Most people don’t realize this, but a regular air compressor can be used to power an airbrush. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why they are better than an ‘airbrush specific’ air-compressor.

In most situations, using an airbrush with a normal compressor will provide just-as-good or even better-quality results. As long as noise and size are not a major concern, a shop air compressor will work just fine with an airbrush.

While makers of airbrush-specific air compressors may disagree, the truth of the matter is that you can use just about any air compressor with an airbrush and it will work just fine. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about using a regular air compressor with an airbrush.

Can I Use an Air Compressor Instead of a Mini Compressor For Airbrushing?

Yes, you absolutely can. In fact, there are some situations where it’s actually better to use a shop air compressor for airbrushing. This is because general-purpose air-compressors generally have stronger motors and a far larger air tank.

With that being said, there are some extra things that you will need to pick up if you are wanting to make a regular air compressor work best with your airbrush.

What Are The Benefits Of Usings a Regular Air Compressor For An Airbrush?

One of the best parts about using a regular air compressor with an air brush is that small shop compressors usually cost a lot less than most airbrush compressors. And arguably, airbrush quality is the most important factor.

The good news is that when it comes to quality, a general-purpose air compressor delivers equal, and in some cases greater performance than an airbrush-specific air compressor.

Another important thing to consider in regards to using a normal air compressor for an air brush is one of utility. For example, you can power all sorts of things other than an air-brush. A normal air compressor can run a pneumatic wrench or an air jack, while an airbrush-specific air compressor can only run an air brush.

So, if you don’t need an ultra-light or ultra-quiet solution, then it’s best to use a normal air compressor for your air brush. Due to all of these benefits, it’s best for a beginner airbrush artist to get a small, low-cost shop air compressor.

The option to get an expensive, purpose-built airbrush compressor is still there, and they make plenty of fine models, but if you are just starting out, you really don’t have to spend that much money to get going.

It just makes a lot more sense because a shop air compressor is multifunctional. General purpose air compressors are known to be a lot more reliable than their airbrush-specific counterparts.

This is especially true when comparing just about any air compressor with an air-brush specific compressor that does not have a tank.
What Do I Need To Use A Regular Air Compressor With My Airbrush?

As we mentioned before, if you are wanting to set up a normal air compressor to be used for airbrushing, then there are a few things that you are going to need to make sure you have.

Needed Components To Make Any Compressor Work With An Airbrush

Connectors, Adapters & Fittings

You are more than likely going to need several fittings and adapters to get your air brush’s air line to properly connect to your shop compressor. After all, the main differences between an airbrush-specific air compressor and a normal one generally relate to how things are connected together.

The amount of connections, and thus the type and number of adapters, will vary depending on your intended layout, so that is going to differ quite a bit from person to person.

In most cases, you can use a mix of traditional shop air compressor couplers and fitting to connect your airbrush gun to your shop air compressor. The problem is when a connection is attempted to be made to the airbrush itself.

But don’t worry, there is a solution. As long as you get the right airbrush hose, the connector that you are going to need will be in the box.

If you already have an airbrush hose that already has an included adaptor, then you are going to need to pick up one of those. You will need one that mates whatever size your airbrush you have, which is usually 1/8″, to the standard air compressor fitting size of 1/4″.

Pressure Regulator

You are going to need a finer-grade pressure regulator than the one built into a shop air compressor.

For airbrush use, you generally need a pressure regulator that provides a PSI range of 10 psi to 80 PSI. While the exact PSI levels that you will need for your application depends on multiple factors, the ability to control the pressure to a fine degree is the most important factor.

Remember, the pressure regulator is the most important part of any air brush system. So, when it comes to setting up a regular compressor to be able to power an airbrush, the same thing applies. This is because an airbrush is extremely sensitive to different pressure levels.

You can get a great airbrush pressure regulator here. Just keep in mind that one of the most important aspects is to make sure that a given regulator will be able to handle the pressure levels your compressor runs at.

The next thing you are going to need is a moisture trap. The great thing is that some moisture traps actually include pressure regulators, so you might not actually have to get a standalone pressure regulator to make your air compressor work with your air brush.

Moisture Trap

A moisture trap is essential for using your shop air compressor with your air brush. These handy little machines help filter out any oil, moisture, and other debris that you don’t want to end up in your art-piece.

There is a lot of junk that builds up in any air compressor, and while many air compressors have filters and other mechanisms to fight against this, air brushes are a lot more sensitive to debris in the air line than air tools.

So, if you are wanting to use a normal air compressor with your air brush, you are definitely going to need a moisture trap.When it comes to picking the best moisture trap, it’s all about where you want to place the device.

You can either get a moisture trap that you place in the middle of the airline, or you can get the type that is placed right by the compressor.

Another option is to place the moisture trap right before the airbrush. These modules are a lot smaller than other types, and they are also a lot cheaper. The downside is that they can sort-of get in the way of what you are doing. Since it’s attached to the airbrush, you basically have to hold them in your hand the entire time you are airbrushing.

Air Hoses

While there are many options in how to connect an airbrush to an air compressor, the best thing you can do is get yourself an airbrush-specific hose that connects directly to your airbrush on one end and the main compressor line on the other.

The alternative to this is to buy several different connectors and fittings to make the connection, so it’s best to keep it simple and minimize the amount of adapters in the system.

While you generally want to keep all the adapters and fittings on the compressor end, if you intend on mitigating some of the noise issues that come along with using a shop compressor with an airbrush, then you will more than likely have to use a standard shop air hose as airbrush specific hoses are not very long.

This is an excellent airbrush air hose, and it includes a connection adapter so it can mate with a 1/4″ connector.
The Downside To Using A Large Compressor To Airbrush

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. While larger shop compressors have many pros, there are some cons to using a larger air compressor with an airbrush that you need to know about .

Noise

Noise is a major when it comes to picking out the best shop air compressors, and those are intended for loud work environments where you think noise normally wouldn’t be of too much concern.

So, noise is taken into consideration in the manufacturing process of shop compressors, but it’s not as important as it is when making an air compressor intended for air brush use.

There are, however, plenty of shop air compressors out there that are just as quiet as airbrush specific compressors. The best thing is that they are also often a lot cheaper as well.

Weight & Size

Weight & size are other important factors when picking the best air compressor to use for an air brush. Regular air compressors are usually a lot larger and heavier than an air compressor that is purpose-built for an air brush.

Should I Buy An Air Compressor Or Use The One I Already Have?

If you are looking for the best shop air compressor to buy to use with your airbrush, the most important factor is the size. Make sure you get a smaller one, as they are obviously lighter and they are usually a little quieter, too.

If you already own a large air compressor, however, and you are wondering, ‘Will my air compressor work with my air brush?’ Chances are, the answer is yes. You will more than likely just need a handful of connectors, an air hose, a decent regulator, and a dedicated moisture trap.

Conclusion

You don’t have to buy an airbrush-specific air compressor to get your painting done. As long as the potentially extra weight noise isn’t an issue for you, then it’s perfectly fine to use a normal air compressor for your air brush.

The biggest difference between an air compressor that is made for an airbrush and a regular air compressor is smaller size and quieter operation along with a moisture trap and the necessary connections to attach an airbrush built in.

Noise really isn’t that much of an issue anymore because modern air compressors feature all kinds of noise-reduction technologies. So, there are many shop air compressors on the market that are already as quiet or even quieter than some air brush-specific air compressors.