Different Types Of Paints (Pros & Cons Explained!)

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Just walk into any paint store today and you’ll be marveled by the different types available for you to choose from. With different types out there, it can be difficult to decide on which to go for, especially if you have no prior experience with them. But don’t fret!

In this post, you’ll learn the different types of paints, how they are made, and their pros and cons. You’ll also learn where and when to use each type, so you know the best fit for your project. Let’s dive in.

1. Oil-Based Paints

Generally, paints are divided into two categories; oil-based and water-based. Oil-based paints are finishes that are dissolved in synthetic or natural oil like linseed oil.

They are thick and take a while to dry when applied. When dry, they give a rich and shiny semi-gloss or high-gloss finish that is durable, tough, and usually moisture-resistant.

To reinforce oil-based paints, manufacturers include additives like mineral spirits, turpentine, UV blockers, plasticizers, and alkyd resins in their formula.


Oil-based paints are made by mixing pigments, usually in powder form with synthetic or natural oil. The mixture is then stirred and ground using machines like steel rollers to ensure it has an even consistency and color.

So the mixture doesn’t solidify in its container, oil-based solvents like mineral spirits and turpentine are added to the formula to keep it in its liquid state. The solvents also make it easier to apply on the required surface. A popular type is enamel paint.


You should use oil-based paints when working in high-traffic areas in your home. This is because they are durable and able to withstand wear and tear. Your window trims, door trims, baseboards, front door, exterior walls, and outdoor furniture will all benefit from it.


  1. Tough and durable. This makes them a great fit for high-traffic surfaces.
  2. Water-resistant.
  3. It can be used on interior and exterior surfaces.
  4. It gives a smooth and glossy finish when dry.
  5. Oil-based paints have strong adhesion, especially on porous surfaces like wood.
  6. The paint is a great option on decorative surfaces due to its reflective appearance.


  1. Slow dry time, usually over 24 hours.
  2. It often reveals imperfections and blemishes on the surface when dry because of its shiny appearance.

2. Water-Based Paints

Water-based paint, also known as latex paint, is popular for its easy application and fast dry time.

They are dissolved in water instead of oils, making them lighter in flow and consistency. Also, they are colorful when dry because they contain large amounts of pigments (color).

They have a low level of additives, which makes them ideal for indoor use. Popular types include latex, acrylic, and emulsion paint.


Water-based paints have a very simple formula that includes a binder, pigment, and solvent, usually water. The pigments and binder additives are mixed and then suspended in water as the carrier.

Water prevents the paint from solidifying in its container and also makes it easier to apply.  You can even make your own water-based paints in your home if you have the ingredients needed.

Since water evaporates fast from the coating, this paint also dries fast.


You should use water-based paints on indoor surfaces. This is because it has a low level of additives and it isn’t durable enough for outdoor usage. If you use it outdoors, its finish will get washed off and expose the surface underneath to weather elements.

You can also use them when you want to make a wall design and mural since it contains a high level of pigments, so the color will pop perfectly on your wall. Acrylic paints are especially great for art and murals.

They can also be mixed with top coats and sealers since they have a very simple formula. So, if you want to tint your finish or give it a color, you should use latex paints.


  1. Fast dry time.
  2. Colorful.
  3. Easy to apply. You can either brush on, wipe, or spray it on the intended surface.
  4. You can mix it with top coats and sealers to give the finish color.


  1. They aren’t durable, so it’s not recommended to apply them to outdoor surfaces,
  2. They can be easily wiped off the surface when exposed to cleaning liquids and alcohol-based solvents.

3. Primers/Undercoats

Primers/undercoats are used to prepare the surface before paint is applied. Primers are usually not recognized as a type of paint since they are not a finish and can’t be used alone on a surface. However, they are used in the preparation of the surface.

Primers have some similar properties to paint – They are applied in the same way, have a similar formula, and are also found at the paint store. So, it’s important to know what they are and when to use them.


Primers have three main ingredients in their formula; a synthetic resin, a binder additive, and the solvent or carrier, usually water or a type of oil.

Water-based primers use water as the carrier while oil-based primers are dissolved in oils. The resin is the main ingredient in it.

When applied, the binder additive causes the undercoat to bind to the surface and the solvent evaporates, leaving just the resinous compounds. The resins penetrate the surface and fill holes so there is a smooth base for the paint to be applied.


You should use primer whenever you are working on a bumpy surface. If the surface to be painted is covered with holes, dents, scratches, and nail holes, you should use a primer to fill the spaces on the surface. This ensures you get a smoother finish.

You should also use it when working on porous surfaces like wood and cement. In this case, it will cover the surface so it doesn’t suck paint.

You shouldn’t use it as the top coat or finish on any surface because it is not designed to be used as one. When used as a top coat, primer paint will attract dust, making your surface look ugly. They will also get washed off and removed easily.


  1. It dries fast
  2. It is available in every base so you always get the right type of primer for your project.
  3. Primer improves adhesion between the surface and paint (or top coat)
  4. It is usually moisture-resistant and can be used as a sealant.


  1. You can’t use it as the final coating.
  2. It usually comes in neutral colors like white and grey. Though there are tinted primers today, these are often scarce.

4. Top Coats

Top coats are used to cover painted and stained surfaces to protect the finish from moisture, dents, scratches, and other factors that can damage the surface. They are either oil-based or water-based and are often designed for particular paints.

Most top coats have a glossy appearance that makes them super reflective and resistant to moisture and stains. The glossy appearance also helps to enhance the beauty of the finish.


Top coats have different formulas depending on the one in question. Most top coats have additives like plasticizers, UV-blockers, preservatives, silica (silicone compounds), ester, and binder additives in their formula.

These additives reinforce the top coat and give it special attributes to withstand heavy wear and tear, moisture, and exposure to the elements.

Some top coats contain paint pigments, usually acrylic or latex paints in their formula. The aim of this is to give the top coat color since they are usually transparent.


You should use top coats when working on exterior surfaces and outdoor furniture because the finish will protect the surface from damage. You should also use them when you want to preserve the existing finish on a surface. Its tough layer will prevent scratch marks, dents, and moisture from ruining the existing finish.

Sealants can also be used when working on countertops, tabletops, kitchen and bathroom shelves, and cabinets. This is because these spots experience a lot of friction, finger stains, moisture spills, and other factors that can damage the surface. So, you need the protection of a top coat.

Some sealants include polyurethane, wax, varnish, etc.


  1. Durable and strong, which makes them perfect for outdoor surfaces.
  2. Weather-resistant.
  3. Waterproof.
  4. You can apply them over a painted surface.
  5. Top coats can change the appearance of an existing finish. Top coats like wax are used to darken a finish while others like shellac are used to enhance it.


  1. Difficult to apply. They often have specific application methods that you have to follow.
  2. They take several hours to cure (dry fully).

5. Specialty Paints

Specialty paints are unconventional paint types. These types are usually designed for a specific use or material. They are not multipurpose and often have specific instructions on how to apply them.

They are designed to do what normal paints can’t so they are often expensive and in short supply. The main rule is you should never use them on any surface asides from the one recommended.

Here are the common types of it:

Aluminum Paint

Aluminum paint is a solvent-based paint that contains pigments, binders, and aluminum flakes. The presence of aluminum flake (powder) makes it heat-resistant and anti-corrosive. It is designed for use on aluminum surfaces only.

Masonry Paint

Masonry paint is a water-based paint designed for use on exterior and interior brick walls and stone surfaces. The list includes concrete, pebble dash, and plaster. These surfaces are porous and rough so you need a textured finish on them.

You also need paint that has weather-resistance to prevent the rocks from breaking down. Masonry paint has all these perks, making it perfect.

Its main ingredient is acrylic resin (a resinous compound with weathering resistance). Only use it on stone surfaces.

Anti-Corrosive Paint

Anti-corrosive paint, also known as metallic paint is a type of water-based paint designed for use on metal and steel surfaces. It is usually waterproof and doesn’t react to air (oxygen) to protect the metal from rust.

In some cases, aluminum powder is added to it to make it reflective. Gloss and clear lacquer are also used to make the finish shine and waterproof. Popular types of anti-corrosive paint are automotive and Rust-Oleum paint.

Spray Paint

Spray paints are paints that come in aerosol cans. The paint could be water-based, oil-based, a top coat, or specialty paint. As long as it comes in a spray can, it’s spray paint.

People love them because they are thin and easier to apply. Also, it’s easy to cover wide surfaces in one sweep. They also dry fast and give a smooth finish when dry.


In summary, there are dozens of paints in the market today, each with its formula and distinct features. To know which one is best for your project, you should first consider the features you’ll need from it.

You should also consider the surface you and other factors that may affect it when it gets dry.

For indoor uses, water-based paints like latex and acrylic paints are a perfect fit. For exterior surfaces, you can go for an oil-based paint since they are durable and can withstand harsh conditions outside.

Surfaces like metal, aluminum, and plastic often need specific types of paints, so if you working on any of these surfaces, ensure to use the paint recommended for them.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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