Rollers vs Brushes vs Sprayers: which do you need for your project?

There is a hot debate in the world of decorating about the right tool when painting. Rollers are quick and convenient but do they offer the accuracy needed? Sprayers are even easier and quicker to use than rollers, but what about the mess? And, then, there are the purists who believe that brushes are the only way to go, no matter the effort involved.

The truth is that there is a role for each tool in the decorating process. All tools come with their pros and cons and with the optimal conditions for use. Here we explore each one and consider when you might choose it over the others and when it is just the wrong tool for the job.


If you have a large space with huge expanses of flat areas, then rollers are great. They offer an even layering of the paint and can avoid excess application with the right technique. The roller is perfect for walls but especially for ceilings, where the effort of using a brush is just too much. You can grab yourself an extension pole and apply the paint without the need for a ladder.

A roller will give a distinct texture to the paint, though the shorter the roller’s nap (head), the less obvious this texture will be. However, no matter what roller you choose, there will be pulls in the paint. If you must get a satin-smooth finish, you will have to get yourself a sprayer.


  • Quick and effective
  • Best for ceilings and large areas of flat wall


  • You will struggle to get the smoothest of finishes, as the roller will leave a granular look.


If you want a smooth finish, then a sprayer is a great tool. It is also amazing in covering large flat surfaces evenly and in a fraction of the time. If you are looking to paint a full room, ceilings or large entranceways, then a sprayer is the perfect tool.

The problem is accuracy. In decorating parlance, this is called overspraying. This basically means that anything in the way of the sprayer is going to get covered and there is a struggle to get the accuracy needed. If you are not looking to colour the ceiling the same as the walls, you shouldn’t use a sprayer. Of course, you can plan in the taping off and the draping of cloth.

However, as paints in sprayers are thinner to pass through the nozzle, there is more chance of drips and runs. You will need to be prepared to do multiple thinner coats rather than a single thick coat.


  • Quick
  • Little muscle ache
  • Smooth finish


  • Overspraying – commonly known as a mess
  • Drips and runs


For some, there is nothing more practical than a brush. You can get into the smallest nooks and crannies, which is ideal near the trim and woodwork. It is important to get the right brush, of the right quality, for the job you are doing. Cheap brushes that are wrong for the space will create more mess and more hassle. You will lose bristles, and this can cause imperfections in the finish. High-quality brushes will hold more paint, too, without causing drips. You will cover more areas easier.

Getting an angled brush will create a good cut around the trim, and realistically, you will need a bush even if you choose to use a roller or sprayer. The area around the edge of a room will always need the more delicate finish of a brush.


  • Accuracy
  • High-quality finish


  • Imperfections with cheap tools
  • A lot of hard work

The answer to the question

It is fair to say that choosing the right tools is essential when undertaking a painting project. Getting it right can mean the difference between a beautiful outcome and an absolute mess. While each method has pros and cons, really getting the right one for your space is the right answer to the question. You are also likely to use a variety of tools to get the perfect finish.