Best Air Compressors for Painting of 2021

Updated
Say no to dull paintwork.

Air compressors come in all shapes and sizes, so knowing which is the best one for painting can be a challenge.

We turned over every stone to bring you our take on the best available air compressors for painting, whether it be for your car, house, furniture, or walls.

Our Top Picks

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Features
Product Image of the California Air Tools 8010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal
Best Quiet Air Compressor for Painting
California Air Tools Air Compressor
  • 3,000 hour life cycle
  • Fast refill time
  • Dual-piston pump
Product Image of the PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)
Best Portable Compressor for Painting
Porter-Cable Air Compressor
  • Oil-free pump
  • 6-gallon tank
  • Built-in auto thermal overload protection
Product Image of the Fuji 2203G Semi-PRO 2 - Gravity HVLP Spray System, Blue
Best for HVLP Painting
Fuji Gravity HVLP Spray
  • Comes in complete set
  • Adjustable patterns
  • Continuous operation cycle
Product Image of the CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K)
Best for Painting Furniture
Craftsman Oil-Free Air Compressor
  • Highly satisfaction rating
  • Weighs 32 lbs
  • 13-piece accessory set
Product Image of the Campbell Hausfeld 8 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor w/Shroud (AC080510)
Best for Painting Walls
Campbell Hausfeld Compressor
  • 72 db running volume
  • 8-gallon tank
  • Hefty 54.9 lbs
Product Image of the Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor - 5 HP, 230 Volt, 1 Phase, 60-Gallon Vertical, Model Number 2V41C60VC
Best for Painting Cars
Quincy Reciprocating Air Compressor
  • 100% duty cycle
  • 2-stage model
  • 30,000 hour runtime
Product Image of the Master Airbrush Multi-purpose Gravity Feed Dual-action Airbrush Kit with 6 Foot Hose and a Powerful 1/5hp Single Piston Quiet Air Compressor
Best for Painting Miniatures
Master Airbrush Compressor
  • Complete set with attachments
  • On-demand system
  • 1.5 horsepower motor

Types of Air Compressors For Painting

There are different styles of air compressors, but which is best for spray painting your car?

Pancake Air Compressors

Product Image of the PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)

Pancake air compressors are aptly named, thanks to their squashed, “pancake” shape. These compressors are probably the most user-friendly in that they are lightweight, affordable and easy to use. They are a firm favorite with home users and hobbyists, as well as professionals alike.

Pancake compressors typically have 6-gallon tanks, a maximum pressure rating between 135 and 150 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch), and produce an airflow of between 2 and 3 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute).

Hot Dog Compressors

Product Image of the California Air Tools 8010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal

Hot dog compressors get their name from their elongated tanks which resemble a hot dog. They typically have a 1 to 3-gallon capacity and, like pancake compressors, they are preferred by casual users and hobbyists.

Hot dog air compressors often have more powerful motors, so they can recharge the tanks faster, and they also have large handles and wheels to maneuver them easily.

Pontoon Compressors

Unlike hot dog compressors with one elongated tank, pontoon compressors have twin-tanks, straddling either side of a centrally-mounted motor. They look a bit like wheelbarrow compressors, only not all of them have a central wheel.

Often, these compressors are gas-powered, so they deliver more power, PSI, and CFM. They are also more portable because gas-powered models don’t need to plug into an electricity supply.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need for Painting?

Sizing your air compressor is vital if you want to carry out different painting tasks. Respraying a car is more demanding on the compressor than creating artwork using an airbrush.

Car

If you are spray painting a car, it is recommended that you look at air tank capacity and horsepower for faster recharges. A 60-gallon air compressor should see the job through, with a typical horsepower of between 4 and 6.

You also need considerable CFM, so try and get a compressor in the range of 14 to 18 CFM at 90 PSI. You might notice that we haven’t mentioned the compressor’s air pressure, and that’s because spray painting is about volume rather than PSI.

House

You might get away with a slightly smaller compressor for this. Something with a 20 or 30-gallon tank should suffice. Look for a CFM of between 5 and 10. Most 20-gallon air compressors have motors that produce between 2 and 5 horsepower.

Horsepower is important because you want to refill the tank quickly to reduce downtime.

Spray

Typical spray guns have a working PSI of between 15 and 50, so the compressor you need should have a minimum of 70 PSI to operate your tools successfully. You can buy artist spray brushes that use minimal pressure, and for these, you would need a 1 or 2-gallon compressor.

For larger projects, think about the volume again, and scale up the compressor’s size to compensate. 10 or 15-gallon compressors work best for larger tasks.

HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure)

You can carry out DIY tasks and professional work using an HVLP spray gun. To get that flawless finish, choose an air compressor with the pressure and CFM to match the gun.

However, focus on the airflow, as the name suggests. These guns require a high volume of air and a decreased pressure level to deliver the goods. CFM ratings are judged by comparing them against an average of 90 PSI, but the CFM increases when you drop the pressure, so you get higher values at 40 PSI.

HVLP guns need between 10 and 15 CFM to operate properly.

How To Choose the Best Air Compressor for Painting

When choosing the right compressor, there are many elements to consider. Doing the legwork is crucial if you want to get the best compressor for your money.

Here are a few pointers to help you along.

Motor

The motor is what drives the efficiency of your compressor. When the tank discharges, you need it to fill quickly, and your engine does this. Most air compressors have a horsepower rating between 1 and 5.

The higher the horsepower, the more efficient the compressor is and the greater capacity tank it has. It gives you longer usage between recharges, but it significantly increases the amount of money you need to spend.

Air Pressure

Air pressure is measured in units of PSI, or pounds per square inch. Most modern air compressors have a PSI value of around 125, which is ample to deliver the power that drives your spray gun.

As with the motor, the larger and more expensive air compressors have a higher PSI rating, meaning you can scale up the projects, increase your runtime and keep working more efficiently.

Airflow

CFM measures the rate of airflow. When using a spray gun, airflow, or volume of air, is one of the vital factors in how well the tool performs. Small air compressors have smaller motors and less tank capacity. They also have lower PSI ratings.

It affects the CFM because there isn’t enough air to deliver a smooth and efficient finish.

You should look for a compressor with a CFM between 10 and 15 at 90 PSI. This is a reliable way of telling whether your air compressor will work with your spray gun.

Tank Capacity

Spray painting requires a continuous stream of air to achieve the smoothest results. Stopping and starting will hamper the finish and slow you down. Larger tanks hold more air and give you an extended runtime between tank refills.

The downside is that larger tank compressors are more expensive, harder to store, and noisy.

Noise Levels

Most compressors operate at about 80 to 90 decibels. The general rule of thumb is the larger the compressor, the louder it gets. You can reduce the volume of the compressor, but in the main, ear defenders are a great idea.

Some air compressors run at a reduced volume, like the California Air Tools model, but don’t expect your air compressor to be super-quiet.


The Best Air Compressors For Painting of 2021

Here are seven excellent air compressors for painting.

1. California Air Tools 8010A 8-Gallon Air Compressor

Best Quiet Air Compressor for Painting

This California Air Tools compressor is, without doubt, the obvious choice for our quiet award. Getting an air compressor to better this model for decibels is pretty tricky. It runs at 60 dB, which is impressive by anyone’s standards. It’s the equivalent of the volume of a normal conversation.

It has a maximum pressure of 120 PSI, so it is not the most powerful machine in the review, but it has a dual-piston pump with a life cycle of plus 3,000 hours. The pump is also oil-free, so you won’t need compressor oil or have to dispose of the old oil in the landfill. This is better for the environment and reduces your running costs.

It has an airflow of 2.2 CFM at 90 PSI and 3.1 CFM at 40 PSI, and produces cleaner air, and starts on cold mornings with minimum fuss.

Why We Love It

60 dB Running Volume

If you work in an environment where noise is a problem, this compressor will make things a little easier thanks to the 60-decibel running volume. That’s a difference of 20 decibels compared to some models.

Fast Refill Time

When the tank runs low, you won’t have to wait long for it to refill. This compressor recharges from empty to full in just over 2 minutes. It means more time making money and less downtime.

Oil-Free

Oil-free pumps require almost zero maintenance and produce cleaner air because there is no oil residue to contaminate. Also, they are cheaper to run thanks to not needing fresh compressor oil.

Keep In Mind

1 Horsepower Motor

You might want to save this compressor for lighter duties. It only has a 1 horsepower motor and produces 2.2 CFM at 90 PSI. That is low compared to some of the other compressors to feature.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 48
Dimensions (inches) 26 x 14 x 23
Max PSI 120
CFM 2.2 at 90 PSI
Capacity (gallons) 8
Accessories N/A
Oil/Oil-free Oil-free
Price $$
Warranty 1-year limited

2. Porter-cable C2002 6-Gallon Air Compressor

Best Portable Air Compressor for Painting

Porter-Cable has ensured that this compressor is stable with the addition of rubber feet, and the drain valve lets you clean moisture out of the tank to prevent corrosion.

This pancake compressor generates a maximum PSI of 150, with 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI. The 6-gallon tank stores more air for tool running time, and the low-amp, 120-volt motor starts quickly in cold conditions and with an extension cord.

It has a shroud to protect vital components from damage and the elements, and a large carry handle makes lifting this 30-pound device a breeze. And for safety, it has built-in automatic thermal overload protection.

Why We Love It

Oil-Free Pump

Oil-free pumps are easy to maintain, last longer, and are better for the environment because you never have to dispose of old oil. If you want the convenience of a small air compressor without the hassle of maintenance, this is the type to get.

6-Gallon Tank

The capacity gives you the freedom to tackle larger jobs, and the CFM rate means there is a faster recharge when it empties. 6-gallons is about the maximum you should expect from a pancake compressor.

Affordable Price

Porter-Cable has managed to produce a powerful and affordable compact compressor. Compared to some on the list, it is cheap.

Keep In Mind

No Accessories

If you want the extra kit, you have to buy it. Hose attachments and nozzles aren’t cheap, so they could increase your spend considerably.

Noisy

This compressor is louder than the competition. It produces 82 dB, which puts it at the top of the noise charts as things stand. 82 decibels is noisier than a domestic vacuum cleaner.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 30
Dimensions (inches) 19 x 19 x 18
Max PSI 150
CFM 2.6 at 90 PSI
Capacity (gallons) 6
Accessories N/A
Oil/Oil-free Oil-free
Price $
Warranty 1-year limited (compressor parts only)

3. Fuji 2203G Semi-Pro 2 Gravity HVLP Spray System

Best Air Compressor for HVLP Painting

This Fuji Spray compressor comes complete with a professional, non-bleed HVLP gun. It has a 400cc gravity cup, a metal turbine case with a gun holder, and a 25 ft hose with control valves to reduce overspray and bounce back.

This compact compressor has a 1,400-watt 2-stage motor and a dedicated fan pattern control to deliver increased precision and less waste. The steel fluid passages are ideal for preventing wear on the needle tip and perfect for water and solvent-based paints.

What makes this the ideal HVLP compressor is the continuous flow of air, meaning you don’t have to stop to wait while the tank recharges.

Why We Love It

Complete Set

This compressor has everything you need to get started straight out of the box. The 25 ft hose gives you the scope to move freely, while the gravity-feed HVLP gun delivers a smooth layer of paint.

Adjustable Patterns

Paint wastage can be expensive, so adjusting the spray pattern is invaluable to reducing waste. It also helps you adjust your gun to cater to different shapes and surfaces.

Continuous Cycle

When you have large-scale projects to get done, having a continuous cycle is ideal. It means you won’t be stopping to wait for the tank to recharge, decreasing your downtime and increasing your profitability.

Keep In Mind

Limited Uses

Unlike traditional compressors with their multitude of uses, this Fuji Spray really only has one use, and that’s to power an HVLP gun.

Super Expensive

For such a small air compressor, this model is super-expensive. It costs over 4 times the price of some on the list yet it has limited uses.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 25.1
Dimensions (inches) 16 x 9.5 x 12.5
Max PSI 5
CFM Turbine system so the CFM is not stated
Capacity (gallons) N/A
Accessories Hose, gun, and nozzles
Oil/Oil-free Not stated
Price $$$$$
Warranty 2-year limited

4. Craftsman 6-Gallon Oil-Free Air Compressor

Best Air Compressor for Painting Furniture

This model has a 6-gallon capacity and a maximum PSI of 150, so it hits the spot when it comes to power. It also has an oil-free pump, so maintenance should be a breeze, and there are fewer running costs than an oil-lubricated model.

The first thing you notice about this Craftsman pancake-style air compressor is the volume of sales it has notched up. And then you see the satisfaction rating, which is exceptionally high.

It comes with a 13-piece accessory set that includes a PVC air compressor hose, coupler, plug assembly, tire chuck, blow gun with an OSHA safety nozzle, and 3 inflator adapters. It also has 2.6 standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) at 90 PSI, which allows for a quick compressor recovery time.

The voltage is 120, it has a large carry handle, and it weighs just over 32 pounds, making it pretty lightweight.

Why We Love It

Highly Rated

This compressor is extremely popular, both in sales numbers and the satisfaction rating. Customer feedback is one of the best ways to gauge the truth about a product.

Air Pressure

While this may be the perfect small air compressor, it packs a punch. You can connect nail guns, air wrenches, and just about any other air tool you want, and it will cope.

Accessory Set

It even comes with 13 accessories to get you started straight out of the box. Whether you want to paint or inflate tires, this pancake compressor has the adaptor or attachment to do it.

Keep In Mind

Quality Control Issues

Many have reported issues with the quality of the build. Tanks leak, attachments snap, and some have even struggled to get it to work after a few weeks. This is only a small minority, but one dissatisfied customer is one too many.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 32.5
Dimensions (inches) 16.5 x 16.5 x 17.88
Max PSI 150
CFM 2.6 at 90 PSI
Capacity (gallons) 6
Accessories 13-piece set
Oil/Oil-free Oil-free
Price $$
Warranty 1-year limited

5. Campbell Hausfeld 8-Gallon Compressor

Best Air Compressor for Painting Walls

Like the California Air Tools model, this Campbell Hausfeld is an 8-gallon compressor. It has a large carry handle and two pneumatic wheels to increase its maneuverability. The motor is enclosed in a shroud, and it produces a maximum PSI of 125.

This compressor also delivers 2.2 CFM at 90 PSI and 3.2 at 40 PSI. It also has an oil-free pump that increases the compressor’s longevity, reduces the burden on the environment, and leaves you with a virtually maintenance-free device.

It almost gives the California compressor a run for its money in the noise stakes too. This one operates at 72 decibels.

Why We Love It

72 dB Running Volume

This is a quiet air compressor. 72 dB is impressive, although not enough to beat the California Air Tools model. That said, it is a quiet compressor compared to the other competition.

Great Price

This model comes in at fewer dollars than the California Air Tools compressor. For the price, it is a lot of kit, so you know you are getting value for money, especially when compared to the Fuji Spray model with limited uses.

Highly Portable

It weighs a hefty 54.9 pounds, but that is off-set by the large handle and pneumatic wheels. It makes this a portable air compressor, easy to transport from location to location.

Keep In Mind

Lacks Power

This compressor lacks in the PSI and CFM stakes. It has a PSI rating of 125 and a maximum CFM value of 3.2 at 40 PSI. This drops to 2.2 at 90 PSI.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 32.5
Dimensions (inches) 16.5 x 16.5 x 17.88
Max PSI 150
CFM 2.6 at 90 PSI
Capacity (gallons) 6
Accessories 13-piece set
Oil/Oil-free Oil-free
Price $$
Warranty 1-year limited

6. Quincy QT-54 Reciprocating 60-Gallon Air Compressor

Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars

When it comes to car resprays, you need a high-capacity compressor that delivers enough air supply to keep you working for longer. Say hello to the Quincy QT-54. This compressor runs at a lower RPM to reduce heat build-up and preserve the life of the motor.

And speaking of the motor, it is a US-made Baldor that produces 5 horsepower, and it operates on a 230-volt electrical system. This compressor is a 2-stage model, so it generates more power than a single-stage version, and it is more efficient.

They also boast that this compressor will give you 30,000 hours of service, so it’s built to last.

It also has a working PSI of between 145 and 175, so it can handle pretty much all you can throw at it, and the pump runs at 1,310 RPM. It has a CFM of 15.2 at 175 PSI, so you will never have airflow problems.

The only downside is this is a stationary compressor. Given that it weighs 475 pounds, once it’s in position, we doubt you could move it anyway.

Why We Love It

100 Percent Duty Cycle

The 100 percent duty cycle means that you can continually use this compressor without rest stops for the motor to cool down. It speeds up your work rate and increases the scope of projects you can undertake.

Impressive Airflow

When working with spray paint guns, airflow is king. CFM is crucial, and air volume makes the difference between a smooth outcome and a poor final result.

30,000 Hours of Runtime

Quincy is so confident that this compressor will last the distance they have given it a specific lifespan of 30,000 hours. That equates to 1,250 days of dependable use.

Keep In Mind

Poor Customer Service

Quincy makes quality compressors, but their customer service department fails to make the grade when there is an issue.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 475
Dimensions (inches) 29 x 21 x 64
Max PSI 175
CFM 15.2 at 175 PSI
Capacity (gallons) 60
Accessories N/A
Oil/Oil-free Oil
Price $$
Warranty 1-year

7. Master Airbrush Multi-Purpose Airbrush Compressor

Best Air Compressor for Painting Miniatures

This model is portable, lightweight, and stores away easily. It has a 1.5 horsepower motor and a single-piston and oil-free pump. It even has thermal protection to stop it from overheating. It is the perfect tool to use in a studio or home garage.

Not all air compressors require power and impact. Some need delicacy to increase your deftness of touch. The Master Airbrush compressor comes complete with everything you need to get you started on that miniature. Whether you are a hobbyist, artist, or professional, this dedicated airbrush compressor will see the task through.

It comes with a 6 ft hose attachment and an airbrush set. It creates a maximum of 57 PSI and has a CFM value of 0.7. You can’t use this compressor for any other air tools other than an airbrush.

Why We Love It

Complete Set

This set is complete, meaning you can get started straight out of the box. It also saves you money buying attachments and hoses at great expense.

On-Demand System

It has a unique on-demand system that shuts off when not in use. It saves energy and costs. It also gives you peak capacity air on demand, increasing the motor’s life as it reduces wear and tear.

Lightweight and Portable

It only weighs 9.7 pounds, making it one of the lightest compressors available. It has a large carry handle and 4 wide padded feet for increased stability.

Keep In Mind

Specialized Tool

If you love airbrushes and painting, this is the perfect combination, but for anyone else, look elsewhere for your compressor as this one only has one use. It won’t power your nail gun and air wrench.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 9.7
Dimensions (inches) 14.8 x 12.5 x 6.8
Max PSI 57
CFM 0.7
Capacity (gallons) Not stated
Accessories Airbrush and hose
Oil/Oil-free Oil-free
Price $$
Warranty 2-year money-back guarantee

Air Compressor For Painting Comparison Chart

Product Best Weight Dimensions Max PSI CFM Capacity Oil/Oil-free Warranty
California Air Tools Air Compressor Quiet 48 lbs 26 x 14 x 23″ 120 2.2 at 90 PSI 8 gal Oil-free 1-year limited
Porter-cable Air Compressor Portable 30 lbs 19 x 19 x 18″ 150 2.6 at 90 PSI 6 gal Oil-free 1-year limited
Fuji Semi-Pro 2 Gravity Spray HVLP 25.1 lbs 16 x 9.5 x 12.5″ 5 N/A N/A N/A 2-year limited
Craftsman Oil-Free Air Compressor Furniture 33 lbs 16.5 x 16.5 x 17.88″ 150 2.6 at 90 PSI 6 gal Oil-free 1-year limited
Campbell Hausfeld Compressor Walls 32.5 lbs 16.5 x 16.5 x 17.88″ 150 2.6 at 90 PSI 6 gal Oil-free 1-year limited
Quincy Reciprocating Compressor Cars 475 lbs 29 x 21 x 64″ 175 15.2 at 175 PSI 60 gal Oil 1-year
Master Airbrush Multi-Purpose Miniatures 9.7 lbs 14.8 x 12.5 x 6.8″ 57 0.7 N/A Oil-free 2-year

Let’s Paint

Respraying a car or freshening up some old wooden furniture is not only satisfying, but it also saves you money because it stops you from replacing your old stuff with new stuff. However, getting the best results requires the right tools, and that’s where your air compressor comes in.

Air compressors make many things possible, and when it comes to picking the best one for painting, you have to consider the tank volume and the airflow as the most important features.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.
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