How to Use an HVLP Spray Gun

by Nathaniel Miller

High Volume, Low Pressure or HVLP spray guns are the industry standard for painting cars and other types of sheet metal. Essentially, an HVLP gun contains a high volume of paint, and utilizes low air pressure to spray the paint in a fine mist onto the target. A high quality paint job is only achieved if the controls on the paint gun are adjusted properly. The main controls to worry about are air pressure, fan speed and fluid control. Proper painting technique is also important, however initial gun setup is the biggest difference between a good paint job and a bad one.

Turn the compressor on and adjust the air pressure at the hose to 90psi. This pressure will supply the appropriate pressure to the gun, which also has a pressure regulator. Adjust the pressure regulator at the base of the gun handle to the recommended pressure found in the manufacturer's manual. A good starting point is 50psi and then you can tweak the pressure based on your painting results.

Connect the hose to the gun and then pull the trigger until the pressure at the base of the gun stops fluctuating. Fill the paint canister with paint, using the paint thinner to thin the paint according to the spray gun manufacturer's chart found in the gun packaging. Attach the canister to the paint gun and then spray a swathe on a test surface. Use the fan adjustment knob on the rear of the gun to fine tune the spray to meet your needs (i.e., if you are getting runs, adjust the fan speed faster to achieve higher paint atomization or turn the speed lower to achieve a thicker initial coat).

Adjust the fluid control knob to handle the increased or decreased fan speed. You want the amount of paint to provide a solid mist of paint droplets, but not so much volume that the paint begins to run. Sweep the gun back and forth 6 to 8 inches from the object you are painting. Always keep the gun perpendicular to the paint surface and sweep at a medium pace.


  • check On most HVLP spray guns, you can change the nozzle to spray in a circular, horizontal or vertical pattern. Adjust the nozzle to utilize the pattern that most efficiently and effectively covers the surface of the item that you are painting.


  • close Always wear a paint mask and goggles. Paint in a well ventilated area to avoid damage to your lungs.

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera