Acrylic vs Latex Paint: Which is Better and What is The Difference?

DIY home renovation can be exciting until you buy the needed items, most especially the paint. You can always start with something affordable like acrylic and latex. Both are budget-friendly, but which one should you get? If you’re new to painting and don’t know what acrylic vs latex paint is, this article is your ultimate guide.

What is the difference between the two paint types, and which is better?

To put it simply, latex and acrylic paint are both water-based, but acrylics are fast-drying and more pigmented, more opaque, and more durable than latex paint. Acrylic paint is also more versatile and best for art, while latex paint and acrylic latex paint are great for home projects and furniture.


Acrylic vs Latex Paint Verdict Unpront

  • Acrylic vs. latex for furniture 

The better alternative for furniture is acrylic paint or chalk paint because it is crack-resistant.

  • Acrylic or latex paint for the bathroom

The best paint for the bathroom is latex paint since it absorbs moisture.

  • Acrylic or latex paint for exterior walls

The better choice for exterior walls is acrylic latex paint for its weather resistance.

  • Acrylic or latex paint for ceilings

The best option for ceilings is matte or flat acrylic latex paint due to its flatness and opacity.

  • Acrylic or latex paint for wood

The right paint for wood is acrylic paint because it’s more durable.

  • The best paint for art & crafts 

The best paint for art and crafts is acrylic paint, for it dries fast and is versatile.


What Is Latex Paint and What Is It Used For?

Today, latex paint is a general term for water-based paints with natural or synthetic binders (e.g., acrylics, vinyl-acrylics, and epoxy), pigments, and solvents. 

What Is Latex Paint

Modern Latex paint isn’t made of natural rubber. The Latin word “latex,” which means “fluid,”  perfectly describes the paint’s milky consistency, just like the creamy fluid found in rubber and other trees.

This type of paint, which dries quickly, is the go-to paint for walls, ceilings, bathrooms, and floors. Benjamin Moore, Glidden, Better Home & Gardens acrylic latex paint, and Rust-Oleum are well-known latex paint brands for interior and exterior painting.


What Is Acrylic Paint and What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?

Acrylic paint is also similar to latex paint. It’s water-based but uses a lot of acrylic polymers (e.g., ethyl acrylate and butyl acrylate) as its binder, creating a thicker film or plastic to keep the pigments in place. 

Acrylic paint is best applied on canvas, paper, cardboard, wood, metal, glass, plastic, and stone. The water as the vehicle easily evaporates, allowing the paint to dry quickly—perfect for exterior walls, furniture, arts, and craft.

Keep reading: 11 Amazing Painting Surfaces for Acrylics: What Do You Use Acrylic Paint on?

So if you plan to shop for some paints, Liquitex and Winston and Newton are some of the top-notch acrylic paints that you can purchase for art painting. For a cheaper option, the Apple Barrel brand is so cool for all crafts!


What Is Acrylic Latex and What Is It Used For?

Surprisingly, acrylic latex is just a longer term for latex paint made of 100% acrylic polymer; it’s water-based and has more acrylic resin as its binder. Among the in-demand acrylic latex paint, brands are Colorplace, and Krylon.

Acrylic latex paint is the most durable and popular choice for painting walls, ceilings, furniture, and outdoor projects.

There is also vinyl latex paint, that is made of vinyl binders.


What Is the Difference Between Latex and Acrylic Paint

Acrylic vs Latex Paint

Latex and acrylics are different in many ways. For instance, acrylic paint is more versatile and resistant to many external factors. It also dries faster and is compatible with a lot of media and add-ons. As for latex paint, it’s cheaper, watery, and perfect for outdoor surfaces. Below is a table that summarizes the differences between acrylics and latex paint.

CharacteristicAcrylicLatex
Paint Compositionbase pigments, more acrylic binders, and water (solvent)base pigments, natural or synthetic binders, pigment, and water (solvent)
Preparationusually needs a primerneeds a skim coat on a dry surface
Consistencymore viscositymore watery
Opacitymore opaqueopaque
Dry Time10–30 minutes1–2 hours
Durabilityresistant to cracks and chipsdurable against moisture 
Flexibilitymore elasticslightly flexible
Toxicity/SafetyNontoxic, nonflammable when wetNonflammable when wet
Odorbarely detectablehas low odor
Resistanceresistant to UV rays, heat, acids, detergents, and watercorrosion, mold, and mildew resistance;
Layer or Coatsmoother than latex paint requires 2–3 coatssmooth usually requires 1–2 coats
FinishGlossyMatte to glossy, tough
PriceMore expensiveCheaper than acrylic paint
Mixing and BlendingChallenging to blend and achieve the wet techniqueEasy to mix with other latex paints
Beginner-friendlyFor artists and paintersFor homeowners and renovators
Painting SurfacesCanvas, paper, fabric, ceramic, glass, and woodLatex-painted, oil-based, vinyl, or concrete surfaces
Medium and Add-onsGesso, sand, gel, glass, pumice, limestone, glitter, and paint extendersWater and water-based hydroxyethyl cellulose
Curious how is acrylic compared to other paints? Check my other articles:
- Tempera Vs Acrylic Paint: What Are The Differences?
- Gouache Vs Acrylic: What’s the Difference, and Which is Best for Beginners?
- Watercolor vs Acrylic: 21 Differences Between Acrylic and Watercolor
- Poster Paint vs Acrylic Paint: What’s the Difference and Which is best?

Paint Composition

Acrylics and latex are water-based paints that have binders, pigments, and water as their primary components. However, the number of their ingredients varies.

Nowadays, latex paint uses synthetic (e.g., vinyl resin or acrylic) as its binder. The same goes for acrylic paint, but it’s more pigmented and has more acrylic polymers. The more resin a paint has, the glossier the paint is, which explains its increased opacity and glossiness compared to latex paint. 

Preparation

A primer is a must-have substance for acrylic and latex paint.

Though most canvas surfaces are pre-primed, you still need to apply some gesso for acrylic painting on an unprimed canvas. 

As for latex paint and acrylic latex, sanding the area is important to remove cracks and peels. You can also put some skim coats on concrete to fill in gaps and pores. Then, apply some primer first before coating the surface with latex paint.

Read also: How to Prime Wood for Acrylic Painting

Consistency

Latex-based paint has a finer consistency because it has more water as its solvent. Meanwhile, acrylic paint is usually thick as liquid honey due to its medium with an acrylic binder in a form of gel or paste.

To make your acrylic paint more viscous, mix the colors first before adding your preferred medium. With latex paint, you can add some cellosize hydroxyethyl cellulose into it as its thickening agent. 

Opacity

Acrylics have greater opacity than latex paint, which means they can cover more areas, hiding cracks and imperfections on the surface. The acrylic’s color also appears more solid and vibrant than latex paint. Thus acrylic latex paint is also great for opacity.

But what if your acrylic paint seems less opaque? Don’t worry; there are many ways on how to make acrylic paint more opaque. You may add special mediums to the acrylic paint, with Titanium white and carbon black being the most recommended ones.

Dry Time

In terms of drying time, acrylic paint is faster-drying than latex paint. How long acrylic paint dries depends on different factors, such as viscosity, temperature, and coat. It takes 10–30 minutes for thin acrylic paint to be touch-ready, while thicker acrylic paint may take an hour or two to completely dry.

Since latex paint has fewer binders, it may take at least one hour for you to touch the painted area. After 3–4  hours, you can safely apply another coat, and you’ll need 30 days for its curing time.

Durability

Overall, acrylic is more durable than latex paint. Once it becomes dry on the surface, acrylic paint is weather-and water-resistant, making it ideal for exterior painting. 

Acrylics in the art are so durable that they can even last for centuries, and can withstand 3-7 years when applied to wooden surfaces. 

Latex painted surfaces are durable for five years. Unopened latex paint cans can be used for up to 10 years. Though the paint is mold-resistant on exterior walls, the cans should be stored at room temperature since mold and mildew thrive in cold climates. 

In general, paint should not be stored in cold or hot temperatures. Once opened, both acrylics and latex paint needs to be kept in air-tight containers to avoid clumps and mold.

Related: 5 Pro Steps to Protect Acrylic Paintings on Canvas

Flexibility

Both are flexible, but acrylic paint, having more acrylic binders, is the unquestionable winner. Even if the acrylic polymers are drying, the paint still expands on the surface because acrylic polymers are viscoelastic in nature. 

Unfortunately, latex paint isn’t as elastic as acrylic paint due to the lower binder-to-pigment ratio. It is quickly absorbed by the surface and doesn’t easily spread even in high temperatures.

Toxicity, Safety, and Odor

Contrary to common paint myths, acrylics and latex paint are safe for painting since they are nontoxic and nonflammable when wet. However, inhaling large amounts of paint fumes can be detrimental to your health. 

Prolonged and constant inhalation can damage your kidneys and liver, and you may develop cancer. When acrylic paint dries up, it also releases a gas called propylene glycol, which can trigger vomiting, dizziness, vomiting, and nausea. To avoid inhaling the smell, leave it out for at least 36 hours.

Keep reading: Is Acrylic Paint Toxic or Safe? 23 Brands Toxicity Included

Resistance

You need a kind of paint that really lasts, and acrylics have a lot of edge in terms of resistance. It’s waterproof and resistant to ultraviolet rays, heat, acids, and detergents up to a certain extent. Yet, acrylic-painted surfaces that are exposed to sunlight and high temperatures may eventually display some color changes.

High-quality latex paint also does a better job as interior paint because it can withstand corrosion and weather changes and has a low flammability rating. It also helps prevent mold and mildew growth on bathroom surfaces and interior walls by allowing vapor to escape.

Read also: Is Acrylic Paint Waterproof? 11 Ways To Make Acrylics Waterproof

Coat and Layer

Latex paint can cover more areas with a single coat than acrylic paint.

In the past, oil-based paints were used to make woodwork smoother. But with the creation of latex paint, painters have ditched them. You can now use latex paint to make any wooden surface even. As for acrylic paint, you need to reapply twice or thrice to get the even finish that you desire.

Finish

Most acrylics have a glossy finish, while latex paint can be matte or sheeny. There are also a variety of semi-matte acrylics and latex paints on the market.

While glossy acrylic and latex paints can provide luster, they can expose cracks or imperfections on the surface. The touch-ups will become more obvious atop the glossy surface. In that case, just apply a semi-glossy latex or acrylic paint. 

Read also: Satin vs Matte: Which Paint Makes for a Good Finish?

Price

It is more practical to buy latex paint since it’s generally cheaper than acrylic paint. You can buy latex paint in bulk, while most acrylics are sold in containers.

Acrylic paint, which is often used by artists, is usually bought in small tubes, ranging from $1 to $6 depending on the brand and color. Meanwhile, latex paint is usually sold in large quantities. A gallon of latex paint may cost $15-50.

Mixing and Blending

Mixing acrylics to form a new shade or hue isn’t complicated, but learning how to blend acrylic paint smoothly is difficult since they dry fast, making it tough to achieve a seamless gradient. 

Contrary to acrylic paint, latex paints are ideal for the ‘wet’ technique, allowing colors to blend smoothly. There’s also no problem mixing them as long as both paints produce the same finish and don’t have incompatible additives.

Beginner-friendly

Absolutely! Acrylics and latex paints are both beginner-friendly, and you don’t have to be a painter to use them for your home project. 

Acrylic paint dries fast, making it easier for anyone to apply the next coat or layer. Also, latex paint is washable, so drips and spills can be done away with soap and water.

Painting Surfaces

The best painting surfaces for acrylics are canvas, paper, fabric, glass, ceramic and wooden surfaces. With the help of a primer, acrylic paint sticks well onto the surface, providing ultimate protection against external factors. Unfortunately, acrylic paint does not adhere well to a greasy or waxy surface.

Latex paint can also be versatile; it can also expand flexibly on concrete, vinyl, or tiled surfaces. You won’t have to pre-prime the desired areas, unless it’s been previously colored with an oil-based paint.

Related:

Mediums and Add-ons

You can add more media in acrylics than in latex paint. In fact, you can experiment with acrylic paint’s opacity, glaze, thickness, and texture by mixing add-ons, such as sand, gel, pumice, limewash, gesso, and even glitter! 

Paint extenders can also be added to acrylics when you want to add moisture for a smoother surface. Just remember that acrylics with extenders also take longer to dry up.

Tips: 15 Proven Ways How to Make Acrylic Paint Dry Slower & Homemade Acrylic Paint Retarder Recipe

Meanwhile, if your latex paint becomes runny, you can just mix a water-based thickening agent called hydroxyethyl cellulose, a water-binding polymer that also increases the paint’s flexibility. But when you need to thin it, simply add the easiest medium you can find—water.


Pros & Cons of Using Latex vs Acrylic Paint

Benefits of using latex paint

  • Interior walls are easy to clean.
  • You can save more money with latex paint. 
  • Latex is washable if you make a mistake. (Oops!)
  • A few coats is enough to cover the surface.
  • You won’t have to worry about mold buildup.

Issues with latex paint

  • You can’t use it to paint rough surfaces.
  • Using a primer for latex paint is an additional expense.
  • You have to wait for weeks for the paint’s curing time.
  • You also need to brush more strokes just to cover the area.
  • Its thin coating can lead to having cracks on the surface.

Pros & Cons of Using Acrylic vs Latex Paint

Advantages of using acrylic paint

  • You can buy it in small quantities.
  • You can keep them unused for up to 15 years.
  • The acrylic paint’s vibrant color can beautify any artwork.
  • Refurbishing the surface becomes smoother and easier.
  • You can dry it quickly before applying the next coat.

Drawbacks of using acrylic paint 

  • You may get dizzy or nauseous after inhaling the odor.
  • Removing the paint from brushes and nails can be tough.
  • You may not achieve the desired color; it gets darker as it dries.
  • You may have to shell out some cash since most high-quality brands are expensive.
  • Blending other colors won’t be easy, especially with the “wet” painting technique.

How to Use Latex Paint for Furniture and Home Projects: Tips & Step-by-Step Guide

6 steps for using latex paint on wooden furniture

Painting your furniture, walls, and bathroom as your home project is ideal since it’s thinner than acrylic paint. Here are some steps on how to paint wooden furniture with latex paint.

Step 1: Clean the furniture.

Wash the wooden surface. Make sure it’s clean of any grime, oil, or dirt to ensure the full adhesion of the paint.

Step 2: Sand the surface.

Sand the wooden surface to remove any roughness. You may do it manually with fine-grit sandpaper or use a sander for convenience.

Step 3: Keep unwanted parts safe.

Before painting, ensure safety first by covering other areas with paper, tape, or plastic to avoid spills and drips. You can also buy plastic drop cloth or canvas drop cloth to cover the floors.

Step 4: Add prime to the surface.

Never skip this step. Priming prevents too much absorption of the paint whilst creating a smoother surface for the pigment to bind.

Apply some primer on the area if the surface is unprimed or if the current paint is darker than the intended color. 

Step 5: Apply thin layers of paint.

Paint the furniture with thin coats to distribute the paint and make it more durable against cracks and peels.

  • Olympic Protector is an acrylic latex paint with a transparent coat if you want to keep the natural grain of the wood.
  • This Glidden paint is great for patios and porches.
  • You can use any acrylic paint on MDF, or wooden panels and create small wooden art.
  • Rust-Oleum paints are also actually good for wood furniture.

Step 6: Allow it to dry.

Wait for the paint to dry before applying a thin layer of varnish to protect the paint and surface. To hasten the drying time, you can expose it to a dehumidifier or heat it with a blow dryer.


6 steps to paint walls with latex paint

The following are tips for giving your exterior walls a perfect finish using latex paint.

Tip 1: Identify the type of wall surface.

It pays to know the surface to be painted, whether it’s wooden, tiled, or concrete. Remember that latex paint isn’t adhesive to some surfaces, namely concrete, ceramic tile, or oil-based painted walls.

Tip 2: Wash the walls.

Washing is a must-do step if you don’t want bumps, cracks, or dirt protruding from the wall. To clean it, you can just brush it with lukewarm water and soap.

Tip 3: Skim the wall.

Skimming involves applying a thin coat of drywall compound to fill the gaps, cracks, and holes on the wall for a smoother surface. Without a skim coat, they are noticeable since latex paint has a transparent finish. This technique can also prevent leaks.

Tip 4: Polish the surface.

Doing so can help even out the wall. Using sandpaper on the wall might wear you out, so it would be recommended to use an electric sander. 

Tip 5: Coat with primer if necessary.

If your house’s exterior wall is made out of wood, e.g., fences, you should prime the whole surface first before applying the latex paint.

Tip 6: Paint the wall 23 times with a polyester brush.

Latex paint is transparent, so you need to apply 2–3 coats to make the wall paint look opaque and durable.


Acrylic vs Latex Paint FAQ

Are acrylic and latex paints compatible?  

Yes, you can blend acrylic and latex paints. However, the results may also be undetermined. It will depend on the paint ratio, the brand of both paints, and the surface to be painted. To test their compatibility, prepare small samples and apply them to the desired surfaces.

Can you paint latex over acrylic?  

There’s no problem painting latex over acrylic-painted surfaces. In fact, you can skip the primer. Some acrylics are water-based, making it even easier for latex paint to stick to the acrylic.

Can you mix latex and acrylic paint? 

You can mix both paints, but it’s not recommended because some acrylics are chemical-based and the new composition might not have your desired color, finish, opacity, or texture. It would be better to choose water-based latex or acrylic and test it first on a small surface.

Why do painters use acrylic paint?  

Painters love acrylics because they are adhesive, opaque, vibrant, available, and non-toxic. Artists can also manipulate or experiment with acrylic paint by mixing media or additives. It’s also easy to work with, especially for new painters, due to its short drying time.

For artists, acrylics are perfect because they can mimic other paints: thick acrylics work like oils, thinned acrylic paint can work like watercolor, craft acrylics work for all DIY project and even as fabric paint to customize your shoes.

Is acrylic paint oil or latex?  

Acrylic paint is not oil, nor latex it is water-based and it has an acrylic polymer binder in it. In fact, acrylic latex paints are popular in the market.

Latex paint can be acrylic based.

What is the best latex paint?  

The laurel for the best latex paint in 2022 goes to the Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint brand but you can only buy it via their official website.

It gives your surface a smoother finish, and you don’t have to buy a separate primer since it has both paint and primer in a pint. Just a fair warning: it can be quite pricey for a gallon of this superior latex paint.

The best alternatives to Sherwin-Williams paint are Glidden, Rust-Oleum, and Kilz latex paints.

The Final Verdict

Acrylic and latex paints are great choices for home projects and renovations. But always keep in mind that choosing the best paint depends on your preferences, budget, and your project’s requirements and surfaces.

For arts and crafts and wooden surfaces, use acrylics and buy latex paint for interior painting. That way, you can avoid any mishaps and work your way toward perfecting your next DIY project.