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Airbrushing air supply


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My friend is getting into airbrushing and she doesn't have a compressor. She's thinking about getting a compressor down the road a few months but in the mean time were thinking of using an alternate source of gas. Also we need an alternate in case she airbrushes at places she can't plug the compressor in at.

So my question is what is the best tank/cylinder that's portable to use. I saw these little 5gallon - 120psi portable air tanks, normally for blowing up bicycle tires, pool toys, etc., but i'm figuring that for airbrushing such a tank would only last a day, maybe too. The only upside to those is I can fill those tanks with my 80 Gal 7.5HP vertical compressor. Only problem is I don't see her often enough for her to come by and get fills every day or two.

So what am I left with? Should I get compressed air from airgas, or should I get nitrogen? This airbrushing is going to be on faces and bodyparts (Sensitive areas) for makeup type application so I don't want any gas that is noxious or toxic or dangerous around people. Also dry would be nice and cheap(relatively) as well.

Also what kind of regulator do i need for compressed air or nitrogten? Will any gas regulator work? I couldn't find an "air" regulator. :confused:

Halpz!! :)

Edited by Avadon
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First thing would be to Google air brushing. There are tooooons of sites. I was checking them out when I was messing around with mine.

A small air tank can be filled with a bike, or similar pump. You could even put a hand crank on a small compressor head to fill it. A lot will depend on the volume of work being done. Are you talking about a film type makeup artist, or a county fair booth type setup?

Small volume could use a bottle. For more work I would go with a compressor. The gases can get expensive. Running straight of the compressor you can get some pulsing, or you can run it into a tank first.

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I've done an impressive amount of googling already but it's hard to really choose the best option here. For quiet motorless airbrushing where there is no power, for film/makeup type airbrushing where very minimal psi is being done would the portable air tank hold enough? I know a cylinder holds a great deal of air. How long does it take for instance to go through a 5 gallon portable air tank at approximately 5psi? Would that give a day or two of work or would you be out in an hour or so?

Filling up a 5gallon tank with an airpump seems like it would not be very fun. Seems like it would take forever, wouldn't it?

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I have an air brush compressor about the size of a football that sits on the floor below the desk. There was no air storage tank (tankless), and no need for down time to rebuild air pressure or volume as it was designed to produce all the continuous air required for an air brush. The noise can be an issue if you need absolute quiet, but is otherwise acceptable.

I have also used the air brush connected to a small shop compressor. This combination has the advantage of being able to operating several compressors at the same time. There is the noise issue with this compressor as it was designed for a shop and not an office.

If you do not have electric, and are doing any amount of air brushing, tanks of air (or other gasses) can get expensive and will always need refilled at the most inopportune times. The tanks will need to be regulated to supply a even pressure, and still fade toward the end of the air supply. You will need at least two tanks, and/or a way to replenish the air supply.

One of the things you may want to consider is a little 5 gallon - 120psi portable air tank you can get at the auto parts store and a 12 volt air compressor like used to inflate tires. A 12 volt car battery should keep you going for a while, or until the battery runs our of power. A cheap regulator will even the pressure out and provide better results.

Air brushes do consume a lot of air, so plan your air supply according to your needs.

A spray booth or ventilated area is a good idea. You may want to consider the effects of breathing the over spray if you work with the air brush for any length of time.

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Being tight, once the can of compressed air that came with his airbrush ran out my dad used to use a car inner tube that he piped through a water trap (you need a water trap if your using air). Either pump back up with a stirrup pump or take it to a petrol station and use there airhose. If you decide that air brushing is for you then you can look at investing in a compressor.

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If your friend is going to do any amount of airbrushing then she is going to need a comp. of some sort, big or small, bought or home made, it does'nt matter but unless she has a very large tank then it isn't going to last long enough to work out too well, a small compressor can be bought for less than $200 if you shop around and it would be enough to run an airbrush.
Definately need a regulator with a water seperator, or else she will get very agrivated when a little condensation from the tank ruins her work.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I have been in the Temporary airbrush tattoo biz in a past life. The 5 gal 120 psi tank won't last but 30 minutes to an hour at most. We started off with the cheap yet noisy home depot or harbor freight compressors. Under $100 and it worked fine. Just noisy. We then upgraded to an airbrush compressor for several hundred dollars. Very quiet and did a great job. When we ended up from time to time having to do a gig with no power available we went to Co2 tank with a regulator. The tank we rented and had it filled for $26. The regulator can be expensive $150 if you buy it new. That was the best settup we ever used. No hastle, no noise, no extension cords and we could tattoo in the middle of a cornfield if need be. Hope this helps. It is or was at that time a money maker. Good luck to your girlfriend.

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