Have you ever wondered if you can speed things up with shabby chic spray painting? This blog post is well overdue and I want to cover a subject that I get asked about regularly. I’m going to go into a lot of detail here so you might want to get yourself a coffee and get comfortable because we’re going to be talking about spray painting your projects.

I know there’s a lot of information on the internet regarding spraying, but not so much when it comes to the different types of paint, such as Annie Sloan Chalk Paint vs latex paints and primers. Furniture paint is very different to the type of paint that would usually be sprayed, for example something like car paint.

But in this article I’m only going to be talking  about painting furniture for Shabby Chic projects So what should you be looking for when you are thinking about spraying furniture? Let’s look at the first few things to consider.

What Type Of Spray Gun Should I buy?

For this purpose, there are only really two types of spray equipment that we need to discuss, HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) and airless. HVLP are basically regular spray guns that you would use with an air compressor in order to atomise the paint and spray it onto your project. 99% of all car body shops will use this type of spray equipment as well as some pro furniture finishers. Let’s talk about HVLP first.

As we’ve said, HVLP is just a regular air driven spray gun that is designed to work on a low air pressure of around 2-3 bar and deliver an atomised spray pattern with a high transfer efficiency and minimal overspray. Say what? That’s just a fancy way of saying that more paint ends up on the piece you’re painting and not as a mist in the air, thus saving paint and being more efficient.

Sounds perfect right? Well there are a lot of other factors to take into account here. A HVLP gun needs a compressor or a turbine to drive it. This is an expense to be considered as if you plan to use your gun a lot, especially with high viscosity paints (thicker) you will need something that delivers a lot of air at a constant pressure. The way that air delivery is measured is via CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) or better still FAD (Free Air Delivery)

The higher the number of these values the more air your compressor can deliver without running out of puff every few minutes. If you are spraying low viscosity paints (thinner) they will flow much easier and the compressor will not have to work so hard as you will be able to paint in quick passes with good paint flow. If the paint is thicker, less will come out of the spray gun at once and you will have to move the gun much more slowly, and thus need more air!

Here’s where it gets challenging, in order to get a more stable flow of paint there are essentially two things you can do, you can buy a spray gun with a larger diameter needle of you can thin down the paint to lower the viscosity. The needle of a HVLP spray gun is just that, it’s a long thin bar with one needle sharp end that runs through the body of the spray gun that retracts when you pull the trigger and allows paint to pass where it is atomised by the air and comes out as a spray mist. The larger the needle, the more paint it allows to pass. Most high build paints such as primers would be sprayed with something like a 2mm needle size.

The downside to this is that even at 2mm, a paint that is slightly too thick will struggle unless it has a very good compressor driving it. I have a 3HP 150 litre compressor with a CFM of around 11 and my 2mm tip HVLP gun will still clog and spit regularly if I mix the paint just a little too thick or get a piece of goo from the edge of the can mixed in with the paint. If a blockage does occur, I have to strip the tip of the gun down and remove the blockage before I can carry on spraying.

So why not just make the paint real thin and then it will be easy to spray, right? Unfortunately not. always – it depends on the paint. Most paints are designed to be thinned to a maximum of around 10% before their integrity is adversely affected. If you thin the paint too much you generally lose the covering power that you need and invite runs in the paint because it’s just too thin to stick.

Plus the whole point of spraying is to save time, so if you have to apply lots of coats, what’s the point? In order to do a good job we need the paint to be applied without it being too thin to give good coverage and needing multiple coats.

This is generally the part when people leave me comments to say “Hey, I have been using HVLP for cupboards for years and I’ve never had these problems”. All I can say is that everything written here is based on my experience and I have spent many, many hours (and a ton of money) trying to find the best solution for spraying and this is just me sharing my experiences. I welcome any comments with additional tips or advice on the subject.

Airless

So what about airless? If you have a store bought piece of furniture with a lovely smooth paint job, chances are it was painted with an airless spray rig. Airless is what most pro painters and decorators will use when they are looking to lay down a lot of paint in a short space of time. Airless works differently from an HVLP set up in as much as it literally ‘pushes’ the paint out through a nozzle using a powerful piston pump.

It can generate enough force to tear your skin should you be unfortunate enough to get your hand in the way of the paint stream, so great care must be taken when using these. Airless will spray thicker paints much more easily than an HVLP sprayer without the need to thin down the paint. So is there a downside?

Of course there is:) Airless sprayers tend to be expensive and cheap ones don’t usually live long lives. They are pump driven, so the pump needs to be primed (or filled) with paint. On a full sized rig this can use a lot of paint. Then you have to keep the paint trough filled so that it doesn’t run dry. So if you’re looking to use a small can of paint and just spray a few items, the priming and the clean up of a full sized rig might not be at all worthwhile after all. What did we say about saving time!

So what’s the answer? To be honest there is no perfect answer, spraying can be a complete hassle, but then anyone who has painted a dining room chair set will also know what a hassle a brush is too! So here’s the best solution I have found that ticks all the boxes that it’s possible to tick for me. If I want to spray something I use a Graco Truecoat Pro II cordless spray gun. It is essentially a compact cordless airless sprayer designed for smaller paint jobs for pro painters.

Shabby Chic Spray Painting

Now I want to be clear. I’m in no way being helped by or affiliated to Graco when I write this, I bought my spray gun at full price from a guy that imports them from the USA and it wasn’t cheap! There are cheaper ones out there, much cheaper but Graco make Pro equipment, this is not DIY shed quality.

The thing is it can be loaded with just about any kind of paint, including Annie Sloan Chalk Paint without it being thinned down and still spray it to a very high standard. It will take a quart of paint at a time so I don’t have to waste a lot of paint in priming the pump and it’s manoeuvrable enough to use around cupboards. So is it perfect? well no, don’t get me wrong, I love it but it was £600 when I bought it (a lot for me to spend on a sprayer) and boy does it get through paint quickly. That said, it will cover in one coat. As I like to say, one and done! That’s what this spray gun does and it does it well.

Also if there is a paint clog, the tip can be reversed and ‘backwashed’ to remove the blockage

The bottom line is, what price do you put on your time? If you said £10 per hour and you could paint a cupboard in two minutes instead of two hours, Then you’ve saved nearly £20 0f labour. The equipment has paid for itself by the time you have painted 30 pieces. It’s a crude example but you take my meaning.

Take a look at the videos below, I managed to paint an entire cabinet in Wickes Chalky Flat Matt paint, straight from the can in 1 minute and 54 seconds!

Graco-Cupboard-Close-Up
So there you have it, we’ve looked at the ways that you can spray paints such as the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and the various options and pitfalls that you may face depending on what method you choose.

I know I said that I would talk about the various types of paint that these sprayers will spray, Latex, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint etc but to be honest I kind of use the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint as a bit of a bench mark for this example because it’s far thicker that most latex paints I’ve ever used, so if a spray gun will handle Annie Sloan Chalk Paint without it being thinned then it will handle all but the thickest of paints out there in the market place.

So is shabby chic spray painting a time saver? Well it certainly can be if you have the right space for it and can line up a few cupboards to paint at the same time, otherwise you may just find yourself washing out the spray gun over and over and wasting your time in a different way!

I sincerely hope that this article has been of some help to some of you to make an informed decision on what equipment is right for you.

Please feel free to comment or ask any questions below. Happy Spraying!

UPDATE Congratulations to Sian Roberts for guessing that the blue cupboard took 1 minute and 55 seconds to paint. I actually had it at 1 minute 54 but you are definitely the closest guess, so you win a prize! Well done!

30 Comments

  1. Thank you so much Sam for posting this! My husband and I painted 4 dining room chairs and table with a brush for our booth. I was so tired of looking at chairs after that. We have another set of 6 chairs and a table that we were talking about spraying with Annie Sloan. I was worried that it would be too thick for the sprayer. Now after reading your blog, I’m definitely spraying it. This will save us so much time. The time I can spend on painting something else for a client. Thank you again for your wonderful advice! I am looking forward to the next post! Michelle from Varleys Vintage

    • Glad the blog was timely for you! My worst nightmare is a set of 6 dining chairs lol! The spray guns were just made for chairs! Looking forward to seeing your chairs all sprayed up! I’ll be working on my next blog soon! Take care hun, Sam x

    • Hi great page and Ebook.

      We have just start using a spraying machine and is a good send for chairs. However have you noticed of the paint and finished coating of varnish is just not as durable as hand painting?

      • Hi, Thanks for the comment. To be honest I can’t say that I have noticed any variation in the durability when it’s sprayed. The airless does put the paint on pretty thick though.

        Rgds

        Steve

        • Hi Steve, thanks for this. I am using an Airmaster Compressor, does a good job. Maybe it is just a mind set.

  2. Hi Cinty, If you use an HVLP gun, I wouldn’t recommend you using on ceilings as there is so much overspray, you will end up with more over you & your face than on the ceilings 🙂 But if you have an airelss sprayer, there is very little overspray, so would be perfect for walls, and ideal for ceilings. We will be tackling our hallway with our one very soon! I will post the results for everyone to see 🙂 Sam x

  3. Hi,
    I wonder if anybody has found a budget airless sprayer that comes close to performing like the Graco mentioned above?

    The Graco is undoubtedly a quality tool but the price makes it a wish list item for the future.

    I need a much more affordable solution to chalk paint spraying with a max price circa £100.

    Any body got a solution?

    Cheers,

    Iain

    • The 120V model vice the battery powered version of that sprayer is less expensive but I’m not sure that if it’s available in the UK, nor am I certain that you’d have access to 120V

      • Well I have tried both flo troll and windscreen washer concentrate (WWC) with thinned chalk paint and…

        Drumroll…

        Windscreen washer concentrate wins both on performance and price.

        I added at the rate 2/3rds pain to to 1/3rd WWC. Even though it is a lurid blue colour it doesn’t appear to effect the final colour. I was using it with home made off white chalk paint.

        Sprayed through my Bosch airless sprayer. No where near the best but only a £50 buy as an experiment. Remember it has tob concentrate. Not ready mix washer fluid.

        Maybe some body else can trial it and see how it goes for them?

        Iain.

        • Wow, Thanks Iain for this!! I will post this in our ‘For the love of Shabby Chic’ group as I know we have lots of people who use sprayers there. I will give this a go myself! Thanks again! Sam x

  4. I went out and bought this gun after reading your blog!! I need advice…. I started painting my first piece today and it clogged with ASCP after about 3 minutes. It also started spraying uneven out of one side and not an even airflow. I am so heartbroken it’s not working the same for me. Question: My can of paint is older and previously opened and used, thus probably a thicker consistancy. Do you think that the ASCP must be a new fresh (thinner consistancy) paint can to achieve the same results?

    • Hi Amanda, if the paint is really thick then you may have to thin it down a little. I didn’t thin the paint at all and the gun handled it fine. If you bought the same model as the one I used there is a pressure regulator on the side of the gun. If it’s struggling you can increase the pressure up to 2000psi! This should manage just about most paints. Perhaps this needs to be adjusted on your sprayer, alternatively thin the paint down with a little water.
      I will be writing a post soon on how to properly thin paint for spraying so stay posted. I hope this helps.
      Sam

  5. Good evening,

    I understand that this thread is old however I was wondering as to weather or not you have used DIY chalk paint with your Graco sprayer?

    I have the same model as yourself and your advice on using the sprayer with Annie Sloan CP was fantastic. I am trying to use DIY chalk paint however i am having very little luck. If you could provide me with some advice that would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance

    Best wishes

    Sean

    • Hi Sean, sorry for the late reply!
      I haven’t used any home made chalk paint myself so can’t really comment on the Graco’s abilty to cope with it I’m afraid. I would bu surprised if it struggled however as it sprays unthinned Annie sloan Chalk Paint with no problems without the power dial all the way up. Graco also say that the gun will handle exterior finishes which are really thick.
      If you find that your gun is struggling maybe a larger spray tip will help?
      Best wishes
      Sam

  6. Great blog post, this is exactly what I needed to read! Can I ask how you have found the life span of these sprayers? I have read elsewhere that they don’t last very long and would appreciate any opinions on this. Also, where did you buy in the UK? Thanks again, you have a brilliant blog.

    • Hi, I know that some of the early Graco spray guns have a reasonable short lifespan as they were only really intended as touch up guns. I opted for the Truecoat pro II as many of the parts are replaceable, which they weren’t on the earlier guns.
      I imported the gun I have from the USA as this isn’t currently available in the Graco range. It’s easy to do, just don’t forget the import duty when you are factoring in your price.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Sam

  7. Sam this is an excellent tutorial. Thanks for posting it. I have just added the link to it on my facebook page for all of my lovely members to come check out.

    PS. Need to order some more of your gorgeous appliques soon… I’m almost out from my last order 🙂

    Carole

  8. I’ve been searching the internet for days about spraying ASCP and your blog has been the most helpful. I’m just a stay at home mom with a handful of pieces to refinish but I still might invest in the big gun. With children running around I don’t have time to spend hours and hours in the garage. Thank you so much!

  9. I just purchased the graco sprayer. Do I just use the tip that it comes with? I am going to use Annie Sloan chalk paint

    • Hi there, yes the standard tip should do just fine. It’s all that I used and it seemed right to me.

  10. Hi Sam, took the step and Made the purchase. Had a practice run today and at present you make it look easy in the video 🙂

    By god it fires through a can of paint too. I’m getting far too much on to be honest – any tips ? Or an I just trigger happy ?

    Cheers

    Steve

    • Hi Steve, In order to make things go a little further you could add a bit of Floetrol to your paint. It won’t make it so thin that it runs and it won’t affect drying times either. It’s generally cheaper than chalk paint though and can help you paint go that bit further.

      I hope this helps

      Regards

      Sam

      • Thanks for the tip Sam!

        I think it comes down to practice making perfect too. shorter blasts 🙂 and a bit more rhythm. Once Ive hopefully cracked it I will be like you in the Video !!!

        Thanks buddy

        • Sam,

          Quick question after a better practice today 🙂

          What pressure setting do you use on Annie sloan chalk paint?

          Today’s quick run, saw sides nearly perfect and top but a little too much on drawer fronts although rescued with the good old brush !!

          But I feel I’m getting there and so quick too !

    • Hi Garon,
      You may get lucky & find one for sale on eBay, but they are quite rare to find in the UK! We imported ours from the US.
      Kind regards, Sam.

  11. I was so nervous just now when I came across your post on the comparison of HVLP’S & AIRLESS as I just purchased the Graco Truecat Pro II earlier today…..but boy was I over the moon when I got towards the end and saw that I’d purchased the right one. Thank you for a very informative post that answered two of the questions that were really bothering me in my lead up to my purchase-
    1. HVLP V Airless
    2. Could it handle chalk paint.

    Thank you….looking forward to using it now when it arrives from USA to me in Ireland. Regards Aisling

  12. I spray ASCP through a gravity fed Sharp Finex hvlp air gun with a 1.5 mm tip. I find when it seems to be clogged? It’s just dried paint on the tip of the needle. I keep mineral spirits in a spray fun and just spray a small brush that came with my gun with it. Then I just rub it on the tip to clean it off and away I go!! Works every time!!

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