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Old 01-11-2008, 11:31 PM
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Crias Crias is offline
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Air compressors

I am just starting to get into airbrushing (don't even have a head yet) and after reading online I have been looking at air compressors locally. Everything I can find here seems like overkill- 125 PSI, etc. I have looked at some brand name compressors (craftsman from Sears) and also some off-brands at walmart and another discount store. Is there a major difference in brand name vs. generic or they all tend to run about the same?

I have read that one of the things I need is a dehumidifier or something that removes any condensation from the line. Is this something that some compressors come equipped with or an attachment that I need to buy?

I would like to stay under $100 for the compressor.

I appreciate all the help I can get. At this point I mostly plan to use it for creating backgrounds on my scratchboards, which are generally pretty small (largest being 16"x20" to date)

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide on my quest for an economical, but reliable, air compressor.
Cathy Sheeter

Check out the new International Society of Scratchboard Artists!
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Old 01-12-2008, 01:05 AM
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obxbear obxbear is offline
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Re: Air compressors

You can get a compressor for $100.00 or less, but you will pay in the end as they don't usually last or perform all that well for airbrush work. You need one, and this is just my opinion, that has a storage tank at least 10 gallon or more or your compressor will run almost continuously, especially the ones that have no tank at all. You definitely need a regulator and a moisture trap, without these you will be running in constant problems.

Everyone here will give you a lot more help, not just with compressors, but tips and anything you want to know, don't be afraid to ask, the only dumb question is the one you didn't ask, so ask away..... Enjoy your airbrush...!
"Art is a wonderful activity that taps into imagination" Dr. Gene Cohen

Last edited by obxbear : 01-12-2008 at 01:07 AM.
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Old 01-12-2008, 03:47 AM
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MayaPapaya MayaPapaya is offline
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Re: Air compressors

I think 10 Gallons is a bit much, and could be overkill. You probably don't need one that big. Mine is only 6. But the bigger the tank the less your motor will run once it's filled. Mine turns on for about 1/2 a minute every 5 to 7 minutes if I'm spraying continuously.
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Old 01-12-2008, 06:47 AM
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jumpforjoy61 jumpforjoy61 is offline
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Re: Air compressors

for in the home airbrushing a small compressor with as low as 0.5 litre air reserve will do the job but you want good air output ,for an airbrush 1cfm would do the the job fine but you can do no harm going bigger and better

as for compressors stateing 125psi that is just about average for most larger compressors ,what you have to do is regulate the output preferably with a combined regulator water trap

personaly go for a good quality compressor of 1/2 HP motor power or above

the larger the motor the larger the air pump it will be driveing the more air output [CFM]it will be pushing out

welcome to the airbrush forum you will learn a lot here from some of the finest artists i know of

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Old 01-12-2008, 10:42 AM
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slaterza slaterza is offline
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Re: Air compressors

Hey Crias, It is good to see you coming over to this side of the world. I love your scratchboard pieces and the airbrush will be a good edition to that work. here is a thread all about compressors that will be a good thread to look at it has some great advice in it.

Sam L YouTube Channel

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Old 01-12-2008, 11:10 AM
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crazyman crazyman is offline
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Re: Air compressors

I got one for under 100 bucks 5gal tank works good i think . Others might not think it. thats just my 2 penny's .....
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Old 01-12-2008, 11:35 AM
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hinddee29 hinddee29 is offline
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Re: Air compressors

Yes you can find one for around 100.00. I would sya get at least a one with a 5 gal. tank. You will also need a water trap and regulator. Unless you can find a cheap one with a reg. already on it. With that said I think your looking at no more that 150.00. Oh yes you may want a hose and a few fitting so you could leave to compressor somewhere else than right there where your painting. Just an idea.

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Old 01-12-2008, 03:28 PM
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Te_Wheke Te_Wheke is offline
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Re: Air compressors

Ditto, for the cheapy compressor,

Though for the kind of work you are doing and if it is indoors you might want to consider a silent compressor, they are very quiet and of course quite expensive comparatively but you could get something off ebay allot cheaper.

The $100 piston compressors are a good cheap source of air but will scare the stuffing out of anyone around when it kicks in if it is indoors. I tend to work/paint from 10pm on sometimes till 10 am so those 2am to 6am compressor fills have probably knocked a few years of my ticker. I left my Silent compressor in Seattle so had to use a $395 piston job, the sort you can get now for $100 and every time it went off my newborn screamed bloody murder for an hour or more eventually my wife made me move my studio from the heated spare room to the unheated garage brrr, I notice you are in Colorado. If noise and vibration is an issue a silent compressor is a good solution, though you could also build a sound proofed box for the noisy compressor or just stick it somewhere further away and run a longer hose to your airbrush.

As far as dehumidifiers it would be easier just to run a moisture trap inline somewhere allot of regulators have moisture traps already.
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Old 01-12-2008, 08:12 PM
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Crias Crias is offline
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Re: Air compressors

Thanks for the info- I will probably be working in a garage and not too concerned about the noise, though it would be nice if it didn't run continually. I will look at 5 gallon and larger and guess I will stick with a brand name.

Appreciate the help and looking forward to the learning curve.
Cathy Sheeter

Check out the new International Society of Scratchboard Artists!
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Old 01-14-2008, 08:52 PM
MoonRise MoonRise is offline
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Re: Air compressors

Pssst, you can take the larger noisy compressor and put it in the garage and then just run the airline into your studio or painting area.

Cathy, an air compressor usually has two main parts for the air supply; a pump (the compressor part that takes the air and compresses it), and a tank that collects and stores that compressed air until you use it.

There are also other things going on, like a regulator (to let you set the pressure of the outgoing air), and filters (to remove some or most of the water, oil, rust chunks, etc that are or may be in the air you are trying to use), and safety valves, etc, etc.

Then for painting or airbrush use, you probably also want to add an air dryer. A little in-line dessicant dryer unit costs about $10, helps to make sure the air doesn't spit a glob of water or some really humid moist air into your paint gun or airbrush.

Some small airbrush compressors are just the pump and have no tank. I would suggest to skip them. A tank helps to let you get a smooth(er) flow of air (no pulsing from the pump), and also lets the air 'rest' for a bit and hopefully let some of the moisture in the compressed air settle out.

Tanks also typically let the pump fill up the tank and then the pump part can shut off (for at least a little bit). If your pump is running continuously, you probably should get a bigger compressor (barring big industrial screw-type compressors, which run continuously by design, but unless you have an entire factory of workers all trying to airbrush at the same time then an industrial screw-type compressor is waaaaaay overkill for airbrush use).

Ahem, where was I?

Oh yes, airbrush air compressor. A big tank stores more air, and a big pump 'makes' (compresses) more air. The amount of air used by the tool and the amount of air that can be supplied by the compressor are measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute). If your tool uses the same amount of CFM as the compressor supplies, then the compressor will be running continuously. That's not so good for the compressor and also not so good for the air going into the airbrush (it will tend to have more moisture in the air).

A bigger tank lets you use more air before the compressor/pump turns on. And while the pump is off, the air in the tank has a chance to cool off a bit. And in cooling off, some of the moisture in the compressed air will condense out and settle into the tank.

If you have a tank, make sure to drain the bottom of the tank periodically to let that condensed water out! Just about every tank will have a valve/fitting on the bottom to let you drain the water out. Water sitting in the botttom of a steel tank means more water into the outgoing air and a rusted tank, and a rusted tank means rust flakes and a weakened tank.

There are two main types of home shop piston air compressors, oil-lubed and oil-free.

Oil lube compressors use oil, just like your car but a different type of oil, to let the piston slide freely up and down in the cylinder as the pump compresses the air. They tend to be quieter than most oil-free compressors, may be longer lasting, but will put a fine mist of oil into the compressed air. Hence the filter and dryer.

Oil-free piston compressors basically use pieces of Teflon or similar material instead of the oil to let the piston glide up and down in the cylinder of the pump. They generally are noisier and not as long lasting, all else being equal (and all else is not always equal), than oil-lube units. But they do not put oil into the compressed air, and are usually less expensive than oil-lube units. Although some smaller less expensive oil-lube units have been coming on the market recently.

A small airbrush at a lower pressure may only use 0.5 cfm or so. But increase the air pressure because you are spraying a thicker or stiffer paint (acrylic or textile paints) or using a bigger tip can push the cfm requirements up a lot more than that! So much so that the small 'airbrush' compressors literally can not supply that much air at that psi.

The typical 'pancake' compressor (120V unit with about a 4-6 gallon air tank) that you find in a home center can supply enough air for most airbrushes. But when it turns on it will be LOUD.

If you get a unit with a bigger tank, you have to have a place to physically put the unit and be able to move that tank if needed, but the unit will let you work at lower CFM needs for longer periods before the motor and pump turn on.

Like many things, it is about trade-offs. Size, weight, portability, cost, durability, noise, the supplied CFM (watch out for advertising mumbo-jumbo and lies) and expense are some of the major ones for compressors.

Your $100 price point is possible, for a small off-brand compressor that may or may not do the job for you. Move up to the $150-$200 price point, and most of the 'big' air compressors (not the little, relatively expensive diaphram 'airbrush' compressors with no tank) should be able to supply enough air to run most airbrushes at most pressures that you want to use. Add some air hoses, air dessicant dryer, air filter (if base unit does not have a combination filter-regulator), and some fittings and you have added another $30-$100 onto your tool costs.

Me? I have a small tankless 'airbrush' compressor, which only runs my brush up to about 30-something psi. It's small and pretty quiet, but really doesn't supply enough air and it gets kind of hot after about a half hour or so. Hot is not so good, because hot air has more moisture in it. I picked up a bare air tank, and ran fittings and a regulator and such onto that. I can charge that up with my noisy workshop pancake air compressor, and then work silently until the tank runs down. If I'm doing 'fine' lines and stuff at low psi, the tank can last for a pretty good while. I have the fittings to interconnect all the airlines and the compressors and the tank and the airbrush, but haven't used the airbrush in a while and haven't run it with everything all interconnected.
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Old 01-20-2008, 03:22 PM
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pinups pinups is offline
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Re: Air compressors

I look forward to seeing your first WIP on this medium also and I expect that we shall be seeing the high quality of work that you are well known for. Just remember that the needle in this case is for putting the paint down and not scratching it away Welcome to the airbrush forum.

Last edited by pinups : 01-20-2008 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 01-21-2008, 07:51 PM
Keven_Miller Keven_Miller is offline
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Re: Air compressors


Myself, I would go to ebay and search "silent air compressor" till I found one that was priced right then ask the seller if it is for airbrush use. I have seen them for as little as 25.00 occasionally.
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Old 01-24-2008, 12:08 PM
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Crias Crias is offline
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Re: Air compressors

Thank you everyone for the great amount of detail and information. Thanks for typing all of that out MoonRise!! I still have not purchased, as my boyfriend and I are in the process of getting into a house (compared to my 2 room 800 SqFt duplex) and I don't have the space for anything more until we move. I have seen some really wonderful work combining airbrushes and scratchboard and am really eager to try it out, but right now it is a waiting game! I will print out all of your info when I go looking. Thanks again!
Cathy Sheeter

Check out the new International Society of Scratchboard Artists!
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Old 01-25-2008, 02:29 AM
nakuha nakuha is offline
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Re: Air compressors

hi im new to airbrushing.
i recently bought a 40$ kit,but plan on buying a legit one later.
i really don't want to spend so much on a air compressor.
im just going to be doing little projects like t-shirts and shoes,i was wondering if anyone would recommend anyone of these compressors.
http://www.amazon.com/Q-Industries-MV50-SuperFlow-Compressor/dp/B000BM8RT8/ref=pd_bbs_sr_5?ie=UTF8&s=automotive&qid=120123950 6&sr=8-5
Or i was wondering if there is an attachment or something to connect to a regular nozell like a air compressor for pumping tires and balls.
thanks in advanced.
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Old 02-03-2018, 03:52 AM
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DK.Alice DK.Alice is offline
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Re: Air compressors

As a cheap air compressor, I see the Central Pneumatic 3 gallon air compressor under $80 which is low price. It is a small model but good to work. To know more you can visit the Best Air Compressor Store
Thank you
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