Earlex 5500 Waterborne Paints

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Forum topic by Hawk_Guy posted 04-30-2014 02:42 AM 6302 views 6 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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83 posts in 1887 days

04-30-2014 02:42 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hvlp latex earlex 5500 waterborne paint hvlp

A while back I purchased the Earlex 5500 spray station. I went with this product for its ability to spray latex and waterborne finishes in general. The reviews say it sprays latex very well. I’ve done my research and no matter what I try the results are lack luster. I have added water, floetrol, both and no matter what the atomization is poor. I have tried 100% acrylic and still no joy. I even switched to a Wagner paint conditioner specifically marketed for spray systems. I keep reading about people who have issues spraying latex and don’t see any real solutions being generated with a positive result. If you are going tell me hvlp was never intended for latex please don’t comment. I bought a product that touted the ability to spray latex and other viscous materials and I expect it to perform.

I have tried both the 2.0 and 1.5 mm needles and the results are always similar. Per Earlex’s recommendations I am targeting 45-60 sec viscosity with a 1.5 mm needle. I am spraying at the recommended 4-6 inches away (for furniture).

If you know of a specific paint product (waterborne) that sprays very well please (I beg you) give me a formula. I feel like I’m chasing a mythical unicorn.

I don’t want to hear about your 6900 and how well it sprays anything, I don’t own that unit and it has a significant bump in psi.

I am at the end of my rope and quite frankly ready to torch this project if I have to sand another coat of orange peel.


Sorry if I come across a little coarse, I’m really frustrated.

38 replies so far

View Fish22's profile


83 posts in 3353 days

#1 posted 04-30-2014 01:18 PM


I would go to the link below. The guys at Topcoat are really helpful. You should reach out for Scott Burt, he may take a few days to get back to you, but he should be able to help you out. If you get the answers and results after reaching out for them, please post so others may be helped.

I have the same unit, but haven’t tried spraying paint yet.

-- Bryan, South River, NJ

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3376 days

#2 posted 04-30-2014 01:29 PM

I am just getting in to spraying finishes this year. I’ve got the Earlex 6900 but I doubt that changes things very much.

Practice on cardboard boxes or paper taped to a wall until you find a “formula” that works for you – finish / viscosity / needle / flow setting / spray distance / spray speed.

You may want to PM Earlextech. I found his suggestions very helpful.

I have tried latex primer and paint and found them to be the most viscous and most difficult. I thinned mine to 140 seconds. I used the 2.0mm needle but will try the 2.5mm needle next time. At times I did get a rough texture after drying. My guess is that the paint is too dry when it hits the work. I increased the material flow and moved the gun rather slowly and this problem got better.

I have sprayed General Finishes Endruo Poly – white base, white pigmented poly, and clear poly. They spray very nicely with a 1.5 mm needle and no thinning. In this case, particularly with the clear poly, I have to keep the gun moving to avoid drips – 2 to 4 times the speed I was using when spraying latex.

All of these finishes can be brushed and light brush marks will tend to self-level. I don’t think it takes much of a sprayer to do better than a brush. I think the only requirement for successful spraying is to get a wet coat of finish at an appropriate thickness. Drips obviously mean that the coat is too thick. Rough texture suggest to me that the finish isn’t forming a wet layer – too much air and too little finish.

Also, I need to wipe off the gun tip regularly when spraying water-based finishes.

I think latex paints fall in the “sweet spot” of airless sprayers, but are more towards the limit of what HVLP sprayers can do. Clear finishes (including the pigmented poly) fall in the “sweet spot” for HVLP sprayers.

-- Greg D.

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2931 days

#3 posted 04-30-2014 02:38 PM

I agree with GregD. “I think the only requirement for successful spraying is to get a wet coat of finish at an appropriate thickness. Drips obviously mean that the coat is too thick. Rough texture suggest to me that the finish isn’t forming a wet layer – too much air and too little finish.”

Orange peel is the result of the finish drying too fast and not having enough time to level out.

I would thin less, maybe 10% or one viscosity cup of water into a quart of paint. Then add two ounces of Floetrol.
Acrylic does not spray as well as regular latex. Stir with a paddle mixer in a drill for one minute. Medium speed.

About 6” away from project is probably right.

What is the project?

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

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 2927 days

#4 posted 04-30-2014 08:13 PM

Listen to Earlex Tech… he knows. I have the 5500. I have sprayed MANY paint products. Unfortunately I bought it to spray clear finishes and 7 of 10 times I use it is with Latex Paint not what I wanted to do.

I’ve found that Latex with Primer mixed in is horrid to use.

Flotrol helps alot also, I picked that up from Jeff Jewitt’s finishing book.

I’ve sprayed Behr, Valspar, Sherwin Williams, and Vista Paint (I think they are just local). I did some bead-boarded wainscotting in my daughters room and decided I didn’t want to mask the entire room off to spray, so I brushed/rolled. That lasted about 30 min, and then I masked the room off and sprayed.

Keep in mind, that to get a completely BUMP FREE surface from Paint, you will need ALOT of force for atomization. Everyone of my paint projects has a slight texture to it, but having rolled about 30 square feet of primer on my daughters wainscotting, the spray texture is LESS noticeable than the roll texture.

IF you want a glass like finish you’ll need a several step process of priming/sanding/painting/sanding/buffing, and may also want to consider spraying a tinted lacquer. General finishes sells WB tinted poly, that is what cabinet makers often use.

Also using Acrylic enamel vs Vinyl enamel will make a difference I believe. For me, I just have an understanding of REASONABLE expectations with the 5500, its totally capable, but if your expecting a lacquer like finish of a latex paint, I don’t think its going to happen. After all, with the exception of milk paint, very few furniture/cabinetry is painted, its lacquered. Its a harder surface.

Here is a project used with the Earlex, sprayed Clear Poly on finished desk, Shellac as a sealer/primer, and Latex.

Click for details: Built in craft desk

A couple of thoughts, there have been numerous threads about this subject, don’t examine your finished project from 6” away, no one looks at it like that… Take a step back.

Here is what I do: Thin the paint – it depends on the manufacturer (they’re all different) after a while you’ll know and won’t have to use the viscosity cup. I’d recommend Jeff Jewitt’s spray finishing book also. You may have to thin more than you think.

Try flotrol, it helps the paint stay wet, and level better.

I use the 1.5mm needle usually when spraying latex, I’ve had better luck with that one.

View Hawk_Guy's profile


83 posts in 1887 days

#5 posted 04-30-2014 11:03 PM

Hello, thanks for the outpouring of useful information I really appreciate it.

Forgot to mention I am painting a bed for my daughter. I’m painting over natural wood (a mix of birch plywood and poplar). I started with rustoleum painters touch. Used their primer and a gloss kona color. The kona is like and espresso with a dark red tint. I could not get this to level well. I thought it was mostly do to the poor atomization. I’m starting to gather the it has a bit to do with how thick the paint layer is. The paint is drying fast, as in 20 minutes tops (to the touch).

I also tied behr 100% acrylic enamel. Not very happy with the results it dried with high spots everywhere but seemed to atomize best. I used only a flow additve to achieve 45-60 sec viscosity without going over or under the recommended amount. No water was necessary so I don’t understand why it dried so fast. I I’ve in FL and the humidity is high.

I’ve heard of pigmented laquers but don’t know much about them. At this point I’d prefer to fish with latex but have to admit I will never spray latex again.

It sounds like I’m going to have to get a turbine with a lot more stages. I’m kicking myself for not getting the 6900 but feel like I’ve been seriously misled about what the 5500 can do.

So it sounds like nobody has found that magic latex paint from the Earlex tutorial on how to spray latex?

View Hawk_Guy's profile


83 posts in 1887 days

#6 posted 04-30-2014 11:08 PM

Luke, thanks for posting I’m going to Google books now to purchase the book you recommended.

View ScottBurt's profile


2 posts in 1727 days

#7 posted 04-30-2014 11:35 PM

Hey guys,

I saw the link come through my topcoat site. I have heard great things about this forum, so thought I would throw my $.02 in, and that is about what it is worth.

The Earlex 5500 is a really good bang for your buck rig. It absolutely delivers value for its price tag. We run several units that cost 4 times as much, and sure there is a difference, but in it’s price range, the 5500 is without equal.

To the op, I think the biggest reason that you are getting orange peel is because you are too close to your target. 4-6” is too close in any situation, in my opinion. IF you are moving slowly on top of that, it would be compounded. Back it off and speed it up.

To all members, absolutely feel free to call upon me for any finishing tips I may be able to help with.


View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2931 days

#8 posted 05-01-2014 01:29 PM

Hawk Guy – you might try Valspar Signature latex from Lowes. I always have great luck with it personally.
By the way, Floetrol is not a thinner. Water is the proper thinner for latex paint. Floetrol is an additive that breaks the surface tension of the droplets, allowing them to level (Floe) out. Two different things that can be used in conjuction.
I wouldn’t use Floetrol when painting a fence, only on “fine” finished materials such as trim, cabinetry or furniture. Thin with water to the correct viscosiy, then add two ounces of flow agent per quart of paint.

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

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3376 days

#9 posted 05-01-2014 03:00 PM

Hawk Guy -

I suspect there are other, more likely causes to your frustrations than the differences between the 5500 and 6900. The fix is probably something simple; figuring out what that fix is might be a bit more challenging.

Do you have appropriate expectations for a latex finish? Luke gets a slight texture; me too. But I’m satisfied so long as the finish is at least as smooth as my best results with a brush. It is taking some practice and experimenting, but I think I’m getting to the point where spraying gives me a better finish with less effort, and on a good day I get a pretty good result with a brush.

With the polyurethane finishes there is no question that spraying is even now gives me much better results with less effort than brushing. It is quick and easy to lay down a thin wet layer – provided I have enough light.

Don’t give up. It will come.

-- Greg D.

View Hawk_Guy's profile


83 posts in 1887 days

#10 posted 05-01-2014 09:42 PM

GregD, I agree with you on what to expect. My real concern here is that I cannot achieve proper atomization of latex. Without that crucial step there is no real expectation that any results will be favorable. That’s my beef with this unit. I’ll keep playing around with paints and viscosities and see what I get. I gave “Spraying Made Easy” by Jeff Jewett a read last night and I feel like a good amount of new info has presented itself.

Earlextech, I appreciate the tips. I’ll give the Valspar a go.

View retfr8flyr's profile


386 posts in 1909 days

#11 posted 05-01-2014 11:15 PM

I have the 6900, which I know you’re not interested in hearing about but I have also had good results with the Valspar Signature and Olympic Premium paints. I have had my best results with the 2.0 needle, spraying latex paints.

-- Earl

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 2927 days

#12 posted 05-02-2014 01:21 AM


Being that you’re painting furniture, I’d HIGHLY recommend that you look into Pigmented Poly. If you google it, you can find a few websites (I’m not sure if I am allowed to refer them) But Jeff Jewitts homestead finishing site sells GF products, and you can have the Poly tinted with any color of General Finish Milk Paint Pigment.

In that case you will have a smooth finish that is harder and more durable to abrasion than Latex paint is. And you won’t have that “sticky” latex feel that takes a while for the resins to sit.

General Finishes Enduro Poly

Homestead Finishing Colors

View grittyroots's profile


53 posts in 2931 days

#13 posted 05-02-2014 01:42 AM

I have just bought the same machine. I used Lowes top shelf paint. I started by thinning as the manual said. It wasn’t working for me either. I then changed out the paint with unthinned paint and it worked a lot better I stll needed to play with it. I would also stay farther back. Good luck

-- Gritty Roots i can build anything as long as i have 2 things the internet and my father-in-law

View Hawk_Guy's profile


83 posts in 1887 days

#14 posted 05-02-2014 01:45 AM

Luke, I’ll definitely look into those products. What little research I’ve done has shown that those products are difficult to purchase in specific colors.

Thought I’d post an update. Tonight, determined to make latex paint atomize I went through several iterations starting with floetrol and water. After 5 iterations taking the viscosity from 80 to 38 the paint still does not atomize correctly using a 1.5 mm needle. Its a mix of fine droplets and medium blotches. I was using Behr interior latex enamel for trim, 100% acrylic. I’m convinced this isn’t going to work out with the 5500.

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2931 days

#15 posted 05-02-2014 01:23 PM

Hawk Guy – Luke is correct. Latex is never a proper finish for furniture or cabinets. A pigmented top coat is what you should be spraying. Latex is not designed to be sprayed, all other finishes are.

You can get pigmented top coats in any color. That’s the point, get your clear finish, get you trans tint colorant and add the two together to get the proper density of color you want. Try your local Woodcraft store. You won’t find proper finishes at the big box stores.

Behr paint and 100% acrylic are two of the worst things to put through a two stage HVLP. I’m not surprised it didn’t work.

One more tip about the 5500 – the airflow is constant, it never changes. If you put too much fluid into the air it can be overwhelmed. If that happens it will atomize what it can and it will spit the rest out. If you’re getting a mixture of big and little droplets then you have too much fluid in the airflow. Cut back on the flow rate and move slower across the project to spray a “wet” coat.

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

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