My pick for best airbrush compressor is a generic version of an AS186
Getting a compressor for airbrushing miniatures is sort of a second thought thing. You find that amazing airbrush you want, and then you remember that you need a compressor for it. While not super important, a crappy compressor can negatively affect your experience.
My pick for best airbrush compressor is a tanked version of the AS186. This is a very solid compressor that, in my opinion, strikes the perfect balance between price and features – at least if you are using your airbrush for painting miniatures as a hobby. It is sturdy, has a tank, a way to get moist out, solid air pressure, does not make a ton of noise and it is a cheap option all things considered.
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What to look for in a “best airbrush compressor”
1. Something that will last long
The compressor is less important than the airbrush, but I recommend not saving here. A version of the AS186 will not cost you super much, but any cheaper and you will get either: something that breaks down, does not have good enough air pressure or that is very noisy.
2. A tank and auto on/off
If the compressor does not have a place to store the air, it will have to make it on demand when you pull the trigger of the brush. This means it will make noise constantly while painting! Also, the pressure will slowly drop, making it less consistent in spray pattern. Not what you want at all.
So you should get one with a tank and auto on/off feature.
This means that the compressor will fill up the tank in one go and you will be able to spray in silence until almost out of air. The compressor will kick in automatically and fill the tank with air when it is empty.
3. A moisture trap
Over time water will build up in your tank. If you have no way of removing it, the water will suddenly spray out of your airbrush. Not cool man!
So get a compressor with a water trap. It is the small plastic thing on the left of the compressor on the image above.
4. A way to regulate air pressure (PSI) and enough air power to airbrush miniatures
Regulating the PSI of the compressor is a must for painting miniatures. You should get one that can go in the 10-40 PSI range. This will be the range you will most likely need for painting miniatures with it. An AS186 will be sufficient for this.
5. Low volume of noise
This really depends on how much noise is a problem for you, but getting a compressor that does not make as much noise as a jet engine is a good idea for most people. Very crappy ones will tend to get noisier. An AS186 is not noiseless, but it is bearable because it only fills up the tank when it is needed.
6. Make sure it fits
Most compressors will fit to most airbrushes, but some airbrush makers feel the need to make a “special” insertion thing for their airbrushes (think Apple style).
As an example, you will need an adapter for the badger airbrush if you buy a stock standard compressor.
And of course this is not something you can read on the product page, which is quite irritating.
But besides Badger, I have not seen issues with the other big brands.
Other great compressors for airbrushing miniatures
So all this just goes to show that I think the AS186 will fill the requirements for most hobby painters, so you should buy in at that price point. But there are situations where you should consider something more expensive.
If less noise is very important, you should go with a Paasche D3000R Compressor. It is actually just a more expensive version of a generic AS186, but quite a bit silent and more sturdy.
If you really want the best of the best, look no further than the Iwata Power Jet Pro. This is like pro studio, paint miniatures for commotion style compressor.
It will allow you to hook up two airbrushes at once. This is nice if you change between a big and a small version a lot, but other then that it is not super relevant. But it as an amazing compressor, but the price is also set accordingly.