Latex vs Acrylic Paint (What’s The Difference?)

Latex and acrylic paints are both water-based and have similar qualities. But, what’s the difference between acrylic and latex paint?

The main difference between latex paint and acrylic is that acrylic is more durable and has a more colorful finish than latex paint. Latex paint is also colorful but not as colorful as acrylic paint.

Compared to other paints, latex and acrylic have a low resistance to water or moisture. But, compared to each other, acrylic paint is more water resistant than latex paint.

Latex Paint

What is Latex Paint Used For?

Latex paint is a water-based paint, popular for its easy application, quick drying, and maintenance. The term “latex” refers to the paint’s elastic features. Latex paints can stretch or expand based on humidity or temperature variations.

Latex paints are made of acrylic resins (the binder), paint pigments (the color), and water (the thinner). Most latex paints also contain limestone (an extender), which delays or extends the paint’s drying time so you can get the best out of the paint.

Latex paint dries to touch within 1 hour, and you can re-coat it within 3 hours. The fast dry time of latex paint is because of its water-based nature and formula. To dry, the paint solvent of latex (water) must evaporate. Since water evaporates fast, the latex paint dries fast too. 

However, latex paint isn’t durable. This is because the paint doesn’t have extra additives that make its finish resistant to water, moisture, or scratches. When dry, latex paint forms a dry textured finish that can get removed easily. 

Acrylic Paint

What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?

Acrylic paint is a water-based paint known for its colorful finish. The term “acrylic” refers to the resin and polymer used in the paint. Acrylic paints are made from acrylic resins, plasticizers, polymer emulsions, and paint pigments.

Compared to the latex paint formula, acrylic paint contains extra chemicals, such as silicon oils. The presence of silicon oils improves the durability and strength of acrylic paint. So, acrylic paint is more durable than latex paint.

Acrylic is elastic and ideal for materials that contract or expand. You can use acrylic paint for artwork, decorative items, or design walls. The common use of acrylic paint to create murals. 

However, acrylic paint doesn’t have good coverage and is not ideal for painting large areas.

Acrylic vs Latex Paint

Here is a comparison chart to summarize the differences between both paints.

 LatexAcrylic
Paint AdhesionGoodBetter than latex paint
DurabilityGoodBetter
Water-ResistanceLatex paint is not water-resistantAcrylic paint is water-resistant when dry
Interior UseGoodGood
Exterior UsePoor if left unsealed. It’s best to use exterior latex paintVery good
Shelf Life1 year after opening the paint container Between 5-10 years after opening the paint tube
MaintenanceEasyTedious
Paint CostCheapModerate
Paint CoverageVery goodBest suited for small-scale tasks or detail work.

Paint Make-Up

Paint Make-Up

All paints are made up of paint pigments which give the color. A binder that holds paint particles together. A solvent that makes the paint easier to apply. Some paints have additives that improve the finish.

Both latex and acrylic paints use acrylic resins as the binder and water as the paint solvent. But, the paints differ when it comes to the additives and paint pigments. Acrylic paint also includes plasticizers and silicone oils. These additives improve the durability and the weather resistance of the finish. 

On the other hand, latex paint is made of solvents, binders, and paint pigments. Latex paint doesn’t have extra additives that improve the finish and durability of the paint. Also, acrylic paint has more paint pigments than latex paint. That’s because acrylic paints are used for artwork and murals. 

Related Read: Can You Mix Latex Paint and Acrylic Paint?

Paint Adhesion

Paint adhesion or paint bonding refers to the paint’s ability to adhere to the material. Acrylic paints have better paint adhesion than latex paints. The improved adhesion is due to the extra additives in the acrylic paint.

Acrylic paints will stick to any type of surface as long as the surface is prepped and primed. There are also acrylic paints designed with extra adhesion for surfaces like concrete and metal.

Compared to acrylic paint, latex paint doesn’t have great paint adhesion. The latex paint will peel off if you apply latex paint on concrete or masonry. That’s why latex paint is used for wood, drywall, and plaster.

Durability

Acrylic paint is more durable than latex paint. That’s because acrylic paint is designed with plasticizers. The plasticizer is added to resins and gives the acrylic finish a soft plastic-like texture. 

This plastic nature makes the acrylic paint more resistant to wear and tear, scratches, and dents. This makes acrylic paint more durable than latex paint. 

On the other hand, latex paint isn’t formulated with extra additives that make the paint durable. Latex paint is more prone to chipping, damage, dents, and scratches. So, latex paint will wear off easier. Latex paint must be used for low-traffic surfaces. 

Water-Resistance

Compared to other paints, acrylic and latex don’t have good water-resistant qualities. But, compared to each other, acrylic paint has better water resistance than latex paint. 

Latex paint is water-soluble even after the paint dries. This means if you wash dried latex paint, it can turn semi-solid or wash off. On the other hand, acrylic paint can withstand moisture more. This is because of the paint coating’s extra additives, such as plasticizers.

Interior or Exterior Use

Both paints are more suited for indoor surfaces than outdoor surfaces. That’s because acrylic and latex paint aren’t durable enough to withstand outdoor weather elements. If exposed to constant rain, latex and acrylic paint will wash off. 

Shelf Life

Acrylic paint has a longer shelf life than latex paint. Acrylic paint is thick and comes in tubes. So, you can close the acrylic paint tubes easier and prevent air from getting inside the paint.

On the other hand, storing latex paint is harder. That’s because once you open the paint container and the air gets in, the paint won’t last long in storage. The air will make the latex paint inside the container dry. 

Usage and Maintenance

Latex paint is easier to use and maintain than acrylic paint. That’s because latex paint comes in ready-to-use paint containers and you need to do is apply the paint. Latex paint is easier to clean, too; you can remove dust or stain from a latex finish using a damped rag.

On the other hand, it’s harder to use or maintain acrylic paint. Acrylic paints come in tubes and have a thick flow, so you must thin acrylic paint before using it. Also, acrylic paint dries fast, so if you are working on a large surface, one part of the surface will dry while you are painting the other. 

Cleaning acrylic paint isn’t easy; you need to use turpentine or mineral spirits for proper cleaning. Water works too, but not as good.

Cost

Acrylic paints are more expensive than latex paint.

Paint Coverage

Latex paints have better coverage than acrylic paints. For example, one gallon of latex paint can cover up to 400 square feet of material. On the other hand, acrylic paint doesn’t have good coverage. That’s because acrylic paint is made for small artwork surfaces, not large walls.

Do You Need Latex or Acrylic Paint?

Consider the following factors before making a choice.

  1. Budget – If you have a lower budget, use latex paint. That’s because latex paint costs less, and you get more gallons of paint. 
  2. Surface Size – For small surfaces, use acrylic paint. That’s because acrylic paint is suited for light touch-ups and repair work. Also, acrylic costs more. For large surfaces, use latex paint. 
  3. Experience – If you are inexperienced with paints, use latex paint. Latex paint is easier to apply, clean, and maintain. On the other hand, you must thin acrylic paint before applying it. 
  4. Finish – If you want a colorful finish, use acrylic paint. That’s because acrylic paint has more paint pigments than latex paint, so the finish will be more colorful. 

Final Words

Acrylic and latex paint are two similar paints, but they have some differences. For instance, acrylic paint has a more colorful and durable finish than latex paint. On the other hand, latex paint is easier to apply and maintain than acrylic paint. 

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