A good air compressor for painting is hard to find. Many people make the mistake of getting an air compressor for a spray gun without first making sure it can handle that kind of work.
Does it match the specs of your spray gun? Can it handle the kind of work you’ll use it for? We’ll answer these questions for you to help you find the best air compressor for painting.
Our Top Picks:
|Air Compressor||Dimensions||Weight||Max PSI||Capacity|
|Powermate Vx PLA4708065||31.5 x 34.8 x 77 in||354 lbs||155||80 gallons|
|DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor||17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1 in||32.2 lbs||165||6 gallons|
|Wolo (860)||11.9 x 21.2 x 15.4 in||29 lbs||200||5 gallons|
|California Air Tools 8010||26 x 14 x 23 in||54 lbs||120||8 gallons|
|California Air Tools 10020C||16 x 15.1 x 35.9 in||82.5 lbs||125||10 gallons|
|Rol-Air Air Compressor GX200||46 x 19 x 28 in||185 lbs||100||9 gallons|
The 6 Best Air Compressors for Painting in 2020
1. Powermate Vx PLA4708065 – Best Overall
The Powermate is truly a powerful mate.
The specs are simply insane. It has a 50% duty cycle. The tank capacity is 80 freaking gallons, and it is big enough to handle the biggest painting job you could ever throw at it.
The maximum pressure is 155 PSI, and the airflow is 14 CFM at 90 PSI with a 240V, 15-amp, and 4.70 HP motor to power spray guns, ratchets, impacts, and hammers. It can handle any job and multiple users with ease. The pressure gauge is here for maximum accuracy.
The Powermate is made of steel and cast iron for durability., and its metal belt guard helps cool the unit and protects its parts. For security, this baby comes with a 2-year warranty.
- Up to 155 PSI
- 14 CFM at 90 PSI
- 80-Gallon capacity
- Durable steel-and-cast-iron construction
- 240V, 15-amp, and, 4.70 HP motor
- Metal belt guard
- Pressure gauge with on/off switch
- 2-year warranty
- Weighs 354 pounds and takes up a lot of space
- Installed and used by pros only
- Oil-lubricated pumps require maintenance
This beast has the best specs on our list. Period. However, only pros and professional shops can handle it.
2. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor – Runner-Up
The DEWALT pancake compressor is here to change your mind about the capabilities of pancake compressors. This lightweight 32-pound baby with a sturdy handle is portable yet powerful.
It has one of the highest maximum pressures on the list, with up to 165 PSI. The airflow rate is 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI. The compressor comes with a regulator to adjust the pressure. However, you like and two universal couplers for two users.
The oil-free pump promises that no maintenance is needed from your part. Also, the protective console cover and rubber leg covers are the compressor’s efficient way of preserving itself. For water draining purposes, the compressor has a ball drain valve to keep it dry.
- Up to 165 PSI
- 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
- Quiet at 75.5 dBA
- 2 universal couplers
- Lightweight at 32.2 lbs
- Oil-free pump
- Console cover and rubber leg covers
- Ball drain valve
- Power cord storage
- Sturdy handle
- No hose
- Only works for small jobs
The impressive pressure range of the DEWALT will help you in painting, cleaning, inflating, and powering small air tools. If you want industrial-scale use like the Powermate compressor, this baby isn’t for you.
3. Wolo 860 – 100% Duty Cycle
This is another heavy-duty treasure in the world of air compressors. Its main thing is supplying large volumes of pressurized air at 3.5 CFM and a maximum pressure of 200 PSI. It can power train air horns, air-locking differential, or light-duty pneumatic tools.
The pump’s cylinder and head have cooling fins that allow the compressor to have a 100% duty cycle at 100 PSI; this compressor is already better than most, huh?
Its 5-gallon steel tank is painted black to prevent rust and corrosion. Also, the compressor has 2 heavy-duty steel mounting brackets that are welded to the tank.
The accessory kit comes with mounting hardware, a 10-ft flexible stainless-steel high-pressure hose, and a 20-ft coiled filler hose with brass fittings to fill shocks, rafts and sporting equipment.
- Stainless-steel hose
- 2 heavy-duty steel mounting brackets
- 3.5 CFM
- Up to 200 PSI
- 5-gallon steel tank to prevent rusting
- Weighs 29 lbs
- Cooling fins that allow 100% duty cycle at 100 PSI
- Complete onboard air system
- Vibration-free base
- Accessories kit
- Takes a lot of storage space
- Brass fittings might be too small
This is a heavy-duty compressor with a 100% duty cycle, and it only weighs 29 lbs. What are you waiting for?
4. California Air Tools 8010 – Quietest
Let’s start by expressing how quiet this compressor is at 60 dBs. It is basically made for indoor use. Finally, we have an air compressor that doesn’t sound like a human being screeching.
At a maximum pressure of 120 PSI and an airflow rate of 3.00 CFM at 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI, this baby fill can fill the tank from empty to full in 165 Seconds. Moreover, the powerful 1.0 HP motor can work well in cold weather. The 8-gallon capacity is here for more air.
The CAT 8010 prides itself on its long life cycle, which is 3000 plus hours. It lasts so long, and you still won’t have to lubricate it, thanks to its oil-free pump. At 54 lbs, the CAT 8010 is also relatively lightweight, and the handle and wheels help make it even more portable.
- 3.00 CFM at 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI
- Oil-free pump
- The life cycle of 3000 plus hours
- Ultra Quiet at 60 dBs
- Handle and wheels for portability
- Relatively lightweight at 54 lbs
- 8-gallon capacity
- 1.0 HP motor that can work in cold weather
- Single-person use only
- Not that affordable
If a noise-free single-user working experience is your priority, the CAT 8010 compressor is perfect for you.
5. California Air Tools 10020C – Best for Heavy-Duty Work
The airflow rate is 6.40 CFM at 40 PSI, and 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI. The maximum pressure is 125 PSI.
The 2.0 HP motor and the 10-gallon capacity promise great performance. In addition, The easy-start valve feature is here to let you start up using fewer amps. Moreover, the oil-free pump is a maintenance-free dream, helping you use the compressor in the cold and on uneven terrain.
Despite being heavy, the compressor still comes with a handle and wheels to make it easier to move it. The construction is metal and sturdy. Despite being such a heavy-duty compressor, it has a very easy-to-use panel. Also, it has overheating protection to prevent accidents.
- 10-gallon capacity
- Oil-free pump
- Easy start valve
- 2.0 HP motor
- Overheating protection
- Easy-to-use panel
- Sturdy metal construction
- Handle and wheels
- Rubber feet aren’t well-placed
- Weighs 82.5 lbs
Like the Powermate compressor but much smaller, the CAT 10020C is perfect for heavy-duty jobs and long run times.
6. Rol-Air Air Compressor GX200 – Best Gas-powered
As impressive and convenient electric air compressors are, there is something about gas-powered compressors that keeps people going back to them.
The Rol-Air compressor is powered by a powerful 200Cc Honda engine with 6.5 HP. It can run 9 roofing guns or 7 sheathing guns at once. You won’t have any trouble using it to spray paint, we promise.
It has the automatic idle feature to preserve the compressor and increase its life. Also, its belt-drive system is there for protection.
- 13.8 CFM at 90 PSI
- 6.5 HP 200Cc Honda engine
- Auto idle
- 1100 Rpm
- Belt-drive system for protection
- Handles and wheels
- Weighs 185 lbs
- Gas-powered can only be used outside
If you want instant, endless air on demand, get this gas-powered baby.
How to Pick an Air Compressor for Painting
1. Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM)
It basically measures how fast a compressor can deliver air, and it is the most important aspect to consider when getting an air compressor for painting. It tells you how long it will take for the compressor to “catch up” and how much work it can take.
But how to know exactly what CFM to get? Check out your spray gun’s CFM then go higher. Getting a higher CFM means better performance from the compressor as well as being able to handle more kinds of air tools, not just your spray gun.
So, go as high as you can afford when it comes to CFM.
2. Tank Capacity
Tank capacity affects how much air you have on-demand. The number of gallons needed depends on the kind of job you’ll use the spray gun for. For example, the capacity needed to paint detail is not the same as the capacity needed to paint a car.
Note that the tank capacity for spray painting can range from 1 to 60 gallons or more, depending on the project.
It may also affect the portability of the compressor.
Another extremely important point to note is that the more the gallons are, the heavier the tool is.
3. Noise Level
It is measured in decibels or dBs. More decibels means louder noise. Nobody wants to deal with noise, but we all kind of have to at some point. Air compressors can range from as quiet as 40 decibels to as loud as 90.
Long exposure to 85dBs or above is extremely harmful. However, some people have to be around such loud noises for prolonged periods of time. If that’s your case, wear earmuffs to protect yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Is Better HVLP or LVLP?
It is not really a matter of better or worse since both can be pretty awesome in the right applications. Let’s start with what they are:
It stands for High-Volume-Low-Pressure. It basically uses a lot of compressed air and low pressure to spray the paint on a surface. Using more compressed air means more energy costs. It can work with 10 PSI or more, and it needs larger and better air compressors than LVLP.
Moreover, it is the most commonly used type of spray gun since it is used to spray thinned latex, lacquers, stains, metallics, primers, paints, and clearcoats.
- Little overspray
- Less material waste
- High-quality color
- Larger fan pattern range than LVLP
- Good for painting metallics
- Slower application than LVLP
- Needs big air compressors
- More energy costs for using more air
It stands for Low-Volume-Low-Pressure. This one uses less air and also low pressure to spray the paint. LVLP is considered an all-in-one solution for beginners as it can work with small and cheap air compressors. Why? Because it can work with 10 PSI or less.
The 8-to-10 inch fan width leads to a smaller fan pattern.
It can be used to spray lacquers, thin stains, and varnish. Like HVLP, it can also be used for clearcoats. Single-stage enamels and base coats are some of the popular LVLP uses.
- Faster than HVLP
- Great for detail
- Works with small and cheap compressors
- Fewer air requirements than HVLP
- Slow as well
- Can’t work with latex
- Smaller fan pattern range than HVLP
- Can’t spray metallics or high-viscosity paints
If you have the budget and want to spray latex, an HVLP gun will work best for you. If you want to spray thinned or waterborne paints and you can’t afford a big air compressor, get an LVLP gun.
What Size Air Compressor Is Needed for Spray Painting?
For most projects in furniture and woodworking, a 6-gallon compressor will have what it takes.
To paint something as big as a car, for example, you’re talking about a 50-gallon compressor, at least. Using a smaller compressor to spray paint a vehicle is not a good idea because it will take an excruciatingly long time.
Moreover, a small compressor will not have enough air requirements to paint a vehicle anyway. Plus, waiting for long in between sprays while the compressor catches up will lead to patchiness in the paint.
If you already have a compressor, but its capacity is not enough, get an auxiliary air tank.
What Is the Minimum CFM for Spray Painting?
The trickiest part of using an air compressor to spray paint is the minimum CFM required.
While spray guns mostly need low pressure, they only work with a relatively high airflow rate. Not only that, but you also need to get a compressor with a higher CFM than the spray gun to make sure it doesn’t get overpowered.
So, if a gun has 10 CFM, don’t get a compressor with 10 CFM. Consider one with 12 to 14 CFM, instead.
Let’s go over the best compressors for painting really quickly.
If you want something portable, check out the Wolo 860 and the DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor.
If your priority is the biggest capacity possible, check out the Powermate.
Do you appreciate a quiet compressor? Go for the California Air Tools 8010.