The 5 Best Air Compressors for Spray Painting [Updated October 2020]

Last Updated on October 6, 2020 by Paul King

As a home renovator, remodeler, or DIYer, painting jobs come in all sizes and intensities. Everything from room remodeling to fabrication can make use of an air compressor to simplify the painting experience, save you time, and get the job done right.

For this specific purpose, the best air compressors for painting come with specific functionalities, which we’ll go over in these product reviews. Any of these choices should provide a reliable tool to complete your painting jobs, no matter the size.

Understanding the needs of your specific job first requires understanding the aptitudes of these units. This is a short guide to the best air compressors you can buy for painting in 2020.

This heavy-duty compressor is designed to withstand worksite stresses. It possesses contractor-grade functionality and will stand up to even the toughest projects.

Recovery time is an issue on smaller compressors when it comes to painting jobs. This is because extended compressing comes with mandatory breaks due to limitations in the pump’s material. The Makita Big Bore overcomes those inconveniences with a cast-iron constructed pump.

The 4.2-gallon tank additionally ensures that you have enough capacity to run the compressor without having to worry about recharging.

At a sustained 130 PSI pressure, the Big Bore can easily handle most painting tasks. Its twin stacked construction means that the air can be split off into two changers, making this compressor ideal for a construction site where multiple workers are teaming up on the same task (you could simultaneously run two airbrushes, for instance).

Since you’re going to be using this model for extended, heavy-duty projects, it’s been built for maximum thermal protection to prevent overloads and constructed with compressor oil on the pump so the unit runs cooler and doesn’t wear out as fast as other models.

Its industrial-grade pump and air filter are made of durable cast iron and designed as a roll cage construction. These factors make it ideal for busy worksites since the Big Bore is extra resistant to wear and damage that can come from being hauled around on the job.

Thankfully, none of this makes the Makita Big Bore noisier. Despite its powerful 2.5 horsepower motor, it runs at a lower RPM than most models of this size, reducing the noise output to below 80 decibels. This is handy if you’re using it around the house where neighbors and family would appreciate the courtesy, or for hearing instructions on a busy job site.

Why we like it

  • Cast-iron construction for durability
  • Twin stacked tank for multitasking
  • Well-oiled pump for improved performance in cold weather
  • Low noise output
  • Large tank capacity

Our Verdict

The Makita Big Bore is a quality industrial-grade option for any contractor or serious DIYer looking for an air compressor under $500 that can handle even heavy-duty painting tasks. With a large enough tank to handle long jobs without recharging and a twin stacked tank for multitasking a job with a partner, the Big Bore is an impressive piece of professional equipment to arm any home renovation or construction site with a top of the line air compressor.

Our Rating

5/5

The Bostitch air compressor, like all pancake models, is built for convenience. As you’ll see, this doesn’t mean that it sacrifices power or capacity. However, for mobile DIY tasks or for moving between painting jobs on multiple construction sites, the Bostitch is portable and reliable.

The tank’s thin diameter makes it easy to store and its lightweight construction (it weighs only 29 pounds) makes it easy to haul to different jobs.

With a noise output of less than 80 decibels, you’re also going to benefit from the Bostitch BTFP02012’s sleek design in terms of refraining from disturbing your neighbors and family or being unable to hear someone on a busy site.

The pressure on this compressor maxes out at 150 PSI and averages around 90, which is very competitive for the price. The 6-gallon tank is huge – more than enough to accomplish any conceivable painting job without having to stop to recharge.

A high flow regulator is specifically constructed to maximize the compressor’s output while maintaining temperature and speed regulation.

Thankfully, like the Makita, the Bostitch also comes with two couplers so that two painters can be working simultaneously from one compressor.

Additionally, as the title suggests, this air compressor doesn’t require oil to function, even in cold weather. Its sturdy construction allows for a quick start-up in even inclement temperatures or when you’re using lower-power extension cords to get the unit out to the site.

Why we like it

  • Low weight for easy transport
  • Slim pancake construction for convenient storage
  • Huge 6-gallon tank
  • Top of the line regulator for maximum airflow
  • Oil-less functioning
  • Dual couplers for simultaneous operation on two hoses

Our Verdict

The Bostitch pancake air compressor prioritizes portability and convenience without sacrificing power. Its lightweight and compact construction makes it easy to store and use across different job sites or DIY projects on the road (such as painting for cosplaying). Its sturdy coupling and regulation technology makes it just as reliable as a contractor-grade air compressor under $200 for any home renovation or painting job on any construction site.

Our Rating

5/5

This pancake air compressor by DeWalt shares much in common with the Bostitch model. Its horizontal shape makes it completely stable when standing in its normal position and like the other unit weighs only 30 pounds for easy transport between rooms or to other sites.

Low amperage requirements mean that the DeWalt is perfectly suited to any household outlet and can easily be run even when powered by an extension cord. 2.6 SCFM even at 90 PSI means that DIY spray painters will be completely satisfied by the DeWalt pancake compressor’s power and reach.

It’s oil-free like the Bostitch for easy functioning even in cold weather and has a 6-gallon tank that can run continuously on any conceivable job without the need to be recharged.

Being able to control the PSI with intuitive double gauges makes the DeWalt ideal for spray painters who want an even higher SCFM on their long painting tasks and don’t mind a reduced PSI, so long as it’s in their control. You’re not buying the most powerful compressor on the market when you choose the DeWalt but you’re getting a lot of functionality.

Similar to many on his list, the DeWalt also has the option to attach two air hoses for multitasking and produces a low noise output so you don’t disturb your family or neighbors.

For those that are mid-range DIYers who want to step up their air compressor technology, DeWalt’s pancake compressor is versatile. Even novices will greatly appreciate its surprisingly intuitive and in-depth user manual, which can be an issue when someone buys a heavy machine like this for the first time. If you think that could be you, DeWalt has you covered with this impressive air compressor under $300.

Why we like it

  • Lightweight and compact construction encourages portability
  • Accessible, in-depth user manual
  • Double hose connectors for painting multitasking
  • Intuitive gauge and knob system for easy pressure manipulation on more specific painting tasks
  • Low sound output
  • Above-average PSI output
  • 1-year manufacturer’s warranty

Our Verdict

The DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor features the dual functionality and large capacity tank of other units on this list. However, it slightly edges them out with its PSI range and versatility. With the ability to easily haul this unit to any site and to intuitively alter its flow pattern and pressure for more articulation in spray painting tasks, the DeWalt is a great option for those that are looking for more control in their air compressor.

Our Rating

5/5

The Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor is another competitive model on this list in terms of capacity and power. With 2.6 SCFM, the Craftsman outperforms most comparably priced compressors. A 6-gallon tank ensures that you’ll never need to recharge in the middle of a heavy job.

Its pressure gauges are easy to read, its feet are stable and strong, and a 150 PSI capacity is competitive. Best of all, the Craftsman compressor is priced lower than almost any other model in its power range, ensuring that novices won’t be taking a huge financial risk when trying out this model and matching it to their needs.

Speaking of needs, this pancake air compressor is known for packing a punch when it comes to industrial-grade tire refills, nail guns, and other air tools. It’s not designed specifically for airbrushing, so keep that in mind. Despite this fact, it comes with a 13-piece accessory kit with different tools and attachments. This is particularly useful for novice DIYers who have never bought an air compressor before since it comes with everything they need to get started.

These accessories include a blowgun, tire gauge, safety nozzle, and inflator adaptor. At 33 pounds, this model is a little less portable than others in its class (it feels tank-heavy and is a bit harder to carry).

However, Craftsman is a huge name in tool production and this compact compressor comes with a 1-year warranty for added security. At the price, it’s difficult to argue with a name brand’s solid attempt at premium air compression technology.

Its compression chamber also runs on an oil-free system, ensuring that the quality of the output air is the same as that of the air the unit takes in.

Why we like it

  • Impressive PSI and SCFM
  • Low price for the power range
  • 13-piece accessory toolkit
  • Huge 6-gallon tank
  • 1-year warranty
  • Oil-free compression

Our Verdict

While neither the most powerful nor portable in this range, the Craftsman name is hard to argue with when placed on such a sturdy, low-priced machine. Its huge tank and robust accessories make it an accessible model for those just getting into air compressors. For DIY painters, just realize that it’s options for spray painting are not as fine-tuned as in some of the other models on this list.

Our Rating

5/5

The California Air Tools Compressor is not designed for power, running at only 0.6 horsepower, below its competition on this list. However, if you’re a DIY renovator, decorator, or craftsman looking for a compressor to haul around to different hobbies, rooms, or houses for painting jobs, this is an exquisitely convenient and compact choice.

The first thing you’ll notice is the light weight and small tank. The California Air Tools compressor weighs just less than 30 pounds and has a tank with only a 1.0-gallon capacity. However, it more than makes up for it with its other features.

For instance, this is by far the quietest unit on the list, maxing out at a mere 56 decibels. For those sensitive to noise, painting in a small house with children, or looking for a compressor they can even run at night, California Air Tools has you covered better than any other brand on this list.

This is a result of its ultra-quiet (and oil-free) single-piston pump that gives Air Tools compressors their signature durability and quietness. Its compactness and durable motor construction mean that the Air Tools compressor unit can go from 90 to 120 PSI in less than 15 seconds.

This indicates this model’s stellar recovery time, which could be a significant factor for a compressor that you plan on using primarily as a painting tool.

It draws only a tiny amount of power (4.5 Amps) and only goes up to 120 PSI, but its universal quick connector and external current protectors are designed to make the compressor run smoothly and remain reliable throughout its cycles. It should be able to handle 3 hours of airbrushing on a full tank before it needs to be recharged, which is more than enough time to get in a good DIY session.

Those looking for an air compressor that is exceedingly convenient, portable, and with record low weight and noise output, should look no further than this California Air Tools model.

Why we like it

  • Record low noise output at only 56 decibels maximum
  • Lightweight construction
  • Quick recovery time
  • Low power requirements
  • Reliable on even long-lasting painting tasks

Our Verdict

The California Air Tools Portable Air Compressor is a stellar option for those that plan on using their new air compressor solely in their home. With its low noise output, low weight, portable construction, and superior thermal protection technology, Air Tools has made a perfect option for those who don’t mind losing a little power for a ton of convenience around the home.

Our Rating

4.5/5
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Buyer’s Guide

Matching the unit to your needs requires that you know the aptitudes of each of the different models but also that you understand which factors determine the value of each unit to you. Here is a short guide on what we feel are the most significant deciding factors when choosing between air compressors.

1. Tank size

Many models on this list have a huge 6-gallon tank, which is plenty big enough to handle even contractor-grade work that requires an air compressor.

Those tanks that have a smaller capacity (such as the 1-gallon Air Tools model) are not less viable for all needs. Since smaller tanks mean more portability, you may decide that you don’t need heavy-duty capacity so much as you need a convenient, compact design.

2. Horsepower

From the whopping 2.5 horsepower Big Bore to the lightweight 0.6 HP Air Tools compressor, that spread will help you determine which unit is right for you. Depending on how your paint sprayer is rated for pressure and power, you may need a little more oomph.

However, 1 HP is generally enough for any casual DIY spray painting or home remodeling that you’re doing. More than that and you can bet that those units are reserved for contractor-grade applications.

3. Noise levels

Depending on whether you’ll be taking this compressor outside to your garage or keeping it in a studio for artistic painting jobs, you’ll want to consider the noise output of these models. Since the Air Tools leads the pack with less than 60 decibels of noise while the other models produce around 80, it’s definitely something to think about.

4. Versatile functions

Even if you plan on using this compressor solely for home renovations involving spray painting, air compressors are useful tools that will serve you well in other areas as well. It doesn’t hurt to get one that has a range of versatile functions to help you around the house.

These include the right hose attachments and power output to give you access to nail guns and cleaning tools. The right air compressor can be a lifesaving tire inflator in a pinch.

The Takeaway

Choosing the right air compressor is a matter of comparing its functions to your needs. The Makita Big Bore is our top choice because in this price range it is simply the most powerful and versatile machine on the market in 2020 with its record-breaking horsepower capacity and huge tank.

However, smaller models can deliver a smaller punch while offering bonuses in terms of sound output and portability. If those things are essential to your needs as a DIY craftsman or amateur home renovator, especially if this is your first experience with an air compressor, you should look at all the available models and compare them to find the right one for you.

Paul King

I have an unhealthy obsession with contracting and renovation. I’ve been a contractor for over 15 years and I love tackling challenging projects to make them look amazing.