The second in a continuing series of airbrushing articles:
Compressors and their accessories are one of the bigger concerns past the airbrush itself that many have when they're considering stepping into the world of airbrushing. Instead of digging through each and every option and compressor out there I'll just be going over a few of the bigger options you'll want to look for and a few that you might get away without should you be on a limited budget for your set up.
Air compressors come in many different shapes and sizes, each will have a variety of strengths and weaknesses. The compressor above is one of the better compromises between price and features I've found, and while still a little pricey for some at $187 you can scale things back in terms of the features and find one that fits you and what you'd like to do.
The average air pressure many around the web seem to be using is anywhere from 15-35psi, find something that can at least keep the brush going at a continuous 20psi.
An air tank attached to your compressor will allow your pressures to be more consistent and keep your brush from having a 'surge' of air before getting to the desired consistent pressure. A good amount of tanks come in the 1 gallon (3.7 liters) and finding a combo deal that comes pre-attached will save you the hassle of fitting everything yourself.
Regulator and Moisture Trap
These are a must have for anyone. Some way to regulate your pressure will allow you to switch between finer detail work or spraying your entire force. Having a moisture trap will keep random spurts from blasting out in your air flow. Many of these come attached right out of the compressor/tank and as long as you're not running an extremely long hose, you shouldn't need an in line trap.
Some compressor/tank combos come with this option and helps keep your compressor from running constantly when your tank is already full which could lead to overheating. It's also a great option for those who want a quieter experience but aren't willing to shell out the major bucks that you'd see from a high end 'silent' type.
On a budget?
Some of the things listed above are a must have, others are a nice 'luxury' that allow you more control and consistency. An auto on/off isn't going to be something you necessarily need in order to get started. An air tank isn't a 'must' but definitely something you'll want after a few short sessions of painting. You can get away with just a compressor with a moisture trap and some way of regulating the pressure.
Find something that fits you and your needs, and remember you get what you pay for as with anything. Getting a good compressor early on will save you from purchasing another later on.
This article is far from definitive, but it touches on the main points that most people mention when talking airbrushing. So let's open it up to the floor! I want to hear your thoughts on compressor must haves for new users. What should people look for in their first compressor?