint dirty surfaces as it allows you to put more paint to adhere to the surface something that will be hard to achieve with the paint sprayer.

Rollers are more affordable when compared to the paint sprayer which makes them great for the budget shoppers. However, like paint sprayers, they come with their fair share of drawbacks with key among them being that they do not always deliver even finishes.

Recommend: Wagner Spraytech 0530010


  • More affordable
  • Great for interior tasks
  • Very effective for painting dirty surfaces


  • Not very useful for large jobs
  • Finish is not completely even

Comparison Chart

Paint Sprayer



Airless, HVLP, conventional compressor, and handheld

Textured, manual and mini hot dog


Overall much faster

Slower and mostly depends on the user

Cover Ability

Covers wider areas

Relatively smaller coverage

Paint Use

Uses more and can be wasteful

Less paint usage


Very even

Thicker in some spots

Best For

Exterior surfaces

Interior surfaces

Clean up & Maintenance

More complicated

Fast and simple


$100 to over $1,000

$20 to $100

Paint Sprayer vs. Roller

If you do a lot of painting as a DIYer or a professional contractor, there is no doubt that you will need to have both the paint sprayer and roller as they come in handy for different kinds of jobs. However, for everyone else that has to choose one and is not sure which one to buy, here are some important points to keep in mind as they will help you make an informed decision.

1. Types

Like with any other tool, it is always a great idea to start by understanding the different types of paint sprayers and rollers out there. Knowing these types widens your knowledge of the two and hence makes the choice easier. Both are available in various types meant for different kinds of users.

Paint Sprayer

Paint sprayers will come in 4 main types which are the airless, conventional compressor, handheld, and the high volume low-pressure paint prayers. Each of these sprayers will be ideal for a particular application.

  • Conventional compressor paint sprayers are the most common types, and they are the type that will require an air compressor to operate and some know-how, but they provide a high-end finish which is what makes them popular.
  • Airless sprayers are also a common type with DIYers and in the home improvement sector, and they will use a hose, a fast piston and include a specialized chamber that is designed to build up pressure inside to allow for spraying.
  • Handheld sprayers are small and easy to use paint sprayers that many DIYers and professional users love for their versatility. Unlike other paint sprayers, they will not have any hoses or compressors.
  • HVLP or high volume low pressure can rely on an electric motor that spins a fan to create airflow but will still require an air compressor to work. These paint sprayers are some of the best for painting larger surfaces.


Rollers are very useful for painting small surfaces, and they will provide a more economical way of painting. They are available in different sizes and lengths. But most can be typically classified into 3 main types which are the textured, manual and mini hot dog rollers.

  • Textured rollers will use a unique type of foam on the rolling part which has a pattern carved on it to give the painted surface a textured finish.
  • Manual rollers are the more standard type and what comes to most people’s minds when they think of these tools, and they are ideal for both ceilings and standard walls.
  • Mini hot dog rollers come in handy when you want to paint tight and hard to reach places thanks to their smaller size.

2. Speed

When it comes to speed, paint sprayers will easily outperform rollers as there is little manual work involved, and they will release more paint within a short time.

A good paint sprayer can make the tasks up to three times faster than when using a roller and hence allowing you to cover wide areas within a short time.

Better yet, with a sprayer, there will be no time wasted loading up more paint like in a roller where you have to keep rolling it over the paint. But, also keep in mind that the paint sprayer will come with a paint container which you will need to reload now and then.

3. Cover Ability

The area that your painting tool can cover determines how fast you finish the job and hence the wider the cover ability of the tool the better.

Paint sprayers will typically cover a wider area than rollers which is what makes them great for larger projects. When using rollers, the area that it covers with every pass depends on its width.

While still at the coverage ability, you will need to consider areas that the painting tool can reach. But here, paint sprayers still have an edge as you can easily use them to paint hard to reach areas like corners and curved areas.

With a roller, painting oddly-shaped areas like corners and curves can be a little hectic even with the mini hot dog rollers.

4. Paint Use

Paint can be expensive, and this is more so when you have large areas to cover, and so you should make sure your painting tool does not waste a lot of it.

If you are very keen on paint use, you will be better sticking with the roller as paint sprayers tend to use up and waste a lot of paint.

Depending on the size, type and model, a paint sprayer can use up to 40% more paint than a roller. Even the most efficient modern models that do not waste a lot of paint can still use up to 20% more paint.

And in case you do not have a well-maintained sprayer and tips, the paint use could be up to 50% more than what you would use with a roller.

5. Finish

The finish that you get also matters a lot because in most instances the paint will be the most visible element in your house, and so it has to look good.

Although the finish that you get with both paint sprayers and rollers is highly dependent on your skills and experience, a paint sprayer will give you a much better finish than a roller.

Paint sprayers will release a fine paint mist that will cover the area it lands on more evenly, and so, as a result, you get a smoother and more even finish.

When using a roller, the paint will often be thicker where you land it first than in other parts. Hence, a little more effort will be required to even out the surface, and you might still not end up with a smooth enough finish.

6. Best For

While the paint sprayer and roller can be used for both interior and exterior surfaces, they seem, to excel in different areas. As you try to choose between them, it will be important to know what each will be best for.

Rollers seem to work best for flatter and smoother surfaces like walls and ceilings which means they will be best suited for interior uses. If you are looking for something to paint a moderate size room, a roller will be perfect.

While it is still possible to use your roller to paint the exterior surface of your home, you should be ready to spare more time for the job and give your upper arm some extra workout.

But, for exterior painting jobs to be quick and easy, a sprayer will be the more ideal tool, and it will also leave a more uniform finish. Hence, for exterior jobs, a paint sprayer will always be more appropriate as you will also not need to worry about paint flying all over to unwanted places.

7. Clean up and Maintenance

Cleanup and maintenance will always be part of owning any tool, and so you need to keep them in mind when deciding whether to go for the paint sprayer or roller.

Given that rollers are simpler tools with few and easy to take apart parts, they will give you an easier time than paint sprayer when it comes to clean up after use. Also, most models will hardly require any maintenance at all.

Paint sprayers, on the other hand, will require a more thorough cleanup. Unless you clean them thoroughly and regularly, you are highly likely to experience clogs that can at some point make the tool useless.

8. Cost

As much as you want to give your house or projects the best paint, you cannot still overlook the cost you will need to incur to achieve this. And because even the tool you use will impact the overall cost, it is important to know how much you are likely to spend on a roller or paint sprayer.

Overall, paint sprayers will be the more expensive of the two because while the most basic types will cost around $100, some types and models will retail for thousands of dollars.

With the rollers, you can get a basic but still functional enough model for as little as $20, and even the largest and most advanced types such as the textured rollers will hardly cost anything over $100.


Whether you are a DIY enthusiast or a regular homeowner that likes to remodel the house or change colors now and then, at some point you might need to decide whether to go for a roller or paint sprayer.

When it comes to making this choice, understanding what each is best for and their other differences like cover ability, paint use, the finish that each delivers and cost will make your choice a more straightforward one.

And because this piece explains all this in more detail, it should now be clear what each is ideal for. But all in all, the roller will be perfect for small and simple interior painting jobs while the paint sprayer is great for larger jobs when you want to finish the job fast and also for exterior surfaces.