Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Airbrushing Part 7, Compressors

Many of you out there already own a compressor, or your significant other owns a compressor. How can you use that compressor with the Copic Airbrush System so you don't have to keep buying little cans of air? I get many questions "I have this compressor and I'd like to use it with my Copics, what do I need?" Hopefully today's post will clear that up.

Just to put it in perspective, there are many air compressors on the market for about $100 that would work with the Copic system. An Aircan 180 costs about $14, so if you find yourself going through more than four or five Aircan 180's you are probably a good candidate for a compressor. You'll save money and the environment (though aircans can be recycled) by not buying cans all the time.

First of all, to work with any compressor you'll need an ABS 3 or the parts that equal an ABS 3: an air grip and an air adaptor. If you have an ABS 1 then you have those parts, if you have an ABS 2, then you just need to get the air adaptor. Then you need to look for the following qualities-

If you already have a compressor:
1. PSI- most important. Your compressor needs to go between 40-60 psi. (some small compressors only go to 35 psi and I've heard of people who do fine with those).

2. Fittings- The Copic Airbrush system runs on a standard European 1/8" fitting that is found on Iwata or Sparmax compressors. Whatever compressor you have needs to either match our fittings or you'll need to find a little adaptor bolt. For most brands of art compressors (Badger, Paasche, etc.) you can find a little adaptor bolt for less than $5 from the knowledgable people at Dixie Art . If you don't know your compressor brand or it's exact hose fitting size then it's much harder to find an adaptor (over the phone or e-mail I am not much help either, since there are too many brands out there). You would need to check with a hose fitting distributor (like an industrial refrigerator store) to find out what you need.

3. Correct hose- The hose that comes in an ABS-1 is for aircans ONLY. It will not work with a compressor. Make sure that you have a hose that will work with our system and your compressor. The Copic 1/8 to 1/8" hose is what we use for compressors, but make sure that you have a correct fitting for your compressor (step 2).

When buying a compressor, things to look for:
1. All of the above. Some compressors come with a hose, some don't. Some will fit our system without any adaptors, some don't. Make sure the PSI is good. We like systems with a moisture trap but you don't necissarily need one.

2. Price. Compressors range from about $100 to $1000 or more. There are lots of used art air compressors as well as brand new ones. The air compressor we sell at Copic runs about $200 retail, but it includes a really nice airhose, so figure the hose in the pricing as well.

3. Quality. Usually price and quality go together, but in this case I want you to remember something: You are spraying air across the tip of little markers. You probably don't need the fanciest compressor with all the bells and whistles, you just need a compressor that works and is easy to use. Most hobby compressors will probably work just fine and you don't need to get the expensive fine art compressor that's used by professional detailers for auto design or something. If you are not going to be traveling with it then you probably don't need the heavy-duty models either. I've had people tell me they get great results from some discount $100 models and other brands they haven't had good results with. Do your homework and look for user feedback on whatever model you intend to purchase.

4. Size/ Noise. Mini air-compressors are usually small and relatively quiet, though each model varies. If possible ask around and see how noisy or large a compressor is.

I hope this gives you an idea of what to look for when airbrushing and getting a compressor. I am by no means an expert on airbrushes, but the Copic Airbrush system is so simple that I don't feel intimidated to use it.

What compressor brand do I use?
The Air Compressor we usually sell at Copic is the Sparmax AC 100 (pictured above). We've sold this compressor for years. Why? It is a solid, dependable air compressor. It's not the cheapest, but it's not the most expensive by a long shot. It's small (about 10" x 15" x 10" or so) and relatively quiet (though I've heard quieter airbrushes but I have no problem leaving one of these running while I comfortably talk over it). It comes packaged with a nice airhose and is already the standard fitting size we need.

Best of all, these compressors are durable. I ship mine all over, drag it to classes and use them at trade shows. We've been very pleased over the years and my personal compressor has been abused by countless workshops, yet it still works great. This is not to say that our compressor is the best, simply that we have been consistently happy with it so we haven't switched.

I hope I have helped clarify air compressors a bit. Please let me know if you still have questions. Tomorrow I'll finish up this discussion on airbrushing with some basic masking info, though I'll re-visit the topic every now and then later on.

Artwork: this is a picture that many of you who have taken my Certification class will recognize, since it's one of my favorites. I drew and colored this a few years ago, so I can't tell you what colors I used. I airbrushed the ground with a couple light colors, his pants are textured with a piece of burlap dipped in blender solution. His shirts and hair are faded with the colorless blender.

19 comments:

Robin Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks for your help with my compressor question last week - my Sparmax AC100 arrived yesterday! I've named it sparky as it looks like a little robot Chihuahua to me!! It's nice to read your positive feedback on it. Ican't wait to play with it! Love your blog!

Janet said...

Now that I have an airbrush and have used it (once), my husband has mentioned that I may want to get a compressor. Hmmmm... Now I think I want one. Your blog is wonderful. I read it daily and learn so much! Thank you! Now, please come to St. Louis in 2009 to teach a certification class! I'm obsessed!

Karen said...

I have definately loved this series of articles and they came just at the right time. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us. The air brushing is the most fun I've had in a coon's age,lol. Huggz, Karen

Lilian said...

Thank you! I really am thinking of buying a compressor and this helps in making my decision. May I ask if you can recommend a masking tape for airbrushing?

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