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Latex vs. Oil-Based Paint

White paint being poured in red paint pan.

When choosing an appropriate paint, most people assume that selecting a color is all they need to get the project going. However, in reality, picking a color shade comes second to a more important decision: picking the right paint type for your particular needs.

As it stands, there are the two main types of paint competing out there: latex and oil-based. While they both do the same function of painting walls, a few differences in their composition make each adhere differently to surfaces, impacting its appearance over time.

In this article, we shall look at each of the two paints and their qualities to determine when you can choose each one for painting your commercial or residential property.

When to Use Latex Paints

Latex paints are perhaps the most common paints you’ll find out there today. It’s what most people have in mind when they think of non-oil-based paint. The good thing about this kind of paint is that it dries quickly and is generally easy to work with. This makes it good for painting small areas like residential properties. They also emit fewer odors, are not flammable, and easily clean up with water.

As it stands, water-based paints (latex included) are pretty effective for most painting instances, such as drywall and plaster, stucco, porch floors, and siding (fiber cement, aluminum, wood). If you think about it, this is basically everything in the house.

Latex paints are especially good for interiors, where they are protected from sunlight and can better portray their unique resistance to yellowing. Although oil-based paints are more durable, a high-quality latex paint should hold up pretty well. They are especially flexible, which makes them resistant to cracking and chipping.

The downside to latex paints is that it has a short open time (the period the paint can be brushed before it sets). If exposed to the outside air, it tends to dry fast, thereby showing brush marks. It is also relatively less durable than oil-based paints and doesn’t coat wood and metal as efficiently as oil-based paints.

When to Use Oil-Based Paint

Historically, oil-based paint was the only available kind of paint used by people everywhere. Usually, local painters would mix the paint on sight, adding linseed oil, some colorant, whiting, and driers. Eventually, by the 1900s, the paints were more standardized. They became a favorite for painters everywhere because they resulted in a durable finish that survived really harsh conditions. However, due to air-quality restrictions and increased regulations, oil-based paints are rarer now.

But while these restrictions led to the development of new, improved varieties of latex paints, oil-based paints still have their perks. They still offer superior durability, better adhesion to rough surfaces, and one-coat hiding capabilities. They have greater leveling and glow (finish smoothness) and more resistance to abrasion once the curing is complete.

For these reasons, oil-based paints are good for painting high traffic areas like doors and windows whereby the paint is likely to peel easily, and metals to reduce any chances of rust. Since they dry slowly, they can be applied more easily to exterior surfaces without showing brush marks.

You also want to lean more towards oil-based primers when repainting old walls. This is because they have better adhesion capabilities and blend well with other compounds like latex, and milk paint, which might have been applied to the wall earlier.

The downside to oil-based paints is that they have stronger odors. They also tend to yellow with age, will need a solvent to clean up, and are thicker, thus harder to spread. In fact, they can take days or weeks, as opposed to latex paints which dry in seconds.


Well, there you have it. Hopefully, by weighing the two, you can now choose an appropriate paint according to your needs. However, it is always advisable to seek consultation from professionals, especially if you are dealing with a commercial project or a large residential project.

At Painter Bros, we deal with all things paint. We boast a team of skilled experts who can offer the painting advice and service you need. If you have any queries, feel free to call (844) 509-2313 and speak with a Painter Bros professional today.


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