Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex?


Last updated: July 14, 2023

Discover the tips and hacks of painting enamel over latex in this our comprehensive painters guide.

Can you paint enamel over latex?

Yes, spraying enamel over latex paint is possible, but it requires thorough preparation, which is a lot of work. You must strip off any existing sealant or clear coat to help the two paints bind better.

It would help if you also cleaned, sanded, roughened, and primed the substrate for the best results. Enamel and latex paint have different finishes, which also vary in flexibility. This requires a sealing layer to separate them and ensure they bind fully on the substrate.

In this comprehensive guide, we cover the nitty gritties of spray painting enamel over latex paint and the procedures for a successful job. Read on.

Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex?

Yes. If you don’t mind the time and effort needed to prepare the surface, apply enamel over latex paint to create a smooth, beautiful finish. However, ensure that the top coat is dry and moisture-free. Also, sand the old coat to roughen it up in readiness for the new paint.

Can You Paint Acrylic Enamel Over Latex

Yes, you can paint acrylic enamel over latex. While this paint type also requires surface preparation, it’s also compatible with latex paint since it’s water-based to some extent.

That means you can apply acrylic enamels without worrying about adhesion issues.

Acrylic paints are also eco-friendly and easy to clean. They also don’t develop yellowish marks common with some finishes.

However, they’re not as durable or lustrous, so you’ll need to seal with a clear finish to ensure durability. You can use acrylic paint over latex when recoating small objects or craft pieces, but they’re not ideal for large premium projects.

Can You Paint Oil-Based Enamel Over Latex

Yes, it’s possible to apply oil-based enamel over latex, but the same rules of sanding and priming apply. The priming should be done to perfection as it will determine whether the paint will hold onto each other or not.

Remember, oil-based paint and latex paints don’t mix well enough. If you don’t prime the surface properly, you’ll end up with a crappy paint job. Here are a few steps to help you apply oil enamel paint over latex successfully:

Sand with a P80 grit sandpaper to improve adhesion and durability. A natural matte texture is the ideal surface for applying oil-based enamel.

  • Wipe the sanded dust with a clean cloth.
  • Mask off surrounding areas and objects with painter’s tape.
  • Prime with an acrylic or water-based primer and leave to dry.
  • Spray your oil based enamel paint and leave it to dry.
  • Add another coat to create superior coverage and finish.
  • Remove the masking tape and let the paint dry and cure.

Why Use Enamel Over Latex?

There are several reasons why professional painters use enamel over latex paint, depending on various circumstances. If you’re wondering why you should go this route, below are a few reasons you might relate to:

Better Coverage: Enamel is an oil paint, providing more robustness than latex. Adding up enamel coating gives your surface better coverage and a superior top coat on latex.

Multiple Color Options: You can easily find enamel paint in various colors. This is why it’s a favorite with artists who use it to create custom artwork and unique lettering over latex base coats.

Cover Surface Impurities: You may have old furniture pieces with peeling latex paint or models that have seen better days and want to improve their aesthetics. Adding a few layers of enamel over the old latex paint layer is a creative idea to improve the dull look, especially if you don’t have time for a full renovation.

You can also read through our dedicated post on how enamel and latex paint compare to find out more on why you should use enamel over latex paint.

How Can You Tell If Your Paint Is Oil-Based Or Latex?

Before spraying any paint over any object or existing coating, you must ascertain which paint type it is. You might end up painting over enamel with latex and ruin your pieces.

So, to differentiate between oil-based and water-based paints, dampen a rag with denatured alcohol and gently scrub on a conspicuous section of the old paint. If the paint comes off immediately and sticks on the rag, it’s latex. If it doesn’t, then it’s oil-based paint.

Denatured alcohol easily dissolves latex paint but does not affect oil paints. Once you can establish which type of paint you have on your hands, you’ll know whether to strip it off or apply another coat over it.

What Type Of Latex Paint Is Best To Use With Enamel Paint?

As long as you use a primer to act as a sealing layer between latex and the other paint, you can use any latex paint with enamel.

However, cheap latex paint options do not have the same adhesion capabilities as premium ones, so always remember that when purchasing your paint.

If you’re still undecided, opt for simple flat latex paint options, as they provide excellent color retention and optimal finishes.

You can even try eggshells if you want something you can easily manipulate, although these two options are suitable for use with enamel.

Finally, ensure that your latex coating is optimally dry before applying enamel. It should not only dry to touch but also cure completely.

How to Paint Enamel Over Latex Paint

For enamel paint to adhere to a latex-coated surface, preparation is essential. Preparation involves sanding the surface to make it rough because enamel sticks better on rougher surfaces than smoother ones.

Secondly, enamel being an oil-based paint, will struggle to adhere to latex.

To make things easier for latex coating, follow these steps to paint enamel over latex effectively. Before you do, take a look at some of the materials you’ll need:

  • Safety equipment (goggles, gloves, mask, etc.)
  • Premium quality enamel paint.
  • A spray gun or airless sprayer (aerosol can work just as fine)
  • Sandpaper of different grits (fine and coarse)
  • Good quality primer.
  • Mineral spirits.
  • Putty knife or paint scraper.
  • Old clothes or rags.
  • Premium quality enamel paint

Follow these steps once you have everything in place.

Ensure the existing paint has cured

If you’re working on a new project and want to add an enamel topcoat on latex paint, you’ll have to wait for the latex paint to dry fully and cure before you can overlay it with enamel. There are two reasons why this waiting time is mandatory.

For one, oil-based paint and water-based paint don’t mix well. For another, there’s no way you can add a different coat of paint over an existing one that hasn’t cured. It will only result in the existing moisture repelling the new coat of paint.

To effectively spray paint over latex paint, the existing top coat should be at least six months old before it can be repainted. Otherwise, if it’s a newly painted surface, give it sufficient time to cure before repainting.

Clean the surface

Another crucial step when spray painting any surface is ensuring it’s entirely free of impurities like dust, grime, dirt, and debris.

These impurities tend to interfere with adhesion, so take your time to clean them thoroughly. Below are the steps to guide you.

  • Prepare warm soapy water.
  • Use a clean rag to scrub the surface with the water.
  • Rinse with clean water to remove foam and soap residue, then leave to dry.

Note: Avoid using harsh cleaning solutions to clean the surface

Strip Off Old Sealant

If your latex paint is sealed with a clear top coat, remove the sealant, which is usually glossy and waterproof. The sealant will make it difficult for enamel to bite into the surface, compromising adhesion. To strip off the sealant, follow these easy steps:

  • Saturate the top coat with mineral spirits.
  • Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Scrape with a putty knife or paint scraper.
  • Apply more mineral spirits as necessary and scrape again.
  • Wipe the paint and mineral spirits residues.

Note: This step is only necessary if the latex coating is sealed or waxed; otherwise, you can skip it after surface cleaning. Always wear protective gear when handling mineral spirits and similar solvents.


Sanding, especially with coarse grit sandpaper, helps roughen the latex coating and prepare it for maximum adhesion. This step uses coarse grit sandpaper to cut through the latex coating and remove the sheen.

Once you achieve a matte surface, smoothen it with a higher grit sandpaper. Finally, wipe the surface with a damp cloth to remove dust and residues.

Cover Surrounding Surfaces

No one likes a messy painting job. You don’t want paint splatter or overspray on surrounding surfaces. Instead, you want to cover and mask off stuff around your workspace.

For this step, spread old drop cloths or rags on the ground, and if working outdoors, cover the sidewalks, decks, windows, etc.


Priming is essential when applying latex over enamel paint. It acts as a sealant, providing the required stickiness to maintain adequate adhesion.

We recommend using acrylic and water-based primers as they’re suitable for both enamel and latex paints and create a smooth base coat once dry. Otherwise, use an oil-based primer for enamel paint. Here’s how to prime your surface:

  • Spray a single topcoat of primer and leave to dry.
  • Add the second coat.
  • You can sand the first coat, but this is optional.
  • Leave to dry, the apply enamel paint.

Apply Oil-Based Paint

Next, we come to the fun part of coating your latex surface with your favorite enamel paint color. After all the steps we’ve covered, you can apply enamel over latex paint without worrying about adhesion or compatibility. For this step:

  • Spray 3-4 layers of enamel paint.
  • Let each coat dry before adding another.
  • In case the coating develops imperfections, use 400-grit ultrafine sandpaper.
  • Leave the paint to dry and cure thoroughly for 24 hours.
  • Seal with clear varnish or a sealant of your choice.
Can you paint enamel over latex?

Will Enamel Stick to Latex Paint?

Yes. Enamel will stick to latex paint because latex is a water-based paint, and therefore does not have a glossy finish and doesn’t repel other paints. Latex also produces a dry textured finish, enabling other paints to bite and adhere to.

However, since latex is dust-prone, cleaning is necessary to make enamel stick better. So remove dust, then sand, and if possible, prime the surface to increase adhesion.

The only exception where enamel will not stick to latex is when there’s a protective sealant that naturally doesn’t support adhesion. Enamel will not stick on latex paint unless you strip off the protective sealant and apply a primer.

Mark’s Pro Tips For Painting Enamel Paint Over Latex Paint

If you want more success with spray painting enamel over latex paint, below are a few pro tips you might find useful:

Run the air conditioner: Your painting will be easier if you adequately keep the workspace air-conditioned. Cool air supports fast drying of enamel paint and can speed up your project. It also helps drive the strong and harmful paint fumes from the room, creating a safer environment to work in. Ensure the room temperature is optimal for the paints to bond better.

Ensure enough ventilation: Besides running the fan, opening the windows ensures optimal ventilation. It’s a crucial step as it helps maintain safety and protection from the toxic paint fumes.

Apply enough coats of primer: More layers of primer will help you achieve better adhesion success. For best results, keep the second primer coat thicker than the first.

Protect yourself: Always wear a mask to protect yourself from the fumes since enamel is a toxic paint.

FAQS: Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex?

Can you put oil-based paint over latex primer?

Yes, but it depends on the product and the manufacturer’s specifications. Using oil-based paint over latex primer can result in the paint contracting and expanding at different rates. Since oil hardens over time and latex retains flexibility, this contraction and expansion are inevitable. Remember that latex paint can be used over any primer, but oil-based paints are tricky and work best with oil-based primers.

Does Enamel Stick to Latex?

Enamel is an oil-based paint, and latex is a water-based formula, so they have different makeup compositions. Still, applying enamel over latex is possible, and adding a sealing layer (i.e., a primer) will ensure maximum adhesion. However, you cannot use latex over bare enamel or any other type of oil-based paint. A lot of surface preparation goes into ensuring compatibility, adhesion, and durability.

Can You Spray Enamel Paint Over Latex Primer?

Yes. However, remember that most oil-based paints may lift the latex paint off the substrate, causing a wrinkled finish. Also, a latex primer takes long to dry, sometimes several weeks or months before it can cure fully. Therefore you’ll need to wait until both paint and primer have cured before you can add enamel paint. Still, this depends on the quality of the product you’re using, so refer to the information from the manufacturer.

Can You Paint Oil-based Enamel Over Latex?

Spray painting oil-based enamel over latex is possible though it’s not the smartest decision. Since latex retains its flexibility, it is challenging for oil-based enamel paint to adhere properly. However, you can do it by priming perfectly and roughening it with P80 grit sandpaper. This specific sandpaper will cut into the latex coating, creating a rough or coarse matte finish to make the paint stick optimally.

What Happens if You Paint Over Latex Paint?

Painting over latex will result in a smooth finish depending on the type of paint applied, preparation, and application procedure. For example, you must use a primer to paint chalkboard, enamel paint, and other oil-based paints over latex. Failure to do this will result in frustrations as the paint will struggle to stick on the surface. But you don’t need to prime if you paint acrylic, latex, or shellac over latex.

Is oil-based paint better than latex?

Oil-based paint and latex paint are both great options, but the differences lie in their composition and ease of use. Oil-based paints are solvents containing alkyds, while latex is waterborne paint. Oil-based paints offer a superior protective finish on most surfaces like wood, metal, and plastic, although they also contain higher VOCs. Latex are flexible paints usable on home interiors and larger projects. The best paint depends on your project and specific needs.

Final Thoughts: Painting Enamel Over Latex

If anyone were to ask, can you paint enamel over latex paint? You know the answer by now. If you can adequately prepare the surface and follow the recommended steps, applying enamel paint over latex can be easier than you think.

The initial preparation steps can be tedious and time-consuming but doable. Surface preparation also ensures that you can repaint it again in the future without having to strip off everything and start all over again.

But without preparation, you can’t just overlay enamel over latex, especially if the top coat is sealed. Finally, applying enamel over high-gloss latex paint is impossible because it has a glossy finish that’s moisture resistant; hence, it will repel your paint.

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