What is Latex Paint?

When you go to the Paint or Hardware store to look for a Paint there are so many different kinds. One great option is a Latex Paint because it gives great coverage, is a good value, and is easy to use for both beginner and pro painters.

Latex paint is a water based material with a pigment that is spread on surfaces to change their color and protect them. It is also called Acrylic-Latex, because it contains acrylics or polyvinyls which are a type of plastic resin. While it can be used anywhere it most often used on trim, furniture, cabinets, and moulding.

Some other great features of Latex paint are:

  • It expands and contracts more than other paints so you don’t get as many cracks
  • Smooth finish
  • Latex paint is more non-toxic because it is water based
  • Latex paint is easier to clean up – soap and water does the job
  • It dries fast (or at least faster than the other kinds of paint)
  • Not as many bad smelling fumes
  • Easy to clean after it is dry (like marks on the wall and dirt)
  • Better coverage – fewer coats – less cost!

What is Latex Paint Used For

Latex paint being rolled onto a wall
Latex paint being rolled onto a wall

Because Latex paint is relatively flexible, and gives good coverage with a smooth finish, it is most commonly used in the home over woodwork like doors, cabinets trim, baseboards, crown moulding and other decorative features that are in higher use areas. It is more commonly used inside (interior paint) than outside (exterior paint).

Latex can be used in both dry-rooms like bedrooms and living areas, as well as wet areas like bathrooms and laundry areas.

There isn’t a lot published about the brushability of Latex paint, but in my experience it flows well and leaves minimal brush marks on a well prepared surface. Additives like Flotrol can help reduce brushmarks in Latex painted items. Often I will use a combination of brush to cut in the edges and then a synthetic 3/16″ to 1/4″ roller to do the field of the wall

Latex paint is also great for sprayers of all types.

In addition to home use, Latex paint is used on furniture because it provides a durable, long lasting smooth finish that is easy to clean.

Acrylic vs Latex Paint

If you are looking for an even “stretchier” paint than regular latex, you may want to consider Acrylic Paint. Unlike Latex which has a base of water, Acrylic paint is chemical based. This means is can expand and contract more due to temperature changes than its cousin.

Also, Acrylic paint can be faster drying, but because it is a chemical base it can be harder to work with and clean up. It is also a bit more expensive.

But the other benefits to Acrylic is that it provides an even more durable finish than Latex, still cleans up with soap and water, and some say that it has a more vibrant color than latex.

Other kinds of Paint

Besides Latex and Acrylic there are 3 other major types of paint. While less common than the other two, they have some great use depending on your application.

What is Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a very popular choice among DIYers and Renovators (and even House bloggers) because it is super easy and forgiving to work with. It comes in a wide variety of colors but only in a matte finish.

You can apply chalk paint super easily by brush or sprayer, and it gives great coverage and gets into all the nooks and crannies of furniture or intricate moulding. However it does leave a rougher, chalkier finish. In other words chalk paint is not as smooth as latex, but you can add a top finish like a wax or water-based polyurethane protective finish to make it feel smoother.

Finally, in case you didn’t know, Chalk Paint is NOT the same as Chalkboard Paint.

What is Oil Based Paint

Oil based paint has slowly been phased out of use due to regulations because they are some of the least environmentally friendly options.

As the name Suggests Oil based paint is made with an oil instead of a water base. This makes it one of the most durable finishes out there, and is especially useful on trim.

Oil based is most commonly used on the exterior of a house for durability, UV resistance (this means it won’t fade with sunlight), and due to the fumes and order that it can generate while drying.

Oil Based paint is also harder to clean up after because you need more solvents and chemicals to wash off drips, brushes and other equipment.

What is Enamel Paint

Around the home, enamel paint is the least common. The qualities of enamel are high gloss, hard shell-like finish, high heat resistance and vivid colors. This makes it perfect for things like kitchen appliances, and high touch surfaces that get constant and even severe use.

While it is available for consumers, I personally have never used it outside of an automotive application. Appliances like Kitchen Aid mixers look awesome because they are painted with Enamel.

Also, because of the qualities, it takes a longer time to dry, is hard to clean from brushes and sprayers and is several times the cost of more common latex paint. Enamel paint can also fade or yellow under UV conditions.

Comparison of different paint types

DurabilityGoodGoodVery GoodExcellentGood
ElasticityGoodExcellentVery GoodPoor
Clean upExcellentGoodPoorPoor
Comparison of different types of paint

Final thoughts

For most DIY and home uses Latex paint is the go to choice. It’s ability to be mixed into millions of colors, easy clean up, and affordable cost make it the choice of Homeowners around the world for all their projects.