Acrylic and latex paints are available for purchase at most home improvement stores. Both paints have specific properties that make them better for certain projects. 

The major difference between latex and acrylic paint is the solvent used to create them. Latex has a water-based solvent. Acrylic has a chemical-based solvent. This affects how the paint adheres to different materials.

Latex paint is the most commonly used paint for interior and exterior walls. It is affordable and easy to apply. Whereas acrylic paint is much more durable than latex and performs well in extreme heat, cold, and sun exposure. Acrylic is the top choice for high-traffic areas and furniture.

Not sure which type of paint to choose for your next DIY adventure? Learning the properties of acrylic and latex paints will ensure you buy the best paint for your project.

What is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is paint made of pigment that is suspended in acrylic resin and acrylic polymer. It is a chemical-based paint. It is extremely durable and commonly used for art projects, furniture, and exterior painting. 

Benefits of Using Acrylic Paint

There are several benefits to using acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is very elastic. It withstands changes in temperature, sun exposure, and water better than any other paint. Acrylic paint is heavily pigmented. It dries very quickly and requires little to no maintenance once applied. 

Less Prone to Cracks

Acrylic paint is elastic. It expands and contracts. This is beneficial for paint that is outdoors. Cold temperatures cause paint to shrink. When paint shrinks, the adherence between the paint and the material it was applied to becomes compromised. In hot weather, the paint will expand again, further disturbing its bonding. Because of its elasticity, acrylic paint can expand and contract without cracking. Despite temperature changes, acrylic paint will remain bonded to the surface it was applied to . 

More Durable

Acrylic paint dries down quickly and to a very hard surface. The paint’s hard top coat is scratch and scuff-resistant. That is why it is recommended to use it in high-traffic areas and on furniture. 

Acrylic paint is chemical-based. This has several advantages in terms of durability. 

  1. Chemical-based paints are water-resistant once dry. Acrylic paint’s hard barrier prevents moisture and water from getting through the paint.
  2. Acrylic paint is hard to remove. Once applied and dried, acrylic paint can only be removed with a chemical solvent. Using regular soap and water will not remove acrylic paint. This is beneficial for areas or items that are cleaned often in your home.

Sun Resistant

UV rays will break down pigments and resin in some types of paint. This is not the case with acrylic paint. Acrylic paints will not fade or crack from sun exposure. You can paint outdoor furniture with acrylic paint without worrying about the paint peeling.

Its ability to stay in the sun, coupled with its elasticity and water resistance, makes acrylic paint a great choice for exterior painting. 

Acrylic paint’s tolerance of UV light is another reason why it is so popular in the art world. Artists can paint without worrying about whether or not their canvas will be damaged if hung near windows and in direct sunlight.

Easy to Clean

Acrylic paint is water resistant which means you can easily clean it with soap and water. It is a chemical-based paint and can only be removed using strong chemical solvents like paint thinner or a deglosser. Lysol, Simple Green, and other common household cleaners will not disrupt acrylic paint. 


Using water resistant paint on dining tables and outdoor furniture will extend the life of your furniture. Acrylic paint’s hard barrier prevents moisture and water from getting through. If water or rain falls on something painted in acrylic it will slide off. That is why acrylic paint is a good choice for patio furniture, wood playscapes, and exterior building painting. 

To be clear, acrylic paint is water-resistant, not waterproof. 

As a general rule, it is always a good idea to prevent as much water as possible from landing on a painted surface. If the paint is exposed to water, dry it as quickly as possible. This will not only preserve the paint but protect the material the paint is covering from damage as well. 

Drawbacks of Using Acrylic Paint

No paint is perfect! Acrylic paint also has its disadvantages. Most of the problems with acrylic paint revolve around price and application.

More Expensive

Out of all the paints on the market, acrylic paint is one of the most expensive. This is a challenge when painting a large area like the exterior of a home. Despite its excellent weather resistance, the cost is the reason why most homeowners skip acrylic paint when repainting their homes. The high cost outweighs the durability factor of the paint. The chart below compares the average prices of 1 gallon of acrylic paint to oil-based and latex paint. 

Acrylic PaintLatex PaintOil-Based Paint

Acrylic paint also covers less area per gallon. The color is highly-pigmented, but the paint doesn’t spread or blend well. To get even coats without brushstrokes, you will need to use more paint. This adds to the cost of your project as you will need to buy more paint than you would have if you used latex or oil-based paint.

The cost is why acrylic paints are usually reserved for smaller areas like furniture, doors, and window trim. 

Less Smooth to Apply

Acrylic paint is extremely thick. It is difficult to spread it out evenly over large areas. Acrylic also dries extremely quickly. The thickness and fast-dry time combine to make a difficult paint application process. 

Acrylic paint applies better with a brush than a roller. Move quickly to avoid brushstrokes and clumpy paint. There are additives you can purchase that thin acrylic paint and slow the drying process. This is something you may want to consider if you are painting a large area and want it to look even.

Doesn’t Apply to Oil-Based Finishes

If your walls or furniture are painted in oil-based paint, you cannot put acrylic paint over it. Acrylic paints will not adhere to oil-based finishes. Instead of bonding to the surface, the acrylic paint will peel off. 

Before starting a painting project with acrylic paint, determine what the item has already been finished with. Take a cotton pad or rag and dip it in rubbing alcohol. Scrub the paint you are planning on covering up. If the rubbing alcohol has no effect, it is oil-based paint. Acrylic paint will not stick to it. 

What is Latex Paint?

Latex paint is the commonly used paint for residential and commercial painting. It is water-based and environmentally friendly. Latex paint is available in large quantities and is very affordable. It is simple to apply and available in a wide variety of glossy and matte finishes.

It is composed of pigment, water-based solvent, and acrylic resin. Its water base makes it easy to clean up and non-toxic. While latex paint does emit some fumes, they are much more tolerable than acrylic paint. 

Benefits of Using Latex Paint

Affordability is a huge benefit in selecting latex paint. A gallon of latex paint can be purchased for less than $20. This makes it ideal for use on large areas like walls. It is also available in a wide range of colors and finishes. 

Doesn’t Yellow with Time

Have you ever seen white walls that seem to have a yellowish tinge to them? They were probably painted using oil-based paint. Oil-based paint can oxidize while it dries if it is not exposed to specific light and temperature conditions. Oil-based paint that is exposed to too much or too little light will eventually yellow. You can see these effects right away or several years later. Either way, if you want bright-white paint it is a big disappointment! 

Latex paint is resistant to yellowing. The water-based solvent in the paint evaporates instead of oxidizing when it dries. No matter the light conditions, latex paint will dry bright and yellow-free.

Moisture also can cause paint to yellow. Latex paint is thin and breathable, allowing moisture to flow freely through the paint. Moisture doesn’t get trapped in the drywall or wood. This prevents yellowing AND stops mold and mildew from forming. 

More Eco-Friendly

Latex paint has a water base which makes it environmentally friendly. Latex paint can be disposed of in the regular trash. It is less toxic than chemical-based paints. While latex paint still emits fumes, they are not as dangerous as those from acrylic or oil-based paint. 

It is still recommended to make sure the room you are painting in has proper ventilation like fans and open windows. 

In comparison, acrylic and oil-based paints are made with chemical solvents. This makes them toxic. They cannot be disposed of in the regular garbage. Paints made with chemical solvents are dangerous to handle. You should wear full protective gear when applying oil-based and acrylic paints. 

Have Better Warranties

Large paint manufacturers offer warranties on latex paints. Two of the top brands with the best warranties are Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore.

Both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams offer limited lifetime warranties on their latex paints.

The limited lifetime warranty provides coverage on latex paints for the amount of time that you live in the home. The warranty is not transferable to new owners when the house sells. The warranty protects buyers if their latex paint cracks, blisters, or peels. If you experience issues with your Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore paint and it is deemed to be covered under warranty, they will replace the paint or provide a refund for the amount of money it would take to repaint.

There are exceptions to the warranty. The issues with the paint must be caused by weather or uncontrollable circumstances. Sun fading is not covered under the warranty. The warranty will not be honored if the paint was not applied properly. This includes proper preparation of the paint surface. Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore may send out representatives to inspect the paint before honoring the warranty.

Easy to Clean

Latex paint can be cleaned up with soap and water. It is easier to clean up because it is made with water-based solvents. Latex paint can be removed by water because it is composed of water. This makes paint spills easier to manage. It is also easier to remove from brushes, rollers, and skin than chemical-based paints. 

Drawbacks of Using Latex Paint

There are drawbacks to using latex paint. It is a thinner formula of paint and will require multiple coats to get a strong pigment. Because it is water-based, latex paint is much less durable than acrylic paint. It is easy to scuff and scratch. 

Less Durable

Latex paint doesn’t dry hard like acrylic paint. This makes it susceptible to scuffs and scratches. 

It is also not water resistant. Excessive exposure to water will make latex paint blister. The blisters will eventually crack or peel away.

The sun will fade latex paint. Over long periods, the sun will fade latex paint colors. This is considered part of regular wear and tear on latex paint and is unavoidable. 

Needs Multiple Coats

The water-based solvent in latex paint makes it a thin paint. While it spreads and blends well, coats are not opaque. You will most likely need to do multiple coats of paint on your walls if you are using latex paint. This is especially true if you are painting a light color over a dark color or if you are painting over new sheetrock. If you are painting similar color tones as what is on the wall already, you will probably only need two coats. However, if your new paint is much lighter, it may require 3 or 4 coats to fully hide the old color.

The good news is that latex paint is inexpensive so having to buy a little extra won’t break the bank. It also dries very quickly. The second coat of latex paint can be applied in less than an hour. If you are painting a whole room, it will take you longer to paint than the paint takes to dry!

Applying a primer before painting can reduce the need for multiple coats of latex paint. There are also latex paint formulas that are designed to work with just one coat. This is specified on the container and will cost more than regular latex paint. 

Sensitive to Temperature

Latex paint is not elastic like acrylic paint. When it shrinks in the cold, the paint will break from its bond on the material’s surface. This will lead to cracking and peeling. It is not advised to use latex paint on outdoor furniture or exterior doors. 

There are specific blends of latex paint you can purchase that are more resilient to temperature changes. A popular formula for this is alkyd-modified latex paint. It is more expensive than regular latex and contains additional compounds to help preserve the paint in all types of weather.

Which Paint is Better for Walls or Cabinets?

There are pros and cons to using acrylic and latex paints. Acrylic paint is much more durable, has stronger pigments, and is weather-resistant. Conversely, latex paint is affordable, easy to apply, and environmentally friendly. 

Latex paint is better for use on walls. It applies more evenly than acrylic. While you need to apply several coats of latex, you still get more coverage per gallon. Additionally, acrylic paint is very expensive. It is too costly to apply acrylic paint to large surface areas.

Cabinets can be painted with either latex or acrylic paint. If you have room in your budget, acrylic paint will last longer. It is scratch and scuff-resistant. It is also water-resistant and will protect your cabinets from splashes and spills. Acrylic paint forms a hard surface that can be cleaned with disinfectants and degreasers. 

Still not sure which paint to choose? Check out this chart that identifies which paint is best to buy for which home improvement project. 

ProjectAcrylic PaintLatex Paint
Interior WallsX
Exterior WallsX
Outdoor FurnitureX
Indoor FurnitureXX
Interior TrimX
Exterior TrimX
Metal FurnitureX

There are advantages and disadvantages to using acrylic or latex paint. The difference between the two paints is the solvent used to create them. Acrylic paint has a chemical-based solvent. It is more durable than latex and handles exposure to weather better. Latex paint has a water-based solvent. It is much easier to apply than acrylic and is more affordable. Some projects warrant using either type of paint. By learning the pros and cons of acrylic and latex paints, you can make a better decision before starting your next DIY project. 

Resources & Related Articles

Acrylic Vs. Latex Paint: The Difference And Which To Use

Acrylic Paint vs Latex: What Is the Difference and Which Is Better?

Why Is My White Paint Turning Yellow? | Reliable Home Improvement

What’s Really In Your Painting Warranty? – spraynet

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