Airless Sprayer Tips

Choosing the proper airless sprayer tips is the key to successful spray painting. The right size spray tip will allow you to have more controlled spraying, reducing overspray and preventing excessive paint build-up. Using too large of a spray tip does not only waste paint but can result in paint runs, puckered paint, and an overall unattractive finish. Then again, airless spray tips that are too small will not permit the paint to smoothly pass through the tip’s orifice resulting in an uneven spray pattern.

Identifying Spray Tip Sizes

Airless sprayer tips are available in a wide variety of sizes to accommodate most spray painting applications. An airless spray tip is measured two ways:

  • Fan width
  • Orifice size (hole size)

These measurements are displayed on spray tips with three numbers (four numbers for extra wide spray fans). For example, the 413 spray tip shown above should be interpreted as follows:

  • 413 – The first digit represents ½ of the fan width. Since the first digit is 4, this tip would yield an 8 inch width spray fan. Keep in mind that fan widths are based upon a distance of 12 inches between the spray tip and the surface being sprayed. Spraying from a greater distance would result in a wider spray fan.
  • 413 – The last two digits represent the orifice size (hole size) in thousandths of an inch. In this example the orifice size is 0.013 inches.

Fan Width
The fan widths for airless sprayer tips should be selected based upon the surfaces to be sprayed. As a general rule, wide spray fans work best for large areas such as walls and ceilings while narrower fan widths are better suited for cabinets, doors, trim, and railings.

Orifice Size
The optimum orifice size for an airless spray tip is determined by the viscosity of the paint material and the type of surface to be sprayed.

Smaller orifices work well for thinner materials such as lacquers and fine enamels. They also afford the user more control for irregular surfaces that are difficult to spray. Cabinet interiors and railings are good examples of this. Limiting the paint output can prevent excessive amounts of paint from collecting in the corners.

Fine finish spray tips offer the most control for spray painting low viscosity paint materials. The small orifice size along with the double orifice design better atomizes the paint than traditional airless sprayer tips do.

Larger orifice size tips are best for heavier bodied paints. It is important that the airless sprayer being used can provide enough output to support the selected tip. Some of the smaller airless sprayers cannot handle spray tips larger than 0.015-0.017 inches.

The following table is a list of coatings paired with suggested spray tip orifice sizes.

CoatingsOrifice Size
Stains.009, .010
Lacquers.009, .010
Alkyd Enamel.009, .010, & .011
Varnish.009, .010, & .011
Polyurethane.009, .010, & .011
Fine Latex/Acrylic Paint.010, .011, .012, .013, .014
Heavy Body Latex Paint.015, .017, .019
Elastomeric Paint.023, .025, .027

Choosing spray tip sizes presents choices. To maximize control it is best to select the smallest orifice size possible for a particular coating. For instance, spraying a heavy bodied exterior latex paint with a .015 tip uses less paint and offers more control than a .019 tip does. It is possible that a .015 spray tip is inadequate for some viscous exterior paints. Slightly thinning the paint or preparing it with the proper conditioner enables the paint to more easily pass through a smaller orifice.

Spray Tip Size Guide

The following tables display several paint applications with suggested corresponding spray tips. These spray tip sizes are merely recommendations. Other size tips may suffice.

Exterior Painting
Painting ApplicationsSpray Tips
Walls and Ceilings515, 517
Gutters and Fascia Boards413, 415, 515
Wood Siding515, 615, 517, 617
Stucco Walls515, 615, 517, 617
Exterior Brick515, 615, 517, 617
Exterior Doors and Windows413, 415
Exterior Trim413, 415, 515
Elastomeric Paint523, 623, 525, 625, 527, 627

Interior Painting
Painting ApplicationsTip Sizes
Walls and Ceilings515, 615, 517, 617
Doors310, 410, 311, 411, 412
Windows210, 310, 211, 311, 212, 312
Trim310, 311, 312
Cabinets310, 410, 311
Furniture310, 410

Airless Sprayer Tip Wear and Tear

Airless sprayer tips will wear under normal use. Greater viscosity paint coatings and higher pressures will shorten the life of spray tips more quickly. Eventually the orifice size increases allowing more paint to pass through the tip. The result is an uneven spray pattern. A spray tip should be replaced at first signs of wear.

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Professional Painting, Inc. is a full service painting company serving the San Francisco Bay Area since 1988.