Latex vs Oil Paints: What’s the Difference?

With the new year coming around quickly, now is the time to get stuck into your DIY projects you’ve been putting off! But, when you’re choosing the right paint for the project, what should you pick – latex vs oil paints? Latex paint is a fast-drying, water-based product. While oil-based paint dries slower because it is made with oil instead of water.

The applications for latex vs. oil paints are similar, but some differences exist. When you use water-based paint, the product applies well to large surfaces. It’s suitable for the entire interior area of a home or business.

Oil paints apply better to wood and metal. One must be careful of the fumes from this product when using it, as they can be toxic. It would be best if you worked in a well-ventilated area, which is why it’s less suitable for home interior work.

Comparison Points of Latex vs. Oil Paints

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When reviewing the two paint options, you’ll find several advantages and disadvantages to manage with both. Comparing the two products makes finding solutions for your current or future needs much easier.

Latex PaintsOil Paints
Latex house paint products are typically thinner, making them much easier for the average person to use.Oil-based paint generally is thicker and could require having turpentine or linseed oil mixed with the product to create the desired consistency.
This product doesn’t peel or crack as time passes, but can be more easily stained by other liquids.Yellowing and cracking are common issues to manage with oil-based paints as they age, even when applied by professional painters.
You can apply latex paints in virtually any environment because they have minimal odours and aren’t toxic.Some oil-based paints contain ingredients that could be toxic when they’re not used according to the product instructions.
Zinc white and Prussian blue aren’t colours you can access when using latex-based products.Oil paints do not currently come in any fluorescent shades.
Most latex and water-based paints are up to 40% cheaper than their oil counterparts.Pricing for an oil-based paint is based on the product’s quality.
Priming products are not required when working with many latex paints, although they are an option for a specific finish or to improve colour coverage.Oil-based paint requires a primer to be applied successfully to the selected surface.
Latex paints have a bit of flexibility once applied, reducing the risk of brittleness as temperatures or humidity levels change.An oil paint product is more likely to chip compared to latex.

Latex and Oil Paints Use Different Binders

Although both paint types use the same pigments, they require different binders to create a usable product. Binders are what help the paint adhere to a surface, giving you the best finish possible. Latex and oil paint require alternative binders, setting these two paint options apart.

Latex paint uses an acrylic polymer emulsion to suspend pigments. It’s non-toxic, water-soluble, and offers flexibility to the application. That makes it appropriate for use in outdoor areas where temperature changes could occur.

Most oil paint products have a linseed oil binder using the same pigments. This approach makes the product thicker, increasing the risk of mildew development during a long drying time. Due to the nature of oil paints, you cannot thin it with water as this will impact the application and ability to adhere.

Professional painters use both paint choices to ensure you receive the look you want, depending on where your project is located around your home or business.

How Easy Is It to Use Latex vs. Oil Paints?

Latex requires no priming before applying the product to a selected surface – being perfect for quick DIY projects. It dries quickly, which can result in less time to rectify a mistake if it occurs during your project. This product also tends to swell the grain when applied to wood, so you must sand to prep the surface between coats to ensure it meets your expected measurements.

Latex paint also won’t adhere well to chalky or dirty surfaces, and if your project is steel you’ll need to prime the surface. A con to latex paint, is that it’s less resistant to high humidity areas like kitchens and bathrooms, so it isn’t recommended to apply to these styles of projects.

Oil paint is harder to spread, especially if the product hasn’t been thinned with turpentine. This can result in an inconsistent application and have a patchy appearance on your project. The drying time for an oil based paint can take several days, and sometimes weeks – so you will have to be patient with this paint type. This also means you must keep the work environment clean throughout that time to ensure its quality isn’t compromised or contaminated.

Another factor to consider with oil based paints is that bubbles tend to form when working with oil-based paints, so it is important to stir the product instead of shaking it to combine the pigments well. Prepping the surface of your project with primers is also required in order to prevent peeling, and ensure the best finish. Since oil-based paints have more durability and aren’t as affected by environmental changes, they tend to be used more often in kitchens and bathrooms. 

Latex vs. Oil Paints: Which Should I Use?

Latex and oil paints have unique application benefits that make each an appropriate choice for specific situations. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but it could be that way when comparing a living room to a bathroom.

The critical component to remember when using these paints is that oil-based products require ventilation. As the fumes can quickly overwhelm you when painting your project in a small space.
Once you’ve completed the comparison, you’ll know which option to use for your next DIY painting project! When in doubt, leave it to the professionals, contact our friendly team for your free colour consultation!