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Acrylic Vs. Latex Paint: The Difference And Which To Use

Updated: Jan 13

As a DIY homeowner, you’ll be faced with a lot of decisions during your house painting project.


For example:

  • What color?

  • What finish?

  • What brand of paint?

Another question you’ll need to answer is, “Between acrylic vs. latex paint, which one should I use?


Right now, there are three types of paints on the market. They are oil, acrylic, and latex-based paints. Oil-based paints have since been faded out over the last 15 years leaving the main options like acrylic and latex.


Each one has its advantages and disadvantages and is best used for certain types of projects. Knowing the difference can save you a lot of time, make your project run smoother, and allow you to focus your time on choosing the right color for your project instead of worrying about paint types.


What Is Acrylic Paint?


Acrylic paint is made of pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer solution and acrylic resin. They are chemical-based meaning they become water-resistant when they dry. Right now, acrylic paints are the most popular.


Acrylic paint dries extremely quickly. This may be an advantage if you’re painting a smaller area, but this will make painting larger areas more difficult. It does not mix well with oil-based paints and won’t adhere to a wall previously painted with oil paint.


Read: Painting Over Oil Based Paint, Here’s How


What Is Latex Paint?


Latex is a water-based paint. Similar to acrylic paint, it is made from acrylic resin. Unlike acrylic, it’s recommended to use latex paint when painting larger areas. Not because it dries slower, but because it’s usually purchased in larger quantities.


Difference Between Acrylic And Latex Paint


The main difference between the two paints is that acrylic paint is chemical-based and latex paint is water-based. Because it’s chemical-based, the chemicals in acrylic paint make it more elastic than latex paint.


What does that mean?


The acrylic paint will contract and expand better than latex paint.


Since Latex paint is water-based, it’s easier to clean up with just soap and water. Acrylic paint needs paint thinners since it’s chemical-based. It’s chemical composition also requires extra care when handling. You’ll want to assure your using proper ventilation since acrylic paint can produce dangerous fumes.


Latex paint is used frequently in artwork, while latex is used more for painting homes and commercial structures.


Benefits Of Using Latex Paint


Here are the main advantages of using latex paint:

  • It’s easier to apply latex paint to a surface and it dries a lot faster. As we said earlier, this is an advantage if your painting a small area like a bedroom or bathroom.

  • Latex is cheaper than acrylic paint.

  • Latex paint is easier to clean up with just soap and water.

  • Latex paint is safer to use since it produces fewer fumes (still use proper ventilation regardless of the type of paint you use)

  • Latex paint usually covers with fewer coats. Not sure how many coats to use? Make sure you read this article.

Benefits Of Using Acrylic Paint


Here are the main advantages of using acrylic paint:

  • The chemicals in acrylic paint cause it to have greater elasticity. This means the paint will expand and contract properly as temperatures fluctuate. This reduces the amount of flaking and cracking. This makes it great for exterior painting projects.

  • Parlaying off the last point, acrylic paints are more durable and more expensive, but you get what you pay for, right?

  • Another benefit of using acrylic paint in your exterior projects is their resistance to the sun. This puts them a step above latex paints and miles ahead of oil-based paints.

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