Spray Gun vs. Spray Can- Differences

Did you know that the spray gun has a reach of up to 2,000 meters whereas a spray-can can only do around 1200 meters?

However, both these tools are used by users all over the world for painting purposes. Paint job artists use both depending upon the type of painting task at hand.

Let’s talk about the spray gun vs. spray can debate and find out which one is the better choice for you.

Spray Gun and Spray Cans – A General Overview

Spray guns are specific equipment that helps spray varnish or paint using air pressure to spread it or apply it on any surface. In the case of spray cans, spray paint is contained within aerosol cans. The spray paint can be dispensed from the can by pressing down on the button on the top.

Invented back in 1888 in the US by Dr. Allen DeVilbiss, spray guns have now become fundamental tools for almost all repainting services and manufacturing industries. This is because they allow industrial finishing of products economically and efficiently.

These cans use compressed gas as paint propellant to help dispense it. Due to this pressurized release of the gas paint is distributed evenly on the surface.

Spray guns can easily paint various surfaces including textile, glass, plastic, porcelain, stone, wood, and metal.

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Major Differences

Let us discuss some of the major differences between spray guns and spray cans.

Which Has a Better Finish?

In my opinion, spray guns ensure a much better finish as compared to spray cans.

This is because spray cans sometimes have uneven coverage and may turn out streaky. This will ruin the overall finish of the product.

On the other hand, paint is applied uniformly on the surface when spray guns are used.

Best Suited Tasks

Spray guns are usually used for less delicate tasks such as applying shellac, varnishes, paints, lacquers, and other finishes to products. They can also be used for painting appliances, furniture, and automobiles.

On the other hand, spray cans are mainly used for re-spraying or restoring vehicles. It can also be used for revamping spaces such as doorframes and windows.


Spray guns usually cost a lot more than spray cans. Using spray cans for a paint job can cost around $50 whereas doing it with a spray gun may cost you up to $200.

However, this is mainly because they are much more efficient and better technology has been used in manufacturing them. We can also say that spray guns are a more sophisticated mechanical equipment with more moving part, which is why they are expensive.


When it comes to durability, a paint job using a spray gun lasts much longer as compared to one with a spray can.

This also justifies the fact that why spray gun costs much more than a spray can. It is because guns allow for efficient and durable paint jobs. The paint applied with a spray gun is difficult to peel off and it doesn’t come off easily.

How to Apply Paint With a Spray Gun?

Follow the steps below to properly paint with a spray gun:

  1. Begin by preparing your coating or paint for spraying. Make sure that it is not too thick or too thin. Use a thinner if you think that your paint is too thick.
  2. Next, you need to prepare the product surface. Use a thinner to wipe off any dust on the surface.
  3. In addition, use the technical data sheet for the surface to check if you need to do anything else before you begin painting.
  4. Select the right air cap and fluid tip for the paint that you are using. Make sure the fluid tip, as well as the air cap, fit the viscosity of the paint.

  5. You can consult the user manual if you are unsure. You can also test with different fluid tips to see which one gives you the best results.
  6. Adjust the air pressure of the paint gun to achieve the paint break-up you need. Again, you may test with different air pressures to see which one you are most comfortable with. You can also consult the user manual for this step.
  7. Begin painting while keeping your spray gun at a hand’s length away from the surface. Move it back and forth at a very even pace. Each pass should be overlapped by about 40%. Don’t swing your wrist and ensure that the gun is perpendicular to the surface.
  8. Once you are done painting, make sure you properly clean the spray gun so that it works well the next time.

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How to Apply Paint With a Spray Can?

Follow the steps below to apply paint using a spray can:

  1. Assemble all the tools that you will need such as safety gear, painter’s tape, drop cloth, primer, and of course the spray can.
  2. Cover the ground with newspaper or drop cloth to prevent the paint from getting on it. Use painter’s tape to cover areas of the product that you don’t want to paint.
  3. You can also consider suspending your product in the air if you need to paint it from underneath as well.
  4. Clean the product that you are about to paint to get rid of any dust.
  5. Put on your protective gear such as safety glasses and goggles. You may also use a mask if you are allergic to the smell of paint.
  6. Apply one coat of primer to the product before painting it.
  7. Shake the spray can for about three minutes. This will allow the paint to mix well in the can.
  8. Do a spot test on any scrap piece of paper or wood to test how the paint will look on your product.
  9. Hold the can a hand’s length away from the surface and apply one coat over the product. The first coat may be splotchy and the original color of the product may show through. However, this will be covered by the second coat.
  10. Allow the first coat to dry and then apply the second coat to properly cover the object.
  11. Allow the second coat to dry for at least 24 hours and then remove any tape you had put on the object.
  12. You can apply a topcoat in the same manner if you want to give your product an even finish. Apply one coat and let it dry and then apply the second coat of the topcoat and allow it to dry for 24 hours before touching it.

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