Pressure Loss And The Effect On Spray Patterns

November 17, 2017 4 min read

Pressure Loss And The Effect On Spray Patterns

If you’re experiencing poor spray patterns and can’t figure out where the problem is, one often overlooked cause of the problem might be pressure loss through the hose. There are many factors, which contribute to this loss. Here are some of those key factors: and the correct method for checking pressure loss between your Graco Airless Sprayer and spray gun.

Hose Diameter

The bigger the diameter of the hose, the smaller the pressure loss. For airless spraying, 1/4” ID hose is the most common. The next hose size is 3/8” diameter. 3/8” ID hose is substantially more expensive and heavier than 1/4” ID hose. But the pressure drop in a 3/8” hose is substantially less than in 1/4”. Consider the benefit versus cost when choosing hose diameter. Below is a chart showing the pressure drop difference between 1/4” ID and 3/8” ID hose at 2,000 psi.

Flow Rate / Tip Size

When there is no flow, there is no pressure drop. This is a static situation. With no flow, the pressure in the system is the same at every point. Different size tips result in different flow rates – the larger the tip, the greater the flow rate. With material flowing through the hose, the system is now in a dynamic situation. The greater the flow rate, the larger the pressure drop. The chart shows how pressure drop increases as the tip size is increased.

Pressure Drop

Tip Size Flow Rate 1/4” Hose** 3/8” Hose*

.015 .20 gpm 125 psi 45 psi

.017 .27 gpm 140 psi 50 psi

.019 .34 gpm 160 psi 57 psi

.021 .41 gpm 182 psi 65 psi

.023 .48 gpm 204 psi 73 psi

.027 .67 gpm 248 psi 90 psi


Understanding The Chart

If you’re spraying with a .023 tip, the sprayer is maintaining 2,000 psi at the pump. With 100 feet of 1/4” hose, the pressure drop will be 2 X 204 or 408 psi. The pressure at the gun will be 1,592 psi. You probably will notice tails in the spray pattern at this pressure. If you use 3/8” hose, the pressure drop will only be 2 X 73 or 146 psi. The resulting pressure will be 1,854 psi, enough pressure to atomize most latex paints.


The thickness and viscosity of the material is also a major contributor to pressure drop in hoses. The pressure drop with stain is less than with block filler. Temperatures also play an important role in material thickness and viscosity. Just like motor oil, paint will become thicker and more viscous as the temperature is lowered. The pressure drop in a hose will be greater at 50oF than at 90oF.

Hose Length

With all other variables being equal, the pressure drop with a .023 tip from the chart below is 204 psi in 50 feet of 1/4” hose. It follows then that the pressure drop in 100 feet will double to 408 psi and will be 612 psi ( 204 psi X 3 ) with 150 feet of hose. So, if you have 2,000 psi at the pump, the pressure at the gun using 150 feet of 1/4” hose while using a .023 tip will be 1,388 psi.


Contrary to what most people think, elevation does not have a significant effect on pressure. For average latex paint, the pressure drop due to a 100 ft. rise in elevation is only 60 psi.

So, if you are having trouble atomizing the coating you are spraying, the problem may be pressure drop. Understanding the possible causes of the problem is important to being able to solve it. A fluid filled pressure gauge rated at 4,000 psi minimum is essential in tracking down pressure related problems.

Connect the gauge at the pump outlet and measure the pressure while spraying or in the dynamic situation. Then install the gauge at the inlet to the gun and again measure the pressure in the spraying or dynamic situation. The difference in pressure is the pressure drop. If the pressure drop is significant, look at what you can do from the list below to reduce this difference. If the difference is small, but the pressure at the gun is too low to atomize paint, you have a different problem which could be a worn tip, a tip that is too large, worn pump parts, or a clogged filter in the gun and/or pump.

By Tim Whelan

Originally Published in the November/December issue of ‘The Scouting Report’ an ALLPROPublication.

ALLPRO Corporation is a B2B purchasing cooperative comprised of a network of independently owned paint and decorating products retailers. We currently serve over 280 such member retailers who represent approximately 1,400 store fronts located throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and parts of Europe.
Our mission is to provide our membership with a distinct competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. We do this by seeking out only those programs and initiatives that will help improve their operations, market position, and profitability.

-Kelly Scott

Also in Our Blog

Don’t Wreck That Deck! Preserve Your Wood Stain With Simple TLC
Don’t Wreck That Deck! Preserve Your Wood Stain With Simple TLC

June 01, 2022 3 min read

Building a deck is not cheap, and staining it is often an arduous task. Fortunately, with some easy preventative maintenance, you can protect your investment and keep your outdoor living space looking good for longer than you imagined.
Read More
Freshen Up Your Curb Appeal: 6 Steps to Paint Your Front Door
Freshen Up Your Curb Appeal: 6 Steps to Paint Your Front Door

April 08, 2022 3 min read

Have you heard the phrase, “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression”? As many have experienced this first hand, they understand how crucial a first impression is. But first impressions don’t start when you say the first hello, first impressions start when the newcomer walks up the front steps to your door.
Read More
Making an Entrance: Home Updates to Tackle This Weekend
Making an Entrance: Home Updates to Tackle This Weekend

March 25, 2022 2 min read

Weekends are a treasured time to spend catching up on chores or relaxing with friends and family, but they’re also the perfect time to tackle some of those small projects that will make your space more functional and inviting. Updating your front door with paint and hardware is a simple and impactful project that can be completed over a long weekend.

Read More