In order to find the best air compressor for paint sprayers, there are certain considerations that must be looked at during your shopping process.
Atomizing paint properly, means your paint sprayer must be hooked up to some form of an air supply such as an air compressor.
Compressors come in many different types and with a range of CFMs, horsepower and gallon sizes. Which one is the best air compressor for painting?
Best Air Compressor for Paint Sprayers Comparison Chart
The chart below features the best compressor options that are available. Pick the best air compressor for painting today.
Best Air Compressor for Painting: Editor’s Reviews
Premium Air Compressor
This air compressor for painting from California Air Tools is ultra quiet at only 60 decibels and comes with an Oil-free pump. Use it in your garage to work your air tools without annoying everyone in the neighborhood. Our choice for best air compressor for paint sprayers.
The motor/pump has been tested to work for a minimum 4000 before wear, outlasting many other brands. The 6 gallon tank capacity builds up pressure and fills in about 125 seconds with a low amp draw. Go ahead and plug it into a regular wall outlet without issues.
It’s portability isn’t so great; the handle it comes with just isn’t long enough to pull it around.
You need to buy an air hose for this model.
It delivers 3 CFM’s at 90 PSI, so it’s a great air compressor for painting and working with nailers, but might not be the best for impact wrenches and other high air tools, depending on what you have.
If you want to go all in on an air compressor for painting, grab the California Air Tools makes a 2 HP model that’s also ultra quiet.
Best Small Air Compressor for Painting
This air compressor might only have a 1 gallon tank capacity, but you’re also getting a 1 HP motor with that tank.
This means you get up to 44 drives per minute, making the Senco perfect for your entry-level paint sprayers used for interior work. If your tools require 12 CFM to operate, this quiet and portable air compressor isn’t going to deliver you results that you want.
This model from Senco is the best air compressor for painting indoors, detail work, or airbrushing; the versatility of this compressor is impressive.
Senco’s air compressor uses are not limited to painting: use it to power all your air tools and get all your jobs done from nailing that trim, or building a wall or two. You don’t need to spend a ton or take up alot of space with this compressor; it’s perfect to conquer your weekend jobs.
The quality, quiet and staying power is going to surprise you.
Best DIY Air Compressor for Painting
When you see folks discussing pancake compressors and paint sprayers, you’ll often be told that the two just don’t match up. They’re not big enough. They don’t provide enough CFM for air tools. They’re too loud.
All of those issues are effectively resolved with this handy little model from DeWalt. The 6 gallon tank capacity helps you get a max PSI of 165.
You’ll receive 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI, which means most sprayers can operate with only minimal breaks for recovery.
Then there’s the fact that is operates at just 75.5 dB, making it suitable to use indoors if necessary. That makes this model from DeWalt not only one of the best budget air compressors, but our choice for best DIY air compressor for painting.
Pair it with this WYNNsky 3/8 x 25 foot hose and accessories kit, and you’ll have everything you need to get started today.
Try this pancake compressor out yourself and you’ll like using it as much as we have.
Best Budget Air Compressor for the Money
The lightweight pancake compressor design of only 13 lbs means this unit is one of the lightest and has the most portability of all the units we tested. So small you can store it anywhere, the best for taking in your RV or motorhome without taking up a ton of space.
This air compressor for painting really is best value for money. Included is a 25 foot air hose, needle, needle adapter, 2 inflator nozzles, air chuck AND on board storage. We did find the hose to be a bit on the cheap side, so level up to a longer and better quality hose with brass fittings.
It’s also backed with a 1 year warranty.
With 100 to 110 Max PSI and 90 pressure per square inch operating, this unit can power most paint sprayers and brad nailers, but not impact wrenches or other air heavy tools. If you have a ton of nailing to do, this unit tends to recycle after 2-4 nail shots, so step up to the 3 gallon model for the best air.
We had to wear ear plugs while using this unit during testing; it’s louder than the other models we used.
This model is specifically designed for applications and tools that require high volumes of highly pressured air.
It is even strong enough to power a light-duty pneumatic tool, so there is plenty of power available for your paint spraying needs.
Perhaps the best feature of this model is its stainless-steel hose, which is strong enough to allow for the compressor to be mounted separately from the 5 gallon tank. Comes with 2 heavy duty steel mounting brackets welded onto the air compressor for quick mounting.
If you’re looking for a way to step up your painting game today, this air compressor for painting will work hard for you.
Takes less than 1.5 minutes for the tank to fill to 140 PSI. This unit isn’t very loud at 71 decibels.
At only 9 inches wide and 24 pounds, you can store this powerful air compressor in your SUV, motorhome or RV without hogging space.
Delivers .75 SCFM at 90 PSI.
We love the 1 year warranty and the majority of Owners are super happy with their purchase.
If air is leaking from the main line regulator it could be the common O ring Issue. The O ring might not be seated correctly on top of the plunger, but instead at the bottom of the valve. This is because the regulator may not come fully tightened from factory, or it got loose during shipping.
Just fish it out and place it on top of the plunger. Make sure the regulator is on tight to prevent this from happening again.
You’ll need a quality air hose with brass fittings for your DeWalt compressor, but make sure you’re buying one that has Dual Male connectors to avoid being disappointed.
We recommend wrapping your air line connections with teflon tape to really squeeze every ounce of air out of this bad boy and maximize performance.
This small high output air compressor from Bostitch is a PSI monster. With 150 PSI max, you can run a ton of tools, from a sprayer to nailers without have to wait for the tank to refill.
You can take your hobby building up a notch with this air compressor and redo your roof or build a garage no problem.
It delivers 1.5 HP running power while drawing only 12 amps so it won’t trip any of your breakers.
Weighing in at only 23.5 lbs you can take it anywhere without breaking your back. On board hose and tool storage, with a storage area for fasteners and fittings really makes this the entire package.
This personal air compressor kit provides everything you need to get started with paint spraying today.
It features a gravity feed, dual-action airbrush with a 1/5 HP single-piston engine to provide a consistent flow of air for your paint, dyes, or similar content.
The air compressor itself is reasonably quiet, with the TC-20 model offering enough power to work the airbrush with reasonable ease.
The entire setup is very user-friendly for beginners, yet still has the features that any expert would want with a good basic system.
Think of this option as a good starting kit if you’ve never used a paint sprayer/air compressor before. Use their custom made cleaning kit and how to guide to clean your sprayer perfectly.
If you’re going to be using multiple colors and need more paint containers, these ones are specially made for this machine. Don’t forget to also buy caps for the containers, then you can store them without your paint drying out.
The price is right with this one, so be sure to take a closer look at it today.
This air compressor for painting is remarkably user friendly. We also love the fact that the Hausfeld 3 Gallon is designed to minimize the vibrations you’ll receive when it is running.
It works on a standard household connection and you can get it up to about 110 PSI if you give it enough of an initial charging time.
The CFM rating is a bit low, hovering around 0.5 for most users, so you won’t be able to use high CFM sprayers with this model unless you’re chaining it together with other units.
Get around that one issue and you’ll find that you can do just about anything with this little compressor.
This tiny oil-free pancake compressor has enough power to get through your car tires and kicks butt with brad nailers.
When testing we noticed that the tank takes about 1-2 mins to fill to 100 PSI while still being reasonably quiet.
You get more time to work because of the 3.5 gallon tank capacity, without the motor turning on or constantly running like smaller 1 gallon pancake compressors.
Remember to match up your air compressors SCFM’s to your sprayers or air tools requirements before purchasing. With this model, you would be needing a gun that operates on the low side of low pressure or else you’ll be waiting for the compressor to catch up more than you would like.
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Air Compressors Buyer's Guide
Do You Need an Air Compressor for a Paint Sprayer?
Only airless models and some HVLP models are able to get away with not having an air compressor hookup. Those sprayers that are called "spray systems" or "turbine systems" have their own air supply but cost more than a regular old paint sprayer BUT less than a sprayer + an air compressor set up.
How to Find the Best Air Compressor for Me?
When looking for an air compressor for your paint gun, there are a few things to consider before making your purchase. You want to look at your spray guns PSI requirements in combination with the air compressors CFM output.
What Size Air Compressor do I need for a Spray Gun?
Most paint sprayers don't really need a lot of PSI in order for them to operate. Many of them function well at just 10 PSI.
This means a greater focus should be placed air compressor CFM or cubic feet per minute rating that is on each compressor.
A higher CFM means a faster overall air compression process, allowing the compressor to keep up with the demands your paint sprayer places upon it.
When you've found your preferred paint sprayer, it is important to look at what the CFM rating is on the compressor from the manufacturer's recommendation.
Then just compare that figure to what each air compressor has to offer and you'll be able to match up functionality and value.
Features to Look for in the Best Air Compressor for Paint Sprayers
What does CFM stand for? CFM stands for cubic feet per minute. It's the measure of how much air is being delivered from your compressor to your paint sprayer or other air powered tools.
Air compressors with higher CFM ratings deliver more air to your tools making them essential for larger jobs or air heavy tools.
This works even if you have some of the more rare paint sprayers, such as the HVHP [high volume high pressure] or LVLP [low volume low pressure] options.
This can become a problem for some paint sprayers. You'll find that some models will give you a 12-14 CFM rating.
That can be difficult to provide for any portable air compressors, which means you'll need to invest in a commercial grade dual-tank option.
The exception to the rule here is for air brushing, which uses low CFM spray guns for their delicate work. These typically require very little PSI, so just about any air compressor will work.
7 Facts when Buying and Comparing an Air Compressor For Paint Sprayers
CFM and Horsepower
#1. Just because your air compressor CFM ratings are less than recommended by the paint sprayer manufacturer doesn't mean you cannot combine the two tools. It simply means you will not be able to paint continuously.
#2. Small air compressors can be chained together to create higher CFM levels when necessary. You can also add spare tanks to small portable compressors to get the results you need.
#3. Horsepower is an important consideration when buying air compressors, but only when measured with CFM and PSI. A 1 HP air compressor that provides you 6 CFM at 40 PSI is adequate if your paint sprayer requires 4-6 CFM to operate. Generally, the more HP your air compressor has, the more air (higher CFM's) it will deliver to your tools.
#4. Always try to get the most CFM and highest PSI air compressor that you can afford. If you can get a 2 HP air compressors that delivers at least 8 CFM at 40 PSI, then you'll be able to use most paint sprayers fairly well without the need to chain additional tanks or compressors to your setup.
Name Brand Vs Off Brand Air Compressors
#5. Name brand air compressors tend to deliver more consistent results. This isn't always true, of course, but a name brand compressor generally comes equipped with a better motor and this can help you to squeeze out an extra CFM or two.
Air Compressors, Heat and Ventilation
#6. Air compressors can generate a lot of heat while they are operating, especially the portable oil-less varieties that are used for basic DIY work.
This can affect the final results of a painted surface if the work is being completed in an enclosed room. Having an enclosed area be well ventilated is important for personal safety, but it is also important for a smooth finish as well.
#7. Air Compressors should be installed in a room with good ventilation. A level floor is absolutely necessary for best results. It can be helpful with the larger models in this category to have vibration mounting pads installed as well.
Check out this quick video detailing the process above. Don't forget to keep the required CFM's in mind for the gun you own or plan to purchase.
Oil vs Oil Free Air Compressors
All compressors require some form of lubrication, just like your car, to protect against normal wear and tear, friction and heat.
Inside an air compressor, air is drawn in with a piston. Oil-free air compressors come with a Teflon coating (or other type of chemicals) inside to lubricate the piston, pump and other parts. This means the lubrication is permanent.
Air compressors that need oil to lubricate the piston means that you will be adding oil on a regular basis. This naturally means that oil compressors will require more maintenance vs oil-free pumps.
Typically, oil-free air compressors are cheaper because the designs are more basic and they have fewer parts.
It’s debatable which models last longer: oil vs oil-free air compressors. When oil-free compressors first came out, their durability was questioned. But the tech has come a long way since then and the difference in longevity is about equal.
Contractors claim that oil compressors are larger in size and can push out so much air that a few workers can use the compressor at the same time and not run out of air.
Oil compressors are less noisy than oil-free compressors, which is important if you’re working indoors or in a confined space where noise may be an issue. Even though oil-free compressors now come with noise reduction technology, you can still hear the difference.
How Do You Hook up a Paint Sprayer to an Air Compressor?
Your paint sprayer is connected to your compressor by an air hose. Make sure the connections on the hose you buy are the right thread size for your sprayer and compressor and that the connections are high quality like brass or steel.
A quality hose makes the difference here. You need it to be flexible and long enough to meet your job requirements. You attach your hose to your sprayer and compressor and turn on the compressor.
Test out the PSI level that you’ve set by test spraying something random to see if it’s what you need and adjust your PSI if required.
Different Types of Air Compressors
There are two types of air compressors: positive displacement and Dynamic. Most, if not all the compressors listed in this post (and used in your home or shop) are positive displacement, single acting reciprocating compressors.
Check out the infographic and post below for details about the other types of compressors.
Common Issues with Air Compressors and Paint Sprayers
Moisture and Your Compressor
You need to have a pure flow of air for your paint sprayer to properly work.
If there is any moisture in the air that is being used to atomize the paint, then you will alter the viscosity of the paint delivered on the surface being worked on.
Solving this problem requires a filter to separate the moisture from the environment.
Tailing can also be a common problem when using paint sprayers with an air compressor.
This occurs because your pressure levels are too low. Instead of moving closer to the surface being painted to risk having the paint run, pause for a moment to let the pressure levels equalize.
Unless you have a massive compressor being used, there will be times when you’ll need to let your compressor catch up to the work you’ve been doing.
Make sure Your Air Compressor Lines are Clean
If you use your air compressor for multiple tools, such as a nail gun or a finisher, then you may find that there could be some oil contamination within your air hose lines as well.
This also changes the viscosity of your paint and can even prevent it from adhering correctly. In this instance, it is important to have lines that are specifically dedicated to the painting work you’re doing.
Reducing Noise from Your Air Compressor
So, how do you make a compressor quieter? First, it’s a good idea to make sure that the noise isn’t because something is wrong with your compressor. Any rattling or metal type noises should be investigated right away.
Typically, the cheaper the compressor, the noisier it will be.
Design is a factor in the amount of noise your compressor generates. A compressor with an encapsulated motor (the motor is built with a metal case around it) will always be less noisy.
You can build an air compressor silencer box with foam panelling on the inside, (properly ventilated of course). This air compressor box will deaden the noise from your compressor. Some folks even wrap the motor in a blanket/mat that deadens the sound.
Remove some of the noise from impact and shock by installing rubber grommets on the motor. This absorbs vibrations and sounds, keeping them from spreading.
The exhaust is one of the main parts generating noise on your compressor.
The intake, where the compressor sucks in air, is definitely another one of the loudest parts. Otherwise called an air compressor intake silencer,you can also purchase them online. So go a bit more DIY and attach a full blown muffler to the intake on your compressor.
Check out how to do it in the video below.
How to Maintain Your Compressor
Routine maintenance on air compressors helps you to extend the life of your compressor. A few simple steps and about 30 minutes of your time will ensure to keep you spraying paint with your compressor. Don’t forget to check for leaks!
- If you own an oil compressor, you need to change the oil, just like in your car
- Removing and installing the new air filter
- Checking the compressor belts and other moving parts/hoses
For a ton of details, check out this post with an awesome preventative maintenance schedule.
What Are the Prices of Air Compressors for Paint Sprayers?
The price range for the best compressor to start painting is quite varied. If you are looking for the best budget air compressor take a look at smaller air compressors.
Some of the smaller air compressors can cost less than $75 if you watch for a good sale. Just make sure they can deliver enough CFM so your painting doesn’t suffer.
At the other end of the spectrum, you will find $1,000 contractor-grade air compressors for painting that barely deliver enough CFM for you to work continuously.
Best Air Compressor for Painting Furniture
We recommend looking at portable or pancake air compressors for most DIY and projects needs. These are the best DIY compressor options that deliver consistent results.
If necessary, you can chain two or more together and avoid the need for a 220v outlet with the right extension cords.
Should you follow that route, you can expect to pay from $150 to$250 for most air compressors, depending on what specific options you want to have on the unit and what sort of paint gun you have.
The best air compressor for a paint sprayer will allow you to have accurate work for projects large and small.
It’s time to take charge of your time. Improve your productivity with air compressors like these and there’s really no limit to what you can accomplish.
Quick FAQs: Air Compressors
What is CFM short for?
CFM is short for cubic feet per minute.
How to reduce noise from your compressor
Encapsulated motor, sound blanket, rubber grommets, air intake silencer.
What about heat and ventilation and your compressor?
You must have good ventilation because compressors generate a ton of heat while working.
What’s the best small air compressor?
What’s the best pancake compressor?
DeWalt 6 gallon