What Is A Good Size Air Compressor for Spray Painter? A Definitive Guide

“Size doesn’t matter!” But it is matter while choosing the proper sizes of air compressors for modern spray painter.

 In general, an air compressor is a tool to compress air/gas in a controlled volume and pressurized way.

 Straightway, this airflow is the basic principle to operate spray painters.

Standard sizes of air compressor

 We know that you look for higher output of paint sprayer! Hence choosing the standard size of the compressor matters much at the same time.

 You may know that air pressure and air volume are two integrated terms of a paint sprayer. Depending on these two specs, manufacturers develop different custom sizes of air compressors.

 So, in the first place, it is better to know your targeted paint application. Then you need to verify how the different components of a compressor effect finishing as well.

 We’ll dig here a proper size of the compressor from the different aspects of considerations.

It’ll range from CFM/PSI,compressor tank size,adjustable power source even air gun’s specifications.

No matter whether you are non-tech about these terms! Just examine our notes carefully. 

You can also find here all the latest home paint sprayer guides including air compressor

Different types & sizes of compressor

You need to look for different sprayer types & variations. We can categorize this air compressor into two broad categories.

1. Positive displacement compressor

When a high volume of air reaches its most pressure, then the port/valves open. We see the following three types of compressors based on this formula.

Reciprocating/ piston type:

In this process, sucked air gets compressed with a piston-driven reciprocating motion. During this process, we see heat moves in the cylinder itself. Thus, there is a little energy wastage. It is much applicable to smaller residential home use.

All reciprocating air compressors designs and applications are almost the same. It gives a perfect low, medium, or high pressure of air discharge.

Usually, we find 01 HP to 30 HP engineered Reciprocating compressors. 

Rotary screw

The principle of a rotary screw compressor is to run at a full load and ceaseless way. But, the compared reciprocating compressor uses only  a 60% duty cycle or below. We usually find two types of -1. Lubricant injected rotary screw 2.Dry type rotary screw.

Lubricant screw allows two stages of a compressor with cooling and reducing internal losses. In other ways, a dry screw uses two stages: an intercooler and an aftercooler.

These usually range 25- 1200 HP or 90 to 5200 cfm

Vane compressor

Rotary vane compressor comes with the electrical slotted rotor in the cylinder. The rotor has slot options. Vanes exist on those slots. While rotating the compressor, vanes move in and out through the centrifugal force. Thus, vanes sweep cylinders, sucking air in one side and ejecting it on another side.

2.Dynamic displacement compressor

A rotating component releases kinetic energy to the air. Later the machine converts this air into pressurized power.

The key performance of the dynamic compressor lies in the surrounding external conditions.It primarily  changes in inlet temparature.

We see available dynamic compressors by the name of turbo compressors.These are heavy in size and generate significant horespower.

The basic volume of air compressor

  • Low pressurized air compressor (LPAC): It  discharges a pressure limit 150 psi or less.
  • Medium pressure air compressor(MPAC): It  discharges a  pressure 150 psi to 1000 psi
  • High-pressure air compressor(HPAC): It discharges a pressure 1000 psi to more.

 Internal compressor design

The compressor moves air following piston rules of upstroke and downstroke constant rotation.

The downstroke is responsible for filling the air chamber. Reversely, upstroke transfers this pressurized air to the storage tank.

These two stages give excellent efficiency within the range of 5 to 30 horsepower.

 Compressor motors:

Electric motors are primarily responsible for supplying the power to drive a compressor. Hence, the compressor gets its operating energy from the motor. Generally, three-phase induction motors come to solve the spray painter air compressor.

Dimension of CFM/PSI

What pancake compressor are you looking for something like standard output?

Depending on small or medium types of applications, you need to focus on some points so that it is worth your cost.

Cubic Feet per Minute/ CFM states how much volume of air is essential for a perfect finish. And Pound per Square Inch/PSI refers to the required air pressure to move.

You may focus something here that almost time these two important concepts work the opposite way. Means, if you are thinking of increasing the volume of air, then decrease the air pressure. In contrast, a low volume of air requires higher air pressure.

For example, your paint sprayer requires 4 CFM at 120 psi. When you need to drop it down into 60 psi inverse way, you need to reach 8 CFM air pressure.. This basic formula works for all the compressors.

Anyhow, your gun needs a smallest 25 to 30 psi range to work adjusting with a compressor.

CFM/PSI doesn’t work stand alone!

CFM/PSI responds with the types of air gun’s nozzle and tip sizes. This air gun may range from High Volume Low Pressure-HVLP and Airless sprayer. Thus it is wise to pair the paint gun with the compressor.

Try to get at least two stages compressors with at least 16 to 20 CFM consumption.

Compressing time VS Size of other integrated compressor elements

Residential used sprayers need to stain tiny guitar, wooden furniture, cabinets, or home exterior. Based on staining time, the compressor works much or less compression. Here, the sizes of different integrated components are an essential factor to consider.

a)Hose size

Sometimes, you need to decrease hose size to 30 to 50 Ft. instead of 150 Ft. getting somewhat kind of loose pressure. This issue arises when you use a spray painter for a small kind of project. It may include scenic painting or other small kinds of furniture.

By doing it, you get less pressure drop. At the same time, you may need to use ½ inch diameter placing of 3- 4 inches diameter hose.


A decent size of the tank is necessary while searching the standard size of the compressor. The performance of the compressor depends on tank size. A 15 Gal.  tank provides much air volume than 5 Gal. tank size. The smaller gun requires a small compressor, and bigger guns need a bigger compressor.

c) Power of motor

The different horsepower requires moving air from the full tank. Manufacturers now provide custom horsepower based on the targeted object.

For example,HVLP sprayer recommends a 3 to 5 horsepower (hp) air compressor.

Finally,based on your required application,a proper size of air compressor lengthens its service life and offers you also hassle-free  maintenance.

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