How To Use A Spray Gun With Air Compressor?

Painting with a paint roller can get the job done, but it gets tedious if you need to paint a huge area. Also, there is more room for errors, as missing spots are a frequent occurrence when painting with rollers.

A perfect solution to these issues is using a spray painting machine with compressor. If you don’t know how to use spray gun for an air compressor, worry no more! This article has been constructed to provide all the relevant basic details.

So, keep on reading to learn more!

The Tools

1: Paint & Thinner

Before you can attach the air compressor to a paint sprayer, there are a few things that you should be mindful of. Firstly, choose the correct type of paint & thinner. Even though latex and acrylic paints work fine with sprayers, oil-based ones work the best. So, go with an oil-based one.

Choose the right paint thinner based on reviews. Make sure the thinner you are getting works well with the type of paint you have. With the right thinner, you will be able to spray more paint. So, you can save on paint costs.

You also need to prep the surface you are going to paint. More on that later.

2: Sprayer Gun

There are several kinds of paint sprayers on the market. So, select one that will be the best fit for your work and preferences.

3: Siphon Guns

Firstly, there are siphon guns. These are guns you would envision when spray painting gun is mentioned. They come with a container located under the main body. Unfortunately, these are not the most efficient variety. They need higher air pressure compared to other gun types while providing relatively low coverage.

So, you will need more paint, time, and air pressure. Therefore, these guns are only recommended when you have a small painting area.

4: Gravity Guns

Secondly, you have gravity guns, which also store paint inside of a container. Unlike siphon guns, their containers are located at the top of the main body. This clever placement of the container ensures that paint flows down due to gravity (hence the naming). Thus, much less air pressure is required.

These guns need getting used to and are great for small painting areas. The only con is that a special paint stand is needed when refilling paint.

5: Pressure Feed Guns

Thirdly, there are pressure-feed guns. These guns contain a part called the pressure pot, which has two hoses connected to it. One of them supplies air, which atomizes paint; the other supplies paint from a container to the gun.

The length of these two hoses can vary. This makes pressure feed guns the most efficient for spray painting.

How to Set Up an Air Compressor for Spray Guns?

Now that you have the right tools let’s get to the steps-

Step 1: Preparation

Prepare the area to be painted. Use tape to cover surrounding walls & floors on which you do not want paint. Since spraying creates a lot of paint mist, cover any furniture, door, window frame, floor, etc., nearby.

Step 2: Thinning

Thinner dilutes sticky paint, making them more viscous. This helps the paint move freely inside the spray gun. In a pinch, water will work as a thinner too.

Step 3: Safeguarding

Always ensure that you have safety glasses, gloves, respirator, or mask on when painting. These are a must, so do not skip them.

Step 4: Setting Up the Compressor

Before painting, you need to turn on the air compressor for a while. Doing this primes and tests the compressor. It is needed because this component needs time to build up pressure.

If you want to regulate the sprayer gun’s pressure, use the air compressor’s regulator to adjust it.

Step 5: Setting Up the Regulator

Look at the user manual of your sprayer to know the exact amount of pressure the air compressor should have. This number varies by brand and sprayer type.

Generally, the ideal pressure of air to use with a spray gun is 12-25 PSI.

Step 6: Joining the Air Compressor to the Spray Gun

With an appropriate high-pressure hose, regulators, and connectors, join your compressor to the base coat spray gun attachment. Check the volume of airflow required at the spray head in cubic feet per minute. Ensure that your air compressor can provide at least that much airflow, if not more.

Step 7: Adding Paint Thinner

Pour paint thinner inside the paint reservoir. Make sure not to pour too much of it, though. Just ensuring that the siphon tube of the concoction is filled with paint thinner is enough. Then, open the metering valve slightly.

Step 8: Painting

You are all set up and ready to use the spray gun now! Use the knobs on the gun to adjust the settings of the spray to your preference. Keep testing on a surface until you are satisfied with the output. Then, go to town! Remember, testing and adjusting should be done before you use a new paint every time.

Additional Tips

  • When using an air compressor for spray painting cars, use a side-to-side sweep motion for even coverage.
  • For an even and smooth finish, use the smallest possible tip sprayer to atomize the paint.
  • Follow the instruction manual for the paint and the thinner and stick to the correct proportions for the perfect paint density.
  • Do not use too high of pressure because that will make the paint droplets too small. These will blow around, making a mess and wasting paint. Also, they will not stick to the surface properly, but rather bounce off of it.
  • Wait for 12-24 hours before applying a second coat of paint.


Is paint thinner really needed? Can I go without using it?

Yes, you need to paint thinner. For the paint to spray freely and move without any restriction through the nooks & crannies inside of a sprayer, it needs to be viscous and liquid. Without thinner, the paint will be too thick to spray, causing clogging and uneven spraying. You do not want that, do you?

If you do not have paint thinner at hand, use some water instead. But do not skip it.

I am not getting enough pressure, despite everything seeming fine. What can I do?

Check if your air hose is too long. If that is the case, the air loses some pressure as it travels through the long hose to the spray gun. That is most probably what’s causing the issue. Try to use as short a hose as you can.

Are there any special air compressors for spray guns?

No. We do not use any air compressors specifically made to be used with paint guns. What you should be looking for is whether the air compressor you have is suitable for the task or not. Air compressors can be used for a variety of applications, spray painting being one of them.

Generally, air compressor spray paint guns use an HVLP (high volume, low pressure) mechanism. So, check if your compressor delivers that.

What should I be checking when assessing an air compressor for spray painting?

Check these three measurements – pounds per sq. inch (PSI), cubic ft. per minute (CFM), and tank size. Ensure that the PSI and CFM are high enough to reach the required amount of the spray gun. And the bigger the tank size, the easier the work will be for you.


So, that was everything on how to use a spray gun with air compressor. We hope our guide covered all the stuff you needed. Happy painting! Let us know how your first attempt went.

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