Updated October 11, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

The 10 Best Automotive Paint Guns

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Whether you run a professional body shop or are simply a DIY car enthusiast looking to trick out a ride with the fanciest colors possible, you'll need one of these handy automotive paint guns to help get the job done. Our selection includes ergonomically-designed, easy-to-control models capable of handling a variety of materials, from base coats to primers. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best automotive paint gun on Amazon.

10. PowRyte Elite

9. Astro 4008

8. Ingersoll Rand Edge 210G

7. TCP Global Professional

6. Wagner MotoCoat

5. Sharpe Finex FX3000

4. Devilbiss Finishline

3. 3M Accuspray

2. Tekna ProLite

1. Iwata Super Nova

Tricking Out Your Ride In Full Color

The air passage is blocked by an air valve, while the paint passage is stopped by a fluid needle located in an orifice at the nozzle tip.

The automobile can create an emotional connection between human and machine. A driver's feeling of control, combined with an ability to customize its style, gives it much of its personal value. For the die-hard car enthusiast, intricate details matter. These include anything from the type of engine installed to the color of the automobile's paint. Painting a car is an involved process that requires skill, delicate work, and the appropriate equipment to get the job done. Whether you're a professional automotive painter or a DIYer looking to spice up your ride, one of the most important tools you can have in your arsenal is a high-quality paint gun.

An automotive paint gun is a pneumatically-powered, trigger-operated tool that uses compressed air to atomize fluid primer, paint, or clear coat through a nozzle and onto a car's surface. The device typically consists of a gun system (i.e. an outer shell and nozzle), a pressurized paint cup, a compressed air system, and flexible tubing that connects these components together. Three basic control elements of the gun include an air gauge, allowing for precise pressure adjustments; a fluid level adjustment, used to control the amount of paint delivered through the nozzle; a built-in fan, facilitating regulation of the gun's spray pattern; and a trigger. These components work together to ensure controlled and even dispersion of a fluid medium onto a target surface.

The gun has two independently-sealed passageways, one for paint and the other for compressed air. The air passage is blocked by an air valve, while the paint passage is stopped by a fluid needle located in an orifice at the nozzle tip. Pulling the trigger causes the air valve to open and the fluid needle to retract, which opens the orifice. During this time, paint stored in the cup attachment is gradually drawn into the nozzle, while air simultaneously rushes through its passageway to the same location. When the air and paint both reach the nozzle tip, atomization occurs. Atomization is the process by which compressed air mixes with a fluid and breaks that fluid up into smaller droplets, forming a spray mist that is ultimately propelled outward from the nozzle and onto a car's surface.

Feeding Paint Wisely

Before investing in an automotive paint gun, you must determine the type that works best for your intended application. The tool falls into two main categories, including high volume low pressure (HVLP) and low volume low pressure (LVLP) devices. HVLP guns are highly consistent, efficient, and easy to control, while evenly distributing paint and clear coats to their target surfaces. Some can be used without a separate air compressor. Like HVLP guns, LVLP spray guns also operate at low pressure (around ten pounds per square inch), but they use a lower volume of air.

Next, consider the optimal feed type for your gun of choice. Feed designs include pressure, siphon, or gravity-feed options. The pressure-feed system depends on an external tank to provide the necessary fluid pressure. This system is practical for use if you're dealing with large volumes of paint in a professional garage environment. With a siphon-feed spray system, the paint cup is located below the gun, requiring a greater volume of air pressure to produce vacuum suction at the nozzle tip. This vacuum suction then pulls the fluid paint up through the feed tube and into the nozzle itself. Additionally, an orifice on the cup's lid allows surrounding air to enter, contributing to an upward force of paint fluid within the feed tube. The siphon-feed system reduces overall pressure, making it less efficient when working with high-viscosity fluids. Therefore, the siphon-feed system is ideal if you plan to work with low-viscosity materials such as lacquers, stains, or dyes. Unlike the siphon-feed system, the paint cup in a gravity-feed system is located above the gun, allowing the flow of fluid to be assisted by the force of gravity. Furthermore, the gravity-feed system optimizes compressed air pressure for superior atomization and utilization of your paint materials, significantly minimizing material wastage. Gravity-feed guns are great for applying high-viscosity mediums such as thick paints and clear coats to your automobile.

Nozzle size is another important factor to keep in mind. The thicker the paint used, the larger your gun nozzle should be. Large nozzles are great for accommodating primers, while small nozzles will support more specialized paints like single-stage, metallics, and clear coats.

A Brief History Of Automotive Paint Guns

Up until the late 19th century, all painting in the United States was performed by hand with a brush. However, this changed in 1887 when Marshall Fields maintenance supervisor Joseph Binks invented the very first spray gun for paint. Binks combined a hand-operated pump, a vessel to hold the liquid under pressure, and a wand with a nozzle on the end. Binks later had the opportunity to use his device to spray paint the buildings containing the exhibits for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, a site which became known as the "White City."

Thomas DeVilbiss' design was adopted by the furniture industry, as it drastically reduced the time needed to finish a piece.

Dr. Allen DeVilbiss (a nose and throat doctor from Toledo, Ohio) developed the first atomizer for medical use in 1888. By 1907, DeVilbiss’ son Thomas expanded on this invention and created the first handheld, air-powered spray gun. Thomas DeVilbiss' design was adopted by the furniture industry, as it drastically reduced the time needed to finish a piece.

Spray guns were adopted by the automotive industry in the early 1920s. By the 1960s, they evolved to allow users to swap out paints of different colors with ease and efficiency. World War Two created a unique niche for the industry, as soldiers who painted ships and trucks in the army could use the same equipment on vehicles in Detroit. This gave rise to the development of both gravity and siphon-feed sprayers in the 1950s, followed by the first HVLP guns in the 1980s. Today's paint guns maintain a focus on consistency and efficiency when working with delicate machinery requiring intricate exterior detailing.

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Jeff Newburgh
Last updated on October 11, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

Jeff is a dedicated writer and communications professional from San Francisco with a bachelor of arts in anthropology from UC Berkeley. He began his career in computer consulting and later branched out into customer service. Jeff focuses on making complex topics easy to understand. With over 10 years' experience in research, his relentless curiosity fuels a love of writing and learning how things work, and has helped to build expertise in categories such as heavy-duty power tools and computer equipment. Jeff's passion for animals affords him a strong understanding of pet products, including dog houses, beds, and grain-free foods. When he's not writing, he prefers spending time with his family and three dogs, while kicking back and relaxing with a nice glass of red wine.

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