Top 5 Best Air Compressors for Spray Painting (2020 Review)

Wondering what the best air compressors for spray painting? You're in the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner Article, you’ll learn:

  • What is an air compressor
  • How an air compressor for spray painting works
  • How to choose the best air compressor for your budget

And more!

Air compressor for spray painting

Versatility is an important factor when it comes to DIY painting and power tools.

Finding the best air compressor for spray painting that can also be used for a number of other functions is a great versatile choice because it allows you to use one tool for many different jobs.  

Selecting the right air compressor for your next spray painting project can be difficult, but we'll tackle the ins and outs here and hopefully help you make the right decision when you're looking to buy something.

With a number of different products and options on the market, we'll help you find just what you need.

Take a look at our top 7 rated automotive air compressor products below!

Image Product

digital-business-prep-table__image

Craftsman Pancake Compressor
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Oil-free pump
  • Quick recovery time
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Oil-free pump
  • Quick recovery time
View on Amazon

digital-business-prep-table__image

Dewalt Pancake Compressor
  • Lightweight
  • High efficiency
  • Oil-free
  • Lightweight
  • High efficiency
  • Oil-free
View on Amazon

digital-business-prep-table__image

California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Hot Dog Compressor
  • Mid-range strength
  • Relatively portable
  • Ultra Quiet
  • Mid-range strength
  • Relatively portable
  • Ultra Quiet
View on Amazon

digital-business-prep-table__image

Wen Vertical Oil-Free Compressor
  • Oil-free compressor
  • Powerful
  • Built-in wheels for portability
  • Oil-free compressor
  • Powerful
  • Built-in wheels for portability
View on Amazon

digital-business-prep-table__image

Porter Cable Vertical Compressor
  • Very powerful
  • Cast iron tank
  • Good price
  • Very powerful
  • Cast iron tank
  • Good price
View on Amazon

digital-business-prep-table__image

Makita Stacked Pontoon Air Compressor
  • Efficient
  • Quick connect couplers
  • Small footprint for pontoon compressor
  • Efficient
  • Quick connect couplers
  • Small footprint for pontoon compressor
View on Amazon

digital-business-prep-table__image

Industrial Air Portable Pontoon Compressor
  • Very powerful
  • Quick recovery
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Very powerful
  • Quick recovery
  • Relatively lightweight
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

(updated 4/9/2020)

If you're looking for the best overall air compressor for your money, stick with the Porter Cable Vertical Air Compressor.

This product is the best one you will find, and it will handle any and all projects you can throw at it.  The only areas in which it lags are weight and portability, and those are minor sacrifices compared to the max psi, high pressure, and run time you gain with this incredibly powerful tool. 

This device can handle any air tool and can tackle any painting job you ask of it without issue.  

Made from an incredibly solid cast iron, this is easily the strongest and most durable product on the list and the market.  

Even if you choose to lug it around from job site to job site, you won't damage it because it can take a beating.  

That heavy duty construction also lets it hold immensely high pressure giving you incredible power for your toughest of jobs and a run time that is unrivaled by any of its competitors. This product will tackle a painting job and keep running long after.  

Top 5 Best Air Compressors for Spray Painting

Did you know: Air compressors transmute power from their engine into potential energy at a smaller volume.  This means it takes atmospheric pressure and amplifies it.

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

What Are Air Compressor for Spray Painting?

When you're using a paint sprayer, the most common types of HVLP paint spray guns use an air compressor.  These air compressors use a motor to compress air and built up the air pressure inside a tank to power air tools.

Air compressors are useful devices because they can be used with a variety of these different air tools.  One single air compressor for painting can also be used to provide pneumatic pressure for nail guns, tire pumps, and many more tools.

These air compressors for painting are useful because you can buy a cheap set of hoses and spray guns so that you can build your own homemade, DIY kit for spray painting and hook it up to the air compressor.  

With the versatility these offer, you'll be in great shape to do a range of different jobs, including painting cars, staining fences, and then transitioning the air compressor nail trim onto the ceiling.

Read More >> What are the top paint sprayers for staining a fence?

What Are the Different Types of Air Compressors for Spray Painting?

There are tons of different types of air compressors, so many so that it's hard to get into all of them at one time.  The most common are pancake air compressors, hot dog air compressors, and pontoon air compressors.

Pancake air compressors 

Pancake air compressors are named this way because of their shape.  With a steel tank in a flat, round shape, these are perfect for airbrushing, painting projects, nailers, and small projects.  

Pancake air compressors are great because they are very stable due to their low profile and they are also relatively small and lightweight.  They are not, however, as strong, and therefore can't be used for high volume projects as much.

Hot dog air compressors

Once again named for the shape, these have a slightly larger tank size and can handle a bit more than pancake air compressors.  

These can tackle larger paint jobs and some bigger inflating projects compared with pancake air compressors.  Unfortunately, due to their size, they are not as portable nor as lightweight and stable.  

The air tank has a longer run time and can provide a higher max psi than a pancake compressor as well.

Pontoon compressors

A pontoon compressor is something of a combination system with multiple hot dog compressors in series, resembling a pontoon boat.  

These air compressors are workhorse air tools and can provide a significantly higher max psi than their competitors. These compressors can tackle large and lengthy painting jobs as well as provide pressure for a very large variety of power tools.  

They handle a much larger volume of air, but are less portable, and can't be toted around a job site as easily as the others.  The higher tank capacity means you can provide extra high-pressure and can tackle large painting projects, but the lack of portability is a drawback, especially for DIY projects.

Read More >> What are the best professional air sprayers?

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

How Do Air Compressors for Spray Painting Work?

Air compressors work by using a motor to fill a steel tank with a large volume of air.  As more air is pumped into the air tank, it is compressed and pushed together.

This creates a chamber of pressure within the vessel that builds higher and higher. The larger the tank, the more air and therefore more pressure the compressor can handle.

Once you're ready to use the compressed air, it is pumped out through an air hose to provide air pressure to the various power tools you need to use.  

If you're using it for spraying paint, the compressor drives air through the air hose and into the spray gun creating an air flow that draws paint into its path through low pressure. This makes an aerosol of the paint and allows you to spray it on your surface and complete your painting job.  

As the air compressor runs down, you may have to turn it back on to build up pressure once again and power the tool.

Read More >> What are the best gravity feed paint spray guns?

What To Look For in an Air Compressor for Spray Painting

When you're in the market for an air compressor, there are a few things to look out for.  Not all air compressors are the same, and depending on whether you're looking to tackle a professional, large scale project or simply working on some DIY painting jobs, your selection will probably be different.

CFM rating

The CFM rating, which stands for cubic feet per minute, rates the volume of air that is provided by the air compressor.  CFM is a direct function of how much pressure the air compressor can provide.  

It doesn't, however, tell you the run time of the air compressor, which can vary dramatically.  However, the run time is pretty much directly correlated with the capacity of the air compressor.

Weight

The weight of the product will determine its portability.  If you're working on a large painting project, you may not want something that is heavy to lug around from location to location as you have to move your spray gun around.

However, you may also want something bigger because it will have a longer run time.  The weight will determine how easy and comfortable it is to use, so this is a more personal consideration.

Style

Take a look at the different styles - pancake compressors, hot dog compressors, pontoon compressors, and other options, because they will determine different aspects of the compressor and affect your choices.

Pontoon compressors are the most powerful and so will have a higher CFM rating and run time.  However, they fare poorly in terms of portability, so you'll have to account for what you need for your specific projects.

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

Our Reviews of Air Compressors for Spray Painting

Craftsman Pancake Compressor is a nice lightweight portable compressor that is easily one of the best air compressors for painting, at least for smaller paint jobs.

With an oil-free pump and quick recovery time between compressor cycles, this is a low maintenance and easy to use product that is just the right air compressor for small painting projects.  

This is compatible with many other tools, and comes with optional add-ons including a brad nailer so you can be started on a myriad of different projects, including all of the spray painting you could want.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Oil-free pump
  • Quick recovery timeC

Cons

  • Low capacity
  • Low strength

Dewalt Pancake Compressor is another great small scale option.

With a high efficiency, high rpm motor as well as a high flow regulator and couplers, this small pancake compressor can pack quite a punch even though it has a relatively small air tank.

This Dewalt product is made of durable stainless steel and can handle quite a bit of pressure, which makes it a great product for beginning painters who want something small but durable.

As with all pancake compressors, it is lightweight, which gives it great portability, and it is also very stable.

Because of its low profile, it can be used safely up on the top of a house without issue.  It provides very solid run time for your painting job, especially if you're starting as a beginner on some DIY projects.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • High efficiencyB
  • Oil-free

Cons

  • Low capacity
  • Weak overallB

California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Hot Dog Compressor is a large tank, 8-gallon compressor that can provide much more volume.

Additionally, it runs under 85 decibels, making it one of the quieter products on the list.

This oil free compressor also offers 3 CFM at 40 PSI, a very powerful upgrade over the pancake compressor options mentioned before.  

Additionally, this product comes in stainless steel and aluminum varieties, making it potentially even more durable and long lasting.  

As a hot dog compressor, it is not as portable as the smaller pancake ones mentioned above, but it is still maneuverable and allows you to tote it around from location to location if need be.

Pros

  • Mid-range strength
  • Relatively portable
  • Ultra Quiet

Cons

  • Weaker than other models

Wen Vertical Oil-Free Compressor is a vertical compressor.

Vertical air compressors weren't addressed in our discussion of different compressor types, but they are essentially hot dog compressors turned on their side and stood right up.  

They are typically designed to be a bit more squat, though, instead of the elongated cylinder of a hot dog, giving them a bit more stability in addition to the extra volume and power they provide.  

This is the most powerful product we've explored yet, but it does come at a premium.  Fortunately, this is another oil-free compressor, making it easy to clean and take care of.  

The Wen Oil-Free Compressor comes built onto caster wheels so you can pull it along with you whenever you're working on a bit project.

Pros

  • Oil-free compressor
  • Powerful
  • Built-in wheels for portability

Cons

  • Heavy

Porter Cable Vertical Compressor can deliver 5 CFM at 40 PSI, which is significantly stronger than any of the other options we've discussed so far.  

This product is hard to beat and is a well known industry standard.  With UL and CSA certifications, this cast iron tank air compressor will last for quite a long time.  

This comes with a regulator, gauges, and quick connect couplers so you can get started and disconnected as easily and quickly as you need.

 In the mid range, this is one of the best air compressors for painting you can possibly find.

Pros

  • Very powerful
  • Cast iron tank
  • Good price

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Not portable

Makita Stacked Pontoon Air Compressor has two cylinder air compressors stacked to deliver maximum volume and air pressure while maintaining portability and reducing overall footprint.

This device is another strong air compressor, delivering 4.8 CFM at 40 PSI, making it one of the strongest we've explored as well. 

The couplers on this device allow you to connect and disconnect quickly from the air hoses for quick transitions in your painting project or with whatever air tool you've chosen to use.  

Unfortunately, this device is oil lubricated and it does sacrifice a lot of portability compared to the other ones we've discussed here.  It is a strong air compressor, but for the price and weight, it's not the best choice available.  

Pros

  • Efficient
  • Quick connect couplers
  • Small footprint for pontoon compressor

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not portable

Industrial Air Portable Pontoon Compressor has a true pontoon compressor that maintains a decent amount of portability.  

This product has two smaller cylinder tanks and a high efficiency motor, which gives it some great strength while sacrificing a bit of runtime.  

Fortunately, because of its high efficiency, it can recover quickly after it runs out of air pressure.  

This device has a total of 4 gallons of capacity total, but it can provide 5 CFM at 40 PSI, right in line with the strongest devices we've seen yet.  Because it is lightweight and mounted to a frame designed for portability, this product gives you the best of both worlds.

 It certainly should because it has a much higher sticker price than the other options.  If this had a longer run time, it would be hands down the best product we've explored yet.  Because of that, however, it loses some points for overall value, making it a good buy, but not great.

Pros

  • Very powerful
  • Quick recovery
  • Relatively lightweight

Cons

  • Short run time
  • Expensive

Craftsman Pancake Compressor is a fantastic pick for an air compressor you can pair with a paint sprayer.

If you need a product that you can take on site and switch between nailing, painting, stapling, and inflating, this air compressor does it all. 

As long as you have the necessary attachments, this air compressor comes with quick disconnect couplers, letting you release your project and start on a new one as soon as you choose.

 If you're ready to finish up for the day, a quick release drain valve safely vents the compressor so you don't have to worry about excess built up pressure.  

With the maximum available safety ratings, this is a product you can feel good about using because you know it will keep you safe.  There isn't a better product on the market, and we highly recommend it.

Plus, it’s an excellent value for the money! Check the low price now on Amazon.

Want To Just Skip All This Research And Hire A Decent Professional For Your Paint Job?

Click here to check out our pro painter search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) painters in your local area.

Process Takes About 30 Seconds

Final Thoughts on Air Compressors for Spray Painting

Spray painting is already a challenging process.  Making sure you do everything right so you can get the perfect final coat is tough.  Deciding on an air compressor should be the least of your worries.  

The options available here suit everyone's needs, so you can surely find the right air compressor for your next painting job.  With options that are oil-free compressors, tanks that have long run times, and high capacity compressors, there is something for everyone.  

You won't need to worry about where your air pressure is coming from when you use the compressors on this list.

If you're ready to get started on your next painting job, these air compressors will do the trick.  

None of them are wrong depending on what you want.  If you need to start small, you can begin with a simple pancake compressor like we discussed and get started on y our DIY projects without hesitation.  If you're ready to jump in full force, go ahead and get something stronger.  

Whatever you need, we've got you covered.  Hopefully this will help you make the right choice so you can get on with the next phase of your project.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Phil Ash

Phil Ash

After running my own painting business and 20+ years of painting experience, I’m still learning new things everyday about how to nail the perfect paint job. In addition to myself, I started Pro Paint Corner to connect you with painting experts to provide unbiased answers to all your painting questions.

Got A Paint Question? Ask Your Pro Painter!

Learn More Expert Paint Tips

Painting shouldn’t be this hard. Check out some of these other helpful guides to help you nail the perfect paint job!

Top 5 Best Airless Paint Sprayers for Interior Walls (2020 Review)

Are you looking for the best airless paint sprayers for walls? Don’t worry, we’ve got

Read More »
Top 5 Best Commercial Paint Sprayers For Painting (2020 Review)

Not sure which paint sprayer to invest in?  We can help you narrow down your choices

Read More »
Top 5 Best Paint Sprayers For Ceilings (2020 Review)

Are you looking for the best paint sprayers for painting ceilings? You’re in the right place! In

Read More »
Top 10 Indoor Paint Sprayers (2020 Review)

Are you looking for the best indoor paint sprayers? You’ve come to the right place! In

Read More »

Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Phil Ash

Phil Ash

After running my own painting business and 20+ years of painting experience, I’m still learning new things everyday about how to nail the perfect paint job. In addition to myself, I started Pro Paint Corner to connect you with painting experts to provide unbiased answers to all your painting questions.

About Pro Paint Corner

You’ve got painting questions. We’ve got the best painting answers from a network of seasoned painting pros.

Recently Published Guides