By Steve Milhoan

Today, there are many different ways to manually apply coatings in the finishing world. This article will list some of the techniques and give a brief description along with the pros and cons of each technique.

In my previous article, “From Paint Brushes to Spray Guns: Manual Finishing Technologies are Evolving,” I covered three techniques of manually applying paint: paint brushes, conventional spray guns and high volume low pressure (HVLP) spray guns. In this article, I will continue to explore the evolution of manually applied paint by covering the following technologies: airless, air-assisted airless and low volume low pressure (LVLP) spray guns.


Airless spray guns have a working pressure in the range of 700 to 5,000 psi. Airless guns must be used with a pump that creates adequate pressure to atomize paint through a small orifice nozzle (usually in a range of 0.09-0.35). Most coatings can be sprayed with very little thinner added, thereby reducing drying time and decreasing the release of solvent into the environment.

Pros: Coatings penetrate better into pits and crevices, uniform thick coating produced, high speed of coatings applied
Cons: Cannot produce class A finish quality, risk of injury due to use of higher pressure


Air-Assisted Airless (AAA) uses the same spray tips as an airless spray gun and also requires a pump to deliver material to the applicator’s tip. The difference between the two technologies is the pressure range and the added air to help with pattern distribution and atomization. AAA is usually used in a range of 300 to 600 psi. At this low pressure, the pattern that is produced by the AAA tip is heavy in the middle with tails on the outside. By introducing a low amount of air (10-20 psi), it blends the pattern together and also adds some additional atomization to the spray process. This low pressure and added air increases the transfer efficiency and final finish quality.

Pros: High transfer efficiency, super fast application speed—one of the fastest available, EPA and government approved
Cons: Requires a pump and a small compressor for operation, more startup costs than HVLP systems


LVLP spray guns are air atomized spray guns, which offer greater pressures than HVLP, a faster working speed and slightly higher atomization levels. Due to industry demands for higher production speed, most reduced pressure guns are approved for use in about 90% of the U.S. They are approved even in California’s San Francisco bay area, which verifies that the low over spray levels, while slightly higher than HVLP, are still very excellent.

Pros: Faster application speed than HVLP, among the highest finish quality, great material savings—similar to HVLP
Cons: Requires a pump and a small compressor for operation, more startup costs than HVLP systems

Which manual finishing technology will help you achieve all your goals? OTP Industrial Solutions has finishing and fluid handling experts on-call to help answer any question and solve any problem. We can introduce you to the best finishing technology for your specific needs, using our technical knowledge and broad product support to get the right tools and technologies in your hands today.