Oil and water-based paints, what are the differences?  Manufacturers classify paint by its binder.  Water-based paint usually contains latex or vinyl as a binder.  They are commonly called latex paints.  Binders solidify the paint so that it will cover surfaces like a film.  Alkyd or oil-based paint has a synthetic (alkyd) oil binder or natural oil binder such as linseed oil.  Synthetic alkyd paint is more common than linseed oil paint because it is less expensive to manufacture.  Latex can be even less expensive than alkyd paint.  Whether you choose an oil or a latex paint, you should know that each type of paint has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Alkyd paints are quite durable, and can take more abuse than latex paint.  It is a perfect paint for high-traffic areas and trimwork.  Alkyd paint shrinks less than latex when it is applied to a surface.  It also covers surfaces more thoroughly in just one coat due to its rich texture and thickness.

Painting by Larkin Painting Company

Gorgeous semi-gloss paint on ceiling beams

Another benefit is that alkyd paints create a smooth finish on surfaces and can be used on both metals and wood.  This paint takes longer to dry than latex which gives the painter more working time.  The longer drying time might be seen as a negative if you don’t have much time for your project.  Alkyds also emit fumes and require solvents to clean off of hands and painting supplies.  It used to be that professional paint contractors preferred alkyd paints over latex for performance and durability.  Some manufacturers are working on technology to bring the high performance of alkyd paints to water-based paints.

Even though they don’t match oil-based paints in smoothness and durability, latex paints have improved greatly over the years.  Two advantages of latex are drying time and manageability.  These water-based paints dry quickly, and are also easy to handle.

Painting by Larking Painting Company

Latex works well for walls

Oil-based paints require more painting finesse as they show brushstrokes very easily, whereas latex paints can hide work done by an unprofessional hand.  This is because latex paint is thinner than alkyds.  It is this quality makes the paint more forgiving.  However, the thinness of water-based paint allows stains to bleed through more easily than they would with an alkyd.  Latex washes off with water and is considered to be non-toxic.  It is not flammable, so it works well for home exteriors.  Water-based paints are also a good choice for walls and ceilings.

Whether you choose oil or latex paint for your project, remember to choose your paint quality wisely.  Use the highest quality paint your budget will allow.  The right materials coupled with the right preparation and technique will yield beautiful results.  If you have any questions about your project, please contact us at (508) 740-6212.

Painting by Larkin Painting Company

Relaxing and two-tone yellow bedroom

Be well,