How to use a Graco airless paint sprayer

How to Use a Graco Airless Paint Sprayer

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Professional painters will tell you that using an airless paint sprayer is around 6 x faster than using a paint roller, and about 10 x faster than using a paint brush. That makes them great for professionals and for larger DIY projects. But setting up and using an airless paint sprayer for the first time can be a bit daunting. Luckily, the experts are here to help with a handy step-by-step guide to connecting and using your Graco airless paint sprayer.

What is a Graco airless paint sprayer?

And why Graco? It's true that there are other brands and manufacturers that make paint sprayers and airless paint sprayers, but Graco has established itself as a market leader and if you've bought an airless paint sprayer, there's a good chance it came from Graco. If your paint sprayer was made by a different manufacturer, there's a good chance it's based on the same market-leading technology, features and ideas, so this guide will probably help.

Previous paint sprayer technology relied on compressed air, usually from a mechanical compressor. That meant you needed a compressor - and sometimes even a petrol-powered generator for your compressor - just to use a paint spray gun. And previous paint sprayer models were just a spray gun with a gravity-fed hopper or reservoir for paint.

Modern airless sprayers produce their own pressure, pressurise the paint itself, and can draw straight from the paint tin or paint bucket. No secondary reservoirs, no messy extra buckets. Airless paint sprayers are lightweight, portable, and easy to use.

Generally, airless paint sprayers can be used to apply a wide variety of paints and a variety of coatings. Just have a chat to your Graco supplier about the right spray tip size for your painting project.

Airless paint sprayers are great for producing consistently professional finishes across a wide range of paint jobs.

How do I set up my Graco paint sprayer?

Setting up a new Graco airless sprayer is quite simple. The latest Graco products come with colour, double-sided instructions with clear images. But you'll also need a waste bucket, a bucket of clean water, and your readied bucket of paint. If you're spraying water based or latex paint you can use fresh water. If you're using an oil-based paint, you should use water that contains 1:10 parts methylated spirits (mineral spirits).

Once your new Graco machine is unboxed and the instructions have been located, follow the steps carefully and you'll be ready in no time.

Start by placing the required sprayer tip into the screw-on nozzle section with coloured guard. The arrow should be pointing forward. The arrow can later be rotated to point back toward the spray gun to "purge" any excess paint from the gun and nozzle. For now, engage the trigger lock so that the spray gun can't be activated accidentally.

Next, connect your airless spray gun using the (usually 15m) blue spray hose and then the intake hose. Separate your waste tube and your intake tube (there are handy clips connecting the two by default). Place the waste tube in your waste bucket, and your intake tube in a bucket of clean water.

Move the pressure dial to the lowest setting and switch the Prime/Start switch to the "Prime" setting. Press the Push Prime button twice. Turn the pressure dial to the "Start" position and then turn the power switch on.

Water will be drawn into the intake tube and will be expelled via the waste tube into your waste bucket. Continue in this mode for 60 seconds.

Transfer your intake tube into your paint and turn the machine on again. Within 10-15 seconds your waste tube should stop ejecting water and start ejecting paint. Turn the machine off again. Rotate the spray tip arrow to the "Unclog" position (toward the spray gun). Disengage the gun trigger lock and point your spray gun at your waste bucket.

Turn the pressure dial to your required spray pressure.

Pull the spray gun trigger, turn the machine on, and switch the Prime/Start switch to the "Start" setting. Paint should exit the spray gun. When it does, release the trigger to stop spraying. Move the waste drain tube to your paint bucket, alongside your intake tube (and clip it into place using clips on the intake tube). Rotate the spray tip arrow to the "Spray" position (arrow pointing forward).

You are now ready to spray.

Using your Graco paint sprayer

Point your spray gun at the surface you want to paint and pull the trigger. As you spray, the pump of your airless paint sprayer will engage periodically to maintain pressure.

Use smooth back-and-forth or up-and-down (not both) motions in a broad fan pattern to apply an even coat of paint. If you miss an area, complete your movement and then come back to the same area in a second smooth motion without releasing the trigger. A spray pattern that is even and a consistent distance from the surface is key to a quality finish.

Ensure you maintain constant movement as you spray to avoid uneven patches of heavier and lighter spray. You can also use the pressure valve on your airless sprayer unit to maintain control of paint flow.

You can use a plastic or metal spray shield to prevent overspray onto skirting boards, door or window frames, or architraves.

Clean-up and storage

Clean-up and pack-down follows a similar process to setup, just in reverse. Separate your intake and waste tubes again, placing the intake tube in clean water and your waste tube in an empty bucket. Use your spray gun to spray into your waste bucket until it starts expelling clear water. Switch the tip arrow back and forth to expel any clogs and paint still in the spray gun.

When the spray gun is expelling water, switch the Prime/Start switch to the "Prime" setting to allow any remaining paint to be expelled from the machine into the waste bucket.

For storage, apply included Pump Armour to mechanical pump components so that your airless sprayer will be ready to go next time.

Instead of using a bucket of water: Graco airless sprayers include garden hose connections which means you can connect them directly to your outdoor tap with a section of garden hose and clean them quickly and easily. Simply remove the paint hose from your bucket of paint, connect your garden hose, turn your tap on, and use the sprayer's own power to spray leftover paint and then water into a bucket until the sprayer is spraying clean, clear water.

What if I don’t want to do the painting myself?

You can find qualified tradies to help you with all sorts of tasks around your home or business. 

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.