Module 2: Spray Tan Equipment

How to start a spray tan business: intro, module 1.

Here you will learn:

  • How to choose the best spray tan equipment that suits your needs.
  • A breakdown of equipment features.

When it comes to choosing professional spray tan equipment for yourself or your new spray tan business there are a couple of things to consider before you make a purchase.

The first step in buying any spray tan equipment is knowing how you are going to use it.

Step 1: How Many Spray Tans Are You Planning To Do?

Spray tan machines are rated for the number of tans the equipment can handle without overheating, think of it as light, medium, and heavy use.

Light use machines are great for personal or occasional use, while heavy use or salon-rated machines are essential for high volume tanning.

It is important to know the number of tans the machine you are working with can handle. Using a low volume spray tan machine at a large spray tan party of back-to-back clients could overheat your machine causing you to not be able to finish the party. This can lose you money, your business reputation, and cost you money to buy a new spray tan machine. None of this is a good thing.

So, how do you see yourself using your new spray tan machine?

  • How many spray tans are you planning in a day or week?
  • Is it for personal use? Just you, maybe a friend?
  • Are you starting a homebased business?
  • Or a mobile spray tan business?
  • If mobile will you be doing single tans or large spray tan parties?
  • Will you be traveling for fitness or bodybuilder competition spraying?
  • Opening a high volume spray tan salon?
  • Or adding a service to your hair salon?

Step 2: Where Will You Store Your Spray Tan Machine?

  • Does your spray tan machine need to fit in a closet or cabinet at home when not in use?
  • Are you a mobile spray tan artist that will be packing and unpacking your equipment at each appointment?
  • Will your spray tan machine be in a dedicated space at your home or salon?

Planning ahead can save time, money, and frustration from an equipment failure due to overuse or transportation and storage issues.

Step 3: Choosing A Spray Tan Machine

Let’s look at the basic spray tan machine parts.

  • compressor
  • spray tan gun
  • hose

There may be other things that you need to purchase like a tent, backdrop, or spray tan extraction fan if you are starting a home-based or mobile spray tan business.

Spray Tan Compressor

The main part of your spray tan equipment is the compressor. It moves air through the hose and spray gun pushing the spray tan solution out in a fine mist.

Compressors come in several different varieties but the 3 main types are:

  • Airbrush
  • LVLP
  • HVLP

The top brands of spray tan machines are MaxiMist, Norvell, and Fuji

Airbrush Tanning System

A true airbrush is small and runs with an air pump compressor.  Its best used for detail work. Using it for a whole spray tan would take far too long and the overspray is very messy.

This is how the first sunless tans were applied.

PROS: Excellent detail work, small/portable

CONS: Messy overspray, takes too long to complete a tan, high learning curve

LVLP Low Volume Low Pressure

A low-volume low-pressure sprayer uses a low volume of air to mist the spray tan solution. 

It requires a lower PSI, meaning they are compatible with smaller air compressors and spray a gentle mist with less overspray.

PROS: gentle for spraying delicate skin, the smaller compressor is portable, cleaner spraying

CONS: low-volume compressor makes for slow spraying time

HVLP High Volume Low Pressure

Spray tan machines marketed for professional spray tan businesses are HVLP machines.

This stands for High Volume, Low Pressure.

The air pressure is preset to the perfect low-pressure level, while the spray tan solution comes out at a higher volume making it super easy to use.

PROS: gentle for spraying delicate skin, preset compressor settings make it easy to set up, powerful enough for heavy client load, easy to learn

CONS: some equipment is larger/heavy and not suitable for a mobile, can be loud depending on the manufacturer

These are great options for beginning spray tan artists and can have good detail work for spray tan pros.

Here is a list of all the features that I think about before I commit to purchasing a new spray tanning system for my spray tanning business.

Spray Tan Equipment Features To Consider Before Purchasing

Volume of use

We went over this in Step 1: make sure you have decided how many spray tans a day you plan on doing and match that to the equipment that you are planning on buying.

The usage scale is normally described as light/intermittent, medium, or heavy use/high volume.


How loud is the spray tan equipment? Are you working in a peaceful spa environment? Will you be able to communicate with your client without yelling? I promise your ears/head will thank you for the quietest unit you can choose.

The spray units normally will list a Db rating somewhere in the description.


Overspray creates a mess that you have to continually clean up and it wastes spray tan solution.  Less over spray=less cleaning.  As a mobile spray tan business going into clients’ homes you will want a clean unit so that spray tan solution is NOT ending up on your clients’ furniture. A higher-quality professional spray machine is going to lower the amount of overspray.

Weight and ease of moving

Do you need to move your spray tan system on a regular basis for mobile spray tans or will it be in a dedicated space? Home units are compact and easily stored. Mobile units are smaller and easily moved. Larger salon units are for a stationary space.

The weight of the unit is listed in the description.

Spray Tan Gun

Does the unit come with a basic or pro-style spray gun? Does it disassemble? Where does the hose connect–bottom or back of gun? How much does it adjust for detail work?

A basic or Pro Level spray tan gun is listed in the name of the unit or the description.

Spray Tan Hose

Is the hose is stiff and awkward or soft and flexible? Is it long enough to work around your client comfortably?

The product description will tell you where the hose is connecting on the spray tan gun and the compressor unit.

What spray tan solution are you using?

Heavy thick solutions require a stronger compressor to spray them properly and not burn up the equipment.

Spray tan solutions described as going on “warm” or being “comfortable” for your client are normally thicker solutions.

Step 4: Choosing a Spray Tan Gun

Your spray tan gun is an extension of your hand when you are applying a spray tan.  The best spray tan applicator has to be comfortable to hold, easy to spray, and have excellent detail options.

Basic Spray Tan Gun or Pro Series?

The most obvious feature to choose between when buying a spray tan machine is whether you should pick the basic spray tan gun or the pro version.

Some spray tan guns blow air constantly as you are spraying your client which dries them as you apply their spray tan.

Other spray tan guns only spray the tanning solution when you pull the trigger meaning you will need a hairdryer or fan to dry your client after you finish their tan.

Basic Spray Tan Gun

The basic spray tan gun that comes standard with most spray tan kits is usually the least expensive option to get started with. This could cost more long-term if you decide to upgrade to the pro equipment in the future.

Considering your future plans could save money long term.

The basic spray tan guns are lightweight and easy to work with on long spray tanning days. Most have a flat bottom to easily set them on a flat surface while switching or refilling your solution.

Pro Spray Tan Gun

Pro spray tan guns are typically more expensive. They offer additional settings for detailed work. Most can be completely disassembled, making them able to be sanitized and used in states that regulate sunless tanning businesses.

Replaceable parts are available for some models of spray tan guns and can save money.

Features To Consider When Choosing A Spray Tan Gun

How much spray tan solution will the cup hold?

This will determine how often you are refilling it with spray tan solution. Generally, you will use 2-3 oz. of spray tan solution per tan, plus a little extra so the cup doesn’t run dry while you are spraying.

Some manufacturers provide additional cups and lids allowing you to store different spray tan solutions without having to completely wash in between each tan.

Where does the solution cup attach to the spray tan gun?

At the top (gravity feed) or at the bottom (siphon feed).  This dictates how you will need to handle your spray gun and if you can set it down or will you feel like you need 3 hands to fill/change the solution cup.

What spray pattern settings come on your spray tan gun and how easy is it to change?

Pro guns and some basic spray tan guns have the ability to change the spray pattern from horizontal to vertical and even to a circular or airbrush pen flow for detailed work.  Other basic spray tan guns have only one setting. If you are going to be doing body contouring you may want to consider the spray tan gun with the additional spray pattern settings.

How heavy is the spray tan gun fully loaded with spray tan solution?

Shoulder fatigue is definitely something to consider if your plan is to have back-to-back appointments.  A lightweight gun is going to make it easier to get all of those beautiful tans done without feeling like your arm is going to fall off.

Buy A Spray Tan Gun That Is Easy To Clean

Cleaning and sanitizing your spray tan gun protects the health and safety of your clients.

The active ingredient in spray tan solution DHA is a sugar base. Mixed with heat, which happens as you are spraying, creates the perfect environment for bacteria and mold growth.

Some spray tan guns don’t disassemble to clean, you can only flush them with water or spray gun cleaner.

In some states, the Board of Health or Cosmetology Board regulates sunless tanning businesses and there are requirements for sanitizing your equipment.

If you purchase a spray tan machine with a spray tan gun that doesn’t meet these standards you may have to repurchase your equipment.

This spray gun does not disassemble for cleaning.

Never leave spray tan solution sitting in your spray tan gun.

At the end of your workday:

  • Empty the unused spray tan solution
  • Rinse and clean the cup
  • Flush the spray tan solution from your gun
  • Disassemble and sanitize your spray tan gun at the end of your spray day
  • Let dry

Spray Tan Hoses

Before making your purchase, think about the hose that comes with the spray tan equipment you are considering.

You will want one that is long enough and easy to maneuver around your client.

Hoses can be made of hard plastic, double-coated material, flexible, stiff, too long, too short, or too heavy.

Things to consider about your spray tan hose are:

  • How does the hose connect to the spray gun and compressor?
  • Is it a pressure fitting or a click lock fitting?
  • Where does the hose connect to the gun, on the bottom or the back?

If the hose connection is in the wrong spot for you it is going to be in your way all day making spraying your clients frustrating.

Putting It All Together-Complete Spray Tan Kits

Now that we have gone over the basic parts of your spray tan machine, you might be wondering, do I have to pick out all of these pieces individually?

The answer to this is NO!

Professional spray tan machines are sold in a starter kit. They make it super easy.

The compressor, spray tan gun and hose come prepackaged together as your spray tan machine. 

Spray Tan Machine Starter Kit

Spray tan kits come rated for:

  • Home or personal use
  • Homebased Spray Tan Business
  • Moble Spray Tan Business
  • Spray Tan Salon Level

Your spray tan machine comes packaged together and some kits also include a tent, accessories, and solution samples.

Please note: You do NOT have to use that brand of solution in that machine. They are just samples to try. Yes, they are hoping that you will like the samples and buy more, but please don’t feel like you have to use that brand if it is not something you love.

If you would like to read in-depth reviews on what equipment I have personally used in my spray tan business please check out the spray tan equipment review links below.


At the end of a long day of spray tans if you haven’t picked the right airbrush tanning equipment you will have been fighting with it all day. This may make you wish you had chosen a different spray tan machine.

My spray tan gun is an extension of my hand and has to operate with ease. So I can concentrate on my client and the beautiful tan that I am applying.  If I am struggling with an unruly hose or a spray tan gun that isn’t spraying smoothly then my tan is not going to be flawless. And my client is not going to be happy.

This is how I evaluate each piece of equipment before I purchase it and bring it onboard into my sunless business. Equipment, solution, and retail products that I have listed come with my personal opinion as a spray tan business owner.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Keep going, my top spray tan equipment picks are next!

Finding this content helpful? Venmo me a coffee @Kathryn-Swope-1