Psychology of HVLP

Written by on January 28, 2012 in Cutting Room Floor, HVLP, Sprayers, Uncategorized with 26 Comments
graco edge gun

The Edge gun in Prep to Finish paint industry training.

We have been running the Graco 9.5, our first HVLP, pretty hard in the shop and field for years. We also run HVLP systems by Apollo, Titan, Earlex and Turbinaire.

The 9.5 is the one we mobilize the most for miscellaneous cabinetry on projects requiring oil primer and oil based enamel paint. It is also entirely competent in latex primers and paints.

The 9.5 is a solid tool all the way around – turbine, gun and accessories. As a 5 stage turbine, it has enough power to generate good patterns in all types of product, and the Graco Edge gun is always stout.

The 9.5 and Edge gun combo is also very user friendly, which is why it is the HVLP that we use in our paint training program, Prep to Finish.

Because we use different HVLP systems in different ways, in order to play to their strengths, here are some reflections on why you should consider HVLP at all.

Psychology of HVLP

Graco Edge gunPainters have to understand that HVLP is a totally different spraying experience compared to airless, which is a good thing. It is like the difference between downhill skiing and cross country skiing. Both are fun and productive exercises, and both involve skis, but that is where the similarities end.

Specifically, since most painters come from an airless spraying background, HVLP initially seems like a very foreign language on the equipment side. There is no pump, the gun and tip systems are completely different, and most of all, it seems like you are spraying in slow motion.

[Be sure to read our Tips for Overcoming Fear of HVLP Finishing]

How Efficiency Works

The reason it seems slow is because painters are used to running airless at very high pressures where you don’t have to be particularly close to the target and you can move the spray gun, well, just about as fast as you can move. This is all happening, at times, with pressure from a pump in the 2000 psi range. This, as much as anything, creates a room full of mist. Therein lies the problem. If you fill the room with airborne mist, it will settle onto surfaces that you have painted, so that as they dry, there is a dry dust laying into an otherwise heavy and leveling finish. When it dries, it doesn’t feel smooth. Also, when the airborne mist settles as dust on surfaces you haven’t sprayed yet, you have a little base of grit under that heavy finish you are about to lay down and level, and it doesn’t feel smooth when dry. Yes, fine finish tips on airless are great in theory, but not this great.

in shop

Todd in the shop doing some precision HVLP shooting for a project.

With an HVLP system, you are running one half of one percent of the pressure you might run on an airless. In other words, 2000 psi airless vs. about 9 psi with HVLP. So, yes, you need to slowdown a little bit because you are not blowing as much material, but the material that you are spraying is fine and flawless, and you are not contaminating your own work as you go.

You might be able to get around a room faster with an airless, but I bet the time you don’t have to spend flushing a pump and 25 (or 50) feet of hose with thinner (and disposing of it, etc) by using HVLP offsets it. The only thing you have to clean is the cup and gun.

In production, you are using less material. And in cleanup, you are using way less thinner ($12/gal?). You are not getting blowback inside cabinet boxes and you don’t have to take 15 minutes to “de-oilify” your eyes and face before heading home to shower as quickly as possible.

It’s not just about finish, it’s about quality of life. Your working life. You can get to a better finish, more cost effectively, just as quickly with an HVLP once you get the hang of it. Let your airless spray latex on drywall, and treat yourself to a dedicated HVLP – like the Graco Edge gun – for finer, cleaner work.

If you have made the leap to HVLP technology, please leave a comment below. We have also been exploring another new HVLP system for the past couple of years.



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  1. Delevan Calkins says:

    Let me start out by saying I have really been enjoying your site, and have found it quite useful. I am hoping you could give me a suggested setup with the Graco 9.5 HVLP, and SW Pro Classic trim paint. I have tried spraying it with the #4 needle set, and fount that I had to reduce it to get a good pattern, unfortunately this was also changing the sheen. I have ordered the #5 and #6 needle sets and hope this will resolve my problem. Any suggested setups would be appreciated. Thanks again

  2. Helen Swayze says:

    First thing I would spray?! So many choices! I would definitely be spraying some re-claimed wood that I intend to use to build a bench for my lovely front porch.

  3. chuck dunn says:

    I bought this machine to spray lacquer. I am having trouble with orange peel and a roughness. I have done a LOT of reading. I have had the best luck with a #4 tip. What I am not sure is what number to have the control on. Should I buy an artisan air valve?
    If this system is not a good way to spray lacquer, please suggest the best way!

    Thank you

  4. robert says:

    Any advice on using HVLP on PolyCrylic or other waterborne clear finishes?

  5. Jesse wright says:

    Scott I have been trying to get my 9.5 dialed in, and am having a hard time…I’m spraying BMadvance, and inslx cabinet coat. With a #6 tip set. Fluid on max output, and air backed off just a little via artisan knob. I’m getting a lot of dry looking areas, where the satin gloss is missing and the area is rough…not sure what this is called..but it’s frustrating. I’m sure it’s my technique. Can you offer any advice? Possible to make a video showing your technique? Loving the system..I just need some pointers
    Thanks scott!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Jesse. From what you are describing, I would recommend a couple of things…on both the set up side and the technique side. First, on technique, dry looking areas can be caused by being too far from the target and moving too fast – basically fogging it. Thats a possibility. But more likely, it is what we call flashing yourself, which is something that occurs when your sequence is not correct. Todd and I spray for the most part in a “inside out and top down” sequence, with 50% overlapping passes. If sequence gets messed up, you end up putting a fan pattern on something that is wet and already thinking about laying down. The mist you blow onto it (even just the air you are moving) will mess with sheen.

      Second, on your set up. Go to a smaller orifice, like the 4. Advance is pretty thin viscosity. Also, turn the air down to the 12:00 setting on the artisan valve, and slowly work it back up to find the atomization that fits your style and that product best. I think you have too much air in the mix, and overatomization can contribute to the dull areas that you are seeing as well.

      I think we have some HVLP instructional footage at our site, probably nothing specific to Advance, but still you may see something. In fact, there was one where we shot unreduced latex primer with a .8mm needle for example. We are working on an instructional video series with Graco these days, and I am sure HVLP will be in the loop. The first two were on handheld, which I think you are also into. In the meantime, ask all the questions you want and keep playing around with technique and setup.

  6. Archer says:

    Hi Scott, how to wash the hvlp 9.5? details……..

    And i sent u a email as well

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hey Archer, I got your email. In the pic you sent, it looks like a frye reglat detail, like an inset reveal strip. We see them zinc plated and decoratively in walls from time to time. If the intention is for them to not get painted (usually they dont around here), then you have to protect them so you can spray around them. Tape and backer rod work well.

      On the 9.5, please dont tell me you have been using it and not cleaning it? Whats up with that?

  7. Kevin Lamanes says:

    Just bought the 9.5. Already had the graco 4900 which i guess was the older model. My 9.5 paid for itself on one job (giant exterior, lots of siding). I was spraying thinned exterior Aura with a #4 tip(only cause the machine didn’t come with a #5 or #6) with no issues. I like my older gun better cause i had more air control right on the gun but the edge (new one) is still great once you get used to it. One other comparison with my older gun is that i could set my fan pattern to any angle on my old gun, i’m limited to North/South or west/east with the fan directions on the new edge gun. I’m alittle confused about the grey hose attachment the machine comes with and the other artisan attachment – what are these for? Also, having had the older model hvlp, i do notice the difference in terms of increased air pressure out of the gun – more production with the same finish. All in all, i give this machine a 10/10, well worth the money and it will never dissappoint. I’m looking forward to spraying trim and cabinetry with this machine soon…

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hey Kevin, thanks for the review, and yes the 9.5 is a good rig. I think you are referring to the hose “whip” attachment that goes between the gun and the main hose to give you lighter and more flexible range of motion at the gun. And the artisan attachment is to add an air valve at the gun for air mix control at the gun, which is a handy (but not necessary) feature. Gun works well either way, but it is nice to be able to tweak the air at the gun instead of back at the turbine. Keep us posted on how the 9.5 is working for you!

  8. chris spence says:

    Scott, well i went with the apollo over the graco !! just a feeling i had and a look at there product advertisements etc and it just seemed graco provides a big big spare part market which for me means maybe there is alot of break downs.
    And get this, before i read your reveiw on Kremlin and Apollo combination i went and brought the apollo 1050 vr, so when i got to the bottom of the page and saw you also have one on test !! i new id made right decision.
    Anyway its my first real HVLP, i practiced with a Earlex but know this set up is way ahead and allot more TRUE HVLP,so other than find some needy furniture to practice on “have done” missus doent know as yet,lol.
    Up to date with tests you’ve done can you as yet tell me what my all round needle and cap will be.
    This country is still heavily oil based for the moment and some jobs just have to be oil, so what am i looking at there ? 1.5/8 ?
    Straight water based top coat finishes ?
    Thanks man and as always you guys are invaluable to this trade we share.

    • Scott Burt says:

      That’s awesome, Chris, the Apollo is quite the hvlp Cadillac. When you have a chance to use your 1050vr, you would be well served to provide some comments and feedback on our official Apollo 1050vr article. Apollo does read this site and they are a small company that is very responsive and helpful to making sure that their customers get the most out of the machines. Plus, I am excited to hear how it works for you. The 1050vr is powerful and well designed, with sophisticated controls. It can handle just about anything you put into it, including any clears, stains, oil or waterbased enamel paints. Its all good. Thank you for your kind words as well, I enjoy your participation around here and look forward to your thoughts on the hvlp. I will check our 1050 notes and come back to you with some needle and product combo info.

  9. Brian Finnegan says:


    Just clicked on the review tools button on Painttalk. you might have read a little while ago I was new to spraying, I was using a Titan 440 impact, evrything you said here about HVLP is an answer to prayer my friend, I prefer to roll walls, but have been really getting into the cabinet refinishing and woodgraining again.

    So thanks for that post and video, its not all about speed and money, at the end of it there has to be quality like you said! “quality of life” as you stated comes from learning and applying guidence from a great post like this!

    Be Blessed my Friend

    Brian Finnegan
    Painter and Decorator

    • Scott Burt says:


      Thanks for stopping by. I do believe quality of life comes first in business, and everyone has the same choice of whether to let it be a treadmill or not. I do believe some of the “speed” advocates have to take that route because their numbers are so low they have to go fast. They dont have time to think about the fact that going faster and faster chasing less money is a race right to the bottom. Thats not the race to be in!

    • Scott Burt says:


      I’m glad you found your way to this site. Since you are into cabinet grade finishing, you have come to the right place. The term “fine finish” is getting abused these days in our trade. There are painters around the internet using that term to refer to some odd stuff that is anything but fine. Or maybe the customer is just fine with the fact that the painter is done and gone. Anyways, I look forward to your contributions around here.

  10. Alex says:

    G’day there,
    I bought one of these exact machines about 2 months ago. Paid for itself after 4 days of work. Love it 🙂

    • Scott Burt says:

      Alex, glad to hear it. The 9.5 is a strong hvlp that lays down really nice finishes. I’d be curious to hear what finishes you are spraying in Australia.

      • Alex says:

        Have used it for spraying single pak epoxy, 2 pak, satin and gloss single pak (oil based) so far. I’m still finding my feet as far as paint consistency, the weather seems to have a huge effect on how much you have to thin it. But have found it to be an elegant unit thus far. 🙂

  11. will says:

    hi scott.
    thanks for the reply given the machine another try seems ok so far but still not as impressed with it as the hvlp still practice will make perfect.. thanks again scott.

  12. Should post another video when using color as it is very difficult to see the paint being sprayed :/

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