Home Decorating Tips

What's the Difference Between Water- and Oil-Based Paint?

Find out more about the difference between water-based and oil-based paint and see which finish suits your project.

Home Decorating Tips

What’s the Difference Between Water- and Oil-Based Paint?

Posted on November 17, 2021

If you’re a beginner who’s set on giving your wall a makeover, the process of choosing suitable paint for your space can be overwhelming. With the multiple types and finishes to choose from, you won’t fall short of options.

Paints in hardware stores are available as water-based or oil-based. Because these paints aren’t made with the same substances or ingredients, you can expect differences between them, particularly in how they apply and look on a surface.

Be informed and know the difference between water-based versus oil-based paint. This way, you’ll know which product to buy and paint your walls with, and lessen potential problems that can arise because of a wrong paint choice.

What Is Water-Based Paint?

If you’re painting ceilings, exterior walls that may be exposed to harsh weather conditions, or interior walls that are prone to moisture (like in kitchens and bathrooms), water-based paints is your best option. 

Water-based paints can come in either matte, eggshell, or high-gloss finishes. They’re usually made with a combination of resins, solvents, pigments, additives, and a binder, with water acting as a carrier. 

What’s great about water-based paints is that you can use them over surfaces that have been painted on with latex or flat oil-based paints. You can also expect a finish that can withstand cracking, remain stable for a long period of time, and won’t fade once exposed to sunlight. 

These types of paints are also less toxic and harmful for the environment, dry quicker, guarantee faster clean-up and don’t call for a pre-treatment. There are two types of water-based paints available in the market, each with its uses and benefits:

  • Acrylic water-based paint: It is called as such because it contains higher amounts of acrylic polymers, and as a result, sticks better onto the surface and makes it more durable. Acrylic paint also doesn’t have a strong odor and is non-flammable. If you’re on a budget though, you may want to forego using this or just use it sparingly on cabinets and furniture, since acrylic paint tends to be more expensive.
  • Latex water-based paint: Compared to acrylic paints, latex paints have lower amounts of acrylic polymers and chemicals, but provide more coverage. Latex paints, which are better used on vertical surfaces like walls, are less expensive and more eco-friendly since they don’t release as many harmful fumes as they dry.

Avoid using water-based paints on bare steel surfaces since it can rust, or on top of wallpaper since it’s possible for the water in the paint to cause peeling. Refrain from using water-based paints as well on surfaces that have a high-gloss finish, since the paint won’t stick well to the surface.

What Is Oil-Based Paint?

Oil-based paints, which often utilize natural or synthetic oils as their base, can be used on some exterior walls, molding, cabinets, furniture, and trim. These paints usually deliver a smooth application, and in some cases, don’t require a second coat, and can be used to cover slightly damaged areas.

A major difference between oil-based and water-based paints is that the former can be painted on metal surfaces. Oil-based paints adhere better on metal surfaces and protect them from elements. In some instances, they can also be applied onto stained and dirty surfaces, although you’re definitely better off cleaning them in the first place.

However, a disadvantage of using oil-based paints would be the difficulty in cleaning them up after painting. Oftentimes, the process would entail using solvents like turpentine or paint thinner. It’s also been said that oil-based paints can be prone to fading, discoloration, cracks, and peeling, and may lead to the appearance of mildew.

Depending on the manufacturer, some oil-based paints take a long time to dry. In particular, there are products that require eight to 24 hours of drying time.

If you’re also conscious about how a product smells, you may want to exercise caution while working with oil-based paints. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in oil-based paints emit a strong and unpleasant odor. This is why it’s highly recommended that you wear a mask and work in a well-ventilated area when handling them. 

Speaking of VOCs, they can be harmful to the environment once they’re released into the atmosphere, as they can negatively impact air quality and lead to the formation of smog.

Found the paint-related info you need? You can now determine whether your project would benefit from oil-based paint versus water-based paint. Talk to a professional about which of these types of paint would work better. Lastly, don’t forget to consider other factors like your budget, the climate in your area, the surfaces you already have, or even the type of finish you desire. 

Whether you choose water-based paints or oil-based paints, make sure you source them from a trusted brand. With Island Premium Paints, you can. Its paint products all come with a Product Satisfaction Guarantee and ensure you get your money’s worth. 

If you need additional inspiration or guidance about the proper use of water-based paints or oil-based paints, check out our website for more. Who knows, you may also pick up home improvement or decoration tips that you can try once you’re finished painting!


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