Choosing & Understanding Airless Spray Tips

Combining the correct Graco spray tip with your gun plays a big role in helping you create the professional finish your job demands. Not only does the tip determine how much fluid will leave the gun when you pull the trigger, the spray tip also determines how wide a spray fan the gun will create.

To choose the right tip for your spray project, follow these recommendations:

Choose a tip with an orifice size rated for the paint or coating you’ll be spraying. Light coatings such as lacquers, stains, and enamels require a small tip, while heavier coatings such as texture require larger spray tips. Many paint manufacturers will specify recommended spray tip sizes on the container or product specification sheet.

Size the spray tip according to the tip rating of your sprayer. Make sure that the sprayer can support the tip you are planning to use. If you plan on using multiple spray guns on your job, pick a tip size that matches the multiple gun tip rating of your sprayer.

Recommended Tip Sizes for Common Coating Materials

Lacquer or Stain .009 - .013
Oil based Paint .013 - .015
Latex Paint .015 - .019
Heavy Latex or Smooth Elastomeric .021 - .025
Elastomeric & Blockfiller .025 - .035+

Most spray tips are identified by a three-digit code. The first number, when multiplied by 2, tells you how wide of a fan the tip will create when sprayed at a distance of 12 inches from the surface. The second two numbers are the orifice size of the tip, in thousandths of an inch, that determines how much fluid will leave the spray tip. For example, a 515 tip will spray a 10-inch-wide fan and have a 15-thousandths of an inch orifice. It’s the combination of fan-width and orifice-size that determines how thick of a coating you’ll spray.

Case in point – a 317 tip and a 517 tip both have the same orifice size – 17-thousandths of an inch. But, the 517 tip sprays a 10-inch-wide fan, while the 317 sprays a 6-inch-wide fan. Because the same amount of paint is leaving the orifice of the spray tip, but is being dispersed across a wider fan, the 517 tip will deliver a thinner coating with less mil build.

Graco uses a color-coding system to identify tip types.

  • General-use tips are blue or black
  • Fine finish or low-pressure tips are green.
  • Tips for pavement striping or field marking are yellow.
  • High-pressure, heavy-duty tips for heavy coatings and texture are gray.
worn spray tip fan

While Graco tips are made out of the highest grade of tungsten carbide – the most abrasive-resistant material available – all spray tips will wear with normal use. All coatings contain solids that are abrasive -- some more than others. Using a worn tip can cost you hundreds of dollars in wasted paint and labor; because when a tip wears the size of the tip orifice increases and the fan width decreases. This forces more passes to cover the surface, more labor, increased overspray, and a substantial waste of paint.

For example, assume that paint costs $15 per gallon, labor costs $25 an hour and the contractor sprays 5 gallons of paint per hour. If the contractor uses a worn tip (a 12-inch fan pattern worn to 9-inch) he will spend an additional $36.25 in wasted paint and labor per hour. If the painter continues to use the worn tip, it will cost him around $300 per day!

Always turn down the pressure as low as it can go, while still spraying a good spray pattern. This not only saves paint, by reducing overspray, but it also reduces tip wear and prolongs pump life, saving you money.

There’s a Graco spray tip that’s specifically built for your application. Understanding airless tip options will help you choose the Graco spray tip best suited for your needs. 

Reverse-A-Clean tips, also called RAC tips, are the most versatile reversible tips on the market. They’re available in about 200 sizes and can be used for a wide variety of coatings. With a reversible tip, you can easily clear tip clogs by simply turning the tip 180 degrees to the clean position and then triggering the sprayer. And, thanks to their innovative design, RAC tips can be quickly replaced without removing the tip guard and housing.

Graco’s RAC-X Fine Finish Low Pressure and Low Pressure Switch Tips offer the industry’s best finish at the world’s lowest airless spray pressure! These tips are available in small sizes for fine finish applications and large sizes for large surfaces and high-production applications. This breakthrough technology allows you to spray at up to 50% lower pressure with less overspray, providing consistent, blended finish quality with complete atomization spraying at half the pressure. This can double the tip life and extend pump life. Graco RAC-X Fine Finish Low Pressure and Low Pressure Switch Tips work with all airless sprayers.

For larger sprayers, in higher production applications, Graco offers WideRAC SwitchTips. They create an extra-wide 24-inch fan pattern, allowing you to spray twice the surface of a standard tip. These tips require a larger orifice size to offer a thick enough mil build to cover such a wide area in one pass.

Graco’s XHD RAC SwitchTips are designed for use with heavy coatings that require higher pressures to atomize. They’re recognized by their oversized gray handle, which allows for easy rotation, even with very thick coatings such as texture and elastomeric.

After many years of leading the industry in fluid applications, Graco has a tip perfectly engineered to get the job done with the highest professional quality finish, whatever your spraying application.