An airbrush gun requires compressed air for its function, as the translation “air brush” already suggests. This can be taken from a compressed gas cylinder or a compressor. Compressed gas cylinders are relatively expensive and so it is worthwhile on average to use a compressor for the 3rd spraying process. What you should consider when buying a compressor and which advantages a special airbrush compressor offers, we would like to explain to you in detail in the following
- 1 What is an airbrush compressor?
- 2 Criteria for the airbrush compressor purchase decision
- 3 Airbrush-Kompressor-Test
- 4 Which airbrush compressor types are available?
- 5 Frequently asked questions and answers
What is an airbrush compressor?
Basically you can use any compressor for the airbrush gun that works with a pressure between 1.5 and 3 bar. So if you already have a compressor that meets this criterion, you will probably only need a few minor modifications to get the compressor ready for use.
For example, a 1/8 inch adapter is often required to connect the air hose. Furthermore we recommend a retrofit of a water separator. If your compressor is oil lubricated, an oil separator is also advisable. We will explain the reasons for this later.
If you are not yet in possession of a compressor, we recommend that you purchase a special airbrush compressor. This offers some unbeatable advantages and is in most cases not much more expensive than a normal compressor.
By the way: Airbrush compressors can also be used for other activities in the house!
Criteria for the airbrush compressor purchase decision
There are some components that a good airbrush compressor should have to give you a relaxed spraying experience.
Water separator and oil separator
In principle an airbrush compressor should not be oil lubricated. If it is, it requires an oil separator. If oil were to get into the compressed air, it could damage the airbrush gun irreparably and make your tool permanently unusable. Oil clogs the fine components of the gun and is extremely difficult to remove.
The water separator is necessary because compressed air loses liquid. This liquid can get into the ejected compressed air and thus get into the gun. For the spray pattern this means paint splashes and splotches. A water separator prevents contamination of the compressed air with water and ensures a spotless spray result.
Note that water and oil separators only perform their work to the full extent when empty! Therefore, check that the separator tanks are empty before starting work. Empty them if necessary before you start your work.
Pressure regulator and pressure gauge
Most airbrush guns work with a pressure between 1.5 and 2.2, bar. In this range, your compressor should be particularly finely adjustable. Therefore an easy to use pressure regulator and an accurate display (manometer) are necessary.
1/8 inch thread
For the connection threads of the air hose to the gun and the compressor 1/8 inch threads have become generally accepted. An airbrush compressor already has these standardized threads installed or comes with a suitable adapter. An adapter can of course also convert a normal compressor for use with the airbrush gun.
Airbrush guns are mostly used in a domestic environment and are also placed very close to the artist. Special works of art also require a high degree of concentration and privacy. These circumstances make it necessary to pay attention to a low noise level when buying a compressor.
We recommend compressors that work with a maximum volume of 60db. This corresponds to the volume of a normal conversation and does not overload our hearing and nerves.
An air tank is certainly not absolutely necessary, but it makes the airbrush work much more pleasant. On the one hand, an air tank is easy on the hearing, because the compressor only has to compress the air noisily at the beginning of the work. This air is then stored in the tank and taken from there silently. Depending on how big the tank is and how long the airbrush is used, one tank filling is often sufficient for a complete airbrush session.
On the other hand, the air tank generates a more constant pressure and thus a uniform (in technical terms homogeneous) air output. In this way you also achieve a nice, balanced spray pattern.
Last but not least, a sufficiently large air tank allows the simultaneous work with several guns. A compressor that has to work permanently to supply the compressed air would soon be overtaxed. It should be noted that the tank is regularly cleaned of settled water to prevent rusting.
Size and weight
A low weight and a handy size are extremely useful if the airbrush hobby is carried out within your own 4 walls.
These features are really important if you do contract work and are often on the road with your equipment. If this is the case, it is a good idea to look for models with a carrying handle.
Surely it is not the first fact you will think of, but you should not ignore it. Your airbrush compressor should produce as little vibration as possible. If only because it is often quite close to the object to be painted and vibrations can have a very unfavorable effect on the picture. The use in private surroundings with possibly existing neighbours increases the importance of this characteristic. It is true that smaller compressors often produce less disturbing vibrations. Rubber feet and a compressor located far below also have a vibration absorbing effect.
Airbrush compressors are already available for less than 100€. Upwards there are almost no limits. The manufacturers usually offer one model in each price segment.
Well-known manufacturers of airbrush compressors are among others:
- Harder & Steenbeck
- Schneider Airsystems
Compressors are often also offered used on various online marketplaces. To buy a high quality compressor used for little money is certainly not reprehensible. However, when buying used compressors, you should pay special attention to whether all important components are available and functional. The best is a personal conversation with the seller!
So the first thing that is important is that the equipment and performance of the compressor is right. In particular, it should be maintenance-free and durable. Unlike guns, of which a few different models will accumulate with increasing demands, the compressor can remain a loyal part of your basic equipment over the years. Therefore, you should not necessarily choose the cheapest model, but you don’t have to buy the high-end version either.
The price alone is not decisive, but at the moment a strong indicator of which of the above features are guaranteed in which quality.
In order to give you an overview of different airbrush compressors, we have tested the best airbrush compressors in different price ranges. For comparison we have the Silent Whisper Compressor from Implotex, the Wiltec AF186 Airbrush Compressor, the Revell Master Class Airbrush Compressor and our price-performance tip from Fengda, the FD 186.
Product recommendation will follow
For sensitive ears: Implotex Silent Airbrush Kompressor
The Implotex Silent Airbrush Compressor is an extremely quiet whisper compressor. With a maximum working volume of only 50db, it beats almost every competing product in this price range. The whisper quiet compressor is oil- and therefore almost maintenance-free. Only the air filter should be cleaned occasionally, as with all compressors.
With its 9 liter air tank it provides enough homogeneous compressed air for most airbrush work. Due to this enormous capacity it is even possible to work on this compressor with several airbrush guns at the same time. However, the large tank is reflected in the 15kg weight, which does not exactly make the compressor a lightweight.
The 4 rubber feet ensure a firm stand and good vibration damping. At its maximum working pressure of 8 bar the compressor delivers 30 L/min. The Implotex Silent compressor can be switched on and off at the touch of a button. The built-in pressure gauge provides you with up-to-date information about the prevailing pressure.
In addition to airbrushing, the Silent Compressor can also be used for spot repair, tire and ball filling, painting work, air pressure tackers, grease guns, silicone guns and in dental laboratories.
Bottom line: The Implotex Silent Airbrush Compressor is a particularly quiet compressor in this performance class. It is one of the few compressors with such a large, powder-coated air tank, making it possible to work with several airbrush guns simultaneously. However, the Implotex compressor is not a pure airbrush compressor, so it lacks some equipment, which can easily be bought as an accessory and easily attached by the user.
Product recommendation will follow
Our recommendation for professionals: Revell Airbrush Kompressor Master Class
This airbrush compressor from the market leader Revell is intended for the airbrush professional and fully justifies its name addition “Master class”. For about 240€ you get an oil-free double cylinder compressor with water separator, 2 manometers, pressure regulator, automatic switch-off and a 2.5l air tank.
The extremely handy compressor, equipped with a carrying handle, weighs 11kg and has a very compact design. It can be easily transported and stowed away. The Master Class from Revell works with a quiet 50db and is therefore one of the quietest piston compressors available on the market.
The two pistons of the compressor produce an even, strong pressure, at its maximum 4.4 bar working capacity it delivers 32l/min.
Bottom line: The Revell Master Class Airbrush Compressor is one of the best compressors currently available on the market. Its particularly high quality, the really quiet working volume and its comprehensive equipment make it predestined for professional airbrush work. Since the price is still within reasonable limits, it is also worth the purchase even for beginners of the airbrush hobby.
Product recommendation will follow
Our price / performance tip: Fengda FD-186 airbrush compressor
This oil-free piston compressor is available for less than 100€ and still offers many features typical for an airbrush compressor. The Fengda FD 186 comes with a pressure gauge, pressure regulator and a water separator. Its noise level of 47db corresponds to the volume of whispering and thus enables stress-free work. The 3l air tank offers sufficient capacity for a permanently homogeneous air jet. The pressure regulation is done by a rotary switch. The pressure can be read exactly on the manometer.
With only 5kg and a noise level of just 45db, the FD 186 is an absolute lightweight and quiet runner. These features predestine it for use in the cosmetic sector, for example for nail art, tattoos or body painting. Make-up artists also like to use it.
Bottom line: The Fengda FD-186 is without doubt a good and solid airbrush compressor that leaves nothing to be desired, especially for the beginning. Equipped with the classic features of an airbrush compressor it performs well. Due to the limitations it has in continuous operation, it is especially recommended for small jobs in the field of nail art, illustration or make-up. But also airbrush beginners will be able to work very well with this compressor for the time being.
Product recommendation will follow
Which airbrush compressor types are available?
There are two different operating principles on the basis of which compressors work. The diaphragm compressor and the piston compressor. In both cases air is compressed and made available to a terminal device.
The piston compressor is the most common principle on which a compressor works. The main part of the compressor is represented by a cylinder in which a piston moves up and down. The piston is driven by a motor. The cylinder is equipped with 2 valves. One of them is directed towards the outside world, the other towards the extraction point or air tank.
If the piston now moves downwards, a vacuum is created in the cylinder. At the same time the valve connecting the inside of the cylinder with the outside world is opened. Air is sucked in through the negative pressure. If the piston is at the lowest reversal point, the first valve closes again. The piston moves upwards and compresses the air. The second valve, which connects the cylinder to the air tank or the extraction point, opens and compressed air escapes or is led into the air tank and stored there. This process continues until either the extraction is stopped or there is a corresponding pressure in the air tank. Sensors inside the air tank measure the filling level and switch off the motor. The piston stops and the compressor waits to start working again until the pressure at the extraction point drops accordingly.
During compression, the air loses its ability to store water. The escaping water collects in the air tank or is transported outside with the compressed air.
However, compressed air contaminated by water causes the airbrush artist great problems. Therefore a special airbrush compressor has a water separator. The compressed air is led into the water separator, where it starts to circulate strongly. The water is pressed to the outside of the water separator and can run off into a collecting tank. What remains is water-free, clean compressed air.
Oil Piston Compressor
The operating principle is exactly the same as for the oil-free piston compressor. However, the oil-lubricated piston compressor has a special oil in addition to the compressed air in the cylinder. This is to prevent material abrasion of the piston and thus ensure a longer service life.
In a diaphragm compressor, a diaphragm made of plastic is moved up and down by a motor. There is also an outlet valve and an inlet valve through which the air is sucked in and discharged. These compressors usually work without an air tank, i.e. in continuous operation, which easily leads to overheating. The engine is then automatically switched off until the unit has cooled down. A longer working time is made possible by an integrated fan. This is also driven by the motor and provides cooling during the working phase.
Frequently asked questions and answers
How much pressure must an airbrush compressor deliver?
An airbrush compressor should be able to deliver a permanent pressure of 2.5 bar. The usual working pressure is slightly lower at approx. 1.5 to 2.2 bar, depending on the nozzle used and paint viscosity.
If the supply of compressed air breaks down spontaneously, speckled paint appears, so that surfaces and lines can only be filled and drawn unevenly.
Reworking is usually cumbersome and sometimes can only be completed with a limited result. Therefore it is really important to make sure that your airbrush compressor is permanently efficient.
Compressor defective – what to do?
If your compressor does not deliver any more pressure or has other malfunctions, it is advisable to ask the manufacturer for help. Often the defective compressor can be sent back. Within the warranty period you will certainly receive a new one or your compressor can be repaired.
Specialist dealers will be just as happy to help you with any problems you may have with your equipment and may take over communication with the compressor manufacturer or repair.
Build your own airbrush compressor
To build a compressor completely by yourself is rather a difficult undertaking and certainly not worth it with the current cheap offers.
Often, however, an already existing compressor is to be converted for use with the airbrush gun. Some modifications are necessary:
- Adapter for 1/8 inch air hose connection
- Assembly of a water separator
- For oil-lubricated compressors Installation of an oil separator
- Installation of a pressure reducer, since most conventional compressors provide a much too high pressure (8 to 10 bar), with which the airbrush gun does not work
We hope our valuable tips and explanations will help you make the right choice for your airbrush compressor. We wish you much fun!