Acrylic Vs Latex Paint: Which Should You Choose? 


Last updated: July 11, 2023

How Does Latex and Acrylic Compare? Learn More in This Guide

A little walk down the Home Depot paint aisle throws you into a sea of brands and types. How do you pick the best product for your project from such a vast collection of closely competing brands and types? 

This is where a little knowledge of various paint types on the market goes a long way. Two products that can be particularly challenging to choose from are acrylic and latex paint. Both are water-based, with several similarities. 

However, acrylic and latex paint are different paint types with notable differences between them.

This acrylic vs latex paint article provides a detailed look at these two water-based products to help make choosing between them easier. 

But first…

What is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is a water-based paint that uses an acrylic polymer emulsion as its binder. It consists of pigments suspended in a water-based acrylic polymer solution, which acts as an adhesive that holds the pigments together and enables them to adhere to surfaces.

Acrylic paints dry pretty fast, thanks to their water-based formula. The paint is generally soluble in water but becomes insoluble when dry.

Acrylic paint is popular for its low toxicity, versatility, and low cost, which makes it affordable. Artists more widely favor this paint type than any other group of users. 

What is Acrylic Paint Used For?

Acrylic paint is used for various artistic, decorative, and practical purposes, including painting murals, canvases, and models. The paint also does an excellent job of creating custom colors and designs on fabric, making it a crafter’s favorite. 

Pros and Cons of Acrylic Paint

Like any finish, acrylic paint has its fair share of pros and cons. Here is a look at both sides of the coin. 

Advantages of Acrylic Paint

  • The paint is available in various colors and finishes, including matte, satin, and glossy. 
  • It is versatile, can adhere to various surfaces, and works for various applications.
  • It is fast drying.
  • You can mix acrylic paint with various mediums and colors, allowing limitless experimentation.

Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint

  • Acrylic paint is less durable than latex paint.

Latex Paint at a Glance

Latex paint, also known as water-based paint, is a type of paint that uses a water-based emulsion as its binder. It is called “latex” paint due to its historical use of natural latex derived from rubber trees as a binder, although modern latex paints use synthetic latex polymers.

Like in any paint type, the latex binder helps hold together the pigment and other ingredients.

Latex paint is a popular choice for indoor and outdoor projects, including painting wall surfaces in residential, commercial, and industrial setups. Its popularity results from its relative durability and ease of use over oil-based paints. 

What is latex paint used for 

Latex paint is widely used for interior and exterior wall surfaces in residential, commercial, and industrial applications.

You can use it to paint walls, drywall material, and ceilings. It can also do a decent job of painting cabinets, indoor furniture, and other wood or decorative painting projects.

Pros and cons of latex paint

  • It is easy to work with 
  • It is durable and flexible, capable of withstanding significant wear and tear.
  • The paint provides excellent coverage.
  • It is widely available and affordable.
  • It can adhere to surfaces with oil-based or latex paints.

Disadvantages of Latex Paint

  • Latex paint is vulnerable to sun damage and can fade due to prolonged sun exposure.
  • It can have a strong, unpleasant odor, depending on the formula.   

What Is Acrylic Latex Paint?

Acrylic latex paint is a water-based paint that combines the properties of acrylic paint and latex paint. It is a water-based paint that uses acrylic polymers as its binder, providing the benefits of both acrylic and latex paints.

Acrylic latex paint, also known as acrylic latex emulsion paint or acrylic latex water-based paint, is considered one of the best forms of latex paint because it comprises the best of both worlds of acrylic and latex paints. 

The product comprises an acrylic resin added to latex paint, giving it a hybrid of good water-based paint qualities. 

Benefits of Using Acrylic Latex Paints 

  • The paint is eco-friendly as it has no chemical solvents in its formula
  • It is safer for humans 
  • It is easy to clean up with soap and water
  • The paint resists fading
  • It is durable and resists cracking and chipping 
  • It does not yellow over time
  • It boasts superior color retention than other latex and oil-based paints.

What is The Difference Between Acrylic and Latex Paint?

Acrylic paint is a water-based paint that uses acrylic resins as the binder, while latex paint, despite being water-based, traditionally used natural latex but now uses synthetic latex polymers as the binder. 

Acrylic paint is primarily used for artistic purposes, dries faster, and offers a wide range of colors and finishes. Latex paint is mainly used for wall painting, takes longer to dry, and provides various sheens and durability levels. 

Acrylic vs Latex Paint: Side-by-Side Comparison 

Both acrylic and latex paint types are water-based and durable, but their specific properties and intended uses vary slightly.

Here is a detailed look at the specific aspects that set the two paint types apart. 

Latex Paint Vs Acrylic Paint Composition

Acrylic paint consists of pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. The pigments provide the paint’s color, while the acrylic polymer emulsion acts as a binder that holds the pigments together and forms a film when the paint dries. 

The binder in acrylic paint is made of synthetic resins, typically acrylic or methacrylic polymers.

On the other hand, latex paint, also known as water-based or sometimes acrylic latex paint, contains synthetic latex binders, pigments, and additives. 

The term “latex” in this paint type refers to the original use of actual natural latex in the paint, but modern latex paint uses synthetic latex, typically made from styrene-butadiene, vinyl resin, or acrylic polymers.

While latex paint may have acrylic polymers, acrylic paint generally has more acrylic polymers and is more heavily pigmented than latex paint. 

Acrylic Vs Latex Interior: Paint Consistency

Acrylic paint generally has a heavier body than its latex cousin. The paint’s consistency is comparable to liquid honey. It results from the higher percentage of acrylic polymers in the paint formula that causes a gel or paste-like consistency.

If you want your acrylic paint thicker, start by mixing the colors before adding your selected medium. 

In contrast, latex paint has a thinner, finer consistency due to fewer acrylic polymers or synthetic latex resin and more water in its formula. 

Adding a thickening agent such as cellosize hydroxyethyl cellulose can thicken your latex paint.

Acrylic Vs Latex Paint

Common Uses of Acrylic Vs. Latex Exterior Paint

Acrylic paint is popular for its use across various art applications. Professional and hobbyist artists use it to paint artwork on surfaces like canvas, metal, wood, plastic, glass, and more.

On the other hand, latex paint is typically used on walls and ceilings. Like acrylic paint, latex paint can adhere to various materials but is mostly preferred for high-gloss surfaces, especially those unsuitable for acrylic paint.

Acrylic versus latex paint: Coverage

Acrylic paint typically contains more pigment and binder, giving it excellent coverage. Just a few coats are enough when working with acrylic paint. This high pigment and binder density also means you can quickly cover a large area. 

In comparison, latex paint has more water in its formula with a lower concentration of pigment and binder. This quality means you must apply more coats to achieve the desired coverage, and it may take relatively longer than acrylic paint to use. 

You can also apply acrylic paint directly to the substrate, while you must start with a primer when using latex paint. 

Acrylic paint vs. latex: Adhesion

Both acrylic and latex paints have good adhesion qualities and can stick to a wide range of surfaces, including wood, plastic, metal, and glass.

However, you must apply a primer when working with latex paint to promote better adhesion. 

On the other hand, acrylic paint can stick to surfaces directly without requiring a primer, especially if the surface is not glossy. 

Latex paint vs acrylic: Drying time

Both acrylic and latex paints dry quickly due to their water base. However, acrylic paint has a shorter drying time than latex paint. 

While acrylic paint usually takes only 15 to 30 minutes to dry, latex paint can take as much as one or more hours to dry. 

Acrylic latex vs latex paint: Cost

While both latex and acrylic paint are inexpensive, you are likely to spend more money on acrylic than latex paint. 

However, you may want to factor in the relative durability of acrylic paint when deciding which to buy between the two. While acrylic paint will cost more money upfront, it will typically last longer, saving you money in the long run.

Toxicity, Safety, and Odor

Both acrylic and latex paint are nonflammable and non-toxic when wet. Still, using them in well-ventilated spaces is recommended because inhaling large quantities of fumes from either paint can affect your health. 

Prolonged exposure and inhalation of paint fumes can lead to nausea and damage the liver and kidneys. So ensure you wear a respirator mask regardless when working in enclosed spaces. 

Latex or Acrylic Paint: Ease of use

Both latex and acrylic paint are easy to use. However, you should have an easier time working with latex paint than acrylic paint. This relative ease of use is mainly due to the thinner consistency of latex paint and the faster drying time of acrylic paint

Acrylic vs Latex Paint: Longevity

Acrylic paint is more durable than latex paint, even though both water-based paint types are long-lasting. 

Acrylic paint forms a flexible and resilient film that can withstand handling, movement, and environmental conditions when dry.   

Acrylic paint is also resistant to UV light, which helps prevent fading or discoloration when exposed to sunlight. Additionally, acrylic paint is more resistant to moisture and mildew compared to latex paint, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.

Latex paint is also more prone to showing signs of weathering over time than acrylic paint, which can take significant abuse without showing. 

Latex vs Acrylic Paint: Weather-resistance

Both acrylic and latex paint are durable, but acrylic paint has more weather resistance than latex paint

Latex paint is resistant to cracking, peeling, and blistering and forms a tough and resilient film when dry. However, exposure to sunlight can cause fading. 

In comparison, acrylic paint is highly resistant to moisture and mildew, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications.

Acrylic and latex paint: Elasticity

Both paint types are flexible. However, acrylic paint boasts more acrylic binders, making it the winner as far as elasticity goes. 

This greater elasticity makes acrylic paint incredibly suitable for surfaces that experience significant expansion and contraction.

Benefits of Acrylic vs Latex Paint

Here is a summary of the advantages of acrylic paint over latex paint. 

  • Acrylic paint is more durable than latex paint
  • It is more resistant to UV damage and fading 
  • It is more suitable for outdoor applications due to its greater resistance to weather damage. 
  • It can adhere to surfaces directly without using a primer 
  • It provides a richer color palette thanks to a higher concentration of pigment and binders. 
  • Acrylic paint dries faster than latex paint 

Benefits of Using Latex versus Acrylic Paint

  • Latex paint is easier to work with than acrylic paint since it goes on smoothly. 
  • The relatively longer drying time allows you ample time to work the paint, making it ideal for beginners. 
  • Latex paint is low odor and non-toxic 
  • Latex paints resist chalking perfectly 
  • They have a velvety finish that gives them a modern appeal, ideal for walls and ceilings. 
  • Latex paint costs less than acrylic paint despite both being inexpensive

Tips and Tricks When Using Latex and Acrylic Paints

Both latex and acrylic paint are water-based, so they share some basic characteristics. When working with either of them, a few tricks will help improve your results. Here is a rundown of the tips and tricks to ensure the desired results. 

  • Always use a primer to improve adhesion, even when the manufacturer says priming is optional. While paints like acrylic paint will adhere to most surfaces without a primer, priming the surface can make the paint job more durable.
  • Add water to the latex if it is too thick. Thinning the latex paint will help make it easier to work with. The same rule applies to acrylic paint, depending on what you’re working on. Except, you will need an acrylic medium instead of water to thin acrylic paint. 
  • For acrylic paint, consider slowing down the drying time by adding a retarder, especially if you are new to the paint.
  • If you’re experienced in using acrylic paints, consider adding an extender prolong its drying time and allow you to make the most of it.
  • Protect the painted surface with a compatible sealer after painting to prolong its service. This recommendation cuts across when applying acrylic paint and latex paint.

FAQs – Acrylic Latex Vs Latex Paint

Which is Better, Acrylic or Latex Paint?

The better choice between latex and acrylic paint depends on your project type and preferred characteristics. Latex paint is the ideal choice for interior projects. It is also less expensive than acrylic paint, making it perfect for anyone on a budget. 

On the other hand, acrylic paint is better for outdoor projects and offers more durability than latex paint. The paint is also resistant to molds, mildew, water, and UV rays. It has brilliant colors and does an excellent job of retaining the color over time, despite weather exposure. 

What is Latex Paint Used For?

Latex paint is used for interior and exterior wall surfaces in residential, commercial, and industrial applications. It is also a popular paint type for ceilings and drywall material and excels in painting cabinets, indoor furniture, and other wood projects or decorative painting projects.

Why Do Painters Use Acrylic Paint?

Painters use acrylic paint because it is incredibly durable and colorfast when dry; it dries quickly, is easy to thin with water, is non-toxic, nonflammable, and can work in various artistic techniques. Since acrylic paint cleans easily with water and soap, it allows painters to correct mistakes more easily than they would with other mediums. 

Which Paint is Best for the Exterior?

While acrylic paint outperforms latex paint on exterior projects, it is not regarded as the best for outdoor projects. Instead, oil-based paint is widely accepted as the best paint type for outdoor projects and can be incredibly durable while exposed to extreme weather elements. 

Should You Prime Surfaces Before Applying Latex Paint?

Yes. Priming is essential when working with latex paints as it helps prep the painting surface for better adhesion. It also seals any stains to allow the paint to adhere better without experiencing bleeding down the line. 

What is the Difference Between Acrylic Paint and Watercolor?

While both acrylic paint and watercolors have water as their base, the former (acrylic paint) is loaded with acrylic polymer resins giving it a thick, plastic consistency and enhanced durability once dry. Acrylic paintings also tend to be opaque, whereas watercolor paintings are pretty transparent.

Does Latex Paint Yellow Over Time Like Oil-based Paints?

No. Exterior latex paints tend to lose the vibrancy of their color when exposed to weather elements for prolonged periods, but it does not turn yellow. Yellowing is common among oil-based paints, but latex paint is water-based. 

Acrylic vs Latex Paint: Final Verdict  

The acrylic latex paint vs. latex paint vs. pure acrylic paint battle is a closely contested one due to the many shared similarities between these water-based paints. 

However, the paints have significant differences that set them apart and make them suitable for different applications. 

Ideally, consider using latex paint for indoor projects, such as painting walls, furniture, and ceilings. On the other hand, go for acrylic paint for outdoor projects and artwork. 

We hope this guide helps you out. 

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