Differences Between Latex & Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are water-soluble, making them the safest and easiest to work with, and they clean up with soap and water. Acrylic paints cannot mix with oil-based paints, contain chemical-based resins, and dry quickly.

Acrylic latex paints are the most common house paints and offer the best adhesion and flexibility. Not sure which is the best paint type to use? Luckily for you, we are professional painters and have outlined details below to help you fully understand what the terms for each paint type mean.

Acrylic House Paint and Other Variations

The comparison between acrylic and latex paint varies between house paint and artist paint. However, pure acrylic resins contain acrylic monomers. Acrylic is found in various chemical compositions, proprietary to each manufacturer’s paint formulation. However, the most common complex acrylic polymer is styrene-acrylic, which dries hard, providing an enamel finish. 

All paint contains a solvent, binders, and pigments. Paint solvents are never mixed and range from mineral spirits to water and methylene chloride, to name a few. 

Paint binders include soya alkyds, acrylic resins, and polyvinyl acetate. 

Paint pigments range from linseed oil, titanium dioxide, limestone, and other natural pigments. 

Which Paint to Choose

Acrylic latex paints are the most popular and preferred for usage and environmental reasons, while oil paints are nearly obsolete and have limited use for interior or exterior house painting.

Acrylic paints also contain far less odor and VOCs. While paint odor and the omission of volatile organic compounds are not directly related, limiting both is a significant benefit of water-based paints.

Water-based paints are also flexible, less likely to crack, and allow moisture transfer. Water permeation enables the paint to breathe, increasing its resistance to blistering and peeling underwater water saturation and wet conditions.

Acrylic vs. Latex

There is no rubber or latex found in household paint. Latex mainly describes the characteristics of the paint’s elasticity and is a synthetic compound containing both polyvinyl acetate and/or acrylic polymers. However, paints with latex labels usually incorporate more polyvinyl binders that offer increased adhesion and flexibility. 

Acrylic is another resin (binder) often combined with other resins. A combination of resins gives each paint formulation distinct properties. Unfortunately, looking at the outside of a paint label does not entirely depict how the paint will perform. Additionally, there are several chemical makeups of all resins, and they can all be combined at different ratios, also known as cross-linking

Acrylic resins are more resilient and resist moisture. However, acrylic does not adhere to surfaces as well as polyvinyl resins. Therefore, combining the two increases overall interior and exterior paint performance.

Interior Paint Acrylic Percentages

Exterior and interior house paint compositions are different. Interior paints have more vinyl polymers. However, determining how much of each resin is present is difficult even when reading paint data sheets. 


The reason it’s hard to know the exacts is that some raw materials are determined by weight, and other specs are measured by volume, which screws the number, making them misleading and hard to understand.

Paints that Have More Acrylic

House paints that have fortified acrylic formulations include:

  • Exterior House Paints
  • Interior Trim Paint
  • Porch & Floor Enamels
  • Water-based Industrial Enamels
  • Water-based Concrete Paints
  • Acrylic Deck Stains

Qualities of Paints with More Acrylic

Since paints containing increased amounts of acrylic dry faster, propylene and ethanol glycol, water, soaps, and other agents are used to slow drying. 

More Improvements:

  • Increased Moisture Resistance
  • Higher Abrasion Rate
  • Improved Oxidation Resistance

Like labels with latex verbiage, paint cans labeled as 100% latex are also deceiving, as the EPA sets the minimum standard of less than 100%. So, the numerical claim and minimum requirement are not mathematically equal or the same. 

While the paint may not technically contain 100% acrylic, paints with more acrylic polymers are more likely to yellow over time.

Acrylic Enamel vs. Acrylic Latex

Acrylic enamels are chemically developed to dry hard, providing resistance similar to oil paint. The objective of acrylic latex is to be more flexible, allowing it to cover a wide range of surfaces subject to flex or movement.

Need a Painters’ Advice?

Contact us if you live in Raleigh or around the Triangle Area; we would love to help. You can also view our social media channels and other related articles.

Similar Posts