How to paint a car with a small air compressor

Do you have a small air compressor and want to know how to paint a car with it? 

When it comes to painting a car, there are many different ways that you can go about it. You can choose to do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.

It can be a bit of a challenge, but you can paint your car like a pro with the right tools and instructions. I will try my best to make it as simple as possible to guide you about how to paint a car with a small air compressor, and I will provide some tips for ensuring a quality finish.

Let’s get started.

How to paint a car with a small air compressor

Step 1: Cover your workplace.

The first thing that you need to do when you are going to be painting your car with a small air compressor is to make sure that your workspace is covered.

Why do you need to cover the workplace before painting?

This ensures that you don’t get any paint on your nice, clean floor or wall. Also, make sure there is good ventilation in the work area as some paints can be toxic if inhaled.

Step 2: Clean the car

The next step is to make sure that your car is clean. You want to get all dirt and grime off before you start painting. If there is any dirt on your car, it will show up in the paint job.

The best way to do this is by washing your car and then waxing it. This will ensure that there is no dirt or dust on your car before you start painting and help to ensure a good finish.

Step 3: Remove the parts of your car you don’t want to paint.

There are certain parts on your car that you will want to leave unpainted. Think of trim pieces and moldings that you don’t want to paint, mirrors, emblems on the hood or trunk lid, or other sections that you don’t want to paint. You will need to remove these items before painting your car.

Step 4: Use right size air compressor for painting the car

This is the most important thing before painting a car. You must use the right size and type of air compressor for your paint job. You may think that a small air compressor is good enough to paint your car, but no. Using the right size compressor is essential for getting a quality job.

If you try to paint with a too-small air compressor, it will take all day to paint and may leave a bad finish. It is also very hard on the compressor motor and could burn it out.

What size air compressor do I need for painting a car?

For painting a car with excellent finishing, your compressor should be able to produce at least 15 – 18 cfm, air pressure should be minimum of 20 – 25 psi, and the tank size should be 50 gallons or higher. This size air compressor is good for painting jobs.

Step 5: Attachments for spray guns

Once you have the right size of air compressor, now it’s time to attach the gun. This is usually fairly straightforward; connect the spray gun attachment using the hose, connectors, and regulators.

Step 6: Check the airflow 

Now you should check the airflow before mixing the paint. The airflow should be between 15 to 18 cubic feet per minute(cfm). If the airflow is too low, it will take too long to paint. If you have too high of airflow, it will spray too much paint. So adjust the airflow to the right setting.

It is always advisable to check that it operates at the right pressure. Most compressors will come with an adjustable regulator, which you can use to control the pressure. You should set it between 15 to 25 psi. A tip for checking the pressure is to use an air pressure gauge, which you can get at most hardware stores.

Step 7: Mixing auto paint

The next thing that you need to do is to prepare the paint. You should always be sure to mix it well before use, as unmixed paint can cause a bad job. Mix the paint as per instruction on the label and place it in a separate container or bucket. The ratio depends on the size and type of your gun.

Step 8: Apply paint to the car with an air compressor

Now is the time to apply the paint to your car. Make sure that you spray in a nice steady motion, in one direction.

When applying the paint to your car, don’t just spray haphazardly all over the car. It is best to go in one direction, starting at one area and moving forward. Don’t try to put too much paint on at once – it will cause dripping.

Step 9: Wait and repeat

The last step in your car painting project is simply to wait and let the paint dry, then repeat. You will need to do this for about 3 coats, letting the paint dry in between each. This will give you a smooth finish and a great-looking car.

Precautions to follow when painting a car with an air compressor

When using an air compressor to paint your car it’s important to follow safety precautions to prevent from any problem. Here are 10 precautions that you should take.

  • Use ventilated space

It is always best to paint the car in a ventilated space. While painting, make sure there is adequate fresh air and ventilation because an air compressor emits strong fumes.

  • Never paint in direct sunlight

It’s best not to paint your car in direct sunlight. The sun can fade and crack the paint, so it’s best to paint your car in a shaded area.

  • Cover sensitive areas

Make sure to cover items you don’t want to be painted, such as the headlights and tail lights. You can use masking tape or newspaper for this.

  • Wear safety gear

It’s important to wear safety gear, especially when painting the car. A paint mask and goggles will protect you from inhaling fumes and splatters.

  • Read Instructions

When painting with an air compressor, you must read the instructions carefully before use to make sure that you know how to operate it properly. This includes checking that you have the right type of compressor for the project and following all safety instructions.

  • Don’t overuse the air compressor

You should not use your air compressor too frequently as this can weaken and damage it. You don’t want to overuse it while painting.

What type of paint can you use for an air compressor project?

You can use various types of paint for an air compressor project. There are several options available depending on the look that you want more than the type of paint. Here are the different types of paints that you can use for your air compressor project:

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is water-based, making it easy to clean up when you’re done painting. It also tends to be very durable and long-lasting. It can easily clean up with soapy water.

Latex paint

The most recommend paint by professionals is Latex paint. It is the most popular and widely available type of paint for an air compressor project. It’s easy to use, and you can find it at your local hardware store.

It comes in almost every color, and it is cheaper as compared to other acrylic paint. If you’re looking for the quickest drying time, this is the best type of paint to use


There are many variations on how to paint a car with a small air compressor depending on the type of project that you are doing. Some projects require more coats than others, some use different types of paint, and some require a different approach.

However, the important things to remember are always to follow all safety precautions read instructions carefully. 

By following the tips we’ve outlined in this article, you can minimize the risks and have a successful paint job. When you’re done with the project, make sure to clean up properly and store the equipment in a safe place.


Can I paint a car with a small air compressor?

The small air compressor takes longer to paint your car due to lack of volume and air pressure. However, it is still possible to do the job with a smaller compressor. The recommended size by experts for painting a car is 30 gallons or larger with at least 18 cm and a minimum pressure of 25 psi.

Can you paint a car with a 30 gallon air compressor?

Yes, you can paint a car with a 30 gallon air compressor. But it will take a little bit extra time as compared to a larger air compressor because you have to refill the compressor frequently and wait for it to refill with sufficient pressure. It’s best to use a compressor of 50 gallons or more that has at least 25 psi.

Which is the best paint for an air compressor?

Latex paint is the best paint type for an air compressor project. Latex paint is easy to clean up, and it doesn’t produce a lot of fumes.

By Matthew

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