Latex vs Enamel Paint (What’s the Difference?)

| Updated on
Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Latex paint is a water-based paint that uses water as its solvent, while enamel paint is an oil-based paint that uses oil as its solvent. The solvent difference makes both paints have different finishes, dry times, and features.

Latex paint dries faster, is easier to thin and apply, and has a more colorful finish than enamel paint. Enamel paint is more durable, adheres better, and is easier to clean than latex paint.

What is Latex Paint?

What Is Latex Paint Used For?

Latex paint is a water-based paint type that uses water as its carrier or solvent to hold the pigments and binders. It creates a colorful dry and textured finish that covers surface imperfections.

Latex paint is easy to apply, has a fast dry time, and is suited for interior surfaces. However, its finish isn’t durable and can’t protect surfaces that are exposed to constant water or moisture.

What is Enamel Paint?

What is Enamel Paint Used For?

Enamel paint is an oil-based paint type that uses oil as its solvent. It creates a high-gloss reflective finish that reflects light and highlights surface imperfections or texture.

Enamel paint creates a protective coating over surfaces and protects them from low water or moisture amounts. However, the paint isn’t durable enough to withstand high water amounts or weather elements.

There are water-based enamel paint types too.

Latex vs Enamel Paint

The differences between latex and enamel paint are listed below.

Formula

Latex paint has a water-based formula that uses water as its solvent. Enamel paint has an oil-based formula that uses natural or synthetic oil as its solvent. There are water-based enamel paints too.

The paint solvent difference makes both paints have different finishes, dry times, and qualities.

Dry Time

Latex paint dries faster than enamel paint as its solvent (water) evaporates faster from the coating.

Latex paint takes around 3 hours to dry between coats while enamel paint takes around 6 hours.

Durability

Enamel paint is more durable and lasts longer than latex paint as its oil-based formula creates a glossy moisture-resistant finish that repels water.

Latex paint isn’t durable enough as its finish is water-soluble and doesn’t repel water because it has a dry textured finish, and it isn’t formulated with protective additives.

Interior or Exterior Surfaces

Latex paint is suited for interior surfaces that aren’t exposed to constant water or usage as it creates a dry textured finish that can’t protect surfaces. Its colorful finish is made for low-traffic interior surfaces.

Enamel paint is suited for interior and exterior surfaces as its glossy finish can withstand small water amounts for a short period.

You must seal both paints with a moisture-resistant sealer before applying them over high-traffic exterior surfaces.

Paint Adhesion

Enamel paint adheres better to surfaces than latex paint as it’s designed with alkyd resins that improve its paint adhesion qualities. Latex paint also has good adhesion qualities and adheres to most porous surfaces.

Thinning

Latex paint is easier to thin than enamel paint as you can use water as a thinning solution. To thin latex paint, use water. To thin enamel paint, use mineral spirits. 

Cleaning

Enamel paint is easier to clean than latex paint as its glossy finish repels dust and dirt and can be cleaned with a solvent-based cleaner.

Latex paint is harder to clean and maintain as its dry textured finish attracts more dust and dirt, and you can’t clean it with a solvent-based cleaner.

Cost

Latex paint is more expensive than enamel paint as it comes in large paint containers while enamel paint comes in spray cans.

The Finish

Latex paint creates a colorful dry textured finish that hides surface imperfections but isn’t durable enough to protect the surface. Enamel paint creates a colored glossy finish that reflects light and highlights surface imperfections.

However, both paints are available in all paint sheens; flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.

Related Read: Can You Apply Enamel Over Latex Paint?

Which Paint Do You Need?

Before choosing latex or enamel paint for your next project, consider the following things.

  1. Finish Type: Use latex paint if you want a dry textured finish that hides imperfections. Use enamel paint if you want a glossy finish that highlights surface texture.
  2. Surface: Use latex paint for low interior surfaces, and enamel paint for interior or exterior surfaces.
  3. Color: Use latex paint if you want a colorful finish.
  4. Application: Use latex paint if you want a paint that’s easy to apply and dries faster.
  5. Protective: Use enamel paint if you want to add more protection to the surfaces.
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.

Leave a Comment