Choosing the right airbrush compressor for your purposes
- You want to operate in the area of airbrushing and you are looking for the right airbrush compressor?
- You’ve seen many offers on as many websites and want to make sure that you don’t fall for a bad buy?
- You don’t want to buy the cheapest airbrush compressor and get annoyed after a few weeks because it slowly gives up his function. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to buy the most expensive model, because the price says nothing about whether this airbrush compressor is best for your needs.
Things to consider on the subject of airbrushing
Over 20 years ago I started with airbrush works and at this time, of course, I had a lot of personal experience with the painting itself, as well as with the hardware. So I also started from scratch and had to gather together the best equipment. On this page I will tell you the main points that are important for the final purchase decision. Likewise, I will recommend some models to you, suitable to various claims and budgets.
When you start with airbrushing, you will learn in the coming weeks and months whether this is right for you at all, and whether talent and perseverance are available in the necessary dimensions. It is therefore advisable not to grab for the best, most expensive airbrush compressor, equipped with all the trimmings.
Set the focus for now on a price range of between about $100 and $250.
In this segment are favorable models available that work for the very first entry and more. They are affordable and also, later, they will not belong on the scrapheap when the workload increases and if one is somewhat “spoiled” in terms of compressor loudness. You should have a second compressor anyway…
Now, what to look for when buying an airbrush compressor?
The working pressure
An airbrush compressor is building up an air pressure with a pump which, at best, is NOT delivered directly to the airbrush gun, but in an air tank. This is a part of the airbrush compressor and has a volume to suit the purpose, depending on the model, price and technical claim. This allows pressured air to be cached “in stock”, and the exiting of the air from the airbrush comes evenly. The air jet is very homogeneous.
Depending on the type of work, a specific air pressure is adjusted on the airbrush compressor. The pressure should NEVER break down under this mark under constant load. This could have unpleasant consequences; the color may sprinkle, solid lines may be uneven, surfaces may be filled irregularly. So, the airbrush compressor must always be able to deliver the required maximum (air) pressure PERMANENTLY.
For the beginner, an airbrush compressor that can deliver a PERMANENT working pressure of 2.5 bar, ought be ok. The normal operating pressure in practice is at about 1.5 to 2.2 bar.
The noise level
Who works on artwork and needs silence? The concentration is much disturbed by a loud airbrush compressor, which constantly (loudly) switches on and off. There is a habituation effect so you do not constantly flinch when a valve in the compressor is working loudly, but meanwhile there are pretty well-equipped devices that do not create such disturbingly loud noises at all. The permanent working noise of the airbrush compressor itself should be less than 45 dB (for more expensive models). Depending on the length of the hose, the compressor must not stand right next to the workplace, of course.
The compressor run time
Depending on what kind of work you perform, sometimes it takes quite large quantities of air from the airbrush compressor. This must be refilled by the pump again and this leads to heat generation in the device. When working over a large area and / or large quantities of color, this may mean that the compressor runs CONSTANTLY. In this case, the unit should be capable of doing this by default. Alternatively, the purchase of a model with a correspondingly larger tank volume should be taken into consideration, which guarantees the engine block some pause time.
For the beginner, this point is usually less interesting as he probably rarely begins with extensive works.
An artist wants to pursue his art and not constantly tweak tools. Therefore, the choice should fall on a low-maintenance or maintenance-free airbrush compressor. That is, one need not add oil, change fluff- or air-filters. In the price range above $100, this should be the norm nowadays.
20 years ago this was really different…
The purity of the air
If air is mixed with paint in an airbrush, it should not additional (condensed) water or oil from the engine compartment may be included. A water separator at the airbrush compressor is obligatory. The machine should be oil-free anyway. Everything else is workshop accessories and (in most cases) unsuitable for high quality airbrush work!
If you just want to try out an airbrush, it makes no sense to spend $500 for an exquisite product. Models for less than $250 are, for the beginner, more than sufficient. If you have, however, gained experience and already reached limits with your compressor, you can take a look around this site for a successor model.
Recommended Models – an orientation
- Models for small jobs and to test your “talent” e.g. DIY models, gas caps, cell phone covers, smaller motifs etc:
AS18-2 Wiltec air flow volume 20-23l/min at max. 4bar / 58psi / price at 60$
- For medium-scale and more challenging activities e.g. areas on cars, motorcycles, medium billboards, paintings on paper and cardboard:
Airbrush Depot TC-20T air flow volume ~25l/min at max. 3bar / 45psi / price at $105
Badger 180-15 Airstorm air flow volume ~23l/min at max. 4bar / 58psi /price at $150
- For larger area works (e.g. varnishing, primer work, smaller base areas on trucks, billboards) and respectively very quiet operation:
Super Silent 20-A air flow volume ~20l/min at max. 5.9bar / 85psi / price at $560
There are, of course, a lot of competitors, but the technical differences between their airbrush compressors in the respective sectors are usually not that big. It makes more sense to pay attention to the topicality and the reliability of the models. There are always new technologies integrated and, despite these devices being new to the market, with corresponding sales figures they will quickly become affordable.
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