Paint Sprayer vs. Rolling when to do what!

color block wall

A common misconception from beginner do it yourself-ers is once you own a paint sprayer the old fashion way of a roller and brush are obsolete. I’m going to be the barer of bad news and tell you that isn’t the case. Many instances, even for professional painters who can mask of ANY space. Choose to roll and brush instead of spray or combine the two techniques. Ok, so why invest in a sprayer if I can’t use it all the time? Well, because when you need to use it, it is WORTH the investment. Well then, when can I use a paint sprayer you might ask. Let me give you some basic guidelines to paint sprayers that will surely help clear up the confusion. Be sure to check out how to use a paint sprayer guide and how to paint cabinet doors guide.

Roller: Interior Walls

Interior walls are one grey area so I figured I would address them first. When a home is being built you will see professional painters using a paint sprayer. Most of the time this is because there is very little to mask off because there’s no furniture and typically no flooring in the space. But in addition to spraying professional painters will also back roll. Backrolling is the act of taking a roller and rolling over the freshly painted area.

Painters do this for two reasons 1. to eliminate potential sprayer drips/lines and most importantly 2. to create a roller texture that is easy to match for touch ups. You see, a roller and a sprayer produce two entirely different paint textures and since the construction process and move in process are SURE to put some dings and scratches in the walls, being able to touch up with a brush and roller instead of whipping out the paint sprayer saves on so much time.

If you SKIP the backrolling process on interior walls and go to touch up with a roller, you are sure to have that touch up spot stick out like a sore thumb.

If your home is existing, it would be in your best interest to go to the old fashion way and use a roller and brush. It will eliminate the need to mask off the entire room, save your flooring from potential overspray, and in the end save a lot of time.

Either: Accent walls

Accent walls are all the rage now on Pinterest and instagram. If you don’t have a board and batten, wainscoting, shiplap wall in your house is it even 2020? Accent walls are my other exception when it comes to spraying inside. Since there are typically so many angles and cutting in it can be beneficial to mask off a room and get that glossy silky smooth finish with a sprayer like I did for my bunk room and herringbone wall.

If you are going to mask off your room to spray here are my favorite masking products:

  • carpet shield – this is basically Saran Wrap for your carpet but its stickiness is extremely impressive.

Sprayer: Cabinetry or Furniture

It isn’t a MUST, but if you truly want a smooth, glossy, professional looking finish on any type of furniture or cabinetry, you will want to use a paint sprayer. There are several types of paint sprayers on the marker but I will link you to my two favorites, which have very different price points.

First, I will tell you about my all time favorite sprayer, but I will warn you. It comes at a price. The Graco TC Pro is a battery powered (thanks Dewalt), cordless, airless paint sprayer that uses LINERS instead of a container to hold the paint making clean up a breeze. It only has 3 pieces that you need to disconnect and clean and no tiny tips that are inevitably going to end up down the drain. It provides a very smooth, glass like finish even for a beginner DIY-er. There isn’t much of a learning curve and if you are in the market and want to invest in a quality sprayer from the beginning look no further. The TC PRO does have a little brother which is corded. I haven’t used it, but I have heard good things about the Truecoat 360

The next sprayer that is a great beginner, budget friendly option is the Homeright Super Finish Max which is only $100. For most interior latex paint you will want to use the green tip. The instructions indicate that you don’t NEED to thin your paint, but I’ll be honest that I’ve always needed to lightly dilute my paint with water to truly get a smooth finish. This sprayer does have very limited overspray which is nice, but its conservative flow also makes it so you need to do several coats to truly get good coverage. Regardless of its cons, it is easy to clean, doesn’t have a ton of issues with clogging, and for $100, it is way better than any traditional Wagner sprayer I’ve tried as far as even spray.

Sprayer: Exteriors

Exteriors you certainly could roller and brush, but time and number of coats, it is in your best interest to use a paint sprayer. There’s only a small portion that you have to mask off (the windows and any soffit). The concern of overspray is very minimal and if you are dealing with texture from stucco or brick, in order for you to truly get in all those cracks and crevices, spraying really is the preferred choice.

Either: Doors and trim

You heard it here first! You DO NOT NEED to spray your doors and trim. While you certainly can if you have a new build, or are installing new doors, but I have a tried and true method to brushing and rolling that is bound to get you a smooth finish!

How to paint baseboards and doors

First you need to gather the best supplies:

  • Wooster Short Handle Brush – this brush is under $6 and is the best, budget friendly, smooth, anti-fatigue, easy to cut in brush I’ve used.
  • Foam Roller – the golden foam roller allows you to back roll to eliminate brush strokes.
  • Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel – the omega of all trim and door paints. It is self leveling, hardens and cures 7 days after painting, easy surface to clean, smooth finish. For trim and doors I will use a satin or semi-gloss. Since you are rolling you can get away with a quart size if you are only doing a few doors, and could get away with a gallon to do almost all the doors in your home.
  • Frogtape – the only tape you should be painting with after reading this tutorial. It gives you the cleanest, crisp lines.

This process is so simple it kills me that most don’t know about it. First, if you have tile or hardwood you will want to tape. With 1/8″ of the tape overlapping the bottom of your baseboards and the rest on the floor. This is going to create a barrier. So drips of paint don’t get under your baseboards and onto your floor in a very difficult spot to clean.

Once you are all taped off, take your brush and get a decent amount of paint. Stroke those baseboards getting the top lip as well. Work a 3-4 foot section with just a brush… and here’s where the magic happens. Take your foam roller. DO NOT DIP IT IN THE PAINT. (say what?) yes, DRY roller, with no paint on it. Take it to the section you just brushed and lightly roll over it to get rid of those brush marks. Then move onto the next section. This back-rolling process will make those baseboards smooth. While eliminating any drips or splatters that a wet roller would inevitably create.


For doors you will follow this same process. First brush the doors where there are decorative indentations or lips. Then take a wet foam roller and roll the rest. Doors might take 2-3 coats depending on the color. Be sure to allow 4-6 hours between coats for the paint to fully dry. Between coats take a 220 grit sanding block and LIGHTLY swipe over the door. Then take a tack cloth or a microfiber rag and wipe the door off. There you have it. Professionally painted door, with a roller!

For more tips and tricks be sure to follow along on. instagram @honeybuilthome and PIN this article to refer back to later! Pinterest

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4 years ago

You do such a great job! Love your projects & how you explain everything.

Christine | Honey Built Home
Reply to  Tina

thank you Tina! it is so fun to be able to share all the behind the scenes on instagram!

4 years ago

Thank you for taking the time to go over this! I’ve always wondered what was best for each project. One question – Should you only use the 1/8” of tape on the baseboard if you’re painting then the same color they already are or is it so small you won’t be able to notice regardless of the color difference? Thanks girl!! I love following you!

Christine | Honey Built Home
Reply to  Lindsey

I think its still so small you wouldn’t notice if there’s a color difference. 🙂

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Meet Christine Gummersall, a mother of 4, coach's wife, former Labor and Delivery nurse, and self taught DIYer who decided to take a sledge hammer to her 1950's bathroom over a decade ago and hasn't stopped tackling her honey-do list since.  Folow along as christine breaks down the pretty afters, by showing the whole how to process and empowers you to STOP waiting, and START creating a home you love, with your own two hands! 

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