Spray Paint Walls or Roll Them: Which Is Faster, Easier?

Spray Painting Walls and Crown Molding
This Worker Is Spray Painting Interior Walls, Molding, and Ceiling. BanksPhotos/Getty Images

Roller or sprayer for painting walls in your home? It's a tough choice. Paint spraying is fast, but only after you conclude with the extensive preparation work. Rolling is slower, but it lays down more of a quality coat than spraying does.

If you care only about the quality of the painted surface, you cannot go wrong with rolling on the paint. Without a doubt, you get a thicker paint layer and better color consistency than with spraying. But with so many other factors to consider, such as cost, preparation time, and surface condition, the decision becomes a bit more difficult. 

You may want to use the paint roller method if some of these conditions are met:

You Hate Masking

While you do need to mask out some areas when paint-rolling, it nowhere compares to the huge amount of masking you will need to do when spraying. Consider that with paint spraying, every square inch that you don't want to be painted must be masked in film or with a drop cloth. Whatever you neglect to mask when spraying will get painted, like it or not. Rolling vastly reduces the amount of masking you will need to do.

You Are Painting Interior Walls Only

Are you painting only the walls and not the ceiling? This factor may tip things in the direction of paint-rolling for you. When you roll on paint, it is relatively easy to exclude the ceiling. There is no need to use masking film on the ceiling when rolling walls.

You Like to Keep Things Simple

Roller, roller cover, paint tray, and tray liner: these are your four main painting supplies when rolling. Also, with the roller method, it is easy to jump into your painting project for awhile, then put it on pause so you can attend to the rest of your life. With paint spraying, it is an all-or-nothing project that consumes your entire day.

You Are Trying to Save Money

Paint spraying wastes an incredible amount of paint when the atomized paint drifts away. When rolling, practically every drop ends up on the surface. It is estimated that as much as one-third of sprayed paint ends up elsewhere than the intended surface. Also factor in the cost of tools. All roller items are inexpensive compared to the purchase and maintenance of a paint sprayer.

You Are Painting on a Dirty Surface

While it is always best to thoroughly clean the surface before painting, sometimes this doesn't happen. If so, paint rolling is here to save the day. Paint rolling allows you more leeway when the surface isn't perfectly clean. Rolled paint goes down thick on the initial coat and bonds better to the surface. The tiny paint droplets produced by spraying do not connect with each other as well as rolled-on paint. Professional painters have a clever technique that combines the best of spraying and rolling: back-rolling. Paint is sprayed on the wall then is quickly rolled down, fusing the droplets together.

While rolling has its points, paint sprayers do exist for a good reason: they are fast. You may wish to use a paint sprayer if some of these conditions are met:

You Are Priming New, Large Interior Spaces

When the room is in the early phases of remodeling, it is a blank canvas. This canvas lends itself well to paint spraying. You can spray with abandon, masking off only a few key areas such as plumbing stub-outs, electrical boxes, and windows. When a room is at this point of remodeling, it will always be faster to spray than roll the paint.

You Are Painting an Exterior With a Clear Perimeter

Exteriors with mature landscaping, extensive decking, sunrooms, playsets, garages, and anything else close to the house that will not be painted significantly drags down your preparation time. A clear perimeter means that you only need to mask items on the house, not around the house.

You Have Lots of Detail Work or Texture

Paint sprayers make short work of complicated textures, such as those found on crown molding, popcorn or cottage cheese ceilings, built-up baseboards, deep exterior textures, cornices, dentils, or masonry. Paint sprayers have the ability to work into the narrowest crevices, laying down a thin coat. By contrast, brushing or rolling detailed surfaces can result in pooled up paint and drips.