The Best Airbrush Compressors (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Keep the paint flowing smoothly with a good-quality air compressor
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BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON September 30, 2020
Many serious hobbyists use an airbrush. It’s much easier to keep the paint flowing smoothly when you have a good-quality air compressor to help get the job done. If you’ve already purchased an airbrush kit, you might be looking to upgrade your compressor for more consistent airflow and precise control over air pressure.
A regular air compressor won’t give you the results you seek, so you need a specialized unit made specifically for supplying your airbrush with air. There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to airbrush compressors. By choosing a reliable, proven compressor, you can make your project that much easier to complete.
Featuring a strong motor and durable hose, this compressor is very useful. It enables full control of airflow and works on all-sized projects.
Operates for long periods without issues. Uses a single-piston motor. Includes fans to keep it cool while working. Doesn’t pulse when moving air.
Handle placement can make carrying difficult. Thin base leaves risk of it tipping over if bumped.
This air compressor comes with an airbrush kit setup. Suited to smaller projects, it has a tough pump and lasting charge.
Device charges using a USB connection. Internal components designed to prevent overheating. Works for almost a full hour. Easy-to-grip design.
Can be tricky to replace the airbrush when switching compressors. Takes a while to charge via USB.
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Benefits of Airbrush Compressors
- Lets you work while on the go. Since airbrush compressors have such small stature, you can easily pop them in your trunk to bring to the worksite. The small size makes them easy to store, as well.
- Lighter than air tanks. Unlike the weight and bulk of an air tank, the continual flow of air enables compressors to keep a lightweight structure. Both the compact and full-sized options don’t require much effort to move around.
- Works for longer periods. Because compressors take in, compress, and release the air, it won’t run out of supply and you can work for longer. This lets you finish a whole project and not risk the paint drying improperly or accidental layering.
- Powerful airflow sources. The pressurizing process puts a lot of force behind the air being expelled. This lets you paint quickly and properly. It propels the air outwards, moving the paint with it. You don’t have to worry about control since the relative pounds per square inch gives you a real metric by which to gauge it.
- Long-lasting performance. Thanks to the design, with fans at the sides and relatively straightforward circuitry, you can count on air compressors for long periods. It’s easy to find replacement parts; and, generally speaking, they are highly durable.
- Enables airflow control. Most compressors let you gauge the amount of air moving at any given time. This precision control lets you adjust the intensity, speed, and precision depending on the type of project on which you are working.
Types of Airbrush Compressors
This type of airbrush compressor is meant to take out into the field. Usually, this sort of airbrush compressor has a compact design and smaller hoses. You can either get an entire set including the kit, or just a standalone compressor. The pressures range anywhere from 20 to 80 pounds per square inch, giving a lot of leeway to pick the right compressor for the task. In each case, the system either has a lengthy cord to connect to a wall outlet or a very powerful battery. Any that are operated with a battery can be expected to have a rechargeable feature.
The stationary type of airbrush compressor is useful for those who want to tackle large-scale tasks. Usually, this type of compressor is made out of heavier duty materials. These work to enhance the amount of supported pressure. Necessary features include ventilation accommodation to prevent the risk of overheating. Each has four feet that grip onto the ground to prevent it from slipping. While most have a handle, it is usually just to move the compressor slightly. This type of compressor attaches via a power cord to an outlet to let it work for long periods.
This sort of airbrush compressor comes complete with the airbrush nozzle and controls. Typically pocket-sized, these compressors are suitable only for small tasks. Useful for touch-ups on vehicles or other surfaces, the compressor is generally unable to accommodate multiple pressures. Extremely quiet and the lightest weight type, built-in compressors usually are on the lower end of the price range.
Offering quality products for many years, Master Airbrush is under the umbrella of TCP Global, a company supplying everything from auto body tools to home and garden supplies. Its focus is on using cutting-edge technology to improve work performance. One of the leading selections is the Master Airbrush Compressor Model TC-40T.
Founded in Kenosha, Wis., Paasche is dedicated to supplying all the tools necessary for airbrushing of all sorts. From industrial tools to paint supplies, it has a wide selection. A popular option is the Paasche D3000R 1/5 HP Airbrush Compressor.
Supplying a wide range of airbrush supplies, this company offers everything from compressors with nozzles. By focusing on access and affordability, it offered a wide range of gear of all different sizes. A leading option is the Timbertech Airbrush Kit.
Airbrush Compressor Pricing
- Under $100: Compressors in this range tend to be either built-in or portable. Working for small projects, these compressors are better for casual use.
- Between $100 and $200: Both stationary and portable compressors fall in this range. Offering a lot of power, these compressors let you control airflow precisely.
- Over $200: These airbrush compressors incorporate a lot of higher-end features. Improved gauges, better threading, and a stronger motor set these compressors apart.
The feature shared by all airbrush compressors is the ability to move air through the system. This deals with two different aspects. The intake is the first consideration, referring to the relative efficiency with which the compressor pulls in air. The compressor comes next, highlighted by the internal system’s ability to force the air inwards. Finally, the airflow is highlighted by the pounds per square inch (the resulting pressure). Usually, the overall efficacy is registered by this final metric.
Whether operating by battery or attaching to an electrical outlet, any and all compressors require a power source. It’s the energy gleaned from here that powers the compressor itself and offers that intense pressure as a result. Battery operated options tend to be light and rechargeable, though only work for a short period of time. On the other hand, cord-style options plug in and keep working, though they can limit your reach, depending on hose length.
The condensing process naturally leads to condensation. This means that a large amount of water is taken from the air. It has to collect somewhere, lest it drips onto the floor. While some airbrush compressors don’t include a moisture catch, it can lead to slipper accidents. Generally, the larger the motor and system, the more moisture results. To stem the tide, frequently emptying the moisture tray is helpful.
The pressure gauge enables you to adjust the airflow throughout your project. Certain spots may require more power than others. So, instead of blanketing the area with too much (or too little pressure), the gauge lets you make fine-tuned adjustments. It lets you take breaks since the pressure and intensity of color are interconnected. You can simply glance at the pressure and reset it when you return to work.
- Noise level. A major thing to keep in mind when you’re making your purchase is how loud the compressor is. If you plan to use it on large tasks, a quieter model can be more pleasant. Noise doesn’t necessarily denote power, so opting for something with damping abilities can improve your overall experience.
- Safeguards. Before making your choice, take a glance at the included features which prevent overheating and short-circuiting. The compressor should have a fan at the side which releases warmth via convection. This lets your compressor work for longer and prevents any long-term damage to the circuitry. An automatic shutoff is an added benefit that requires less attention when you use it.
- Size. Though the size doesn’t impact performance necessarily, it helps to know if you have the room to store the compressor for your airbrush. Provided you do, as long as it can reach the desired pounds per square inch, it will work out fine. Generally, smaller tasks don’t require compressors that are excessively sized.
- Weight. Especially if you plan on moving the compressor from place to place, ensure that it isn’t too heavy to accommodate your needs. This metric is included in the specs for each compressor. So long as you can carry it to and from the worksite, there should be no issue.
- Stability. Ultimately, when you work, you’ll move around a lot. If you accidentally tug the hose or knock into the compressor, you want it to stay standing. Choosing an option that is weighted properly and well-balanced prevents damage to the compressor. It also helps you avoid any unnecessary workplace injuries. Take a look at the placement of the feet to gauge how stable it will be.
Best Airbrush Compressor Reviews & Recommendations
- Always unplug the airbrush compressor between uses to prevent damage from surges or overheating.
- If the system overheats, turn it off and leave it for a short period of time. Enable it to cool down before restarting the machine.
- Keep all parts of the device clean and free of debris. This prevents contaminants and debris from getting into the system.
- Store the device in a safe position. If it’s handheld, keep the compressor in the upside position whenever possible.
- Clean out the moisture tray frequently to prevent condensation from dripping onto the floor.
- Wipe down the exterior of the system to keep it free of scratches (and the rust which can ensue).
Q. What is the best air compressor for airbrushing?
A: The best air compressor for airbrushing is one with the highest rate of compatibility, a sturdy design, and sufficient power. A leading choice that’s popular amongst users is the Master Airbrush Model TC-40T Cool Runner Airbrush Compressor. Effective and long-lasting, you can use this compressor on all types of projects.
Q. Do you need a compressor to airbrush?
A: All airbrushes require a level of pressure in their air. However, you can also use a tank to access this air pressure. Bear in mind that an air compressor gives you longer lasting benefits since it won’t run out as an air tank would.
Q. Are airbrush compressors loud?
A: As with any machinery, a certain amount of noise is to be expected. Certain air compressors for airbrushes are designed to dampen the noise. Usually, even at the highest levels of pressure, the noise is little more than a nuisance. If you are worried about sound, check for those with controlled noise.
Q. How does an airbrush compressor work?
A: Air compressor function is fairly straightforward. It takes in air from the surroundings and uses the power of the motor to force the molecules into a tighter field. This ‘pressure’ is then channeled outwards, denoted in force by the PSI (or pounds per square inch). Effectively, air comes in, gets pressed inwards, then forced back out through the hose.
Now that you know all the ins and outs of airbrush compressors, you can pick the option that’s best for you. There are tons of options from the Master Airbrush Model TC-40T Cool Runner Airbrush Compressor with a range of uses to smaller choices like our value pick, the Gocheer Professional Airbrush Kit, It’s about finding the right fit. Happy painting!