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Oil vs Latex Paint Types

White paint being poured in red paint pan.
When choosing an appropriate paint, most people assume that selecting a paint 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 paint job.

As it stands, there are the two main types of paint competing out there: latex and oil based. They both do the same function of painting walls. But each one's unique features make them ideal for different projects and you should take those into consideration.

In this article, we will compare the qualities of both types of paints. Understanding their differences will help you decide which is the perfect choice for your painting project.

Don't want to deal with the details? Contact us at Painter Bros for your free project estimate!

When to Use Latex Paints

Initially named after its rubber-based components, Latex paint remains a popular choice for professional and at home painters. They are what most people have in mind when they think of house paint. Modern formulas are now mostly water-based paint, utilizing polymers and polyvinyl acetate as binders.

Latex paints are perhaps the most common paints you’ll find in stores today. The good thing about this kind of paint is that it dries quickly and is generally easy to work with. It also comes in several different finishes such as gloss, semi-gloss, and high gloss.

This makes it good for painting small areas like residential properties. They emit fewer odors, are not flammable, and easier to clean up with water. This makes them ideal for interior painting.

As it stands, water-based latex paints are pretty effective for most painting surfaces. Such as drywall and plaster, stucco, porch floors, and siding (fiber cement, aluminum). All you need is to properly prep the material you plan on painting. Need painting tips on how to properly prep different surfaces?

Check out our article on Crafting the Perfect Canvas!

Latex paints are especially good for interior walls. Because this type of paint is resistant to yellowing, it helps preserve your hard work against fading. 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.

This type of paint is also perfect for high traffic areas such as hallways and living rooms. Latex paint is extremely resistant to dirt and grim, often only needing a wipe of mild soap and water to keep clean. No need to spend all day scrubbing at stains left behind from everyday life.

The downside to latex paint is the short time you can manipulate it before it sets. Otherwise known as it's open time. Water-based paints dry quickly when exposed to outside air, which can result in visible brush marks. Latex paint is also relatively less durable than oil-based paints on certain surfaces such as wood and metal.

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 harsh conditions. This made them ideal exterior paints. But because of modern air-quality rules and more regulations, oil-based paints are harder to find now.

Thanks to modern developments, oil-based paints are safer to use while still having the perks of the old formulas. They still offer superior durability, better adhesion to rough surfaces, and one-coat hiding capabilities. They have greater leveling and glow, resulting in a smooth finish. They are also more resistance to wear and tear once the curing is complete.

For these reasons, oil-based paints are good for painting areas like doors and windows. The paint is less likely to peel and can help prevent rust on metal surfaces. Since they dry slowly, you can use them more easily with exterior painting projects without showing brush marks.

You also want to lean more towards oil-based primers when repainting old walls. This is because they have better bonding capabilities. They also blend well with other compounds like latex and milk paint that someone might have 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 to dry, as opposed to latex paints which dry in seconds.


So overall, both oil-based and latex-based paints have their own perks depending on your project's needs. Oil-based paints excel in durability and finish, while latex paints boast ease of use and environmental benefits. In the end, the best choice depends on things like the type of surface, how you like to apply paint, and what's good for the environment. Knowing these differences helps you choose the right paint for a perfect finish on your 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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