Discerning the difference between acrylic and latex paints can be confusing at first.
Many people use the term “acrylic” to refer to acrylic paints, latex paints, and acrylic paints interchangeably.
While both latex and acrylic paints are opaque and can be used on a variety of surfaces, they are suitable for different purposes.
Acrylic vs. latex – which is better? Acrylics are ideal for exterior applications as they are more durable than latex. They come in a range of consistencies and are the better choice for artwork, hobbies, and crafts. Latex paints are good for large indoor areas, come in a variety of finishes, and provide smooth, even coverage.
In this article you will learn the differences and similarities between latex and acrylic paints, as well as preferred applications and effective cleanup techniques.
You will also discover the definition of “acrylic latex paint” and find out the best paint to use for crafts.
Acrylic vs. Latex Paint: Similarities & Differences
Latex paint and acrylic paint can be used for a variety of artistic and home-improvement projects. Acrylic paints can contain chemical solvents, whereas latex paints are water based.
Acrylic Paint: Characteristics & Uses
Acrylic paints are any paints that contain an acrylic binder. Paints that are referred to as acrylic can include acrylic latex, acrylic enamel, and acrylic latex enamel.
When it comes to paint, names can often be deceiving, so be sure to read the label and talk to your local paint store employee about what the paint you are purchasing actually contains.
Artist-grade acrylic paints are water based and generally used for arts and crafts, while acrylic house paint can be used for painting outdoor projects and the exteriors of houses.
Makeup & Consistency
Artist-grade acrylic paints come in many different consistencies, including heavy body, soft body, fluid, high flow, open, acrylic ink, acrylic spray paint, acrylic gouache, and even acrylic markers.
Acrylic mediums can also be added to acrylic paints in order to change the consistency.
You’ll find a complete explanation of the different mediums used with acrylic paints in my article here.
Acrylic house paint typically comes in a milky consistency.
Ease of Use
Acrylic paints are very easy to use. Acrylic art paints are washable, and many are nontoxic, making cleanup simple and straightforward with soap and water.
Acrylic house paints are easy to brush or roll onto the desired surface, but they often need to be cleaned up with a paint thinner.
Mixing acrylic paints is fun and easy, especially with the assistance of a color wheel. Add white to any color to create a tint, add gray to create a tone, or add black to create a shade.
Acrylic paints are a permanent paint once they dry and may require chemicals for removal.
Acrylic paint is water resistant, but it is not waterproof. Acrylic paint can be waterproofed with the addition of a sealant, such as polyurethane or a varnish.
Acrylic paints formulated specifically for exteriors usually contain waterproofing additives that protect the paint from moisture damage.
Acrylic artist-grade paints are used for art projects of all kinds and can be applied to canvases, wood, metal, windows, and more.
Acrylic house paints are designed to be used on both the interiors and exteriors of homes and can be applied to surfaces ranging from wood to concrete, although a primer may be needed before painting.
Artist-grade acrylic paints range in toxicity from nontoxic to versions that include potentially hazardous chemicals, such as chromium, lead, or manganese.
Acrylic house paints can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful to your health. Fortunately, there are many low-VOC versions from which to choose.
Learn about finding the safest acrylics, safety guidelines, and proper disposal methods for acrylics here in this article.
Cleanup is simple for nontoxic, artist-grade acrylic paints. Soap and water will remove any paint that is still damp from clothing or surfaces.
Dry paint can be a little more difficult to remove. Using baby oil, followed by a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol, is an effective way to remove dried acrylic paint from the skin.
Rubbing alcohol can also be used to remove dried acrylic paint from surfaces.
Stronger acrylic paints, such as those designed for the exteriors of houses, are more challenging to remove.
Sandpaper and solvents, such as paint thinners or paint strippers, may be required to remove dried acrylic paints.
Acrylic paints can range in price from just a few dollars for a cheap tube of student-grade artist paint to $30 or more for a gallon of acrylic house paint.
It can take many layers of acrylic paint to cover large surfaces, which means that the cost of paint can add up quickly.
Acrylic Paint Pros & Cons
|Dries fast||Can be costly|
|Large color selection||Brush or roller marks may be visible once dry|
|Can be applied to many different materials||Can be scuffed or show signs of wear and tear|
|Flexible||Not good for painting over oil-based paints|
|Certain formulas can be used effectively on outdoor objects||May require primer and several coats for desired results|
|Water resistant||Not waterproof|
|Low-toxicity options available|
|Comes in a variety of consistencies|
Latex Paint: Characteristics & Uses
Latex paint is a water-based paint that is often used for interior walls and ceilings due to its low cost and versatility.
Makeup & Consistency
Latex paint is an opaque, water-based paint that customarily comes in a smooth, creamy consistency.
If latex paint is too thick, it can be thinned by adding small amounts of water to the paint and stirring it with a paint stick.
Ease of Use
Latex paint is easy to use with a brush or a roller and can be applied to many different surfaces. Latex paint is primarily used for home-improvement projects.
Different colors of latex paint can easily be mixed together to create new colors.
It’s best to use paints from the same manufacturer when mixing and to test the finished product on a small area prior to applying it to the intended surface.
In order to get a good idea of what the paint will actually look like, be sure to allow the mixed paint on the test area to fully dry.
Latex is very durable and can last for years in the right conditions.
Is Latex Paint Waterproof?
Latex paint is water based, meaning that it is water resistant when it dries, but it is not 100% waterproof.
To waterproof latex paint, you will want to apply a primer before painting, and then add a sealant once the latex paint is dry.
You can also add a waterproofing additive to the latex paint before painting. If using additives or sealants, it’s helpful to choose products made by the same manufacturer.
Latex paint can be successfully applied to a variety of surfaces, although a primer might be needed in certain cases.
Latex paint can be used on vinyl, drywall, brick, and cement, among other materials.
Due to its water-based nature, latex paint is a low-toxicity paint and can be cleaned up with soap and water, removing the need for hazardous solvents.
Choosing low- or zero-VOC versions of latex paint or using lighter tints and avoiding glossy finishes can reduce exposure to VOCs.
Latex paint is relatively easy to clean up. Latex paint can be removed from skin, fabric, and paintbrushes using just soap and water.
Once latex paint has dried it can be more difficult to remove. Rubbing alcohol, nail polish, or pressure washers can be used to take dried latex paint off of hard surfaces.
Latex paint is relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to many acrylic paints. Latex paint can run around $25 a gallon for a cheaper brand.
Latex Paint Pros & Cons
|Smooth, even application||Not great for exteriors|
|Requires fewer coats than acrylic||Subject to fading|
|Low fumes||Not the best choice for porous materials|
|Soap and water cleanup||Surfaces may need to be sanded and primed before application|
|Can be applies to many surfaces|
|Resistant to mold and mildew|
How Acrylic and Latex Paint Are Alike
Acrylic and latex paints are both opaque paints that come in a wide range of colors.
Versions of each can be purchased with varying additives that can make them suitable for a diversity of tasks.
Key Differences Between Acrylic and Latex Paint
Acrylic paint is a flexible, adhesive paint that can be applied to a variety of materials.
Latex paint tends to have less give, making it a less-than-ideal choice for porous surfaces.
Acrylic paint can be more weather resistant than latex, making it a better choice for outdoor projects.
Although acrylic paints can come in a variety of consistencies, acrylic house paints and latex paints tend to be low viscosity.
Acrylic paints typically come in a gloss, matte, or satin finish, while latex paints can come in many different finishes, including flat, glossy, matte, pearl, and satin finishes.
Acrylic mediums or varnish can be added to an acrylic project to change the appearance of the finish.
Acrylic vs. Latex Paint
|Acrylic Paint||Latex Paint|
|Good choice for home exteriors and outdoor projects||Good choice for large interior areas, such as doors, walls, and ceilings|
|Comes in many different consistencies||Comes in a variety of finishes|
|Stronger versions may require the use of paint thinners for cleanup||Low toxicity and easy to clean|
|Best choice for artwork||Good choice for interior decorating and furniture|
|Can be water and weather proofed||Can crack and fade when exposed to the elements|
|May require primer and multiple coats||Usually only requires a couple of coats|
|Can be costly||Can be bought inexpensively in bulk|
Which Is Better – Acrylic or Latex Paint?
Acrylic paint is more flexible than latex paint, making it a better choice for certain surfaces.
Acrylic paint is also the better choice for painting exteriors or outdoor projects.
Latex paint has a smoother application and generally takes fewer coats to cover a surface than acrylic paint, making it the ideal choice for larger indoor projects.
Which Is More Durable – Acrylic or Latex?
Due to their chemical components, acrylic house paints are more durable than latex paints.
When To Use Acrylic Paint
Use acrylic paint for exteriors, surfaces that require a flexible paint, and arts and crafts.
Mixing in waterproofing and weatherproofing additives or adding mildewcide (find it here) to acrylic paints can increase their durability.
When To Use Latex Paint
Choose latex paint when you need a cost-effective method for covering large indoor areas, such as doors, walls, or ceilings, or if you have a project that requires smooth, even coverage.
Latex is a good choice for painting high-moisture areas, such as kitchens or bathrooms, as it protects against mold growth.
Can You Use Acrylic Paint Over Latex Paint?
While acrylic paint can be painted over latex paint, it’s always a good idea to completely remove old paint before painting over it with acrylic.
For best results, begin with a primer, use more than one coat of acrylic paint, and finish with a varnish or sealant.
Can Acrylic and Latex Paint Be Mixed?
Part of the fun of painting is experimenting.
Water-based acrylic and latex paints can be mixed, but you may get an interesting result or unwanted side effects due to their differing compositions.
When in doubt, you can always call the paint manufacturers and ask them what outcome you can expect from mixing two specific products.
What Is Acrylic Latex Paint?
Acrylic latex paint is a high quality latex paint that contains acrylic resin as a binder and no vinyl.
Acrylic latex paint is a durable, weather-resistant paint, making it a prime choice for exterior painting.
What Is the Best Paint for Crafts?
Acrylic paint is definitely the best paint for crafts.
Acrylic paint has been used for decades for crafts of all kinds, including painting on canvas, paint pours, repainting furniture, and children’s crafts.
Wrapping It Up
Choosing the right paint for your project is key to creating desired results.
Acrylic paint is more flexible and weather resistant than latex paint, making it a better choice for outdoor projects.
Latex paint is a durable and inexpensive paint that is a great option for painting interiors.
Using primers, additives, varnishes, and sealants can increase durability and help to improve the finished appearance.