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How to Use a Paint Sprayer with an Air Compressor (6 Easy Steps)

hand paint spraying wood panels

hand paint spraying wood panels

So, you have decided your door needs repainted, your bathroom vanity needs a fresh coat of paint…and perhaps all the kitchen cabinets, too. Once you start updating things in your house with new colors, you realize that it’s hard to stop!

A different paint color can bring new life to a piece of furniture or other type of woodwork in your home, and therefore influence the whole feel of the room around it. Almost everything can be painted if you know which kind of paint to buy.

Applying paint with a paint sprayer is by far the best way to paint or repaint any object. It can reach all surface areas easily and lay down an even layer of paint easily (if you know how to use it properly). Not to mention, it’s incredibly fast and easy.

Spraying paint with an air compressor can seem daunting, but we have condensed the process down for you in this easy-to-read format, so you can get to your paint projects ASAP! Simply follow the steps and you’re good to go.

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Air compressor paint spraying vs airless paint sprayers

It should be noted that spraying paint with an air compressor and airless paint sprayers are not the same thing. If you already have an air compressor on hand, this is the cheapest option when it comes to spraying paint.

Airless paint sprayers are nice if you don’t have an air compressor, and they usually don’t require thinned paint before use.

The approach to painting differs with these two different tools. We will only be covering painting with the air compressor in this article.

How to Use a Paint Sprayer with an Air Compressor (6 Steps)

1. Prepare the area to paint

This step is crucial for fast painting and easy cleanup. Nothing is worse than being in the middle of the paint project, after getting on all your protective gear, to discover you missed taping a spot!

Lay down a drop cloth or lots of newspaper or painter’s paper (this comes in a big roll at your local home improvement store). Large pieces of cardboard also work well for this.

Try to think through every possible spot that could get paint on it, and cover it or tape it up. High-quality painter’s tape is your friend here: it’s easier to come off the roll and cleaner to take off surfaces after a paint project.

2. Prepare your paint sprayer

There are a few different kinds of paint sprayers that connect to compressors, but they all work generally the same.

You want to make sure you have the right kind of hose for your paint sprayer. Your spray gun attachment manual should inform you which kind of hose is appropriate. Attach the hose to the sprayer by pulling back the metal ring, inserting the spray gun, and releasing the metal ring.

An air pressure regulator is also a great thing to have, so you can get the exact pressure you need for paint spraying. This will also allow you to see what air pressure your air compressor is putting out.

You will want to make sure your air compressor can deliver the amount of air needed in cubic feet per minute. Your spray gun should say this in the manual or on the sprayer itself. This will ensure you have a perfect paint spray.

For a perfect paint finish, find the smallest spray tip you can. Attach this tip to your paint sprayer.

man paint spraying a wood plank
Image Credit: Leszek Glasner, Shutterstock

3. Dilute and add paint

Most air compressor paint sprayers need paint to be thinned down before use. Otherwise, the sprayer will become easily clogged and bogged down.

Different paints require different kinds of diluting agents and different ratios. These ratios also depend on your type of sprayer and the tip size. Refer to the directions on your paint sprayer and the paint can for appropriate dilution materials and ratios.

After diluting, make sure the paint is very well mixed before use. To help your paint sprayer not clog, use a cheesecloth or filter to cover the paint reservoir of the sprayer before pouring paint in (especially paint that has been used). This removes small particles from your paint that could get stuck in your sprayer.

4. Gear up

After prepping your space, assembling the paint sprayer, and adding paint, you are almost ready to paint. Now you need to prepare yourself for paint!

It’s recommended that all painters use some kind of respirator on their face to prevent the breathing in of paint and paint fumes, which can be harmful to your health. Safety glasses are also helpful for keeping paint out of your eyes, especially if you are painting above you (like a ceiling).

Spraying with an air compressor is much quieter than airless paint sprayers, so hearing protection is probably not required, but you may choose to put this on if it’s too loud for you.

If you tend to spray paint a lot, it might be a good investment for you to purchase a HAZMAT-looking suit for protection. This can save prep time in the long run.

5. Paint

Now comes the easy part. All you need to do now is turn on the air compressor, pull the trigger and paint away.

It’s wise to first practice on a scrap piece of cardboard before tackling the project at hand to make sure your spray pattern is consistent and free from spatters. While testing the paint spray, you can adjust the knob on the back of the sprayer to adjust the paint-to-air ratio. Play around with this until your coats of paint are perfect.

While painting, keep the sprayer level with the surface you are painting. Turning your wrist will create concentrated paint in the middle area and feathered paint on the sides. Keep the paint sprayer consistently level, about 6 to 12 inches away from the surface.

Resist the temptation to re-layer paint when you see a mistake. It pays off to wait at least an hour for the paint to dry, then go back over the area. Otherwise, you might end up with unsightly drips of paint.

6. Clean-up

Before you rip off all the painter’s tape (which, we all know, is so satisfying), wait for all the paint to dry. You will want to first focus on cleaning out the paint sprayer to prevent it from clogging up with dried paint.

Follow the guidelines as outlined on your paint sprayer manual and paint that you used. Some paints will only require water for cleanup, while others will require some sort of lacquer. Fill your sprayer with the appropriate cleaning liquid, shake it up, and spray into a disposal container. Repeat this process until the sprayer sprays out clear. Disassemble the sprayer, detach from the hose, and leave it out to dry before storing.

You might also be interested in: 10 Best Paint Sprayers – Reviews & Top Picks

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Painting with rollers or brushes can be quick in the long run, but leave you with an uneven coat of paint that doesn’t look great. Air compressor paint spraying is a great way to update things in and around your home with a professional look with little effort. We hope you have learned something new about paint spraying with an air compressor, and therefore made your life easier. Happy painting!

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Featured Image Credit: Vkochkin999, Shutterstock


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