March 2, 2021

Does a Paint Sprayer Need an Air Compressor?

When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Written by Jose

Air is a key factor in generating smooth and even finishes as far as the use of a spray gun or airless paint sprayer for your painting work is concerned. By hooking up a sprayer to some type of air supply, you are able to atomize the paint properly. Therefore, the sole purpose of an air compressor is to provide the sprayer with compressed air to atomize the paint. Have in mind that there are only certain HVLP models and airless models that have the capacity to work without the help of an air compressor. Every other model in the market requires some form of hookup to an air compression system. To be able to obtain the correct type of compressor for your sprayer, there are a number of things you have to consider before purchase. One of the key considerations in the evaluation process is that you need to know the air requirements for the equipment and the application needs. Below you will find information that will help you to choose the correct air compressor unit for your best fitted paint sprayer.

Why You Need an Air Compressor for a Paint Sprayer

handheld paint sprayer

A paint sprayer requires a pressurized flow of paint during the painting process. To be able to achieve the right pressure for the paint flow, sprayers are equipped with certain pressure generation tools. For HVLP paint sprayer models, this tool is the air compressor while for turbines and airless sprayers, a piston is used.r  The volume of air used in a spray gun is significantly lower than that used in an airless sprayer. This means that the units using an air compressor will cost slightly lower than their piston counterparts. 

An air compressor provides sufficient pressure for any paint sprayer to handle the painting needs. The air compressor is the most efficient motor that will provide your paint sprayer with the right pressure to emit the correct volume of paint. The air compressor atomizes the paint and sprays with your desired pressure settings.

Types of Air Compressors

To be able to acquire ideal air compressor, it is important that you understand the components that make up this unit. There are two categories of air compressors in the market. They are belt driven and direct drive compressors. The direct drive compressors are popular with DIY enthusiasts and are used to handle less demanding jobs such as hobbies. They are single stage and co-axial systems that compress the atmospheric air once. They are not very expensive and can work well with low pressures. The belt driven compressors are mostly used for high-end jobs such as major commercial jobs. They use a pulley and belt system to compress atmospheric air in one or two stages to be able to tackle high demanding jobs. Regarding efficiency, the belt driven units are more efficient than the direct drive units,and they provide more quantity of pressure in a much cooler environment.

Finding the Best Air Compressor

Most sprayers will operate well with a low pressure of just 10 PSI. When you are on the lookout for an air compressor, more focus should be put on the CFM rating rather than the PSI rating. A higher CFM rating translates to faster air compression capabilities for your sprayer to meet your painting demands. As a general rule, your spray gun should have a CFM rating of about 30. With a proper spray gun, you can still manage with less CFM ratings,but this will limit you when atomization of heavy coatings is involved. A smaller sprayer should be matched with a similar compressor to ensure consistency in the air supply. If your sprayer uses more air than what the compressor is supplying, then you will experience issues of inconsistent patterns and overspray.

There is then the aspect of work environment that has to you need to consider. Once you understand your painting needs with tips and techniques, you will be able to determine the most suitable compressor needed to handle the project. A direct drive compressor would be a perfect choice for DIY projects while a belt driven compressor will be helpful for high-intensity projects. To be able to achieve the right pressure for the sprayer's flow, the compressor size is an important consideration. A smaller compressor will take longer to handle the painting tasks while a large compressor but waste less paint. It is therefore important to get the right size that will save you both time and resources. If you are handling a short-term project that requires concentrated and quick usage, then a small-sized compressor will do. If on the other hand, you are handling a large-scale project, then it would be prudent to go for a large-sized compressor.

connecting paint sprayer

There is then the issue of the required horsepower. High horsepower is required if you are dealing with a high CFM rating. This ensures a consistent flow of spray for your paint sprayer. You also need to know the kind of tools required to generate the right pressure. These tools would help you determine the right PSI provided by your compressor. If you are going to work in outdoor environments, then your sprayer needs to be protected from factors such as water, moisture, and extreme temperatures. This will guarantee the durability of your compressor and sprayer.

There are other features like finger valve, control system, and cost that will also be useful in determining the right air compressor. A unit that has been fitted with a stainless steel valve will help in eliminating various internal adjustments and corrosion. It also helps in increasing the flow efficiency and saving lots of costs. A control system helps to ensure there is consistent air supply speed especially if you are working for long hours. It is important to compare the features and their prices so that you end up with a unit that suits best within your needs.


An air compressor is a key requirement for efficient use of a paint sprayer. It helps in producing the correct amount of pressure that is required by your device. Therefore not only eliminating wastage but also saving energy. One of its key benefits is that it delivers fine quality and smooth finishes for your sprayed surface. We have explored some of the important considerations that will help you get the best unit on the market. They include cost, size, CFM rating, horsepower, and the working environment. In addition to these factors, you will have to look at the name brand for the air compressor as this can deliver better motor qualities for your unit. At the end of it all, you should go for a unit that has the most CFM and the highest PSI ratings within your budgetary constraints.

About the author