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Choosing the right airless tip contributes greatly to the performance of your sprayer, the quality of the finish and the success of your jobs. Tips control the width of the spray pattern; the paint flow rate; and, ultimately, they tell the pump how hard it should work.

With so much being tied to choosing the correct airless tip, it is important to consider the following.

Airless tips are sized using a 3 digit number such as 515. The first number has to do with the width of the spraying fan and the last 2 digits refer to the size of the hole or orifice the paint sprays through.

  • First digit – The spray width (x2 for width in inches) (known as ‘fan width’)
  • Second two digits – The hole size (known as ‘orifice size’)

The diagram below shows what happens when you change tip sizes. In example A, the three tips have the same fan width. As their orifice sizes increase, a greater volume of paint is applied to the 10-inch area, resulting in more paint per square inch. Example B shows three tips that have the same orifice size (.017). As the tips’ fan widths increase, the same amount of paint is applied over a greater area, resulting in less volume of paint applied per square inch as the sizes go up.

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There are basically two types of tips, reversible and flat, ranging in size from 107 (2- to 4-inch fan width for thin coatings like deck sealers), to 962 (18-inch fan width for heavy coatings like driveway sealers and roof coatings).

Flat tips were the first tips to enter the market and are most often used for spraying thin coatings like lacquer, enamels and stains. They can also be used to spray heavier coatings when a supplemental filtration system is being used with the sprayer. There’s a good reason for the filtration system. While flat tips are less expensive than reversible tips, it takes more effort to remove blockages when the paint has imperfections or particles of sand or dirt enter the system.

Reversible tips are designed for ease of use, and supplemental filtration systems aren’t required. Here’s how they work: When in spraying mode, the tip is facing forward. When a blockage enters the system, you reverse the tip by turning it 180 degrees, pull the trigger to spray the blockage out, then turn the tip back 180 degrees and continue working. There are several grades of reversible tips for residential and commercial painting (premium, versatile, value), and there are specialty reversible tips for high-pressure high-viscosity coatings, as well as for fine finishing.

Flat and reversible tips wear about the same, and their gallons-per-minute (GPM sprayed are about the same). The choice between a flat or reversible tip will depend on what coatings you spray, whether or not you want to use a filtration system, and how much you want to spend.

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You’ll want to consider two things when deciding on a tip size — what type of surface is being painted and the coating being applied. Here’s how it works:

  • Fan width: For large surfaces, like walls and ceilings, you’ll want a larger fan width for wider coverage of the area (8 to 24 inches). For smaller surfaces — like deck boards, cabinets and fences — you’ll want a smaller fan width (2 to 8 inches).
  • Orifice size: Generally, when the coating is thin, you’ll want a smaller orifice. When the coating is thick, you’ll want a larger orifice. Below are recommended orifice sizes for various types of coatings, based on a typical 12-inch distance from the surface with an 8- to 12-inch fan width.

The airless sprayer tips available on the market today make it easy for users to find a sprayer tip for any type of project. Whether it’s putting the finishing touches on a DIY cabinet project, or spraying large buildings for commercial renovations, or rendering a professional paint job for a steel bridge, there are numerous situations that call for specific sprayer tips. With knowledge of tip codes, it’s easy to navigate the large market of sprayer tips and understand exactly what fan size and volume of output to expect from any given tip. Understanding the orifice size and how it affects the pressure and rate at which paint comes out of the sprayer housing helps to extend the life of the tip for as long as possible and to ensure that the project at hand gets the right amount of pressurized paint.