Can you use any air compressor for airbrushing?

Can you use any air compressor for airbrushing?

Normally, this is a common question that puzzles many people. We know that there are airbrush compressors, but can you use any air compressor for airbrushing? From my end, it is quite possible and even better to use regular air compressors. However, you will need additional materials to incorporate into the system for compatibility. It is even better to use larger tank air compressors for longer runtime and powerful air delivery. 

I have tried a regular compressor for my airbrush tasks and it works perfectly well. In fact, it is cheaper than most airbrush air compressors but gives a greater output than same-size airbrush units. Another advantage is versatility since I can use it for multiple tasks including powering my spray painter, brad nailer, framing nailer, inflator, and impact wrench. Without much ado, here are the items you’ll need in order to your airbrush using your regular air compressor:

Items to Make Any Compressor Work with an Airbrush

Yes! You’ll need to get some additional items before you airbrush using your regular air compressor. Here we go. I’ll advise you on the items and guide you on how to connect them for optimum performance. 

Moisture Trap

Many people do face problems in their airbrushes because of trapped moisture. Therefore, a moisture trap is necessary to filter any moisture from entering the art piece. It will as well filter other impurities like oil from building inside the pressure tank. Apart from destroying your art piece, the gunk will impair your airbrush. Furthermore, moisture rusts the inside walls of the tank making it weak. 

You can get one moisture trap that is placed before the airbrush which is pocket-friendly. 

Or find a moisture trap placed throughout the airline 

Air Hoses

If you have a compatible air hose, then perfect! But if you do not have one, you’ll get a specific one that connects perfectly with both ends of the airline. If you plan to place your air compressor far from your working zone, maybe to limit the noise, go for a long air hose. You can choose an air hose that comes with an adaptor to minimize your expenses. 

Can you use any air compressor for airbrushing?


Pressure Regulator

A pressure regulator is vital since you’ll need to manage your PSI range from 10-80 PSI. The regulator will help you set the pressure according to the required limit. If your air compressor has a pressure regulator, you are good to go. Note that an airbrush is sensitive to pressure variations. However, don’t just go for any pressure regulator, but choose one that can handle the pressure output from your air compressor. 


Adapters & Connectors 

For a complete airline conduit, you’ll have to arm yourself with a few plugs and couplers. However, the number will differ depending on your intended layout. Remember standard air hoses connect with common connectors, so you’ll not have a headache finding one in regular shops.

Running an Airbrush with a Pancake Compressor

A pancake air compressor as the name suggests has the shape of a pancake. It is small in size, lightweight, and portable making it a good option as an airbrush air compressor. If you have a pancake air compressor you’ll only need an air hose, connectors, adaptor, and moisture trap to power your airbrush. A good example is the Porter-Cable oil-free air compressor. It can deliver a maximum pressure of 150 PSI with a tank sof 6-gallon size. However, it runs noisily at the start and the noise reduces with time but requires minimum maintenance. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of using a Pancake Air Compressor with an Airbrush

For sure, a pancake air compressor can be a good alternative for a specific airbrush compressor but it has some limitations. The fact that air is free makes pancake air compressor a good option and they do not use a propellant, unlike spray cans. Furthermore, the units are available at a pocket-friendly cost. 

However, a pancake air compressor runs noisily at the start making the environment unconducive for work. Moreover, setting up the air compressor to work ideally with the airbrush is also challenging. The air hose, airbrush, and moisture trap must be connected securely for efficient performance. Here is a review of our 5 Quietest Pancake Air Compressor (Complete Review & Guide).

Why you should avoid a Large Air Compressor to Airbrush

Even though large air compressors give you a longer run time with your airbrush before the need for a refill, they have multiple downsides too. Here are some of the limitations you will face from large air compressors:

Weight & Size

Size is directly proportional to weight. Note that most air compressors are made of cast iron bodies. Therefore, if you are a professional moving from one place to the other frequently, a large air compressor will limit your movement. So, you can avoid them to portable airbrush compressors. But, there are large air compressors with large wheels that enable easy movement from site to site. 


Actually, large air compressors are associated with more noise. But, noise impedes the working environment; more so, it hinders conversation and can lead to hearing loss. However, all large air compressors are not noisy, so you can choose one that is silent. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Airbrushing

There are some questions that we frequently get from our viewers regarding an airbrush. Therefore, in this section, we advise you to take a keen interest as they will help you make the right decision when choosing and using an airbrush. Without wasting much time, here we go:

  1. What Is Auto-off Function and How Important to Have It?

This is a very good question that will help you so much in your endeavor. The auto-off function shuts down your airbrush automatically when not in use. This will reduce the noise period and increase your machine’s lifespan. You also save some cash that ought to be spent on power bills when using the auto-off function.

  1. Does power matter when using an airbrush?

Power depends on the type of task you are working on as each task requires a specific power. Power is measured in horsepower designated as HP. Small projects like nail painting or cake painting require less power while bigger projects like truck paints will demand more power.

  1. Do I Need a Moisture Trap?

Of course, yes! Airbrush is sensitive to moisture. So, if you need to avoid future breakdowns, you must install a moisture trap. It traps moisture or any gunk from entering the tank. Moisture can rust the tank walls making them weak. Furthermore, moisture interferes with paint layers. It is also a good practice to drain your tank frequently to avoid defects.

  1. Do I Need a Compressor With Tank?

This depends on the type of job you need to handle and the size of your pocket. Tankless compressors are pocket-friendly and can work continuously since it draws air directly from the atmosphere, but they are prone to pulsation. However, these units can only handle minor projects. However, if you have a big project, you’ll have to get a larger tank air compressor

  1. Do I Need a Regulator and Pressure Gauge on My Compressor?

For experts who have been in the business for a long, these features are not a must since they know how to gauge the right pressure for a particular job. But if you are a newbie in this field, you’ll have to get a regulator and a pressure gauge.

  1. Can I use an air compressor instead of a mini compressor for airbrushing?

From an experience point of view, an air compressor is better than a mini compressor for airbrushing. A fully sized air compressor maintains a continuous airflow when running, but a mini compressor allows a pressure drop after a short period. At times a mini compressor overheats. On the other hand, a min compressor runs quietly than a full-sized air compressor. 

Can you use a “regular” /shop / large air compressor for an airbrush video

Final thought

Yes! You can use any air compressor for airbrushing. This will save you the headache of getting a new airbrush compressor. However, if your air compressor is big and can limit your work due to noise and portability, here is the list of the best air compressor for airbrushes. 

Meanwhile don’t give in to people who push you to get a specific airbrush compressor. With the right additional items we have looked into and your regular air compressor, get along with airbrushing. You can also install a silencer on your air compressor to limit the noise. Or, go for a smaller size air compressor that is light, portable, and at the same time, you can use to handle other tasks.