Acrylic vs Latex paint | Advantages, Disadvantages & Similarities

By Mandy Moss

It can be very stressful when trying to choose the best paint for your home. After all, there isn’t just one kind that fits every situation. So the big question is, should you use latex paint vs acrylic? What would be better in the long run?

Acrylic vs Latex paint  Advantages, Disadvantages & Similarities

There’s a lot more latex paint in a bucket for better cost, but there might be some things acrylic can do that you will be missing out on. So keep reading to learn the pros and cons of each paint to find out which works best for the job you need.

What Is the Difference Between Latex vs Acrylic Paint?

AspectAcrylic PaintLatex Paint
CompositionWater-based paintWater-based paint
BinderAcrylic polymer emulsionVinyl or acrylic resin
ApplicationSuitable for various surfaces: canvas, wood, paper, etc.Primarily used for walls, ceilings, and exterior surfaces
Drying TimeQuick drying (typically within 10-20 minutes)Slower drying (usually 1-2 hours)
OdorLow to minimal odorLow to moderate odor
Clean-upWater and soapWater and soap
FlexibilityMore flexible and durableSomewhat flexible
FinishAvailable in matte, satin, gloss, and moreTypically dries to a matte or eggshell finish
DurabilityResistant to fading, cracking, and yellowingDurable and can withstand scrubbing and wear
UsageSuitable for fine art, crafts, and detailed workIdeal for large surface areas and DIY projects
Indoor/OutdoorBoth indoor and outdoor usePrimarily for indoor applications, can be used outdoors in mild conditions
ToxicityGenerally non-toxicGenerally non-toxic
CostCan be more expensiveTypically more affordable

What is Latex Paint?

Let us start with the fact that there is no latex rubber in the paint itself and the term ‘latex’ actually refers to its aqueous dispersion. So it is a water-based ingredient that is quite flexible, allowing the colors in the paint to distribute evenly.

It just so happens the component itself looks like latex before it is being mixed. So if you have a Latex allergy, don’t worry Latex paint is still an option since it isn’t the one you’re allergic to.

What do you usually use Latex paint for?

Latex paint is most commonly used for big painting projects like walls or doors. Anything that needs ample space to cover rather than any small details. Especially since you can have a lot of paint in a bucket which comes in handle for large walls.

Though you can also use it for decorative work, it is more commonly used for home decor. It is also most frequently used for exterior paint since it tends to do quite well in the sun and keep its color longer.

The  Advantages of Latex paint.

Having worked at Sherwin Williams for years, My Uncle Tom shared valuable insights into the differences between acrylic and latex paints. Acrylic latex paints dry fast and are not as hard as oil-based paints, but they don’t fade like oil-based options.

While you can think that Latex is the most basic of paints when it comes to walls. Latex actually has a lot of benefits that might sway you to use it more than acrylic:

  • Inexpensive cost
  • Greater availability and variety
  • Non-flammable and non-toxic
  • Easy Application
  • Easy Cleanup

Inexpensive Cost

One of the main benefits of latex is its cost, as its ingredients are easy to come by. So if you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with going with latex paint for most of your painting needs.

Greater Availability and Variety

Since latex is the most commonly used paint, it is very straightforward to obtain as most places will have latex paint. Both online or at a store, it is convenient to find the color you want. This also makes it easier if you wish to blend colors.

Non-Flammable and non-toxic

Latex is a none flammable paint even when dried, which means that disposal and storage are fewer hassles. This also means you don’t have to worry about the object you just painted catching on fire.

Easy Application

Regardless of the surface, it can easily adhere to almost all surfaces with minor issues or prepping. It also allows the paint to stick to it quickly if a second coat is required. It is also easy to remove any mistakes with a dab of water.

For wood painting projects, proper surface preparation is crucial. Sanding the finish down to reduce sheen and applying a sandable primer is essential for achieving a smooth, professional look.

I recommend using Sherwin Williams Proclassic Acrylic Latex for painting cabinets, as it dries quickly, flows smoothly, and delivers impressive results. Keep an eye out for sales to get the best value for your investment.

Easy Cleanup for equipment and area

After you finish painting, all you would really need is water to wash off all that paint from your brush, rollers, and clothing. Meaning you don’t have to buy a specific chemical to get the color off. This can make things easier for you since you don’t have to worry about disposal either as it isn’t toxic.

Wide Range of Finishes

Latex paint offers a diverse selection of finishes, from matte to satin to high-gloss. This allows you to tailor your paint choice to the specific look you want to achieve. For instance, a high-gloss finish is perfect for adding elegance to trim or furniture.

The Disadvantages of Latex Paint

Despite all these fantastic benefits, there are some drawbacks to consider before you run out to get latex.

  • Swells and cracks if painted on wood surfaces
  • It takes a long time to cure and can crack on rough surfaces
  • Won’t Adhere to dirty walls
  • Not for use on things being touched or moved.

Cracks and swells of Latex on Wood.

Because the wood’s sensitivity to the elements and latex lack any water resistance can cause the wood to expand underneath the paint. Which can end up making the color itself crack or peel. So while it can cover an extensive range of space if outdoors, it needs more maintenance.

Lengthy Curing Process and prone to Cracks.

Despite the fact it can dry quite fast, this doesn’t mean it cures just as quickly. So while you will be able to touch the wall, you will need to keep an eye on it.

The curing process can take a week from when it was first painted, and you might need to do another coat. Worst if it decides to rain during this time frame, it might need a second coating.

Can’t cover dirt

Latex is very good at blending, so it isn’t the best kind of paint to use over a dirty wall. As the dirty will blend into the paint, messing up the colors so will need to make sure what you’re painting over has been cleaned.

Not for Seats or Furniture

Because of how latex can act on a rough surface, it isn’t the kind of paint often meant to be touched and messed with. It will begin to peel and crack with use, so it’s better for painting on objects you aren’t handling or sitting on.

What is Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic paint is more commonly used for decorative works and art pieces. According to Wikipedia is a water-based pigment suspended in acrylic polymer emulsion and plasticizers, silicon oils, defoamers, stabilizers, or metal soaps.

So there are a lot of chemicals in it compared to latex’s slightly more straightforward composition.

It’s pretty hydrophobic, so it needs these additional chemicals to mix with water. However, it also tends to have a much more vibrant color once it dries as well.

What do you usually use acrylic paint for?

This paint is commonly used for more decorative paint jobs like the details on the windowsill or baseboard. It tends to look a lot more vibrant and shiny after drying compared to latex. It’s also useful for furniture and wood you want to bring back to life.

It is also the preferred choice for artists wanting to bring a brush to a canvas. As it has excellent bendability, it can be a suitable replacement for oil painting.

What are the Advantages of Acrylic Paint?

There are actually several benefits that Acrylic Paint has over Latex paint. Many that can even outweigh the cost:

  • Excellent stain protection
  • Water resistance
  • Better adhesion
  • Resist cracking and blistering better
  • Resistance to cleaners.
  • Bright Pigment
  • Versatile Use
  • Mold and Mildew Resistance

Stain protection

Acrylic paint creates a seal that can help prevent stains from sticking to the surface and ruining the paint you worked so hard for. Which is what helps make it great for furniture or decorative projects.

Water Resistance

Once dried, it will create a protective layer blocking any water from the wall or material underneath. This makes it great to use on wooden materials and furniture if it’s on the porch. Even on metal to protect them from rust if you use an oil-based primer as a base.

Better Adhesion

While latex can be used on most surfaces, acrylic is just a bit more reliable at adhering to various surfaces. Because of its more thick consistency, it requires fewer coats to tact on.

Fewer Cracks and Blisters

Acrylic is quite flexible and durable, meaning it can stand the environment a bit more than latex. Something you definitely want if planning to use it for those finishing touches on a baseboard or to make your wall an art piece. This actually makes it more reliable for use outside.

Resistant to Cleaners

This is helpful when you have a guest over or children playing that bumps into that wall and smug a wooden seat with dirt. Usually, when you try to clean it with soap and water instead it can just ruin the paint. With acrylic, you won’t have such issues allowing you to wipe down your painted surfaces without fear.

Bright Pigment with acrylic paint.

Bright Pigment

Acrylic Paints is known for its vibrant colors and shine that really catch the eye. Compared to Latex’s slightly duller coloration, it can have a much more dynamic look to them. It might be just the thing you need to make that old bench pop or for the baseboard to add more vibrance, or just to create the perfect artwork.

Versatile Use

One of the significant advantages of acrylic paint is its versatility. You can use it on both interior and exterior surfaces, making it suitable for a wide range of projects. From walls to furniture, acrylic paint delivers impressive results.

Mold and Mildew Resistance

When it comes to damp areas like bathrooms or basements, mold and mildew can be a real concern. Acrylic paint’s resistance to mold growth ensures that your painted surfaces stay fresh and clean for longer periods.

What are the Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint?

As impressive as acrylic can be in brightening up a room or furniture, there are some drawbacks.

  • Expensive Cost
  • Less variety of colors
  • Complicated disposal method and procedures
  • Difficult to clean.
  • Highly Flammable
  • Unsalvageable once dried

Acrylic Paints Cost

Unlike latex which uses a much more common Polymer, Acrylic Resin is the usual ingredient which can make it quite pricey. It’s not a cheap investment, and it isn’t as readily available in stores either.

Lack of Variety

This also comes with the drawback that there are fewer colors available in acrylic paint. You can usually mix the colors to try and get what you want, but this can be an issue if trying to find it in-store. Thankful there are many online sources you can use.

Toxic paint and disposal

Unlike latex paint, you can’t just take your Acrylic paint and discard them into the trash nor pour it down the drain. Acrylic paint has many chemicals in them that can be pretty harmful to the environment if mishandled. It can be quite a process to clean up your brushes since you need to be careful where you’re washing them off as well.

Even if they say non-toxic, they can still contain chemicals as it’s only non-toxic to people. It’s also usually referring to the fact it doesn’t give off as strong of a smell and depends if it is oil-based or water-based. So you still need to take precautions and be careful when dealing with acrylic. Regardless you have some options:

  • Dry it out completely, then throw it away if non-toxic.
  • Drop it off at a hazardous waste facility.
  • Recycle the remainder at a paint recycling drop-off center.
  • Donate locally to someone else in need of paint.
Note: For more detailed information read my closely related post how to dispose acrylic pain and Is Acrylic paint toxic?

Hard Clean Up once dry

Even though it can also be water-based, like latex, it is challenging to remove once it dries because of the chemicals used. If you catch it while it’s still wet, it can be washed off quite easily. Meaning you can just use a bucket of water or a damp rag to clean it off.

However, if you’re a bit too late in seeing it, it will harden and become resistant to water. Which you definitely wouldn’t want on your clothing or on your carpet floor.

There are some household products to help you clean acrylic paint:

  • Scraper – if on a hard surface that’s already dried.
  • Vinegar
  • baking soda
  • soap with water
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
NOTE: read my closely related posta about cleaning cigarette smoke from acrylic paint.

Highly Flammable

This is something to keep in mind if using acrylic for any painting projects outside or near a fire. Acrylic paint isn’t flammable when wet, but it’s a lot more suspectable to fire once it dries up. This makes it dangerous for kitchen areas or around fireplaces.

Unsalvageable once dried

Unlike other mediums like Latex, where you can add water to make it pliable as paint once acrylic dries, it is unusable. It will harden into a paste, and even if you add water, all you might get is a colorful mess.

So you will have to throw it out if you unintentionally left your paint out uncovered. So make sure when not using it to keep it covered if you plan to reuse it for the foreseeable future.

What is Acrylic Paint vs Latex Paint Similarities?

While there are various benefits and disadvantages between them, there are some things that do overlap. There actually are some traits that Acrylic and Latex have that overlap to keep in mind.

  • Fast Drying
  • Both Cause Rust in Metal
  • Ease of Use
  • Acrylic Resin

Quick Dry

They both are fast-drying paint which is helpful if you use them around the house to get back to work. Especially if you are testing out colors around the house, this is a positive for both paints. So you won’t have to wait long to see how they will turn out.

So if you are looking for a paint that is fast drying for your home interior or exterior, either one could work. Though this might not be a good thing for a large art project if you are using acrylic. So make sure to keep an eye on your brushes and bucket since removing acrylic paint can be incredibly challenging.

Both cause Rust in Metal

Both Acrylic and Latex have water as an ingredient which means they both have trouble painting on metal. So neither really beat the other in this retrospect since you can’t put them on directly. Both would require a primer if you wish to paint something metallic.

Once there is a primer coating, acrylic can help prevent rusting once dried because of its water-sealing properties.

Easy to Use

Both paints are pretty easy to use regardless of your choice as you aren’t required to use any fancy tools. Both will get the job done by giving a bit of color to the walls, objects, or fencing you need. You don’t need to be an expert painter to use either of them just need a brush, maybe a scrapper or water.

Acrylic Resin

There are a growing number of latex’s paint that is actually starting to contain acrylic resin. Though Latex doesn’t have nearly as much as pure acrylic paint, there is enough to warrant notice. This is useful since it contains enough to allow you to mix them together if needed.

Related questions

Since they are both usually water-based paints you can easily paint over each other. However, if the base paint is darker or lighter than the new paint, you might have to do a few coats to cover it.

If you’re trying to paint over oil-based paint with water-based Latex instead, it won’t adhere properly, so make sure to use a primer.

Since they are both usually water-based with acrylic resin, you can mix them to try and find the shade you are looking for. Though you should be careful when mixing since you could just end up ruining the paint. It would be best to have a separate container and slowly incorporate the colors together.

Start by adding a little bit of acrylic to the latex paint at a time. Then test your sample to make sure it’s the exact shade you desire. This can help add some shine to your color to find that exact shade you are looking for