It can be confusing to know the difference between acrylic and latex paint right off the bat, but to be able to choose the best paint type for your project, it really pays to know the difference.
Whether you are painting the exterior of your house, giving the interior a makeover, refurbishing furniture, or doing some canvas art, it is important to choose the right paint.
What is the difference between acrylic and latex paint? Acrylic paint provides more durability and weather resistance than latex paint and is a good option for exterior uses, but it is more difficult to work with. Latex paint is easier to use and is mostly more affordable, and works better for interior applications.
The differences between these two go a little further than this, so keep reading to find out more about how they are different, and which would be the best for you to use.
What Makes Up Paint?
Various paints are made with different components, but most paints contain the same four components. These include binders, solvents, pigments, and additives. These all work together to give different types of paints various properties which make them better suited for different applications.
Here is a little bit more on each of these components and the role they play in paint:
A binder works to join the pigment to the wall or the surface once the solvent has worn off. A binder will determine how well the paint adheres to a wall and also determines how quickly the paint fades and how easy it is to wash.
A solvent in paint helps to dissolve the pigment, additives, and binder to make the paint a more even, thinner consistency to paint with. There are a few different solvent options that are used in various types of paint. Water is most commonly used, whereas oil-based solvents are also fairly common.
Pigments are the one component that you might spend the most time considering – it is the component that gives paint its color. Pigments are mostly in powder form and need to be combined with a solvent or primer to be mixed and used as paint.
Additives have a few functions when used in paint. They can help to keep the pigment in the paint dispersed evenly, they can give the paint better coverage, and they can help to give the paint unique properties, such as weather resistance or stain-resistance.
Some additives can help to preserve paint for longer as well, making it resistant to mold and making it more suitable to be used in warmer climates.
All About Latex Paint
In the past, latex was made with a rubber binder, and many people still consider latex paint to contain some sort of rubber binder. However, latex paint now uses a binder which is a man-made polymer in place of rubber.
Latex paint is water-based paint, which is why many people choose to use it for their home DIY or painting projects. Being water-based, latex paint is much easier to use than oil-based paints. It dries easier, is much easier to clean up, and emits fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than some other paints.
There is less chance that latex paint will crack or peel, compared to oil-based paints, as it has more elasticity. As latex paint is permeable, it will not trap in moisture either.
The benefits of using latex paint make it a popular choice to use in interiors and for various home renovation projects, but it might not be the best option to use for exterior painting. Latex paint is great to use for furniture projects and interior applications.
Pros of Latex Paint
- Affordable paint option and widely available
- Available in a wide variety of different colors and finishes
- Fewer VOC’s, making it better for the environment
- Good coverage in fewer coats
Cons of Latex Paint
- Not resistant to the sun and water, and has less weather resistance than acrylic paint
- Can only be painted onto properly prepped furniture, or it will not bond properly
- Low-quality latex paints can chip easily, and will not hold up well to constant wear and tear
- Not a good option for outdoor furniture, as the swelling of wood due to temperature changes can cause the paint to crack and chip
- Dries slower than acrylic paint
You will also need to consider what type of finish you want from the latex paint. For an item that won’t be used too often, a matte finish would be suitable. High-gloss latex paint is very durable, but also easily shows imperfections.
If you are unsure of what to choose, go for a semi-gloss or satin paint – especially if you are repainting furniture or cabinets. For more information, check out our article on clear satin vs clear gloss.
All About Acrylic Paint
As the name suggests, acrylic paint is made using acrylic polymer emulsion. Like latex paint, acrylic paint is usually water-based and generally non-toxic but it includes a few more chemicals which give it quite a few beneficial properties, such as it being weather-resistant and more durable against wear and tear. For this reason, acrylic paint is suitable for exterior applications.
As it dries, acrylic paint becomes waterproof. It keeps some elasticity as it dries too, which means it can be used on outdoor wood furniture that swells and contracts in different temperatures.
Many people choose to use acrylic paint as their first choice when painting the exterior of their house. The binders used in acrylic paint last longer than latex paint, meaning that the paint lasts longer.
However, many people are also put off by the higher price than acrylic paint, and that it does not spread as well as latex paint. It is expensive to paint your whole house with acrylic, but it is long-lasting and this does pay off over time.
Acrylic paint dries quicker than latex paint, which can be a bonus in many situations. For those who are into arts and crafts, acrylic paint is a great choice as it comes in a wide range of vibrant colors and it can be painted onto many different surfaces.
Pros of Acrylic Paint
- Acrylic paint is weather-resistant, more so than latex paint
- It is easy to apply and self-levels when applied properly
- A topcoat is not always needed with high-quality acrylic paint (but is always recommended)
- Acrylic paint has good elasticity, making it ideal for wood and outdoor furniture
- Adheres well to different porous surfaces
- More durable than latex paint
- No need to prep furniture as much when using acrylic paint
- Water-based and non-toxic
- Can be thinned out with water instead of harsh chemical thinners
Cons of Acrylic Paint
- Acrylic paint can be difficult to clean up
- More expensive than latex paint and is usually sold in smaller containers
- There are many finishes available with acrylic paints compared to latex, and most acrylic paints have a glossy finish
- Less environmentally friendly than latex paint
Acrylic paints are a good option if you are starting out with DIY projects. They are easy to paint with and fairly straightforward to use. You don’t have to do much prep to furniture before painting with acrylic paint, and it will still go on well and be durable.
It is best used for art projects, outdoor furniture, and even for painting signs. Acrylic paint is rich in vibrant colors, durable, easy to use, and weather-resistant.
The Difference Between Acrylic Paint And Latex Paint
To better decide which would be the better paint for you to use, take a look at the below differences between the two:
It is important to consider the weather resistance of the paint you are using when painting the exterior of your house or painting outdoor furniture.
Acrylic is much more weather-resistant than latex paint. Acrylic paint can be used on its own to paint outdoor walls or furniture, or it can be painted over a layer of latex paint.
Latex and acrylic paint are both flexible and can expand and contract when the temperature changes, meaning both are less likely to crack or peel.
However, acrylic is more flexible than latex paint, making it more weather-resistant. Acrylic paint is also able to stand up to UV rays better, so it keeps its vibrant color for longer than what latex paint would.
2. Paint Adhesion
Once again, acrylic comes out on top when considering paint adhesion. When a surface is properly primed, acrylic binds to it well and can adhere to many different surfaces, such as wood, metal, plastic, or masonry.
Latex paint, however, is mostly only suited for drywall and wood. Many specialized paints, such as those used for metal or masonry, are acrylic paints. Latex paint will not last on different surfaces such as masonry or metal and will peel off fairly easily.
3. Paint Durability
When used correctly, both latex and acrylic paint can be durable. However, acrylic paint is more durable, and is more resistant to weather and wear and tear. Latex paint, in the right circumstances, can last long, but it can mark and chip easily.
Acrylic paint is often used for areas that will be under use often and for high traffic areas.
Latex paint is more affordable than acrylic paint. It is widely available and can be found in many home improvement stores. There are different quality latex paints available, but even the better quality ones are still affordable.
Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is considerably more expensive, almost double the price of latex paint. It is also not as widely available, and you might have to visit specific stores to find the right acrylic paint you need, especially for outdoor use.
5. Easy To Use
Latex paint is easier to use than acrylic paint. It goes on more smoothly and has good coverage, and you can work with it at your own pace, as it does not dry that quickly.
Acrylic paint dries quite quickly, and this might seem like a good thing, but it could also mean that you have to work quickly to get the job done. Acrylic also does not go onto surfaces as smoothly as latex paint does, and it is often thicker too. This shows imperfections more than latex paint.
It is also important to remember that both paints need to be cleaned up with thinners when dry.
Can I Mix Acrylic And Latex Paint?
If you find water-soluble acrylic paint, you can mix latex and acrylic paints together. You will have to stir this very well to combine the two. Remember that mixing the paints together will change the properties of the paint, such as durability, weather resistance, and even color.
This can be done to increase the durability of latex paint, especially seeing as though acrylic paint is expensive to use on its own.
Some people choose to layer acrylic paint over a layer of latex paint. This helps to reduce the cost of painting, and it adds durability and resistance to the latex paint underneath.
A Summary Of Differences
Acrylic paint is more durable, weather-resistant, and longer-lasting than latex paint. It does come with a higher price tag as well, but for many, the benefits it offers are worth it. You do need to remember that acrylic paint is a little trickier to work with, as it dries quickly and is thicker than latex unless watered down.
Acrylic paint is best suited to be used outdoors, where it can last against the sun and other harsh weather conditions.
Latex paint is easy to use, affordable, and widely accessible. It is available in different colors and finishes, and gives you quite a few options! Latex paint is best used for arts and craft projects, and for indoor applications.
It is not as durable as acrylic paint, but it can still last for some time if the surface is prepped and the paint is applied properly.
Both are good options for different uses and considering the differences between the two, and what they are better suited for, will help you know which is best for you!
By understanding the difference between latex paint and acrylic paint, you will be able to choose the right one for your next project. Latex paints are a popular choice for many reasons and can be used both indoors and outdoors. They are affordable and easy to come across.
Acrylic paint is long-lasting and comes with some great properties, but it also comes with a higher price tag. It is great to use on exterior walls and outdoor furniture.
Between the two, you will definitely be able to pick one out that suits your needs best.
What Does It Mean If The Paint Is 100% Acrylic?
A paint that is labeled as 100% acrylic is one that is made with acrylic binders, and this makes it very durable and highly flexible. This type of paint adheres to a surface really well, especially when used outdoors.
100% acrylic paint is more resistant to blistering, chipping, flaking, and peeling.
Is Latex Paint Durable?
Latex paint can be durable if it is used in the correct way. It is a good option for walls and ceilings. Not only is it durable, but it is easy to apply as well.
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