LAST UPDATED: September 30, 2020
The Best Airbrush Compressors (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Keep the paint flowing smoothly with a good-quality air compressor
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PUBLISHED 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
If you want one of the best airbrush compressors money can buy, check out this Master Airbrush Model TC-40T Cool Runner Airbrush Compressor. It tops our list due to its impressive feature set. Simply put, this compressor comes equipped with stuff you probably didn’t even know you wanted or needed. True to its “Cool Runner” name, it’s designed to operate for long periods without overheating. The onboard air storage tank allows for constant, consistent pressure with no pulsation, making sure that your paint finish is smooth and even. Other features include a gauge and a regulator for fine tuning your pressure, two airbrush holders, and a generous six-foot air hose.
Despite being very useful, this compressor isn’t the best-balanced structure. Provided it is away from common walking spaces, however, there is no issue with the structure and it functions excellently.
If you’re on a tight budget but you need to upgrade your equipment, this Gocheer Professional Airbrush Kit is exactly what you need. Depending on the size of the project you need to tackle, this gives all the power you need without causing a budget issue. It is easy to control and not prone to overheating. Since it comes with an airbrush attached, you can either remove it and replace with your current setup or use it as a stand-alone tool. When precision matters (like small stencils or decals on your car), this compressor gives the ideal amount of power. Comfortable to grip, even for long periods, this compressor is an excellent tool for anyone dealing with airbrushing.
Though it is powerful and accurate, this option runs out of power quickly. Since it is only powered via a USB cord, it helps to plan to avoid it dying mid-project.
If you want the peace of mind of buying a brand name airbrush compressor, look no further than the Paasche D3000R 1/5 HP Airbrush Compressor. Paasche makes some of the best airbrushes you can buy. That same level of quality and airbrush expertise extends to its compressors. All of the important features are represented – an air storage tank, a moisture trap, a precision regulator, and a gauge. A nice and underrated feature is the adapters for the hose connection so that you can hook up even non-Paasche airbrushes to your fancy new compressor.
Even though it is a brand name, there are more powerful options that are still compatible. While you can more easily find replacement parts for brand name items, it is possible to mix and match parts.
The Zeny Pro 1/5 HP Airbrush Air Compressor may not be a standout like the others, but it’s still deserving of a spot on our list. This compressor is priced well below the high-end models on our list while being just a bit more expensive than the budget model. It features a precision regulator, an easy-to-read gauge, and a moisture trap. Zeny Pro claims that this compressor flows more air more consistently than many of its competitors. There’s also a clever automatic thermal shutdown feature to prevent the unit from overheating, which is a real concern on these less expensive compressors.
While this option is powerful and user friendly, it requires some supplemental supplies for optimal function. Still, with threading and electrical tape on hand, this is a quality compressor.
When you need a system to take on the go, the Master Airbrush Multi-Purpose System is a great tool to have on hand. The compressor, while powerful, is quite petite. It’s lightweight and small enough to take just about anywhere. The set comes with everything you need to airbrush, working either as a standalone compressor or a whole set. It can reach up to 25 pounds per square inch. If you need a quick blast, it will run up to 15 pounds per square inch. Worried about wasting power? The compressor shuts off automatically when not used for a period of time.
While the compressor is very portable, it isn’t the most powerful one around. If you plan to do smaller projects, however, the size and ease of movement are ideal.
If you want something that’s built to last, the California Air Tools Compressor is a terrific option. All of the mechanical parts are exposed at the top. This enables simplified maintenance and upkeep. You can control the airflow precisely. Need to move it from place to place? A massive metal handle holds everything steady as you shift locations. With strong feet at the base, it resists slipping and thus keeps your connections intact. The compressor is very powerful, holding a full gallon at any given time. Featuring a tough steel structure, it is strong against dents and impact. For those working without earplugs, the fact that it is so quiet adds an extra edge to overall performance value.
Though it is quiet, there is still a noticeable sound when you get up to 90 pounds per square inches of pressure. That said, this strength gives enough power for massive projects.
Need a compressor for your next detailing job? Try the COSSCCI Upgraded Airbrush Kit. Whether you want to replace the entire system or just want to swap out compressors, this is worth a look. The compressor itself is unique, charging via a USB port for use wherever you go. The portable design makes it ideal for work requiring precision. Though the compressor uses a single action function, the simple design limits maintenance needs. In terms of ease of use, the handle provides a tight grip. The medium size of the compressor reduces fatigue during long work periods. Lasting for long periods, the internal circuitry is specifically designed to limit the chance of overheating.
Bear in mind that, though this compressor is easy to control, it has limited power. Suited to projects requiring accuracy, it might not have the strength for more demanding tasks.
If you plan to use the compressor for professional situations, the Badger Airbrush Compressor is worth checking out. It has a sturdy design, rectangular in structure yet not bulky enough to take up too much space. Supported by distinct feet, it resists sliding (even on slippery foundations). There’s a handle to move it, though it is heavy enough to be best in a single place. Running on a fifth of a horsepower unit, this compressor can get as much force as 54 pounds per square inch. There are included controls to reduce this amount if needed. It includes an easy-to-use switch to let you finish quickly. Despite being so strong, the compressor isn’t very loud.
Though it’s powerful, there is limited ventilation which, if blocked, can lead to issues. Ensure that the fan is exposed to prevent the risk of overheating and damage to the circuitry.
Do you want to improve your airbrush’s performance? If so, the Timbertech Airbrush Kit is a worthy option. It comes with a high-quality compressor and multiple parts designed to give you a good fit. The compressor itself holds three liters and features a regulator to control the flow. By incorporating a water trap, you can prevent the risks of slips and accidents. It’s heavy-duty enough to work efficiently but light enough to move around. The kit also includes several tips meant to give you different balances of precision and efficiency. It is powerful while remaining quiet, making it well-suited to most situations.
Despite the system being very useful, the handle leaves something to be desired. Given its placement relative to the compressor’s weight, it’s important to be safe when handling it.
- 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!