What to look for in an Airbrush Compressor:
A lot of people seem to stress over having to pick out an air compressor brush but honestly, there is no reason to do so at all because picking out the best airbrush compressor is actually very easy. To get to the right one for you it is based on a few different personal requirements but keep in mind that you do not need an airbrush that is only meant for airbrushing; these ones are actually some of the hardest ones to work with.
Best Airbrush Compressors
For starters, the price of an airbrush or a compressor is where people begin to look at first, especially if you are a beginner with the whole thing in the first place. You get what you pay for is not always true with every situation but when it comes to air compressor brushes the cheaper they are than the worse they are.
With that being said it is now the point and time where you focus on your personal needs being met to get to the right one. You want to first determine exactly how you will be using it and for what, from there figure out if you want it to be able to be mobile or not. Then you want to determine if you want the compressor or even need the compressor to be quiet or not; you should always want to consider getting a compressor that has a large tank so you can run it less often. Or at least only have a tank that is pressurized so you can always fill it up as you use it.
Many people think that the success of airbrushing lies solely in the airbrush itself. Little do they know that a dependable airbrush compressor is also vital. Not many people understand this, but if you are aiming for perfectly executed technical painting, you will see just how crucial it is. There are two reasons why this is so. Not only will it allow you to do the art without fear of overheating, but it also helps in the steady flow of paint, minimizing the chances of messing up.
Airbrush Compressor Most Common Types
When using an airbrush there are different options for the airflow that is connected to the airbrush. The main choices that you might have are propellant cans or different types of compressors. In fact, one of the best compressors that you have to choose from for your airbrush is the diaphragm compressor. This type of compressor is also called the air Medea silent compressor. The reason for this name is that it generally will only move one airbrush. The diaphragm compressor is actually one of the cheapest options for the airflow of airbrushes. You can choose from smaller and larger compressors of this type and different air pressures as well.
Diaphragm Compressor Design Details
The Diaphragm Compressors all do have one-quarter-inch thread fittings (these are pipe) that hook onto the hoses of the airbrushes. With these compressors, the hose of the airbrush gets hooked right onto the one-quarter-inch thread fitting and it does not need an air regulator, an oil filter, or a moisture filter either. Each hose of the airbrushes also has a one-quarter-inch thread fitting that you will screw in the compressor. It is highly recommended that you use an in-line moisture filter though. You can buy a hose that already has a moisture filter that is built-in.
Generally, an airbrush will emit about one-half of a cubic foot of air each minute and this will be done at about twenty-five pounds for each square inch. The majority of diaphragm compressors can emit this amount of air pressure.
Cons of the Diaphragm Compressor
There are a couple of cons of the diaphragm compressor. First of all, the bigger diaphragm compressors make much more noise. Additionally, because of the pulsing of the air that is sprayed, the technique of airbrushing with these compressors can sometimes be put off and not be as smooth.
Additionally, the diaphragm compressors often overheat if they are used on a consistent basis. To prevent this, however, they can just be shut off from time to time. In fact, some of these compressors will automatically shut off if the heat of them is getting to a certain point.
When you are an airbrush artist it is almost an absolute necessity that you get an airbrush compressor. There are different choices available to you when you are choosing the right airbrush compressor for you. However, even though the diaphragm compressor does have some cons on its end, it is actually a very great choice for airbrush artists to use. There have even been many professional airbrush artists who use this type of compressor on a regular basis. Now, that you are aware of the details and the specifics in regards to the diaphragm compressor you can make the right choices as to what type of compressor may be the one for you and the airbrush that you are using. Airbrushing can be fun and can turn out excellent with the diaphragm compressor.
Many people who are airbrush artists know about the many types of tanks that they can use. However, there are also many of these same artists who are actually not sure about the details regarding each type of tank. There are generally the propellant cans and then the compressor options. One of the best compressor options for airbrushing artists to use is the piston compressor. This compressor is a very powerful one and actually has many accessories that you can get with it. If you are an airbrush artist who is looking for a compressor that will allow excellent airflow then the piston compressor is going to be one of the best options for you with your airbrush. The piston compressor actually provides many other great benefits to an airbrush artist as well. These benefits include great control, excellent precision, exactness, and much more. The finished results with the use of a piston compressor are excellent as well.
Piston Compressor Design Details
The piston compressor actually has much more power than the diaphragm compressor (another compressor for airbrushes). This is because the piston compressor lets out a lot more air than an airbrush generally needs to work efficiently. Due to excess air that is released from the piston compressor, the air will have to get restricted before it gets to the air hose from the airbrush. You can do this by putting on the air regulator to one-quarter-inch threads that are coming out of the compressor that you are using. Along with the air regulator, there would generally be a moisture filter that is attached. This moisture filter keeps the moisture that was created in the compressor from getting into the air hose.
However, there are some piston compressors that use oil. If this is the case with your piston compressor you will have to make sure that it is connected to a regulator. You will also have to make sure that it is also connected in front of the hose so that you can take away any oil that might get into the source of air. You can do this by putting the hose of the airbrush (along without or with the moisture filter that is in line) just behind the filters and the regulators. You can actually find many of the piston compressor accessories, mentioned above that you need, in the brand of Medea.
Piston compressors are just one of the options that you can use for the air source that is needed for your airbrush. The piston compressors are actually one of the most powerful airflow sources that are on the market today for airbrush artists to use. However, due to all of the excess airflow, you will have to make sure that the air gets regulated. Besides the excess air, there really are no cons about the piston compressors. They work very well, they last very long and they provide very excellent finished results as well.
Tankless Type Compressor
The tankless airbrush compressor belongs to the group of piston compressors. This type does not store compressed air in a tank, it only compresses air on demand. It is your ideal tool if you have a limited workspace since it is relatively small. However, if your task requires air pressure, you might find this lacking, so it is better to choose the variants that use tanks.
Some people tend to use tanks or canisters and when one is out they simply replace it but this is not always worth it because it can be kind of expensive if you are going through the tanks at a fast rate.
When it comes to having a tank or not having a tank the choice is up to you in the end but take into consideration how many people say that they are a waste of money and make note of how much more you get out of a compressor and how much more you can do with a compressor that has a tank. Ones that are tank-less run all the time and they are loud and they get really hot because they are always running and never have the ability to stop. This kind of compressor also does what is known as pulse and this is where the piston inside of the tank goes back and forth in order to be able to pressurize the air. The whole pulsing thing causes a surge and it will show up in any and all work that you do, where it happens there will be a jump and un-level section that can easily be found. Back to the tank keep in mind that the bigger the tank is than the more money it will cost.
Each tank is also different with how long it will last before the compressor kicks in; for a rough estimate, a tank that is about six liters big and or two gallons and is pressurized to one hundred and twenty-five psi will last you about forty minutes long for the most part. Next, you want to look at the pressure gauge and the regulator, most compressors come with them but it is best to make sure that it does so you don’t have to go back out and buy them separately. These are both things that you will more than likely have to adjust all of the time so you also want them to be very easy to read and both should be easy to reach and move. One of the last things that you want to check for or consider is if the air compressor and the brush you are buying have a water trap or not. This is an accessory that you usually have to buy separately and add it on, they are bought and used because air is wet and it creates humidity so when this happens little bursts of water come out when you spray the air and they can also build up inside of the tank. If you are spraying with paints then the water can become a major problem; if you use paints that are water-based then you won’t really see it but when you use paints that contain urethane then you can begin to see the problem of the water spraying out. This is why you need a water trap for your air compressor and brush.
Airbrush Compressor Alternatives
When it comes to the use of airbrush techniques there are some different types of sources for the air used with the airbrush. The choices that you have when using airbrushing techniques are the airbrush compressor, the carbonic gas tank or Co2 and the final choice is the propellant can. The propellant can is actually only supposed to be used for limited applications. Propellant cans are actually just air that is pressurized into a container, usually an aerosol can that is CFC-free. Additionally, if you are using a propellant can you will also need a propellant can valve as well so that you can connect the can that you are using to the air hose of the airbrush. The point of the valve is to somewhat regulate the amount of airflow from the can to the airbrush.
Why would you use a propellant can?
When people are using airbrush techniques they may want to try out the use of a propellant can. When you use propellant cans, you might do so when you are trying to do the process of airbrushing without a compressor. Additionally, the people who use propellant cans the most are beginning airbrush artists or those who do not have very much money. However, when you use propellant cans when airbrushing you will not get the most efficient results. Also, while you will be trying to save money by getting propellant cans, you will actually be better of just getting a compressor in the first place.
Propellant cans are just supposed to be a quick solution to get started with the airbrushing process. However, if you plan to continue being an airbrush artist then getting a compressor is going to be of great importance to the amount of high-quality progress that you make. The propellant cans really do not give you the best air pressure control so they do not produce the most quality results. After you get a compressor, you will not really be paying for air at all but with the propellant cans, you have to constantly replace them.
What are propellant cans not used for?
Propellant cans are just one of the options for providing air to the airbrush that you are using. These really should not be used all of the time and they are not highly recommended. The compressors are much more useful as they provide more high-quality results and better precision as well. If you do choose to use propellant cans it is important that you only use them for a short time period until you can get a compressor. You will be happier with the compressors and so will any clients that you have.
CO2 Gas Tanks
When you are operating an airbrush as an airbrush artist it is important that you have the right type of equipment so that you can produce the highest quality results. There are different methods of providing air to the airbrush so that you can get different results for your airbrush art creations. Some of the methods are the propellant cans, the carbonic gas tank, and others too. However, between the propellant cans and the carbonic gas tank the, carbonic gas tank definitely provides the user of the airbrush with more high-quality results. Any time that an airbrush compressor option is put up against the propellant cans, the compressor will be the best option.
How does the Carbonic Gas Tank Work?
The carbonic gas tank works by being Co2 or Nitrogen filled. Then, whatever gas is used, it is pressurized under very high pressures (generally 800 psi). Due to these very high pressures, there should be extreme caution when the carbonic gas tank is being hooked up to the airbrush. Each tank needs to have a regulator that is specially designed for the carbonic gas tanks. The regulator will allow the pressure to be adjusted appropriately according to the requirements of the user.
Additionally, the airbrush hose should be a braided one and then that is hooked onto a one-quarter-inch male thread onto the regulator. The other end of the one-quarter-inch male thread is hooked onto the airbrush itself. When you do use a carbonic gas tank for your airbrush needs, you will not need to get an oil filter and you will not need to have a moisture filter either.
The carbonic gas tank is just one of the various options for providing air to the airbrush that you are using. However, if you are choosing to use a carbonic gas tank over the propellant cans, you will have to be much more careful as the pressures are much more extreme with the carbonic gas tanks than they are with the propellant cans. Although, the carbonic gas tanks are much more efficient in producing the highest quality results with the airbrush art pieces that you are creating.
The art of airbrushing has become much more popular as the years go on. Some artists airbrush onto canvas and other artists airbrush onto actual human beings. There are other artists who airbrush onto vehicles and even more than that as well. Due to the fact that airbrushing techniques have become much more popular these days than in the past, the equipment choices have grown as well.
Nowadays, in fact, the carbonic gas tank is actually one of the most popular and one of the most efficient choices for providing air to the airbrush. The quality of these tanks is fantastic and their precision is amazing as well. Additionally, the control that you have when using the carbonic gas tanks is top of the line in the field of airbrushing.
How to Choose the Best Airbrush Compressor
One of the main considerations needed when deciding which airbrush compressor to buy is its intended use. Which projects will you employ it for? Not all airbrushes can accomplish what we want to do. A light-duty compressor might be best for projects that require attention to detail.
On the other hand, you may find that a single or double-piston compressor would be best for large-scale projects since they produce higher pounds per square inch of air pressure. You can finish your task faster and more efficiently by choosing the right tool.
The power output is crucial to consider when choosing an airbrush compressor. It determines how long and for which intent you can use the tool because it affects controls and runtime.
Power output is commonly measured using the unit horsepower (HP). You need to know which specific tasks you will use the airbrush compressor since it would help determine the HP required. HP can go from 1HP and lower; the majority lies from 1/2 HP to 1/12HP. Tank-based compressors often come with 1/4HP, while dry pistons use 1/8HP. If you are currently working on a job that would demand higher pressure, you may start looking at varieties with a minimum of 1/6 HP.
Different brands produce various compressor motors; some are bulkier than others. However, you will notice that most employ 1/6th HP power output. Notice also that the wattage runs between 150 to 200 watts. The higher it is, the more costly it will be to use the airbrush compressor. So that would be another consideration.
Moreover, you must also understand that the higher the HP, the louder the compressor will be, and would also be bulkier.
The tank capacity is also vital when choosing the airbrush compressor that you should buy. To determine your needed airflow capacity, you can multiply the required air volume by 1/(duty cycle), and the product will be the Compressor Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) requirement.
Usually measured in liters, air tank capacity is the quantity of compressed air that the tank can contain. The compressors’ tank capacity determines how long it can run. The more compressed air it can contain, the longer its runtime.
If you intend to use your airbrush for tasks that require lots of compressed air, you better choose wisely. It is better to stay away from tankless airbrush compressors as they cannot produce enough compressed air, and their runtime is limited.
Weight and Size
The weight and size of airbrush compressors vary based on several factors. First, there is the capacity of the tank; the higher the capacity, the bulkier it would be. The motor for the power output is another factor and directly relates to the size and weight. Lastly, compressor types come into play. The main rule is that the greater or higher your requirements for a task, the compressor you need will also be bigger.
If you would like something handy and light, tankless airbrush compressors would be highly recommended as they often weigh only about 5 pounds. Those with tanks, such as diaphragm and piston, could weigh between 8 to 15 pounds.
The air pressure of an airbrush compressor is vital in carrying out a task. The PSI (pound per inch) required for different tasks also varies. For example, working on a nail or body paint will require less pressure than spraying a shirt. The airbrush pressure can limit the number of tasks you can use it for.
It is prudent to compare the CFM of the airbrush compressors that you are choosing from. You will notice that a rating of 40 PSI is more valuable than those with 100 or higher PSI. You must know how much CFM is delivered for the same amount of pressure.
Although pressure is crucial, one cannot say what the ideal option is just based on this factor. The air pressure requirement varies per project, so you will go back to the main consideration: what purpose you will employ it. Higher pressure is required for a bigger task if you want it done swiftly.
The compressor plays a crucial role in the airflow produced by the airbrush. It is measured in liters per minute (LPM) or cubic feet per minute (CPM). Generally, the airflow capacity runs between 20 LPM to 50 LPM, or in CFM, 0.70 to 1.76.
Again, your purpose for the airbrush will help decide how much LPM or CPM you need. 20 LPM would suffice for simple applications for hobbyists or illustrators, but you must choose at least a 30 LPM airflow for larger tasks.
An airbrush hose is not automatically part of the purchase. Some come with one, but some don’t. Thus, its presence (or absence) can also be part of your decision. Aside from that, it would help if you also considered the length. A longer hose allows you to work on huge projects, and you are farther from electric outlets. If you intend to paint cars or walls, you better choose this option.
On the other hand, if your work requires little movement, and more delicate attention to detail, a shorter hose would be excellent. Although it may seem more practical to use a longer hose since you can use it for both small and big tasks, you must understand that the length of the hose affects its compressor’s PSI. Shorter hoses can maximize the PSI since the air travels a short distance from the compressor.
Air Filters & Water Traps
When air compression occurs, moisture buildup happens, which can turn to water that may mix with the paint if your airbrush is not equipped with a water trap. If this happens, it could ruin the entire project. It is crucial to choose an airbrush fitted with one for your consideration.
Air filters are also crucial in choosing an airbrush compressor. An efficient filter will help avoid dirt and other tiny particles from getting through the piston, damaging it. Your tool will last longer if it is equipped with the right filter.
Duty cycle means the amount of time you can continuously use the compressor; afterward, you need to give the motor a rest. By following the duty cycle, you will prolong the tool’s life. When buying, you have to check the duty cycle to land with one that will help you efficiently complete your project. It has to be the one that can supply the airflow you require.
To get the Compressor CFM required, multiply the total air volume needed by 1/(duty cycle). The product is often expressed in percentage. The percentage dictates how long you can run the compressor engine.
Check out the following examples based on the percentage of their duty cycles:
- 50% – 30 minutes run time, 30 minutes cooldown
- 25% – 15 minutes run time, 45 minutes cooldown
- 20% – 12 minutes run time, 48 minutes cooldown
- 15% – 9 minutes run time, 51 minutes cooldown
- 10% – 6 minutes run time, 54 minutes cooldown
- 9% – 5 minutes run time, 55 minutes cooldown
Pressure Display and Regulator
Knowing the airbrush compressor reading is necessary to apply paint accurately. The pressure ranges from 10 to 100 PSI, and you may need to adjust it during the project. You can better regulate airflow and pressure if your tool is equipped with a pressure display.
Amount of Noise
The noise level of an airbrush ranges from 40 to 60 decibels, depending on how powerful the compressor is. If you need a bigger one and produce greater pressure, it would be louder than those that would only use minimal pressure. Pistons are louder than diaphragm compressors, while oil compressors are louder than oil-free variants.
Another function you must look for in an airbrush compressor is the auto-stop function. It is present in most but not all brands. It helps minimize noise ensures that the compressor machine will instantly stop working when the tank is full, when a certain pressure is reached, or when it is not in use. More than just saving on electrical costs, it also helps prolong its lifespan.
An airbrush compressor is an investment; you will be shelling out money for it, so you must ensure that it will be for something that will last. Going for popular brands may be an option if you are not familiar with inspecting all the other considerations listed above. Since many people trust them, you might as well play safe and go with the crowd.
Product Durability and Warranty
Inspect the quality of materials the air compressor is made with. If you are not very familiar, read the labels or ask for assistance to guarantee that you are picking a high-quality item. Products that come with a one or two years warranty would also be worth considering.
You can use an airbrush compressor for different things, and many of them require additional accessories such as connecting pipes, hoses, paints, airbrushes, and more. It is not uncommon for you to find that most offers do not come with accessories, but if you find options that include them, you better go for them. It would be more convenient not having to look for those parts separately, aside from saving some bucks.
These may not often be present in all airbrush compressors. Still, you may add these to the things you should look for one buying one: rubber feet, carry handle, built-in fan to help cool down the engine while it is running, and a thermal protector to help prevent overheating while in use.
Value for Money
After all that has been considered, you must also check the overall value for money. Being more expensive does not always mean better. Some can still be very affordable yet have all that you need. Don’t focus only on the brand but on functionality and durability. If you can score some freebies, then that is a plus.
What to avoid when searching for an airbrush compressor:
Going over everything you either want one that is mobile or one that is stationary. You either want one that is loud or one that is quiet and based on your budget you should keep an eye out for some sales at the hardware store and what not like online or in newspapers. And the overall number one thing that you really want to avoid is getting an airbrush compressor that is tankless because they cause more problems and is more hassle than airbrush compressors that do have a tank. You want to make sure that the regulator gauge is easy to adjust and that it comes with a regulator gauge as well as a pressure gauge. And you then should always get a water trap just in case you ever need one because it is better to be safe than to be sorry.
Some Advice on Purchasing and Operating the Best Airbrush Compressors
When choosing which airbrush compressor to buy, your foremost consideration must be the type of project you will use it for. You need to determine the PSI you will need. For example, simple food decorating, body painting, or spray tanning only demands low PSI, so a tankless compressor or a diaphragm could suffice. However, if your task is to paint cars or design murals, you may need higher PSI output, so a piston compressor might be the one to look for.
When using airbrush compressors equipped with a tank, you should let the motor run for a few minutes before using it. This practice will allow consistent pressure to build up and airflow to stabilize so that you do not create uneven paint spurts, which could ruin your project.
Advantages of Having an Airbrush Compressor
An airbrush compressor has a lot of use. It could be for hobbies like aircraft modelling, but also food decorating or body painting, to more serious tasks such as painting walls, cars, or even murals. With a compressor at hand, you can finish tasks that could take longer without one.
Choose one that you can use for the projects you usually work on. Take note of the PSI, which will allow you to complete a job more efficiently. Depending on the pressure required to carry out the task, learn to adjust to a lower or higher level.
If you tend to move around or work on wider spaces when using the airbrush, a compressor that comes with a longer hose is what you will need. It will give you more liberty to go to the different locations needed to be covered and work on bigger projects.
The airbrush compressor tank also affects your output. It provides a steady supply of pressurized air so that you can continuously do the job. Larger tanks often have fewer issues, and they can even hold more air, so for tasks that demand more pressure or steady airflow, you might want to consider this.
Airbrush compressors are crucial in airbrushing tasks. They are the main source of power for your airbrush and help in ensuring that the task is done most efficiently. Having a portable and versatile airbrush compressor is the best way to go; of course, you want one to fit your budget but you may have to spend more if you want what is best especially if you are planning on using it a lot and for several different uses.
It is highly suggested that you do some research before you make a purchase and this is all easy to do; figure out your needs and requirement as well as your budget and then go from there. What you need will highly depend on the kind of project you are working on. Before considering all the other factors such as airflow, pressure, noise, tank, and the rest, your main focus must always be on how you will use it. From there, you can decide on the other considerations. Ideally, it has to be one with a longer runtime, easy to operate, bigger tank capacity, relatively quiet, and with great value for money. Being able to have so many to choose from may seem overwhelming but really it is just a great way to make sure that you get exactly what you are looking for.
The best place to begin looking is at your local hardware store but if you know what you are doing and what you are looking for you may be better off looking online, in the newspaper, or for garage sales because you can wheel and deal and fix things if you need to.
Airbrush Compressors FAQs
If you are still unsure about choosing and using the best airbrush compressor, the following frequently asked questions might help you out. Read to know what other people are looking for.
Q: Does an airbrush require a special compressor?
A: Not necessarily. If you are not very meticulous, it will be fine for as long as it does the job. However, if the task needed to be done requires a specific PSI, you need to ensure that the airbrush compressor you have can deliver what you need. Refer to the manual to determine the recommended PSI for your airbrush before using it with your compressor to avoid damage and failure.
Q: How do I clean my airbrush compressor?
A: Proper maintenance is vital in making your airbrush compressor last longer. Most types are composed of two main parts, the attachments, and the hose. You must set a regular schedule for cleaning to avoid the accumulation of paint residue or rusting, especially for the metal parts. Use fine brushes so as not to harm the material. Find thin bristles that can fit through the small openings. It would be easier if you could disassemble the parts to go through each segment, but if it is not possible, the brush will do. It may be tempting to use water, but you may risk making it accumulate rust if your tool is metal.
Q: What is the ideal PSI when airbrushing?
A: It depends on the task, so no specific PSI can be recommended for all. However, to play safe, an airbrush compressor that can deliver 10 to 100 PSI will be your best bet.
Q: Can I use different colors and types of paint with the same airbrush?
A: You may use your airbrush for different spray paints, but you have to ensure you clean the brush thoroughly before switching to avoid mixing up different substances. However, if you are using oil-based or thick paints, better not use your airbrush because these do not get off easily and could cause buildup in the brush.
Q: How can I connect the airbrush hose to my compressor?
A: Simply attach the hose to the slot provided for it in the compressor. However, if you bought the hose separately and it does not fit perfectly, you may use an adapter. Adapters can also be purchased separately if they are not included in the set.
Q: Can I adjust the output of my airbrush compressor?
A: There are several things you may do to add more volume to your compressor’s output. You can upgrade to a bigger tank so that it can hold more compressed air, use a shorter hose to maximize the PSI, and make sure that there are no blockages in the airbrush or the hose for an unhindered airflow.
Q: What do you do if moisture buildup in the airbrush compressor?
A: Moisture can build up when using the compressor. The problem with this is when it mixes with paint or condenses to water, which can cause poor-quality output. The best solution is to have a moisture trap. Some compressor comes with a built-in trap, but others don’t. If yours does not come with one, you can buy it separately and install it on your machine.
Q: How do you add a tank to an airbrush compressor?
A: A tank is useful if you want to add more volume and power to your airbrush compressor. It also enables you to work on bigger projects without interruption. It helps you work more efficiently without having to spend more. You may add a tank to your machine if it does not have one or even if you just want to upsize. It is a simple process that you can do on your own.
Make sure that you have the necessary tools and attachments ready before adding a tank. You would need a compressor hose, brass couplers, and an adhesive.
Drain condensation and empty the compressor before installing the tank. Attach the tank through the valve. Gently put everything together, ensuring that all is clean and connected securely. Go through each step slowly but surely to ensure that it will work properly.
Q: How can I eliminate the trapped moisture in my airbrush compressor?
A: When it comes to moisture, prevention is better than cure. Make sure that you keep your tool from water sources, like acrylic. It is even more crucial on humid days because it is more prone to moisture buildup. This problem can ruin your project, so you have to be vigilant about it.
Moisture traps are still the best solution to this issue. Buy one if what you have does not come with it. It is very easy to install. All you need to do is open the drain cock. You can clean up the moisture trapped by detaching this part.
A guest post by Jerry Ferrara