Airless paint sprayer tails; what they are and how to prevent them

Welcome to our latest blog post, where we delve into the world of airless paint sprayers, focusing particularly on a common issue faced by DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike: paint sprayer tails. This phenomenon, characterised by uneven spray patterns that resemble tails, can be a source of frustration for many. Understanding why these tails occur and how to prevent them is crucial for achieving a flawless finish in your painting projects.

In this post, we'll explore the various factors that contribute to the formation of tails. From the technical aspects such as low pressure and worn tips to operational techniques like maintaining a consistent spraying speed, we cover all the bases. We'll also discuss the importance of using the correct tip size for your paint's viscosity, and why regular maintenance of your sprayer is not just recommended but essential.

But it's not all about identifying the problem; we also provide practical solutions. Whether you're a seasoned painter or new to the game, our tips on adjusting pressure settings, selecting the right equipment, and perfecting your spraying technique will be invaluable. We'll guide you through the nuances of airless paint sprayers, ensuring that your next project is not only successful but also enjoyable.

So, whether you're in Sydney, Perth, or somewhere in between, join us as we tackle the issue of paint sprayer tails head-on.

What causes airless paint sprayer tails?

Tails in the spray pattern of an airless paint sprayer are typically caused by one or more of a few key factors:

  • Low pressure: One of the most common causes of tails is insufficient pressure. The sprayer may not be pushing enough paint through the tip to fully atomise it, resulting in a pattern that is thicker on the edges and thinner in the middle.
  • Worn tip: Over time, the tip of the sprayer can wear out, leading to an uneven spray pattern. A worn tip won't be able to atomise the paint properly, causing the paint to fan out unevenly.
  • Incorrect tip size: Using a tip size that is not suitable for the type of paint being sprayed can lead to tailing. Different paints have different viscosities, and each viscosity range requires a specific tip size for optimal atomisation.
  • Inconsistent speed or distance: Moving the sprayer too fast, too slow, or at an inconsistent distance from the surface can result in an uneven application of paint, leading to tails.
  • Paint viscosity: If the paint is too thick or too thin for the equipment being used, it can result in poor atomisation. Sometimes thinning the paint or using a conditioner can help, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Clogged or dirty equipment: A clogged filter or a dirty sprayer can also lead to tails. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the sprayer are important to ensure a consistent spray pattern.

It's important to understand why your airless sprayer might be creating paint tails when you paint. That way you can select the correct solution and resolve the issue quickly.

How do you prevent paint sprayer tails?

To prevent issues like tails in the spray pattern of an airless paint sprayer, you can follow these steps:

  • Use the correct pressure: Always start with the manufacturer’s recommended pressure settings and adjust as needed for your specific project. Higher paint pressure can improve atomisation, but too high pressure can cause overspray.
  • Select the right tip size: Choose the airless spray tip size that is appropriate for the type of paint you are using. Manufacturers usually provide a guide for tip sizes based on the paint's viscosity.
  • Regularly replace worn tips: Inspect the sprayer tip regularly for signs of wear and replace it when needed. A worn tip can't atomise paint effectively, leading to poor spray patterns.
  • Maintain consistent technique: Practise maintaining a consistent distance and speed while spraying. Avoid angling the sprayer too much, as this can also affect the spray pattern. Maintain a clean fan pattern where possible.
  • Properly thin your paints: Paint thickness will make a difference to the final result of your paint spraying. If your paint needs thinning, follow the paint manufacturer’s recommendations for adding the right paint thinner. The correct viscosity is crucial for optimal atomisation.
  • Keep the sprayer clean: Regular cleaning and maintenance of your sprayer, including the filter, hose, and nozzle, is essential. Clogs and buildup can significantly affect spray quality.
  • Regular equipment maintenance: Beyond cleaning, regular maintenance like checking for leaks, ensuring seals are intact, and lubricating moving parts can prevent many common sprayer issues.
  • Practice and testing: Before starting your project, test the spray pattern on a piece of cardboard or scrap material. Adjust the pressure and technique until you get a consistent and even pattern.
  • Use quality paint: Higher quality paints often spray more evenly and are less likely to cause issues like tails or clogging. Dan's Paint Cosmocoat for Walls, for example, is specifically designed for airless spraying.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions: Always refer to and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for both the sprayer and the paint. This ensures you are using the equipment as intended, which reduces the likelihood of problems.

These techniques will allow you to overcome most of the routine issues that cause airless paint sprayer tails.

Why am I getting overspray from my airless paint sprayer?

Overspray from an airless paint sprayer, where paint mist settles beyond the intended area, is a common challenge that can stem from a variety of factors. The most prevalent cause is operating the sprayer at a pressure that’s too high for the job.

While it’s tempting to crank your sprayer up to maximum pressure for a faster application, this often leads to excessive atomisation of paint particles, causing them to become airborne and settle where they're not wanted. The choice of spray tip plays a pivotal role too; a tip that’s too large will release more paint than necessary, increasing the likelihood of overspray.

Similarly, technique and distance matter greatly. Spraying too close to the surface can concentrate the paint in one area, but moving too far away allows more paint to disperse into the air. Environmental factors, like windy conditions, can also contribute to overspray, carrying the paint away from the target surface.

To mitigate this, it’s crucial to spray in calm weather or ensure adequate shielding if working outdoors. In enclosed spaces, proper ventilation is key to controlling air movement and reducing overspray. By understanding and adjusting these elements – pressure, tip size, technique, and environmental conditions – you can significantly reduce overspray, leading to a cleaner, more efficient painting process.

Airless spraying techniques and tips for best results

Achieving the best results with an airless paint sprayer involves a combination of proper technique, equipment setup, and maintenance. Here are some key techniques and tips:

  • Choose the right tip and pressure: Select a spray tip suitable for the type of paint you're using. The tip size and shape determine the pattern and flow rate. Adjust the pressure according to the paint's viscosity – lower for thinner paints and higher for thicker paints. However, too much pressure can cause overspray.
  • Proper sprayer positioning: Hold the sprayer about 10-12 inches away from the surface. Keeping the sprayer at a consistent distance ensures an even coat.
  • Maintain a steady motion: Move the sprayer steadily and at a consistent speed. Avoid swinging your arm in an arc. Instead, move your whole arm while keeping your wrist straight to ensure the spray angle remains constant. Bad spray patterns can produce suboptimal results but you'll quickly discover a proper spray pattern that works for you.
  • Overlap each stroke: Overlap each pass by about 50% with the previous stroke. This technique helps to ensure full coverage without leaving gaps or creating stripes.
  • Avoid tilting and arcing: Keep the spray gun perpendicular to the surface (with the gun parallel to the floor). Tilting the gun can result in uneven application.
  • Test spray: Before you start, test the spray pattern on a piece of cardboard or scrap material. Adjust the pressure and technique as needed.
  • Use a consistent speed: Apply paint at a steady pace. Moving too slowly can apply too much paint and cause runs, while moving too quickly can result in a thin coat.
  • Proper start and stop: Begin and end the spray beyond the edges of the surface to avoid buildup of paint at these points.
  • Regular cleaning and maintenance: Keep your sprayer clean and well-maintained. A clogged or dirty sprayer can affect the paint flow and overall finish. Avoid using dirty water, use a cleaning brush where appropriate, and clean both the sprayer unit and airless paint sprayer gun.
  • Use the right paint: Ensure the paint is suitable for airless sprayers and is at the right viscosity. Thin the paint if necessary, following the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Control the environment: Avoid painting in extreme temperatures or windy conditions, as these can affect the spray pattern and drying times, especially for high-latex paints.
  • Safety first: Always wear appropriate safety gear like masks, goggles, and gloves.

By following these techniques and tips, you can achieve a smooth, even finish with your airless paint sprayer. Remember, practice is key – the more you use your sprayer, the more skilled you'll become in handling it efficiently.

Buying or hiring an airless paint sprayer from PaintAccess

buying paint sprayer

 

Buying an airless paint sprayer from PaintAccess is a great option for professional painters and those DIY painters who have a big project in the works (like a house renovation). Shop online or come into one of our Sydney stores (St Leonards and Matraville) for expert advice about the best paint sprayer for you.

Alternatively, you can hire a paint sprayer. When you hire an airless paint sprayer from PaintAccess we'll make sure you have everything you need to complete your painting project, including the airless paint sprayer itself (which are always in great condition because we actively maintain airless pumps and other components), airless spray gun and gun filter and tips, and clear instructions and guidance.

Conclusion

Whether you're painting a whole house or just giving a room a couple of coats of paint, understanding how your airless paint sprayer works, and the best way to troubleshoot it is important. And whether you're a professional painter or a DIY house painter, an airless paint sprayer is a great idea and hopefully you've now got a good understanding of why airless paint sprayer tails happen and how best to deal with them.

At PaintAccess, our experts can help you to understand what you need and what you need to do. We know our prime tubes from our ball valves and we can help you with the paint, paint equipment and accessories you need to produce great results every time you paint.