Which Is Best: Oil-Based Paint or Water-Based Paint?

Posted June 9, 2017 by RB Painting

Which Is Best: Oil-Based Paint or Water-Based Paint?

If you are about to embark on a home refurbishment or home painting project, one of the first things that you should consider is whether you will use oil-based or water-based paints. Not too many years ago, the most popular paints on the market were enamel oil-based paints but due to advances in acrylic paint technology, most people now tend to buy water-based paints almost exclusively. In fact, these water-based acrylics make up nearly 80% of the current paint market.

The Differences

Enamel paint contains a solvent base that is made up of organic alkyds. By contrast, acrylic paints contain a polymer that is water-based. In both cases, the color pigment is suspended in either the alkyd solvent or the water-based polymer respectively. Perhaps the biggest change in the paint market is the vast improvement in acrylic polymers that are now thicker and more durable.

Enamels or Acrylics for Your Next Painting Project?

Both types of paint are readily available at all good hardware stores but if you’re wondering which one to use, you might want to consider the benefits and drawbacks of each paint. When it comes to enamel, here are a few things to think about:

  • Smell: Because enamel paint is alkyd-based, it has a strong smell. Thus, it is always best to paint in a well-ventilated area when using this product.
  • Cleanup: Because enamel paints are oil-based, cleanup is not quite as simple since you’ll need to use a mineral spirit such as a thinner to wash off the paint. This has its own very strong smell.
  • Finish: Many professional painters still like to use oil-based enamels indoors because they find that they go on more smoothly and have a better and cleaner finish.
  • Durability: Likewise, enamels are often considered better for their long-term durability. Once dry, they tend to have a tougher finish; however, they will yellow over time due to the solvent base in the paint.

If you are strongly considering investing in water-based acrylic paints, here are some of the benefits and drawbacks:

  • Smell: One of the best things about a water-based paint such as acrylic is that it gives off very little smell. This makes it very easy to work with in an indoor environment and is considered safer.
  • Cleanup: Unlike enamels, acrylics are easy to clean up with water because they are water-based. Most people find this a lot more convenient.
  • Finish: For most purposes, acrylics have a good finish, especially the more expensive brands. Many professional painters will tell you that it is harder to achieve a smoother finish with acrylic paint because it tends to show the brush marks more clearly.
  • Durability: In this area, modern acrylics have really improved but for exposed areas that take a lot of foot traffic, such as trim, enamels may be the better choice.

Which Paint to Choose?

Choosing the best paint to use generally comes down to personal preference but it’s definitely worth checking into the benefits and drawbacks of each. Acrylics are more popular these days and the paint has come a very long way in terms of its quality, durability, and finish. That said, enamels still have a lot to offer and professional painters still use them regularly for their specific qualities.