Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models – 2021

Last Updated on February 2, 2021 by FauxHammer

We’ve already looked at the Best Airbrushes and the Best Beginner Airbrush. But an airbrush is nought without an air compressor. Well, you could try blowing through it yourself but I doubt you’d get very far. Try it, and let us know how it goes. In lieu of that option, below we are taking a look at the best Airbrush Compressors for your Miniatures & Models.

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Airbrush compressors are quite a simple affair, they compress air and express it through an outlet, connect this to your airbrush and away you go.

When it comes to getting the best out of them, it’s better to have something with variable air pressure control. Along with paint consistency, this is one of the main requirements to get the most out of your spraying.

If the pressure is too low (for your paint consistency) you will create speckling and if it’s too high you create spider-webbing.

It’s most important to have a compressor which can offer the right pressure for your particular airbrush and paint.

Aside from that, the only considerations to make are the noise levels and your budget. There are some special features such as multiple pistons for faster compression or the ability to use multiple airbrushes. But these are optional extras available on a few models and these are probably suited to studios and commission painters who are working all day every day.

We’ll look at a variety of options below considering everything from features to budget.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models – Summary

For those who just want the list without reason, please see below for the list of the best Airbrush Compressors for Miniatures & Models.

1 Iwata Power Jet Pro
2Sparmax TC-620
3Sparmax TC-610H
4Iwata Smart Jet Plus Tubular
5Generic Airbrush Compressor with tank
6Generic Airbrush Compressor
7Sparmax Arism / Arism Mini
8Iwata Ninja Jet Compressor
9Mini Airbrush Compressor
10Rechargeable Airbrush Compressor

Best psi for airbrushing models?

How long is a piece of string? The absolute bare minimum you would need is 15-18psi for things like you’re average primer. Generally though for proper airbrushing you want at least 30psi to work with many of the denser pigments we’ll encounter in standard miniature paints.

If you will be using only Airbrush Specific Paints, Like Vallejo Air or Citadel Air, these are much thinner generally. So if you are budget or space-conscious 22psi as a mid-range is a nice target to shoot for.

You may also find when choosing an airbrush. Many of them may suggest an optimal airbrush pressure. Honestly, in my experience, this is absolutely arbitrary. It’s more about your paint consistency than the airbrush itself.

Why this all matters?

Well if you are starting at the lower end of airbrush compressors, you can limit yourself by getting a compressor where the pressure is too low, Because you may struggle with thicker paints.

Next, you can limit yourself by getting a compressor without variable pressure flow as the only way you can avoid speckling and spider webbing is with an exact paint-thinner consistency, which is very tricky at lower pressure ranges.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models

10. Generic Rechargeable Airbrush Compressor

I’ve referred to these as ‘generic’ becasue you will find multiple brands offering them online. FTVOGUE, ABEST, Sharplace. They’re all the same thing. This is on this list for one reason, budget. For very little money you can get a USB rechargeable battery operated compressor, with an airbrush.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Generic Rechargeable Airbrush Compressor

For miniature painting, the airbrush you get with these is considered trashy, the compressor isn’t much better. It’s rated output is 15-30psi (lol, expect closer to 15psi). I tend to set my own compressor (not this) at 30 psi initially for most base paints and adjust as necessary. Thinner paints such as airbrush specific or even airbrush primers can be fine as low as 22psi.

This unit only works well with Single Action Airbrushes, mainly, the specific on you get with it. Single action means, it constantly feeds air through the nozzle at a set rate and you just pull back to spray. Most higher-end (proper) airbrushes are dual-action, which means push down to release air and pull back to release paint

That doesn’t mean this is without consideration. If budget is your main concern or you’re very limited on space. This is still (IMHO) a better thing to use than aerosol primers. Because most airbrush primers are great at self-levelling and you can spray indoors-all year-round. You will get speckling and it will be harder to put down base colour layers with this than any other compressor on the list.

You can connect any airbrush you like, but it would be an absolute waste connecting this up to anything more than a cheap generic airbrush like the kind we mention in our Best Beginner Airbrush Article.

9. Generic Mini Airbrush Compressor

Again a generic model as there are multiple brands offering this. Very similar to the option above except this one plugs into the mains.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Generic Mini Airbrush Compressor

This again offers 15-30 psi (which as above, I’m certain is a joke) but you’d probably get closer to that higher number (but just a bit) thanks to the consistent mains power. The PSI here is variable, meaning you can set a variable pressure. Without a pressure gauge, however, what you are getting is guesswork. you’ll get a random average between 15-30psi (more like 15psi max). This is entry-level and the only reason it is on the list is for those who are budget conscious. for who just want the smallest taste of airbrushing without breaking the bank.

Please consider, this won’t give you anywhere near the full airbrushing experience. If you get this and find that you hate airbrushing, there’s a very good chance that it’s this you hate, not the technique.

Please don’t consider this for anything more than priming and base coating a miniature. Maybe some zenithal shading, but you’ll need really thin paint and several light passes, or expect it to speckle.

But again, Still better than Rattle-Cans IMHO

8. Iwata Ninja Jet Compressor

This unit is a much more professional version of the above mini airbrush compressor. Iwata is a stand out name amongst Airbrushing, and this is very much their entry-level model.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Iwata Ninja Jet Compressor

What you are essentially getting here is a compact desktop compressor. But with a pressure rating of 0-15psi, it’s hard to pick this over either of the options above.

Whilst you get variable pressure using a control knob on it’s face, there’s no pressure readout so understanding the pressure you are operating at is guesswork.

There’s the similarly priced Iwata Silver Jet Compressor which does have a pressure readout, but a similar maximum PSI level.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Iwata Silver Jet Compressor

Honestly, at the price of these, it’s very hard to recommend them for miniature painters. You can get more options, and higher pressure rating at a much lower cost (see below).

Much like the Iwata Neo airbrush, you are likely spending unnecessary amounts of money when a generic item has more features at a fraction of the cost.

But these aren’t bad products, in fact, they are rather high quality. They are arguably much better than the options above as they will last longer. But unless you are making Warhammer 40,000 cakes as a side business. I’d move along.

7. Sparmax Arism / Arism Mini

This one is a really good pick. If you have reservations over the more generic mass-produced models below then this model produced by the Sparmax Brand (essentially Harder & Steenbeck who make excellent airbrushes).

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Arism Mini

This one is a great little desktop option, offering up to 28 psi at a fairly reasonable cost and it comes in various colours.

But once again you have no pressure readout, it is worth noting that you can fashion an in-line pressure gauge using a t-junction. but it would have been nice to see one included.

An alternate choice is the larger Arism unit.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Arism

This one (at nearly half the cost again on top) does have a pressure gauge, and operates up to 35psi. yay But, and maybe I’m crazy, there is no pressure regulation control on the unit?!

Instead, you get a bleed valve in the line which lets out the air before it reaches the brush (lowering the pressure). But the issue here, I find, is that when this valve is open to release the pressure, the compressor itself will continually run to try and get back up to 35psi. So when trying to run at lower pressure, it’s constantly on and whirring away at you.

6. Generic Airbrush Compressor (AS18-2)

You’ll find the exact same model of airbrush compressor online under many different brands. The AS-182 is the choice for the majority of miniature painters.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - AS18-2

Featured in our best beginner airbrush for miniatures and models article.

This is what I’d call a proper airbrush compressor with variable pressure.

Like the options above, this compressor comes on immediately when you press the trigger on your airbrush and compresses air as you use it. So, noise happens

One thing to be aware of is that the operating pressure is different from the initial set pressure. Set this to 30 psi and pull the trigger you will see the needle drop immediately to 25psi or lower. This is because the airbrush is compressing the air as you use it. So, when it builds up to to 30 PSI, that’s the pressure built up in the compressor body and hose itself.

Also worth noting that with these models, prolonged use can build up water in your air line. There is a moisture trap on these but this only remove moisture build up from between the compression chamber and the start of the hose. The air in the hose is also pressurised so you will get pressure build uphere too. may be worth investing in an in-line moisture trap when getting one of these. or you could inadvertantly soak a mini.

Because of this, the compressor pistons run longer making the brush louder whilst in operation. It’s a damn good little unit and I used one of these exclusively for over 3 years. If you want to dive straight in to proper airbrushing, I would highly recommend that this is where you should really start as a miniature painter. If it wasn’t for the next model on our list.

5. Generic Airbrush Compressor (AS-186) with tank


This is the absolute sweet-spot for newer airbrush painters.

This is exactly the same as the option above with one difference, it has an air tank. This tank is used to store your compressed air. There are several great advantages to having a tank as all of the options below do.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures - Airbrush

The tank version of the AS-186 costs only a little more. But this storage tank means that when you press the trigger on your airbrush, the compressor does not immediately kick in. Instead, it uses the air within the tank until the pressure starts to drop below your operational preference. At this point, the motor kicks in and refills the tank.

This gives a more consistent overall pressure (and it generally stays higher) as the setting should stay constant whether or not the trigger is pulled. The added benefit is that it’s not making as much noise throughout your spraying. The compressor motor only kicks in when it’s filling the tank. This can also help extend the life of your compressor motor as it’s not running constantly. Not building up as much heat (we know mechanical parts work best when they are cool) and therefore should operate for longer.

With a tank, however, just remember you actually empty it from time to time. Compressed air will build up moisture which will store in the bottom of your tank. drain this after each session or you will end up rusting it from inside out.

This choice for a compressor will be the go-to for most miniature painters.

It’s bigger brother the AS 196 is the same again but features 2 compressor pistons. It’s no louder, it just fills up faster and shares the mechanical load.

4. Iwata Smart Jet Plus Tubular Compressor

I know what was said above about a tank and here we are a unit higher on this list which seemingly does not have a tank. Oh but it does…..

The “Tubular” call out in it’s name is completely unrelated to any 90s phrases, specifically those used by 4 popular ass-kicking reptiles.

That’s why we have ranked this one higher. The totally-tubular (sorry) handle is also 450cc tank. which is kinda clever. if you are low on space, or you think portability is important, this could be the option for you. I considered getting this for a very long time.

Especially as it opetrates at up to 60 psi, it is pretty rad.

Synonymous with Iwata is quality and this is no exception. though it does have a sizeable price tag. You do get a nice feature which is an airbrush holder built onto the compressor. Just a pity it sits next to the really hot radiator part of the compressor.

3. Sparmax TC-610H Compressor

This is an absolutely solid unit which should be taken with serious consideration for anyone of the higher-end airbrushing persuasion.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Sparmax TC-610H

This has everything a serious miniature airbrush painter needs. up to 60psi working pressure. a 2.5 litre tank. Pressure gauge and regulation control and it comes in a large protective case with suction cup feet.

The price for this isn;t too bad either considering some of the more expensive options on the list this is actually fairly reasonable

What is really nice ios that this unit comes with various adapters so you can connect up pretty much any brand of airbrush. Such as a badger airbrush as they do not use the same connector as wother brands which has kind-of become the connection standard.

2. Sparmax TC-620, double piston Compressor

This is the compressor I use personally and I upgraded directly from an AS-18-2 model above. Just advising this as there no need to cycle through a range of compressors as you upgrade. And I’m also explaining again just how good those AS-18x units are.

This is very similar to the TC-610H mentioned above. Again up to 60psi operating pressure with a regulator and gauge. Well, actually it has 2 gauges so you can see the pressure on the tank and on top. Once again this houses a 2.5-litre tank and a solid protective case.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Sparmax TC-620x

Once again this comes with various connectors for a wide variety of airbrush brands. connectors are cheap enough on Amazon, but of all the different ones I have ever bought, I’ve always had issues with cheapo Amazon or eBay connectors and these ones worked perfectly with my badger airbrushes.

The real stand out feature here is that this unit has two compressor pistons. it’s no louder than a single-piston compressor, but it fills up the tank in half the time. That being said, I’ve found that the case adds a lot of stability to the compressor which generally reduces the sound created by the vibrations.

The other really great feature is that you can connect up two airbrushes and even stand them in the included stands on top. Though the pressure you set is the same for both brushes, so you can have one at 20 psi and another at 40psi.

This is a brilliant choice for people who airbrush with a buddy or maybe run a studio teaching people the techniques. Personally, I went for this because I’m doing a lot of Oil and Enamel airbrushing work alongside my acrylics and this lets me have 2 airbrushes hooked up at once so I can swiftly change between them.

1. Iwata Power Jet Pro

This is the compressor which Studios and Commission painters flock to. It’s certainly not cheap but it is an excellent unit. Iwata is one of the 3 major airbrush brands thought of when it comes to miniature airbrushing. Iwata’s claim to fame is precision engineering.

Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models - Iwata Power Jet Pro

This level of quality carries over to their compressors. The Power Jet Pro is a dual output compressor which allows you to run 2 airbrushes at the same time, each with their own pressure regulation valves. This is great if you have a need for running 2 airbrushes. if you are a heavy airbrush user you know the value of having one airbrush as a workhorse for priming and base coating and another for detail work. Or if you often paint with a friend or partner you can airbrush together at the same time.

The two output hoses are quick release so it’s easy to disconnect one and keep the other running, it also comes with 2 hoses and adaptors for all major airbrush ranges.

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(Affiliate links will result in compensation to the site on qualifying purchases)

Click this link & buy your hobby stuff from Element Games for the UK & Europe to support – Use Code “FAUX2768” at the checkout for double reward points.

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Best Airbrush Compressor for Miniatures & Models – Final Thoughts

Selecting an airbrush compressor is really dependant on your budget vs your need. From the generic AS-186 with a tank, there’s little more a miniature hobbyist requires. Spending more money is not going to get you better air.

After that, it’s really just about looking to get a compressor which is either quieter or has features such as allowing you to run multiple airbrushes.

Please Note: This site uses affiliate links. Our Affiliate Partners are shown below
(Affiliate links will result in compensation to the site on qualifying purchases)

Click this link & buy your hobby stuff from Element Games for the UK & Europe to support – Use Code “FAUX2768” at the checkout for double reward points.

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