What Size Air Compressor Do I Need For Painting – Step By Step

Let’s begin with a short description of air compressors. Air compressors use fuel to run an engine or motor. The power from this engine or motor is then used to compress air. This compressed air can be used for various applications such as powering tools and inflating tires and swimming pools etc.

However, not every air compressor is built to complete painting jobs. If you need a job well done, you will have to invest in the perfect-sized air compressor. Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry because we have prepared a full guide here which will help you pick the right sized air compressor for your paint job.

Air Compressor For Painting Factors to consider

  • Use Cycle

First of all, you need to decide if you will be using the unit intermittently or continuously. If you run a shop then you are probably looking at continuous use. However, if you need to do this paint job at home then it will be more of a once-in-a-while job.

A small compressor will work well for intermittent use, however, for continuous use, you need to get an air compressor that fulfills the discharge capacity of the spray gun that you are using.

  • CFM rating of the spray gun

The CFM or standardized SCFM rating is usually mentioned in the specifications of your spray gun. Get an air compressor that is compatible with these ratings. The CFM rating depends on the size of your spray gun. This can range from 4 CFM for a small spray gun to up to 12 CFM for a large spray gun. Match the CFM rating of your air compressor with that of your spray gun to get the right size.

  • PSI rating of the spray gun

Spray guns come with a recommended pressure rating that is measured in PSI. To get the most accurate and efficient paint job, you need to ensure that your air compressor provides that PSI rating to the spray gun. This rating can vary between 20 to 90 PSI for small to large spray guns.

  • Duty cycle of air compressor

Most air compressors usually have a duty cycle of about 50%. This means that if an air compressor is operating for an hour, it will be delivering pressurized air for 30 minutes.

  • Tank size of air compressor

This determines the air storage capacity of the air compressor. This also helps determine the duty cycle of the unit. If an air compressor has a large air tank and CFM rating of 12 then it can be used to occasionally operate a 12 CFM air spray gun.

The tank size also determines how long you can operate the spray gun in one go. With smaller tanks, you will have to take frequent breaks to give time to the unit to refill. However, smaller tanks are much more portable as they are easier to carry around. On the other hand, large tanks allow for longer run times but they are less portable.

  • Distance between the air compressor and paint job location

It is best if this distance is not too long because the longer the air hose, the more pressure will drop. This means that you will have to provide a higher pressure for the same output which will result in a lack of efficiency.

Horsepower of air compressor

The minimum horsepower required for completing a paint job is about 10 hp. An air compressor with higher horsepower will be even better because it will be able to achieve higher efficiency.

Best Air compressor for Painting

We carried out extensive research to look for the best size air compressor for painting and we ended up picking the Ingersoll rand 60-gallon air compressor for you. This is mainly because it has a durable design which can easily take rough use in the shop. It has a huge tank that can easily paint an entire car in one go. This helps make it quite efficient. Featuring safety features like thermal protection, this unit is very safe to use and will help prevent any damage.


If you keep the above factors in mind, you will be able to pick the right size air compressor for painting. We can state an exact size for you as this depends on your use and application. Make sure you consider your requirement as well as your budget before you pick an air compressor. We hope this article helped you get a better idea about which air compressor you should invest in. We will be back with many more articles related to air compressors. Until then, good luck!


1. What size air compressor do I need for a paint gun?

Answer: If you are working on a small project then the CFM rating of our air compressor should exactly match the CFM requirement of the spray gun. For bigger jobs like painting a car, you need to use an air compressor with a CFM rating that is double that of the spray gun.

2. How much psi do you need for a paint gun?

Answer: This depends on the size of your pain gun. If you are using a small paint gun then about 5 PSI should be enough for you. However, for bigger paint guns, the PSI requirement can go up to about 90 PSI. Mid-sized paint guns may require around 40 PSI.

3. How do I choose an air compressor for painting?

Answer: You need to consider various factors when choosing an air compressor for painting. The most important factor is usually size. Now, the choice of size is also dependent on other factors like the size, CFM requirement, and PSI requirement of your paint gun. You need to keep all these under consideration in order to make the right decision.

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