What Is the Difference Between Latex and Acrylic Paint?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Apr 6, 2020 11:14:24 AM ET

One difference between latex and acrylic paint is that latex paint typically uses some type of rubber as the resin for the paint with water as the solvent. Acrylic paint is completely water-based and made from pigment mixed with acrylic resin and emulsion. Latex and acrylic paints have largely replaced alkyd and oil-based paints that were used for decades. They are similar, but there are several differences between them.

Another difference between latex and acrylic paint is that latex paint is typically used for large projects, such as interior painting for houses, while acrylic paint is used for painting pictures and crafts. Latex paint is used on unprimed drywall, unpainted masonry and surfaces previously painted with latex or flat oil-based paints. Acrylic paint is used on canvas, canvas boards, wood panels and paper.

Latex paint is used for homes because it provides better coverage in fewer coats and is less expensive than acrylic paint. Latex dries faster, and it is usually not prudent to use acrylic paint for the exterior of structures because it expands and contracts depending on the temperature.

Latex paint offers painters easy clean-up using only water. Acrylic paint has to be cleaned up using chemical thinners and takes longer to clean up. Latex paints are more readily available in many stores and most people have to go to craft stores to find acrylic paints.

Generally, artists are the only ones who use acrylic paints because they are elastic and work well for a variety of projects. Acrylic paints are flammable due to their chemical composition. They are also more toxic than latex paint for the same reason. Both latex and acrylic paints are safer for the environment and safer than oil-based paint.