How to Use a Paint Sprayer with a Compressor

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How to use an air compressor with a paint sprayer is a fairly easy process that you can do by yourself. All you need is to learn a few techniques to help you complete the job, and you will be good to go.  

Before we get to the in-depth details about each step, let me first give you a basic outline of how to use an air compressor with a paint sprayer.  

how to use a paint sprayer with a compressor
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How to Use an Air Compressor with a Paint Sprayer Prep Tips 

Follow our pro tips below to make sure your ready to use your paint sprayer with your air compressor.

  1. Any serious painter will begin by preparing the area they intend to paint. Make sure any objects or surfaces close to your painting area are covered with tarps or plastic sheeting and taped up to stop overspray from finding its way onto surfaces  
  1. Thin your paint properly. Use our instructions on thinning water based or oil based paint to get you started 
  1. Connect your paint sprayer to your air compressor properly using a hose that’s the correct length to reach your projects.  Make sure that the connection is tight and no air is leaking out 
  1. Make sure that you set the compressor to produce the right air pressure based on the requirements of your paint sprayerRead the instructions for your sprayer and start with the PSI level they recommend.  You can adjust it higher or lower if needed once you start painting.  
  1. Once everything is properly connected, turn on your gun and spray away.  

Air Compressor Pressure Explained 

Air compressors work at high pressure levels, especially when placed at the required levels for paint sprayers. While there are some paint sprayers that require as little as 10 PSI to the cap to function, some may need more PSI and some are just plain air hogs.  

PSI level of your compressor is different than what is required by your spray gun.  While you spray gun might need 10 PSI to the cap, your compressor needs to consistently deliver 40 PSI to your gun. 

Make sure you buy a sprayer that matches the PSI capabilities of your compressor.  Nothing is worse than starting and stopping to wait for your compressor to catch up to your sprayer. 

Low-pressure air compressors typically produce up to 150 PSI. Medium versions, on the other hand, range from 150-1000 PSI, and high-pressure compressors operate at PSI levels that are over 1000.  

How Do You Adjust PSI on an Air Compressor? 

Regulators are used in controlling the air pressure or PSI output of air compressors. The amount of air pressure needed for a paint job will depend on the type and brand of sprayer you have 

What Size Air Compressor do I Need for a Paint Sprayer? 

The most important factor when using a paint sprayer with your compressor is not the size, but the CFM output.  You want it to be powerful enough to deliver the right amount of air your sprayer requires to paint continuously. This varies depending on your paint sprayer.  

Air Compressor Break-In Period 

The first thing you should know about air compressor break-ins is that you should never connect any hoses to the outlet until the process is completed.  

When operating an air compressor, refer to the user’s manual it came with to get the full details about its break-in procedure and period. Even though you have general knowledge about the whole process, it is essential to check the manual. Good news is most of the modern models don’t require a break in process. BUT... 

Compressors are different from each other, and you may damage its components if you incorrectly run the break-in process so definitely check your manual. 

How to Attach an Air Compressor to a Paint Sprayer 

Attaching a paint sprayer to an air compressor is a pretty simple process. Do not let the big words trick you into thinking it’s complicated. All you need is hoses and the know-how to connect all the points correctly.  

  1. The first step is locating where you attach the air compressor to the spray gun. This spot will normally be located at the bottom of the sprayer. If you cannot find it, check the user manual to see where it’s placed.  
  1. Next, fix a regulator to the air compressor. Regulators display the pressure of the air inside the compressor, which helps you control how much of it is discharged through the outlet.  
  1. Use a female plug to connect the hose to the regulator. Make sure there are no air leaks. 
  1. Switch on your compressor, but make sure you’ve set your PSI on the regulator before you do so. Your paint sprayer will have the required PSI level written on it or in the user manual.  
  1. Pull the trigger of your gun to determine the PSI level you are spraying at and then adjust the regulator accordingly.  

What Benefits Does an Air Compressor Give a Paint Sprayer? 

Air compressors improve the flow of paint onto the surface being painted. It helps you spray thin, uniformly distributed layer of paint no matter what kind of surface you are painting.  

There are paint sprayers that are airless and don’t need a compressor.   But they have a few drawbacks.  They spray at high pressure, so spraying thinner materials like stains will lead to a ton of overspray.  Airless sprayers tend to have more overspray than HVLP models that use compressors or turbine systems.      

With an air compressor, you will be able to set a lower pressure you want the air to be discharged at by using the regulator. The power to adjust and influence the quality of your painting experience is, therefore, in your hands.  

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Air Compressor Hoses Explained 

There are several different sizes of hoses available based on the type of paint sprayer you are using. The standard hose sizes are 1/4 and 3/8-inch. The diameter of your hose can affect the air pressure a little, but it’s an issue that can be fixed by adjusting the PSI setting of the regulator.

If you have a paint sprayer that uses a ton of air, stepping up to a larger hose will lead to better results. 

Precautions to Take When Using an Air Compressor 

Before you set out painting with a sprayer that is attached to an air compressor, there are some safety precautions that you need to take.  

  • First, ensure you wear the right protective gear. This should begin with a mask/respirator to prevent you from breathing the fumes from the gun. In addition, have safety glasses on, wear gloves, and put on overalls to keep your clothes and skin from getting stained 
  • Do not stop paint leaks using your hands, because the highly pressurized paint particles can pierce through your protective clothing and skin 
  • Use a tip guard 
  • Always point the gun away from yourself and others, especially when the air compressor and the sprayer are on 
  • Put the safety latch on when you are not using the paint sprayer 
  • Ensure personal materials and food are kept away from the painting zone 

Does a Paint Sprayer Need a Compressor? 

Some paint sprayers don’t need a compressor to spray paint.  That’s because they either don’t need air, like an airless sprayer.  They generate such high PSI that they don't need a compressor.  

Or your paint sprayer comes with its own turbine motor that generates air. Those are called "paint systems" or "turbine systems".

2 Types of Sprayers That Don't Need a Compressor 

Airless  

An airless paint sprayer shoots paint at very high pressure (some up to 3000 PSI) through a nozzle that evenly spreads out the paint on your surface. These sprayers can be used with different tips based on the paint job you want to perform, and they don’t need to be attached to an air compressor to work.  

Unfortunately, airless sprayers have drawbacks, such as more overspray than other types of sprayers. You must cover everything around your painting surface that you don’t want paint particles to land on.  

On the plus side, airless sprayer are known for being able to spray thick materials like primers and latex unthinned and directly from your paint can.   They also spray paint much faster than other types of sprayers like HVLP.  

They can cover large areas fast, saving you time if you have many large projects to complete like the exterior of your house.

Turbine 

Turbine or paint systems, use turbines to make air that combines with the paint and then sprayed onto your surface. Because of their design and the presence of a motor, turbine paint sprayers do not require a connection to an air compressor to run.

If you own a turbine or paint system, you won’t need to learn how to use an air compressor.  Turbine systems are usually more expensive than just buying a paint sprayer by itself, but, cheaper than buying a sprayer and a compressor together.

Conclusion 

That is how to use an air compressor with a paint sprayer. As you can see, it’s not a complicated process, and you can easily do it by yourself. Just ensure you stick to the safety precautions and refer to your user’s manual if you want details about your specific air compressor and paint sprayer.  


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