Air Compressor for Painting Cars

Are you planning to go through with the perfect spray paint job ever? Whether your project is your garden fence makeover, a coat of paint for your living room, or your car, you must make the right decisions about your tools and material.

If you have yet to switch from the roller or brush to spray painting, it is the right time to do so. The next very important step is to invest in an air spray gun and an air compressor. This is because spray painting ensures an even finish, significantly better than any hand-applied paint job.

To get that near-perfect finishing on your spray painting project, you must choose the right equipment from among the numerous options out there. Read on to find out all you need to know about the air compressor products and choose one that is right for you. In this article, you will find out what an air compressor is, how an air compressor for spray painting works, the best air compressor products you can choose from, and more.

How does an air compressor for spray painting work?

An air compressor uses a motor for filling a steel tank with air. When more and more air gets pumped into the air tank, the air gets pushed together and compresses.

The pressure chamber inside the machine builds up. A larger tank allows more air and thus the compressor can manage more pressure. When you use this compressed air, you pump it out through its air hose and provide air pressure to the tools you are using.

When you use the air compressor to spray paint, the air is driven through the air hose and in your spray gun. This creates an airflow drawing paint in its path using low pressure. This becomes a spray paint and enables you to spray paint your surface, completing your paintwork.

When the air compressor stops working, you can turn it on again and build up the air pressure to power your tool.

What to look for in an air compressor for spray painting

When you set out to buy an air compressor for spray painting, you must look out for a few specific details. You have to consider some important measurements for spray painting, CFM or cubic feet per minute, weight, pressure, style, and tank size.

You do not require a lot of pressure for your painting process, however, you do need to ensure that you have a sufficiently high PSI that can ensure consistent delivery. A thirty-gallon air compressor would be appropriate for small projects such as spray painting your furniture.

If you plan to paint your car, a thirty-gallon air compressor will work for you to apply spray paint on one panel. You will then have to wait while the compressor recharges. You cannot spray paint several car panels in one go.  

There is a large variety of air compressors and they are not all the same. Based on whether you are working on your DIY paint jobs, a large project, or a professional paint project, you will have to make different choices.

  • Pressure

Two main kinds of spray guns use compressed air. These are commonly known as HVLP and LVLP. As evident by their names, neither needs high pressure to function.

An HVLP (high volume low pressure) spray gun atomizes the paint coating by using low air-cap pressure at high volumes of air. This generally uses a pressure range of about a fourth or less of what is used in conventional techniques. The reduced velocity of the sprayed paint makes it less probable that it will bounce back.

The softer spray of the HVLP method delivers a softer spray and this reduces wastage of your material. This method does require higher air volume in comparison to conventional sprayers for which you need a bigger air compressor.

An LVLP (low volume low pressure) spray gun is more suited for single-stage enamels, clear coats, and vehicle painting. This is because of the finely atomized spray that is super soft. An LVLP is excellent for details as it paints at a slower speed than an HVLP.

  • CFM rating

The CFM is the most important element to consider while selecting your air compressor. The cubic feet per minute or CFM rating is based on the air volume that the air compressor provides at the given PSI.

Your compressor’s CFM rating must be higher than the CFM requirements of the air spray gun. If this is not there you risk a drop in pressure and volume, both of which can lead to imperfect coverage. 

While the CFM works as a direct function of the air pressure quantity that the air compressor provides, it does not tell us about the air compressor’s run time. This can vary significantly. The run time is however correlated directly to the air compressor’s capacity.

  • Weight

The weight of an air compressor determines how portable it is. If your painting project is very big, you will have to move around with your spray gun. In this situation, you may find it difficult to move the heavy air compressor around from one location to another.

On the upside, a larger air compressor may be a good option as its run time will be longer. Because this is a personal consideration, you can consider your options before you make a decision.

  • Style

Air compressors are available in several different styles; pontoon compressors, pancake compressors, hot dog compressors, and others. Look at all the various options as they will decide various aspects of the product and influence your choice.

  • Tank size

Lastly, the tank size is quite important for spray painting. This is because for the spray gun to operate efficiently, it needs continuous airflow instead of an intermittent supply as provided by pneumatic tools. Therefore, the air compressor must have sufficient storage to keep the spray gun operating smoothly. 

What are the different types of air compressors for spray painting?

There are several different kinds of air compressors. The three most popular ones are pontoon compressors, pancake compressors, and hot dog compressors.

  • Pancake air compressors

Pancake air compressors get their name based on their shape. They have a steel tank that has a round, flat shape. Pancake air compressors are perfect for painting projects, nailers, airbrushing, and other smaller projects.

They are really great due to their stability, lightweight, and relatively smaller size. Pancake air compressors are not very strong thus they are not very suitable for high-volume projects.

  • Hot dog air compressors

Hot dog air compressors are also named after their shape. They have a somewhat bigger tank size and can work for bigger projects and larger paint jobs in comparison to the pancake air compressors.

On the upside, they have a longer run time and give higher max psi. However, because of their larger size, the hotdog air compressors are not as stable, lightweight, or portable.

  • Pontoon compressors

Pontoon compressors resemble a pontoon boat. They have a combination system with a series of several hot dog compressors.  

These workhorse air tools provide much higher max psi in comparison to the other kinds of air compressors. The high tank capacity means that they can handle large and lengthy paint projects and provide air pressure for a range of power tools.

While they can manage quite large air volumes, they are not very portable. You cannot haul them around your job site like the other models. They are not suitable for DIY projects.

Choosing the right air compressor for spray painting

Spray painting is an exciting, yet challenging project. You need to ensure that you do everything correctly so that your final coat has the perfect finishing you can be proud of. While choosing the air compressor is an important decision, it is not something you should worry about.

We will discuss several options and you will surely find the best air compressor to meet your needs for your painting project. There are options such as high-capacity air compressors, tanks with longer run times, oil-free compressors, and more. There is one that is right for everyone.

You will not have to worry about the air pressure when you use any of the air compressors on our list. These are all good products, and you just have to choose one based on what you want. If you want to start off with a small project, go with a simple pancake air compressor.

CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K)
DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)
California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal
WEN 2289 10-Gallon Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor, 150 PSI
PORTER CABLE PXCMF220VW 20-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor
CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K)
DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)
California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal
WEN 2289 10-Gallon Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor, 150 PSI
PORTER CABLE PXCMF220VW 20-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor
Tank Size
6 Gallons
6 Gallons
8 Gallons
10 Gallons
20 Gallons
4.2 Gallons
HP Rating
1 HP
1 HP
1 HP
2 HP
1.5 HP
2.5 HP
Price
$141.63
$169.00
$210.00
$215.81
$399.01
$319.00
CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K)
CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K)
Tank Size
6 Gallons
HP Rating
1 HP
Price
$141.63
DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)
DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)
Tank Size
6 Gallons
HP Rating
1 HP
Price
$169.00
California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal
California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal
Tank Size
8 Gallons
HP Rating
1 HP
Price
$210.00
WEN 2289 10-Gallon Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor, 150 PSI
WEN 2289 10-Gallon Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor, 150 PSI
Tank Size
10 Gallons
HP Rating
2 HP
Price
$215.81
PORTER CABLE PXCMF220VW 20-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
PORTER CABLE PXCMF220VW 20-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
Tank Size
20 Gallons
HP Rating
1.5 HP
Price
$399.01
Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor
Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor
Tank Size
4.2 Gallons
HP Rating
2.5 HP
Price
$319.00

Product reviews for air compressor for spray painting

Craftsman Pancake Compressor

This nice, lightweight portable air compressor is simply one of the best ones for small paint projects. It comes with an oil-free pump and requires little recovery time after a compressor cycle. This easy-to-use and low-maintenance air compressor is perfect for you if you are planning a small paint job. 

The Craftsman Pancake Compressor is portable and lightweight, and you can move it around very easily. This air compressor is compatible with several other tools. You will also get a 13 piece accessory kit with optional add-ons such as a brad nailer that will be very useful for a variety of different projects.

If you are planning a large painting job, then this is not the right pick due to its low strength and low capacity.

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Dewalt Pancake Compressor

This product is another excellent option for a small-scale painting job. Its high rpm, high-efficiency motor, couplers, and high flow regulator make it quite efficient. This small pancake air compressor works very well despite its comparatively small air tank.

It is lightweight and portable, and very stable. The oil-free motor makes maintenance very easy, while it has a very low noise level so that you can work in a quiet work setting.

The Dewalt Pancake Compressor can manage quite a lot of pressure because of its durable stainless steel body. This is an excellent product for you if you are a beginner painter looking for a durable but small air compressor.

It does however have low capacity, due to which it is not the right choice for you if you are planning a large painting job.

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California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Hot Dog Compressor

This 8-gallon, large tank air compressor can provide a large volume. Moreover, it is a quieter product that runs below 85 decibels. The oil-free pump on this product means low maintenance requirements and costs.

The California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Hot Dog Compressor offers a remarkable 3 CFM at 40 PSI, making it a big upgrade in comparison to the pancake air compressors. You can choose between the aluminum and stainless steel varieties that make it more long-lasting and durable. 

While it is not as moveable as the models discussed earlier, you can easily maneuver it from one location to the next as required.

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Wen Vertical Oil-Free Compressor

This is a vertical compressor, which means that it is basically a hot dog type of air compressor that is turned on its side and standing upright. However, instead of an elongated cylinder like a hot dog, it is a bit squatty. Its shape makes this air compressor more stable, with additional power and volume. 

The Wen Vertical Oil-Free Compressor is a very powerful product. It also comes with an oil-free compressor that makes it easy to take care of and easy to clean. While this is a heavy machine, it has built-in wheels so that you can move it conveniently as you work on your painting job.

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Porter-Cable Vertical Compressor

This air compressor is considerably more powerful than all the previous products we have discussed. It delivers 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI and is a well-known standard in the industry. The cast-iron tank in this air compressor makes it a product that will last for very long.

The Porter-Cable Vertical Compressor is CSA and UL certified. Along with the product, you will get quick connectors, gauges, and a regulator so that you start or disconnect quickly and easily. However, it is rather heavy and not easily portable.

At this mid-range price, it is one of your best options for an air compressor.

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Makita Stacked Pontoon Air Compressor

This air compressor delivers maximum air pressure and volume with its two-cylinder air compressors. It has good portability and a reduced overall footprint. Delivering 4.8 CFM at 40 PSI, it is a very strong machine. 

The device is very efficient and comes with quick connect couplers that will enable you to disconnect or connect the air hoses swiftly to move along your painting project. 

The Makita Stacked Pontoon Air Compressor is oil lubricated. While its portability is not very high, it is a very strong air compressor. However, its weight and price make it more suited for large-scale projects.

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Industrial Air Portable Pontoon Compressor

This model has a pontoon compressor with reasonable portability. The high-efficiency motor and two small cylinder tanks make it very powerful, yet less efficient in runtime. However, its high efficiency enables it to recover very quickly and regain air pressure.

The 4-gallon capacity provides 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI, which makes it one of the strongest machines. Yet, it is mounted on a frame and is relatively lightweight, which gives it excellent portability.

The Industrial Air Portable Pontoon Compressor is more high priced than other products. If the rest of the qualities in this air compressor makes it right for your spray painting project, it is a good buy.

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How to spray paint with an air compressor

Once you have your new air compressor for spray painting, you are ready to get started. Here is what you need:

  • Safety gear, including gloves, goggles, and a mask or respirator
  • Your air compressor
  • A hose
  • Spray gun attachments including quick disconnect fittings, filter, and regulator