Latex Paint and Earlex 5500

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Forum topic by mculik5 posted 11-14-2013 02:28 PM 11862 views 3 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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20 posts in 1617 days

11-14-2013 02:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: earlex spraystation 5500 hvlp sprayer spray gun latex

I recently purchased an Earlex 5500 to paint a bunch of trim. I decided I am also going to try painting a bedroom with it. I did a test run tonight on some scrap drywall, and I’m not sure what to think.

Here are the details:

- ~8oz of Ben Moore Regal (old style, not new Regal Select)
- 2oz Floetrol (per directions)
- 1oz water (~12.5% thinning)
- 2.0mm needle
- Flow control out 3 turns
- Spraying ~9”-12” from surface
- Unless I got closer (~4”-6”) I had to go back over areas to get complete coverage
- Mixed with Earlex drill mixer

The paint sprayed, but it seemed “spitty/dotty/not atomized.” However, this is my first time using any kind of paint spray system, so I don’t know what to expect. Below is a picture of what the spray looked like (I applied a filter to make it easier to see, and included my finger for size reference).

Thinking that the paint needed to be thinner, I added another 1oz of water (resulting in ~25% thinning) and tried again. I didn’t notice any difference in spray quality. According to the Ben Moore TDS for Regal, 12.5% is the max recommended thinning. The final color on the drywall scrap seemed decent enough, but if I can help it, I’d prefer to follow Ben Moore’s thinning recommendations (unless that’s just not how it works for HVLP sprayers). After finishing my test, I ran the extra paint through the viscosity cup and found that the stream broke at 135 seconds.

What do you guys make of this?

- This is normal?
- Bigger needle?
- Too far away?
- Thinner paint? (If so, would love thinning suggestions…)
- Just roll it?

Thanks for the help.

25 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


17299 posts in 2969 days

#1 posted 11-14-2013 02:53 PM

I had the same issue with a different gun when I sprayed recently. Im not real sure of the answer as im still learning myself but I think that the viscosity is too high at 135. I think its should be more in the range of 25-35. Again im still very new at spraying but ill be watching for any answers.

Last time I sprayed latex out of my HF HVLP setup I thinned a quart of paint with 3oz of water and 2 cap fulls of floetrol. I was using BM Regal paint.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View mculik5's profile


20 posts in 1617 days

#2 posted 11-14-2013 03:13 PM

Thanks, chrisstef. I agree that 135 seconds is too thick, and think that’s the problem. However, I was confused about the thinning because I read on the forums to thin latex to 10% and also that the ideal viscosity is 45 seconds. It seems like I would have to thin latex WAY MORE than 10% to get anywhere near 45 seconds. Sounds like your latex mix was similar to mine.

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


17299 posts in 2969 days

#3 posted 11-14-2013 03:18 PM

I was really worried about thinning it too much myself but in the end I pretty much said eff it and just thinned it as much as I needed. Worked out pretty well for me. You could also try PM’ing EarlexTech here on LJ’s. His name pretty much says it all. He should be able to dial ya in.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4944 posts in 2455 days

#4 posted 11-14-2013 03:23 PM

Just roll it. Spraying latex is always a problem, you might have better luck with an airless sprayer.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2385 posts in 3833 days

#5 posted 11-14-2013 03:38 PM

The earlex is a fixed pressure, meaning you have only so much , and as with any water base, you have to adjust the gun to accomodate . You can thin up to about 10 % and I agree floetrol helps.

It looks to me you have TOO MUCH fluid , try turning the fluid knob in. This will make the pattern smaller and it will be slower painting, but it should help the texture of the paint. When it goes on you want the texture behind the gun to look about like an 80 or 120 grit sand paper, your looking more like 36 grit .

View mculik5's profile


20 posts in 1617 days

#6 posted 11-14-2013 04:00 PM

Based on what I’d heard about HVLP sprayers, I was expecting the 80/120 grit look, and posted this because I thought it didn’t look right. When I started spraying, I followed the Earlex directions to squeeze the trigger and then unscrew the knob to establish proper flow. I found the results to be the same in terms of “grit” regardless of flow rate, and landed on 3 turns out because I felt it was the best balance between distance from surface, pattern size, speed I could move the gun, etc.

Confused about 10% thinning, as it seems to me that 10% puts the paint right at the top of the viscosity rating for the 5500 (which is 160 seconds). If latex is supposed to be that thick going through the gun (as opposed to the forum posts that say ideal is 45 seconds), then it means my problem isn’t the thinning. That leaves the needle, an actual gun problem, and/or my technique as possible problem causes.

I still think it’s the thinning, and like I said, I’m confused as to where the 10% thinning recommendation came from if that doesn’t seem to get you anywhere near thin enough.

Thanks for all the help. Keep the responses coming. This is a great forum.

View waho6o9's profile


8162 posts in 2539 days

#7 posted 11-14-2013 04:03 PM

Orange peel.

I thought the viscosity cup was supposed to break at 60 seconds?

Keep thinning I guess.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2385 posts in 3833 days

#8 posted 11-14-2013 04:25 PM

One of the issues with latex is the varying viscosities, from brand to brand, many of the “one coat” formulas are much thicker, if so thin it more .

Unfortunately I am not much on a viscosity cup, got a couple laying around some where, just never found them to be worth the time and effort.

Thin the paint until it will go thru a mediumn mesh strainer fairly well and call it a day , for a water base finish , my rule is if it go thru the strainer ablut as fast as you can pour it in within reason, your good to go and you can then use a 1.4 ,1.5 needle / nozzle . This formula has never failed me.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5617 posts in 2775 days

#9 posted 11-14-2013 04:36 PM

I really like HVLP systems for spraying clear coatings, but for myself I prefer to spray latex with an airless sprayer. They are fast and efficient.
Nothing worse than a thick paint that won’t atomize.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Craftsman70's profile


244 posts in 2087 days

#10 posted 11-14-2013 04:56 PM

I’ve run into similar problems with latex. Had to thin it way to much, almost 1:1 to get it to lay down smoother. After that, just went back to brush/rolling it or switch back to praying oil. I’d love to hear a better solution.

View mculik5's profile


20 posts in 1617 days

#11 posted 11-14-2013 05:24 PM

I’m going to PM Earlextech to see if we can get him to contribute to this topic. Based on all the replies, it seems to me that one (or all) of the following is happening:

1. Those of us who are new to spraying, and trying to spray latex with a HVLP system, are missing some big secret that has allowed some of you to get great results.

2. The “thin 10%” folks are getting results like I got and saying they are good. I guess it wouldn’t be bad if that were the case. My “36 grit” results didn’t look any worse on the drywall scrap than rolling would have, though I was expecting better from the sprayer.

3. People who are getting truly good results are thinning to 25%-50%. Maybe that’s the big secret from point #1.

4. There is a problem with my technique, or actual problem (defect) with my gun.

5. Ben Moore Regal is really thick paint. (It’s all I use for walls, so I’m not familiar with the thicknesses of other brands).

View Earlextech's profile


1160 posts in 2653 days

#12 posted 11-15-2013 12:30 AM

I’ve been on an airplane all day long or I would have answered sooner. Demonstrating at The Woodworking Show in Portland this weekend. Thanks Charles for keeping everyone on track here.

I’ll start with the original post -
The first thing is that the 5500 is rated at 160 seconds. Meaning that anything thicker than that is not sprayable by the tool. We do not suggest a perfect viscosity for latex because they vary so much and there are so many different kinds. So here’s what I want you to do. Put your finger over the hole in the viscosity cup. Fill the cup with water, dump that into the gun, then fill with paint. Stir with the paddle mixer for two full minutes (will seem eternal). No Floetrol for wall painting, only for fine finish on wood (trim).

Now if you are painting a wall (there are better ways) and you want a roller texture, stick with the 2.0mm needle. If you don’t want a roller texture put the 1.5mm needle in the gun. If the wall already has a roller texture, that is never going away.

10” is the farthest you will ever hold an HVLP gun from the project. You were there the entire time you were spraying. I would only be that far away if I were spraying a stucco wall or a rough sawn fence. For drywall I would be about 7”-8” max and for a finer finish be at 6”. “Unless I got closer” – you’re exactly right.

Also, of course, Charles is right, you had the fluid flow knob open too far. The air flow is a constant and if overloaded with fluid it can’t atomize it all. It will atomize what it can and then spit the rest. When you’re getting spit, cut down on the fluid flow.

You bought the 5500 for the right reasons (to paint trim) and then you did the worst project you can do with an HVLP. Painted a wall. Now, I’ve painted my entire house with the 5500, but just to prove it could be done. Not because it’s what HVLP was meant for. I would roll my walls but do the cutting in with the 5500 using a shield. This way you match the stipples of the roller, instead of using a brush and creating lines that you then have to overwork to get rid of. A bedroom that would take me 45 minutes to cut in with a brush I can do in about 15 with the sprayer, perfectly.

There is no “ideal” viscosity for anything because there are too many variations. Temperature, humidity, different thinners, different sprayers, different people spraying, all of these things and more contribute to the “ideal”. You can only find “ideal” for you, with that sprayer, with that particular coating and thinning, on that day. That is why I always say, find a finish and a supplier you like and stick with it. Don’t mix different companies materials.

I may have missed something but I’m tired. Please post any other questions and I’ll catch up as soon as I can.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View mculik5's profile


20 posts in 1617 days

#13 posted 11-15-2013 03:35 AM

Wow! Thanks Earlextech. I think I’m beginning to see the bigger picture.

The paint I was spraying yesterday (135 seconds thick) was too thick. The tool can (and did) spray it, but I wasn’t getting a smooth finish because whether I was using 1/2/3 turns of the flow control knob, the turbine doesn’t produce enough pressure to properly atomize paint that thick and spray it at any reasonable rate. That said, the spray I was getting looked like I rolled it, which isn’t terrible (just not the glassy-smooth finish I was expecting). However, for the same level of finish, rolling is much faster. My technique was also bad (too far away).

Before reading Earlextech’s post tonight, I did an experiment. I thinned and tested over and over until I got to 60 seconds or less viscosity. I ended up at 80% thinned (8 oz paint, ~6.4 oz water) and 55 seconds. I tried this at 2 turns of the flow control knob and the same 9”-12” away as yesterday. The finish went from 36 grit to 60 grit. Still not great, but better. The big difference though was that when I tried different spray distances and flow levels, I could see a difference in finish quality. The finish got better (80 grit) if I moved in to “4-6” and better still if I reduced the flow to 1 turn. However, painting like this is painfully slow.

For those interested, tonight’s scrap was a piece of MDF. I decided on the MDF because I figured it would show finish flaws better than the slightly textured drywall, and I also wanted to see if the thinned paint would stick without running. Somewhat surprisingly, the paint did stick and didn’t run, and the color looks fine. So thinning to 80% can be done with OK results.

From all this, I think the takeaways are:

- The people who are getting good results spraying latex are probably spraying small projects (like trim) where they can reduce the flow rate, get close to the project, and tolerate the time it takes to produce a smooth layer of paint. And they are probably doing this using the 10% thinning technique.
- The 5500 can spray walls to a roller finish using the 10% thinning technique, but it’s faster to actually roll.
- Per Earlextech’s suggestion, using the 5500 for cutting in seems like a perfect idea. Same look as rolling, and faster than brushing. Again, using the 10% thinning technique.
- 45-60 seconds viscosity isn’t realistic for latex (though it can be done). The people talking about this were probably talking about stains or other things.

So, I’ll adjust my plans and try the 5500 for cutting in.

Now, for the original purpsose – the trim – what is a good baseline mix for oil-based Ben Moore Satin Impervo? Should I follow the same 10% rule?

Thanks! This forum is awesome.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4944 posts in 2455 days

#14 posted 11-15-2013 12:46 PM

This thread is certainly interesting, and thanks to earlextech for his insight. As for the oil based paint, you don’t have the same restrictions. With water borne finishes you can upset the internal chemistry adversely by thinning too much. The oil based ones are more forgiving; so thin it to get the results you want, and that will probably (but not necessarily) be more than 10%.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2638 days

#15 posted 11-15-2013 01:58 PM

wow…much learned today. Thanks Earlex dude!

What is your secret formula for minwax oil base clear finish? one viscosity cup of thinner? Have you noticed if they changed the formulas so much, they are not as good? what is your favorite brand of OB clear finish?

imo – The texture from a roller (I prefer a 3/4 nap for new work, 1/2 for repaint) is so important to cover the different textures of drywall fuzz to mud. I found that a sprayer is more work with set up and clean up than it’s worth and the results are not any better if not worse.

You would be stopping every 5 minutes to refill that heavy paint can. A pint of paint only covers about 8 – 10 ft. They use 5 gal sprayers in section 8 housing to satin paint bomb everything at once, trim, windows and walls…. yuk.

This is just from my remodeling experience. I’m sure there are spray guys that could show me some tricks, but I listen to my painters and so far, I like what I see.

One thing I would like to know, did you use blue tape on the trim after it was finished first with oil base? It seems like that would be the only way to keep the paint from getting under the spray shield a little, giving you a perfect cut line.

I like to finish the ceiling first, then the trim, blue tape, then the walls.
side note: I don’t know why people like to cut in the walls to trim with a brush first. If you roll the walls first, you can carefully cut in as close as 1/2” from trim, closer if it’s blue taped. That way you have the texture instead of 3” of brush strokes and it’s so much faster. Grab a 4 ft. ladder and cut in sideways 1/2” to the ceiling too.

Btw – don’t blue tape walls…it pulls fresh paint off.

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