Brad the Painter is reader-supported. As an Amazon Associate I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. This costs you nothing extra.

Sprayer Tips Guide: Airless and HVLP

Sprayer Tips: all the info you need to understand the complex world is simplified here.

This page is for the tips for both airless and fluid sets for HVLP sprayers that I recommend across my website: Graco, Wagner, and Fuji and some others.

These tips come from my experience of 30+ years as a professional painter. See the main products on the sprayer page for the actual tips, and more.

Airless tips (Product links included)

Here, I’ll discuss Graco only, but many makers’ tips can be interchanged. My view: why? Go with the easiest to use and clean and care for and don’t look at the few extra bucks.

These Graco RAC (Reverse-a-Clean) tips work with all airless sprayers, but make sure your machine can use the tip you plan to buy. On my sprayer pages, each machine section has info on max and min size tip openings.

Generally, all Graco tips are made in the USA: no, I don’t work for them in any way. Just a fan.

The Graco RAC (Reverse-a-Clean) tips work with all airless sprayers pretty much, but make sure your machine can use the tip you plan to buy. On my sprayer pages (linked below), each machine section has info on max and min size tip openings.

For airless handhelds (somewhat ‘low-pressure’), we use the FFLP514 (latex, etc) and the FFLP210 (for low-pressure spraying). Most handhelds use these and the blue tip guard, but check if yours is compatible. There are TruAirless tips that are low-pressure tips and offer a great finish. These can be used with the orange guard that comes with the unit.
Otherwise, we also have green FFLP tips and LP tips. They require a blue RAC X guard that will fit on the spray gun that came with the ProX 17.

Are RAC IV and RAC V tips interchangeable? RAC X? RAC IV and RAC V tips are interchangeable. Neither of them are interchangeable with RAC X tips. The RAC X requires a specific tip guard assembly and seal.

Which tip to use for your job?  Graco’s online tip selector: easy to use. Then come back here to choose from the list below.

When to replace? There is a great chart on this construction pro page that shows the patterns you get with worn fan tips. I’ll copy it below too.

One painter writes: “The old-style costs less, but I don’t’ know anybody not using the ReverseAClean system. It’s just so much easier.”

Decoding the Numbers

You probably know the three-digit code for Graco airless tips, but if you don’t… let’s decode the main latex tip 3-digit code, the 515. The first ‘5’ tells you how wide HALF the fan will be at 12 inches from the surface. So 5 means 10 inches. The next 2 numbers are the orifice size in thousandths of an inch. This tells you how much paint comes out (which affects the coating mil build, or thickness). An example: take a 317 tip and a 517 tip. The size of the orifice is .017 inches. The ‘5’ in the 517 tip gives a 10-inch fan but not for the ‘3’ . The three in the 317 gives a 6″ fan. The same orifice size means the same amount of paint is sprayed but the paint goes on thinner because it comes from a wider fan.

You can tell when the tip is too worn to use by measuring the fan it has and calculating the fan it should have.

Tip Color Coding: Graco airless uses a color-coding system:

  • General use tips are blue or black
  • Low-pressure tips are green
  • High pressure (heavy duty) are gray

Guards’ Color Coding: There are guards paired with each tip, they are not all interchangeable.

  • Orange guard: RAC 4 or 5 including LineLazer (LL5)
  • Blue guard: RAC 10
  • Gray guard: Heavy Duty (HD)
  • Special TC Pro Tip Guard for TC Pro Corded and Cordless

Money Talk

  • Remember that using a worn tip costs you money. I always say it’s better to spend more on tips than waste paint, although it can be hard with the cost of the RAC tips. A more economical way to go is the older style multi-component tips, but most pros gave them up to save time, which is cha-ching.
  • Keep the pressure as low as you can, as it saves paint and tip life.
  • Reverse-a-clean tips are the standard these days as it easily cleans clogs, which cannot be prevented by filtering the paint. The orifice is just so small. Remember half the pressure doubles the tip life!
  • Worn tips are costly: If you use a worn tip, you will use more paint and it will take the labor longer. For contractors, it can mean HUNDREDS of dollars on a big spraying day. What does one tip cost? Thirty? Forty? Peanuts.

Recommended tip sizes for all coatings

  • Laquer or Stain .009 – .013
  • Clear shellac .009 – .013
  • Stains, transparent: .011 – .013
  • Oil Based Paint .013 – .015
  • Latex Paint .015 – .019
  • Heavy Latex or Smooth Elastomeric .021 – .025
  • Elastomeric & Blockfiller .025 – .035 +

HVLP (Product links included)

No talk here, just the charts. Very easy to understand:

Graco HVLP Tip Guide: links to purchase each below the chart

Graco HVLP sprayer needle-nozzle sets
Graco HVLP sprayer needle-nozzle sets:

Size (in) Model Graco number
0.032 #2 (17P485, see it here)
0.051 #3 (17P486, see it here)
0.071 #4 (17P487; see it here)
0.087 #5 (17P488, see it here)
0.098 #6 (17P489, see it here)

Fuji HVLP Tip Guide: links just below

Available replacements for the M-Series gun (Hobby-Pro and Semi-Pro)
#1 / 0.8 See it here
#2 / 1.0 See it here
#3 / 1.3 See it here
#4 / 1.5 See it here
#5 / 1.8 See it here
#6 / 2.0 See it here
HVLP sprayer cap set diagram
HVLP sprayer cap set

Tips on Tips

What causes wear? The solids in paints slowly wear the tip opening. The best sprayer tips are made from tungsten carbide which if very resistant to wear, but still, all spray tips will wear out with use.

Most manufacturers use a universal tip design. Graco makes two different non-compatible tip types. RAC X (the blue tip guard) and RAC IV and V (universal orange tip guard). RacX tips also include FFLP tips. You can swap the guards to use any tip you want, even from a different manufacturer in most cases.

Also, the blue LTX, green FFLP and the green LP tips go in the blue RAC X guard.

Key to a long life: For all of these types of sprayers, clean them immediately after you finish.

Basics for beginners

Every sprayer comes with a tip, duh, you know that, but that’s just the start. Most Graco sprayers such as the Magnum x5 and the 210 ES ship with a “515” tip. The first digit, 5, is half the fan width, so 10 inches. The ’15’ means the opening size which is a measure of volume that comes through. The 515 is a great medium volume tip for latex, but not much else.

  • How to read the tip model number: The first digit, 5, is half the fan width, so 10 inches. The ’15’ means the opening size which is a measure of volume that comes through. See ‘decoding’ above.
  • Paint pressure near the spraying tip of the interior paint sprayer is enough to inject paint into your skin: be careful.
  • Wear a respirator. The number of filters is mind-numbing. (My post simplifies the crazy complex world of respirator masks).

Advanced tips

  • Strain every gallon of paint, even right out of the can (prevents tip clogging).
  • RAC tips (Reverse-a-Clean), are better even though they cost more, they save time. These tips can be reversed to clear clogs. When your fan pattern is showing ‘fingers’, you simply reverse the top, spray it into a bucket, and it is clean. The RAC tips from Graco go in the orange tip guard (on the accessories page also). This tip guard and one RAC 4 (size 515 tip) come with both the Magnum and the 210ES above.
  • Every time you stop for even a short break, soak the tip, and even the entire paint gun in a bucket (water for latex, thinner for oils, etc). This keeps the tip from clogging.

When to replace: As an airless tip wears, two things change. The fan length gets shorter and the hole size gets larger. The end result is a more oval pattern than a long, thin line.

Worn paint sprayer tips use much more paint
Worn paint sprayer tips use much more paint, so save money (paint) by keeping a new tip in the gun.

Fresh tips not only save money and paint, but it also reduces overspray and extends the pump life.

Accessories for HVLP and Airless Tips

Tip Guards: Tips are guard dependant. Any RAC X tip will need RAC X guard. Standard tips need a standard guard. The black TrueAirless, black RAC IV and black RAC V tips go in the orange RAC IV/V. This guard comes with the Magnum and 210ES. There are also the blue LTX, green FFLP, and the green LP tips go in the blue RAC X guard.

Storage: Where to store them after they have been used? Graco customer services wrote me: “Nothing special when storing the tips. Just make sure they are clean.” But we always used a can of paint thinner… but to get them out… You see the problem. The makers of this Tipsaver sent me a sample and yes, it’s a good solution…no pun intended. Check it out for a very organized way to store them.

On friend of mine wrote: “An old painter taught me to throw all my tips in lacquer thinner “so they wouldn’t clog up”. I hated that! That crap eats the skin off your hands and burns the cilia out of your lungs. I thought, there has to be a better way. Then I figured out, if I just blew out the tip when I’m cleaning my sprayer, I can store them dry. I’ve never had a clogged tip even one time since. Maybe I should share the secret.”

Compare types: Obviously, the RAC is going to cause less downtime, but they cost more. Most pros prefer the RAC because of this. Time is worth more than money. The cost is negligible in my opinion. Plus changing tips is just a matter of pulling it out and putting in a new one. Plus reversing the RAC to clear clogs. Heaven. I won’t discuss the old kind with the tip, housing, etc that comes apart. I just see it as old-fashioned and not for homeowners’ sprayers nor contractors.

Thanks for reading. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see anything else on this page.

1 thought on “Sprayer Tips Guide: Airless and HVLP”

Leave a Comment