3 Questions to Choose the Best Airless Paint Sprayer for You

You’ve seen the videos and you’ve searched the depths of the internet, yet still you’ve got that lingering question: “What paint sprayer should I buy?”

The short answer is simple: the one that does everything you need it to do.

Unfortunately, that simple answer doesn’t paint your house. It does, however, take us to the necessary next step, which is: what airless paint sprayer specs do you need to spray the project/s you’ve got?

That’s the money question.

By clarifying the specifications you need, in turn you clarify what sprayer is best for you. Essentially this is a balance of buying power and project-to-sprayer compatibility. Get something that doesn’t have the necessary capabilities or features, and you’ve got yourself an expensive 13kg mistake. 

On the other hand, most people don’t want to overspend either. There are many other things - particularly if you’re renovating - that are begging for a cut of the budget pie. So, let’s find the specs you need to buy once and buy right.

Jump ahead?

What is an airless paint sprayer?
What is the best brand of airless sprayer?
3 Questions to choose the right sprayer for you
What sprayer do we recommend for what project?

Graco paint spraying gutters

What is an airless paint sprayer?

Most would be familiar with ‘conventional’ paint spraying, which is essentially the process of paint being finely dispersed, or atomised, using a large amount of air. Think automotive spraying booths - and you’re on the right track. You get two very important qualities from conventional (aka “air”) spraying: an excellent finish, and a terrible amount of overspray.

While an excellent finish is admirable, overspray is what DIY nightmares are made of. You don’t want to have just sanded and refinished your prime wooden floors to then cover them in a nice layer of fine ‘paint dust’ - say goodbye to all the motivation and patience you once had.

So, the question is how can you capitalise on the speed, finish and longevity of spraying without needing overspray therapy? Airless paint spraying.

Related: Graco Sprayer Quick Start Guide [Videos]

Instead of using air, airless paint spraying just uses pressure to drive the paint and force it through a small orifice to achieve atomisation. Think of taking a fluid, smashing it with a fair whack of pressure, and turning that very liquid into tiny little droplets to achieve that desirable spray-fan. The result?

4 x thicker coat = longevity
7 x faster than rolling = speed
Reduced overspray = sanity

This means you can take paint spraying out of the spray booth and into your interior and exterior applications. And though overspray is not eradicated completely, the measures you take are marginal, cost-efficient and very achievable for us everyday DIYers. Simply lay a drop sheet, mask up the windows and areas directly around your surface and, well, that’s it. It’s not a great deal different from what you’d already do for brushing and rolling.


What is the best brand of airless sprayer?

Remember that Aussie ad – sorry international readers – “I just want milk that tastes like real milk?”

Sprayer brands seem a bit like that. There’s a bunch of them and whilst they are all technically ‘sprayers,’ they each have their own claim to fame and price points attached. And like milk – as well as most things – you have two potential directions: the cheap and nasty option, or buy once and buy right option. In all truth, there can be benefits to both.

If you’re just having to do a cheap and nasty project that doesn’t need a lot of love and is mostly out of sight, you might be able to save your cash – even just roll it out. BUT, and that’s a big ‘but’, you will get what you pay for.

You cannot expect to buy a $250 sprayer to paint your roof. I’m sorry, my friend, it just won’t happen.

Graco ProX17 Painting Patio

Related: Questions Every DIY Painter Wants To Know When Starting To Spray [Q&A]

How brands and their increasing price points differ is usually around a few considerations:

  • Finish – atomisation, spray tips, pressure consistency
  • What it can spray – the type of paint and the quantity of paint
  • Sprayer life – how long should you expect it to survive?
  • Ease of use – how easy is it to set up, spray with, troubleshoot and clean up?

Now your projects and how you value of each of these will determine what you think the “best” brand is. That being said, and not drag any names through the mud, there is a reason that we exclusively sell Graco.

They are the OG, inventors of the portable airless sprayer – legitimately, that’s not just PR nonsense either – and since that moment 60-years ago, they’ve continued to their R&D; optimising their sprayers for industrial and trade use, then importing that research into their DIY range for you. 

We know every guy and their dog will have their opinions, but that’s where we land. Graco are in the premium range, but they are for a reason.


3 Questions to Choose the Best Airless Paint Sprayer

Alrighty, chef’s knife in hand, let’s cut the complexity and get to the goods. Here are the 3 essential questions for you to choose the right paint sprayer:

Q1    What are you spraying and how much?
Q2   What configuration do you prefer?
Q3   Do you want a replaceable pump?

By answering these three questions, you not only get an idea of what specifications you need in an airless sprayer but also an idea of what you might want too.

In the Graco’s Magnum range of airless sprayers - that is the DIY/homeowner range - there are five specifications you care about. Here’s how they apply to the questions:


Question

Relevant Specification

What are you spraying and how much?

1. Maximum tip size
    2. Maximum hose length
      3. What comes in the box - standard hose length & spray gun

        What configuration do you prefer?

        4. Configuration - stand with legs, or cart with wheels

          Do you want a replaceable pump?

          5. ProXChange pump or not

           

          Related: Graco Magnum Sprayer Review [Videos]

          Graco paint spraying DIYers

          Maximum Tip Size

          Max tip size and max hose length both speak to the motor and pump size – hence ‘how much and what are you spraying?’

          What you are answering here is: have you got the power you need?

          Max tip size determines the thickness of the material you can spray. As you would expect, thicker materials need larger spray tip orifice sizes. For example, the X5 max’s out at 0.015” (15 thou), an orifice that will easily spray most interior wall paint, but might be a limitation if you're doing extensive exterior work. The ProX19, however, is capable of spraying up to a 0.019” (19 thou) spray tip, and therefore will be an easy win for coping with interior and exterior projects.

          Related: Airless Spray Tips Made Simple - A Step-By-Step Guide To Choose The Right Tip [2022 Expanded Version]

          Can you spray a roof using a Graco Magnum sprayer?

          No, you can’t. Or more accurately, it can’t. A roofing membrane requires a minimum tip size of 0.023” (23 thou) and the motor and pump to handle moving that thick ol’ paint up 30m (minimum) of hose vertically onto a roof! This stands well beyond the reach of these humble DIY sprayers. 

          If you try to use it, you might be successful for a time, but ultimately you’ll burn out the motor and mess up the pump. Since this application is outside the recommended usage of the sprayer, you’ve now also forfeited your warranty. No good.

          What Graco sprayer can you spray a roof with?

          If you’re using only a thin membrane, something like a Dulux Acratex roofing system, and only doing a few roofs a year, you are looking at a minimum of a Graco Ultra Max II 490. Any more than Acratex and a few per year, you’re looking to a Graco Ultra Max II 650, but a professional roof painter is going for a Graco Ultra Max II 695 and beyond. And if you follow those links, you’ll shortly find why roof painters are so expensive…

          Maximum Hose Length

          Regarding hose, all sprayers come with a standard length in the box but max out at varying lengths. Again, using the Graco X5 as an example, it comes with 7.5m of hose in the box but is capable of spraying with 22.5m. Simply purchase an extra 15m and a hose joiner, and you’re ready to go. 

          If you’re only spraying a small room and don’t mind moving the sprayer as you go, you’ll only need a small length of hose. If you’ve got a two-story house, a larger length of fence or just want to keep the sprayer outside the room when you paint, you need more.

          This table visualises what we’re talking about:

          Graco Magnum range explained table

          A quick note, please keep in mind that if you’re intending to spray thicker paints (exterior acrylic paints in particular), you may come across some difficulties in flow rate and atomisation when adding more hose. As you increase the distance between your surface and sprayer, you’re compounding how hard it has to work. 30m is twice the volume of paint as 15m, so it makes sense for the sprayer to work a fair bit harder. Therefore, these figures are based on your typical interior wall paints rather than those more unique exterior paints.

          What comes in the box

          Piggy backing off of max hose length, what comes in the box is a matter of standard hose length plus the type of spray gun (handpiece) that is included - again, see table above.

          The Project Plus, X5 and X7 all come with a standard 7.5m of hose, whereas the ProX17 and ProX19 both come with a 15m length standard. The Project Plus, X5 & X7 then come with the SG2 spray gun and the Prox17 & ProX19 come with an SG3 spray gun. 

          The only difference between the two spray guns is that the SG3 gun has a swivel built into the handle. So that when you connect your paint hose, you have greater manoeuvrability and don’t have to work against the hose when you’re spraying.

          We don’t understand why there are two different spray gun types spread throughout the same range, we just play the game.

          Configuration

          Configuration is a question of storage versus transportability. Graco sprayers come in either a stand or cart mount design.

          Stand mounts are very compact and can fit in small storage spaces while still delivering the same performance. Cart mounted units have wheels, a hose hook and a paint tin hook - simply hook the paint tin to the front, hook the hose onto the back and get where you need to go. This might be a desirable feature if you’ve got a larger project or just want to avoid lifting the unit around the site.

          ProXChange Pump - Do you want a replaceable pump?

          The Graco Magnum range features two pump variants. The Graco Project Plus, X5 and X7 all feature a built-in design that incorporates the motor and pump together. The ProX17 and ProX19 feature a ProXChange pump that easily slots in and out without the use of tools. This means you can replace parts if ever required, where the built-in design has limited replaceability.

          This is not to say that the Project Plus, X5 and X7 are not built well. In contrast to other airless sprayer brands, you’d be surprised even just feeling Graco’s higher quality. So, this is really a question of future proofing. Would you like the longevity of replaceability? And, would you like to resell the sprayer in the future? 

          If yes to either of these questions, consider a sprayer with a ProXChange pump.

          Graco ProX19 airless paint sprayer

          What we recommend

          You’re spec’d out with Graco knowledge now, so let’s apply it. As you can tell, there are some pretty clear divisions within the Graco Magnum range, here’s how we categorise them to project types:

          Lightweight projects 

          Up to 4-6L in a given day 
          Max 200L per year
          Examples

            • Suitable for furniture
            • Small trim-jobs
            • A small bedroom
            • Section of fence of brick facade

          Sprayer of Choice: Graco Project Painter Plus

          Breakdown: The Project Plus is the ideal entry-entry level airless sprayer. For the price, you get great bang for your buck; though small, there is no compromise on finish quality – still reaching 3000psi. It does only have 7.5m of hose, but that is all you’ll need for these projects. And though it does not have the swivel spray gun, the SG2 will be fine for these shorter spraying times.


          Midsized projects 

          Up to 10-15L in a given day 
          Max 500L per year
          Examples

            • Perfect for interiors (2-4 bedrooms)
            • Interior trim and doors
            • Garden sheds, decking and fencing

          Sprayers of Choice: Graco X5 or Graco X7

          Breakdown: Both the X5 and X7 will comfortably handle any midsized project. In fact, they surprise us with what they can actually get done. 7.5m of hose standard is a bit limiting, so we’d recommend an extra length, particularly if you’re outside. It might not seem much, but 7.5m to 15m of hose is a noticeable difference.

          The question you need to answer here is: stand or cart? Do you want storage or transportability? The power and maximum tip size these units have is so similar that the configuration is the only significant difference. Use either and you’ll be happy.

          The only major limitation we see is the lack of a replaceable pump, but that doesn’t negate any of its capabilities, we just like the security of future proofing. 


          Major projects

          Up to 10-40L in a given day 
          Max 1900L per year
          Examples

            • Perfect for 3-4 bedroom interior and exterior repaints
            • All of your property's fencing, brick and render walls 
            • Everything in-between

          Sprayers of Choice: Graco ProX17 or Graco ProX19

          Breakdown: Immediately, you’ll notice the jump up to a max of 40L per day from 15L. The ProX design makes these units a very good friend for significant or entire home renovations. Also, check in with the family to see if they need any painting done too.

          Like the X5 and X7, the question you need to answer here is: stand or cart? The motor and pump capabilities are so similar and beyond what most DIYers will use them for - 1100L per year vs. 1900L per year - that configuration is again the only significant difference you’ll be looking at. 


          Wrapping up

          Congratulations, you’re now a Magnum sprayer guru. Call up your other DIY friends and start recommending sprayers – Please note that we won’t be held accountable for your advice… 

          Choosing your airless paint sprayer can be intimidating, so we hope that you’ve now got the know-how to make the choice. If you want a deep dive into each of the sprayers, check out our YouTube review videos, otherwise get in contact and we’ll help with the recommendation.


          Thanks for dropping by, and happy spraying!
          The GO Team