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

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

The main difference is that acrylic is more durable and has a more colorful finish than latex paint. However, latex paint is easier to apply and maintain. 

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

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

It takes latex paint 1 hour to dry to touch, and 3 hours to dry enough for a re-coat. This fast dry time is because of its water-based nature and formula. To dry, the solvent of latex (water) must evaporate. Since water evaporates fast, the paint will dry fast too. 

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

Acrylic Paint

What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?

Acrylic is a water-based paint known for its colorful finish. The term “acrylic” refers to the resin and polymer used in the paint. This paint is mad of 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 the paint. 

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

However, it 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 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. 

Latex paint is made of solvents, binders, and paint pigments and doesn’t have extra additives that improve its finish or durability. Also, acrylic paint has more paint pigments than latex because the paint is 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 due to the extra additives in the formula.

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.

Latex paint doesn’t have good paint adhesion and it will peel off if applied to concrete or masonry. That’s why this paint is used for wood, drywall, and plaster.

Durability

Acrylic paint is more durable because it’s designed with plasticizers. The plasticizer is added to resins and gives the finish a soft plastic-like texture. This plastic nature makes the paint more resistant to wear and tear, scratches, and dents.

Latex paint isn’t formulated with extra additives that make it durable. The paint is prone to chipping, damage, dents, and scratches. So, you should only use it on low-traffic surfaces.

Water-Resistance

Compared to other paints, both paints 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 it, 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 they aren’t durable enough to withstand outdoor weather elements. If exposed to constant rain, they will wash off. 

Shelf Life

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

Storing latex paint is harder because once you open the container and the air gets in, the paint won’t last long in storage. The air will make the paint inside the container dry. 

Usage and Maintenance

Latex paint is easier to use and maintain than acrylic paint because it 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 its finish using a damped rag.

On the other hand, it’s harder to use or maintain acrylic paint because it comes in tubes and has a thick flow, so you must thin it before applying. Also, the 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 the paint is made for small artwork surfaces, not large walls.

Which One Do You Need?

Consider the following factors before making a choice.

  1. Budget – If you have a lower budget, use latex paint because it costs less, and you get more gallons of paint. 
  2. Surface Size – For small surfaces, use acrylic because the paint is suited for light touch-ups and repair work. For large surfaces, use latex paint. 
  3. Experience – If you are inexperienced with paints, use latex paint because it’s 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 because it has more paint pigments than latex paint, so the finish will be more colorful. 

Final Words

These two paints have similar features, but they are different. For instance, acrylic paint has a more colorful and durable finish, while latex paint is easier to apply and maintain.

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

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,

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