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Five Things to Know When Choosing Airbrush Compressor

Five Things to Know When Choosing Airbrush Compressor

The airbrush compressor is one of the essential items for airbrushing; unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the most expensive. When you're new to the hobby, it's difficult to understand what to look for in a compressor, leading many novices to buy an airbrush compressor that is a poor fit. Before you purchase a compressor for airbrush, take the time to read these five things you need to know about choosing a proper airbrush compressor.

1. What Is Auto-off Function and How Important to Have It?

Even on a small airbrush compressor or a portable airbrush compressor, noise is always going to be a factor. While you're can't eliminate the noise of a compressor for airbrush altogether, you can mitigate that noise by buying a compressor with an auto-off function. When your compressor is not in use, i.e. when you're not spraying, the auto-off function will automatically shut it off. The auto-off feature helps reduce noise by as much as 75 percent, making for a more relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately, compressors with the auto-off feature cost more than those without it; if you're low on cash, make sure you're buying a compressor with the essentials you need before going for extra features such as the auto-off function.

 Is Power Important? How Much Output Is Enough for Me?

The answer to this question will vary from artist to artist, coming down to a variety of factors including what you're using the compressor for, the airbrush type and the nozzle size. In general, more power is always better, but extra power can lead to extra weight so keep that in mind.

If you're looking for a small airbrush compressor for little jobs like painting nails, 10 LPM is more than sufficient. For larger jobs, such as modeling, motorcycles or body-art, you'll want to look into at least 20 LPM. For jobs bigger as a car or truck where you’d like to use larger nozzle for background, you're going to want to go with a compressor that has a rating of 30 LPM or more.

3. Do I Need a Moisture Trap?

Whether you're a novice or an expert, a moisture trap is non-essential item for any compressor for airbrush but is still helpful.


As the name implies, a moisture trap is a device that reduces moisture by a significant amount, leading to less paint layer defects. A moisture trap will collect all of the water from a session into a receptacle, ensuring that the water won't mix with the air. However, keep in mind that you'll need to drain the trap regularly. If your compressor does not have a moisture trap, you can purchase one separately and install it right onto your airbrush. 


4. Do I Need a Compressor With Tank and Why?

The decision over whether to purchase a compressor with or without a tank comes down to your budget and the specific job you have in mind. There are currently three different options on the market, each with their pros and cons.

A compressor with no tank is the cheapest option and will work continuously while your airbrush is in use. Unfortunately, compressors with no tank are prone to pulsation, which can lead to defects on your project. However, you can decrease the amount of pulsation by using a coiled air hose in conjunction with the tankless compressor.

Like a compressor with no tank, a compressor with a small tank, like Sparmax AC27, will work continuously. However, unlike the compressor with no tank, a small tank will eliminate most of air pulsation going from compressor’s piston to your airbrush. The majority of light tanks are roughly 0.3 liters, adding only a small amount of weight to your compressor.

For artists who are looking to work on large, time-consuming pieces in peace and quiet, opt for the compressor with the large tank. These tanks are typically two or more liters, have zero pulsation and will turn off when you reach max pressure, even if the airbrush is still in use. The large tank also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of moisture that the airbrush is outputting.

5. Do I Need Pressure Gauge and Regulator on My Compressor?

For novices, having a pressure gauge on your compressor is a necessity. While expert artists can judge the amount of pressure just by the variations in color coming out of the airbrush, novices won't have the skills necessary to judge pressure accurately by sight. Not only are you able to tell exactly how much pressure you're using with a gauge but it also helps to let you know that your compressor is working properly. If you're just starting out, every compressor you buy, including a portable airbrush compressor, should have a pressure gauge or else you won't be painting to the best of your ability.

The regulator is also self-explanatory; in short, a regulator helps regulate the amount of pressure sent to the airbrush. For jobs that require a precise level of adjustment, controlling the amount of pressure will ensure you're using just the right amount. Small air regulators also available for installation directly on airbrush inlet.

What is the best compressor type for an airbrush?

There used to be a lot of diaphragm compressors on the market since they are more affordable and can give higher output, but they had one major downside - high air pulsation. That's probably the number one reason we don't see them much around anymore. The most popular option right now is electric piston type oilless air compressor. They provide sufficient air output for most airbrushes on the market and good quality models become great workhorses for their user with zero maintenance and compact size. When paired with an air tank, piston type air compressors have zero pulsation and predictable air pressure with built-in air regulator. Our top selling model from this category are Sparmax TC-620X and NO-NAME Cool Tooty.

How long can air compressor run continuously?

That's an excellent question. Most of the cheap models are getting hot quickly while in operating and cause constant brakes in the painting process. This is something to find either in the description or ask seller/community if it's not stated there. Cordless models often get hot in hands if a lot of loads put on them. This type of machines cools themselves with the air they run through and supply to the airbrush.

Bigger and more powerful models sometimes have cooling fans built into the electric motor body and it helps with cooling. Our newest upgrade of NO-NAME Tooty compressors had a major improvement in cooling with additional fan right on top of the cylinder's radiator.

Can I use any airbrush with any air compressor?

Most common airbrush on the market is gravity feed with 0.3 or 0.2 mm nozzle. These can be used with almost any air compressor model. Smaller air brushes for detail with nozzles smaller than 0.2mm consume even less air so it's easy to find an air source for them. You might need a more powerful unit if you use siphon feed airbrush or nozzle size 0.5mm or larger. Bigger nozzle = more hunger for air in most cases. Siphon feed means that airbrush uses air pressure to create vacuum and pull the paint up from the bottom cup/bottle. Combination of suction feed and large nozzle = lot of air consumption. Keep it in mind and feel free to reach out to SprayGuner's Customer Support - we're always happy to help you make the right choice! 

May 22, 2016 SprayGunner

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