Hey car lovers, if you are too fed up with your car’s old color, why not wear a new outfit to your dear friend.

You could bring him to your nearby car repair shop to refresh his appearance. Or more interesting, you could create your car’s new look by painting.

For those who are wondering how to paint a car perfectly and the question “How many CFM do you need to paint a car” has already hovered on your mind lately, please take a glance at our article for more interesting and useful information.

Let’s jump in!

All You Need to Know About an Air Compressor

Beside the efficiency, using a sprayer can cause an issue of overspray that can affect the final appearance of the object.

This factor does not only influence on the outfit of the ending layer but also generate material waste and a lot of mess.

You Might be Wondering: What is an Air Compressor?

Air compressors are a specialized machine that converts power into pressured air which is subsequently utilized to power tools or power spray gun.Currently, air compressors come in a wide selection of applications. As a result, picking up a proper air compressor could be a challenging mission.

It is advisable that an item which is purposely engineered for spray guns. If not, your compressor isn’t able to deliver a sufficient amount of power to get the thing done.

Several Key Factors to Consider

Air pressureIf you search google on air compressor for spray painting car, there are tons of searches in just a second. It somehow proves the wide range of air compressor products in the market now.Do you know key factors deciding whether an air compressor is good or bad?

If no, purchasing the desired compressor could be a tough mission. So we picked out 3 main factors for you to refer:

1. Air Pressure

This indicator is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch). I’ve got received tons of questions like “How much PSI to paint a car,” so we will answer this question after explaining what PSI is.

Nowadays, most spray guns are HVLP (high volume low pressure) guns. And they all require low PSI indicator.

In case you have an LVLP (low volume low pressure) spray gun, a compressor with a low PSI performance is still needed. And actually, CFM rating indicator is a decisive factor vastly forming the huge difference between HVLP and LVLP spray guns.

2. CFM Rating

CFM is the abbreviation of cubic feet per minute which is a highly crucial factor that you should seek for before making a purchase. This indicator shows how much air could be provided at a certain pressure.

In general, paint guns tend to require a higher CFM rating compared to other air tools. A spray gun normally operates from 0.3 to 12 CFM.

It also means that you need a compressor which provides from 4 CFM to 19 CFM (both for touch – ups and undercoating).

Notably, an air compressor with low CFM rating isn’t recommended as it could cause uneven paint flow, or paint splattering.

3. Tank Size

When painting, consistent power plays an important role in deciding on whether your car’s new outfit beautiful or not. From our experience, a decent air compressor with a capacity of approximately 60 gallons will make sure your project runs smoothly.

So when one of our readers asked us that “Can you paint a car with a 30 gallon air compressor?”, then you guys have known the answer, right?

Advantages of Using Compressed Air Compared to Other Power Sources

Advantages of using compressed air comparedTo be honest, compressed air surpasses other power sources due to numerous advantages below:

  • User-friendly: Pneumatic tools generally weigh less compared to electric tools. Hence, pneumatic tools are much more ergonomically friendly.
  • Cost: In fact, this factor ranks first in the consideration list of all car lovers. If you pick up an compressed air, so congratulation as the initial purchase cost of air tools are less than hydraulic or comparable electric tools.
  • Safety: This factor is considered to be the biggest pros of using compressed air. When you go for compressed air, electrical shock potential is significantly reduced. It makes your painting time more fun and safe.
  • Mobility: In general, compressed air is more flexible than electric tools. In the current market, there are a bunch of mobile air compressors. These air compressors are engineered wheeled portables and driven units for the sake of mobility.
  • Versatility: Compressed air can be regulated which allows differing pressure range uses in one piping system.
  • Efficiency: In comparison to electrical grids, compressed air distribution systems tend to be more effortless and less costly to set up.

Moreover, the compressed air system is capable of being modified for several points of utilizing much more effectively.

  • Low maintenance: Normally, air tools require less downtime and maintenance than hydraulic tools. Plus, unlike electric tools, air tools won’t burn the air tool motor up in low electrical voltage situations.
  • Reduced risk: Air tools’ system leakage won’t harm the workplace as hydraulic fluid leaks do.
  • Cooler operation: While operating, the expanded air drives away the heat of operation, so air tools run cooler.

How Many CFM do You Need to Paint a Car?

CFM do you need to paint a carThis is the main topic that everyone is looking forward to knowing. So as you wish, below are the answers for “How many CFM do I need for spray painting?” and “What size air compressor is needed to paint a car?” questions.

Everyone knows the output of the air compressor is highly important in getting optimum painting performance. And CFM is a crucial indicator that all car lovers look for when shopping. Many compressors require in excess 12 CFM.

According to numerous researches lately, it is advisable to go for a 60 –gallon tank with a 6 HP compressor which could put out sufficient CFM that supplies your spray gun.

Based on our experience, you should look for CFM in the array of 14 – 18 at 90 PSI.

How to Paint Cars with an Air Compressor?

How to paint cars with an air compressor?

Preliminary Steps

  • Step 1: Select your paint and thinner: Acrylics, oil-based enamels, and latex paints are widely used with a compressed air tool. To have a viscous paint to freely flow through the metering valve assembly, nozzle, and siphon tube, you should add an appropriate thinner.
  • Step 2: Prepare the painting area: To make sure your ground clean and neat after the painting, it is highly recommended to drop sheet plastic, cloth, scrap lumber and other protective material on the floor, ground or any furniture.
    Additionally, protect nearby surfaces carefully from “overspray” with painter’s tape, masking, newspaper or painter’s paper.
    Notably, airborne paint particle could drift farther in outdoor conditions or in windy weather, so place effective protection against undesired factors.
    What is more, to give a better protection on your home furniture, it’s advisable to set your thinner and paint on a proper surface.
  • Step 3: Equip sufficient personal protective equipment: Painting stuff is highly harmful to your health, so wearing sufficient protective equipment plays an important role in protecting yourself from dangerous particulates, fumes, skin diseases, and respiratory system – related illness.
    In detail, protective equipment includes respirator or mask, gloves, and safety glasses.
  • Step 4: Get the surface ready to be painted: Brush, grind and sand off corrosion and rust from dust, metal, dirt and let it dry completely.
    When you tend to apply the oil- based paints on the car, you should use mineral spirits to wash the surface. In case we opt for acrylic or latex paints soap and water are all you need.
  • Step 5: Use a primer to prime the surface if needed: You could apply a primer layer on the surface before heading to painting step.

Prep the Compressor

  • Turn on your air compressor: Firstly, let’s build up the pressure. The compressor is equipped a regulator to permit us to set a certain pressure for the sprayer.
    If not, fluctuations may occur due to the unsustainability of prayer’s pressure.
    Regulate the regulator on the air tool from 12 to 25 PSI. This is also the answer to the question “What PSI should I use to paint a car?” you guys asked us last week. In practice, the precise amount of PSI differs from sprayer to sprayer.
  • Join the sprayer to the air hose coupling: Joint it tightly. This step may be not needed if your sprayer has already had quick connect couplings.
  • Pour a sufficient amount of paint thinner into a cup: If you pour out too much paint, it could dry fast, hence causing unnecessary waste
  • Unlock the metering valve gently
  • Prime the sprayer: Place the nozzle into a waste bucket, then squeeze the trigger. It may take a while to prime with liquid. At first, only air could come out of the nozzle. After that, you’ll get a stream of paint thinner.
    In case there is no thinner coming out of the nozzle, you have to disassemble your sprayer to examine for loose seals or stoppages in the siphon tube assembly.
  • Pour out any remaining thinner in the spray cup: A funnel helps, turpentine and mineral spirits could be stored in their original containers.


Paint carsThis is the most important step in your whole painting project. So focus on what we are going to mention below:

  • Mix sufficient amount of paint: After opening the paint’s can and mix it meticulously, let pour enough of it to do your project and clean the container.
    In case you let the paint stored in the container for a pretty long time, when pouring out, you need to strain it through a filter to remove all hardened paint and lumped which have formed.
    Otherwise, these hardened paints could stop up the metering valve or siphon tube and making the flow of paint stops.
  • Thin out the paint with a proper thinner: The accurate proportion of paint to thinner will vastly depend on your sprayer, nozzle type, and paint. However, the paint should be thinned out by approximately 15 to 20% for a continuous flow.
  • Pile up nearly 2/3 of the paint cup and lock it onto the sprayer: It’s obvious that you don’t ever want your spray cup to fall out while doing the project suddenly, then make sure to always attaches the spray cup to the middle of the sprayer thoroughly.
  • Keep the sprayer about 6 – 10 inches from the surface: Attempt to move the spray gun up and down sweeping motion, side to side or parallel to the surface.
    In case this is the first time you’ve used this paint applicator, please practice swinging and holding it until you get a feel for the weight and balance.
  • Press the trigger to spray the paint: Whenever the trigger is pressed, keep the sprayer moving to stay away from runs and drips triggered off by over application
  • Overlap each pass marginally: By overlapping each pass slightly, the spray pattern’s “feathered” edges won’t leave a thin stain in your paint job.
  • Keep refilling the paint cup until your project is fully done: Don’t ever let the sprayer to stop with paint in it. If you need to take a little rest, you should remember to remove the cup and the spurt some thinner before letting the sprayer sit.
  • Let the paint dry and recoat if needed: A perfect paint job requires a second coat layer for the sake of high durability. It is popularly advisable that for polyurethane finishes, varnishes or glossy paints, you should sand between coats to advance the bond between each coat.

Clean up

  • Stream out the unused paint: In case there is a considerable amount of paint remaining, you could return it to its original can. Notably, the paint left is thinner than the rest of paint in the can, so remember to adjust the quantity of thinner used in the next project.
  • Remove all paint paper and tape from your painting area: It is recommended to remove this protective stuff as soon as your project has completely dried. Otherwise, it is super hard to remove.


All things considered, an air compressor which has CFM ranging from 14 to 18 is perfect for your paint job.

Besides, in our opinion, there are numerous 30 – gallon tank, 40 – gallon tank compressor in the market which is sold at an affordable price.

But honestly, it isn’t worth your money as it isn’t able to paint your whole car. So consider thoroughly before making a purchase.

Hopefully, after reading this article, when a friend asks you “How many CFM do you need to paint a car,” you could fluently answer him.

Finally, yet importantly, thank you for reading our article. Keep following us as in the next article; we will introduce you a list of outstanding portable Air compressor for HVLP. Love you to the moon and back.