How To Paint A Car With A Small Air Compressor

Car painting generally involves a whole lot of activities which may be complicated as well as easy processes. DIY car painters needs to have the appropriate tools and useful knowledge in the field  to successfully paint a car.

If you’re spray painting, an air compressor is a compulsory apparatus to aid the painting process. Spray painting cannot be done without an air compressor, adequate knowledge and guides on choosing and utilizing the right air compressors is also important to the spraying process.

How To Paint A Car With A Small Air Compressor

What Are Air Compressors?

Air compressors  are pneumatic instruments(that use air and compressed gas) to convert power into potential energy. They can be used to power nail guns, paint sprays, and drive pneumatic hardware devices. It works by pressuring and forcing air into a tank or container and then reusing the air in form of controlled energy. Before getting an air compressor be sure to check the horsepower, the tank size, the CFM and ensure it’s in good condition to get the best output. You would want to get an air compressor that fits perfectly with your spray gun and one that is able to match your needs perfectly. If you’re not well versed or literate in this aspect you could get professional advice on the brand to check out before making a purchase.

In relation to car and automobiles, air compressors could be used for spray painting and other activities such as pressure washing.

Tools/Equipments Required To Paint With A Small Air Compressor?

Car painting isn’t something that can be done with faulty or inappropriate equipment, the use of wrong methods or tools can ruin the painting process or even make it impossible to do. When you have all the necessary tools, the painting job becomes fun to do, easier, faster and yields good results.

If you’re planning on painting your car with a small air compressor, there are a list of required tools to get before starting.

  • Safety googles
  • Masks
  • Gloves
  • A spray painting gun
  • Spray gun attachments(regulators, hoses, filters)
  • A compatible air compressor
  • Paint resistant paper.

How To Paint A Car With A Small Air Compressor?

Panting a car with an air compressor that matches the spray gun is essential to avoid encountering problems or difficulties while painting. As an inexperienced painter, do not expect to get an even color  overcoat on your first try, however with my guidelines and constant practice, you’ll soon become a professional car painter.

I have broken down the process into bit by bit steps that’ll ensure you get proper guidelines before you start painting with a small air compressor.

How To Paint A Car With A Small Air Compressor

If you do not intend on spraying the entire car or if you just want to touch up a fraction of your car surface, ensure to seal off the area you want to paint. This is to avoid getting paint on other parts of the car, try to seal of the windows as well. If you’re not a professional in car painting yet, you might want to paint in small fractions.

Set up your air compressor and test-spray it on another surface to get it ready for use. If you’ve done all of the above checks, we can start spray painting.

Step 1:

Put on your protective gear, including masks and gloves.

Step 2:

Clean up the areas you want to paint, remove all dirt, extra coatings or any other materials on the car surface that may interfere with the painting process.

Step 3:

Using a professional standard mixing ratio, mix your paint properly and efficiently. If you’re using the single stage paint or two stage paint, ensure you’re well aware of their properties, brand and guidelines.

Step 4:

 Ensure that your compressed air spray is giving out a very consistent CFM and confirm that it works well with your spray gun.

Step 5:

Connect the air sprayer to the air compressor via a hose and attach other equipment. Fix your filters and regulators to eliminate dirt and other unnecessary components.

Step 6:

Test the output by spraying on a different surface (example a cardboard), observe the flow and the system. Check if you’re getting a uniform spray texture and thickness, ensure consistency in output delivery. If all of the tested tools are in good state to paint, then proceed to the next step.

Step 7:

Begin your paint application by spraying at your desired spot and ensuring a distance of 10 to 20cm between you and the car surface.

Step 8:

The last step is letting the paint air-dry under normal weather conditions. This should take a few hours(about 1to 3 hours). Afterwards, you can remove all protective coverage on the windows and other parts of the car.

The painting process is complete. However, if you intend on spraying an extra coat, do so within a day(12 to 24 hours precisely) after the first coating dries up.


Q: Can I use a small air compressor to paint a complete car surface?
A: Using a small compressor to paint a whole car is not advisable due to the fact that the tank will need constant refills which might cause unevenness in the painting and coating. However, it can be used effectively for smaller car portions or sections.

Q: Which tank size should I use to get good spray painting for a large portion of my car?
A: For consistency and large surface painting, a 60 gallon compressor or even higher capacity  is recommended.

Q: How many CFM does my air compressor need?
A: The CFM rating is more important than the tank size of your air compressor because the CFM is responsible for consistency and air output in spray painting.

You need about 3 CFM and above that for good results.


Air compressors are versatile and are highly effective in projecting energy. To do an excellent car spraying job, do not go for cheaper or bad condition air compressors, use adequate equipment and follow the steps listed above in your paint application.

Check your CFM and get a tank size that wouldn’t require more than 1 or 2 refills to complete the painting( this would give your work a more consistent and even look). As an inexperienced DIY painter, closely follow my stated guidelines and use all required tools and gear.

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