Acrylic Vs. Latex: Which Is Right for Your Project?

Acrylic and latex paint share some similarities but have unique characteristics, making each appropriate for different projects.

acrylic vs latex paint

Adhesion, cost, drying time, and ease of maintenance are a few differences between the two. Our in-depth comparison can help you choose between acrylic and latex paint. 

Latex Paint at a Glance

Latex paint is composed of water, binders, and pigments. It’s ideal for DIY projects since it’s durable, non-toxic, and requires little maintenance. All home improvement stores carry latex paint in a variety of finishes and hundreds of shades. 

The most popular latex paint brands are Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr, Valspar, PPG Paints, Dulux, and Dutch Boy.

What Is Latex Paint Used For?

Latex paint is best for interior paint jobs, wood, plaster, brick, and drywall. You can also use it for arts and crafts projects like murals and adding artistic elements to home decor. 

Acrylic Paint at a Glance

Acrylic paint has pigment, acrylic binder, and acrylic vehicle components (water). It is a water-based, quick-drying paint. Due to its minimal VOC emissions, it isn’t an environmental threat.

Acrylic paint forms a thick film when dry that acts as a protective layer. 

What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?

Artists and students choose acrylic paint for its versatility. You can thin or thicken it to achieve a range of effects. The paint is suitable for canvas, fabric, brick, concrete, and wood.

It’s a top choice for murals, street art, furniture refinishing, and miniatures. Acrylic paint is also best for fabric painting and crafting projects.

Acrylic vs. Latex Paint: What’s the Difference?

Latex vs acrylic paint comparasion table

Acrylic and latex paints differ in composition, cost, elasticity, drying time, toxicity, and more.

1. Composition

Water-based acrylic and latex paints differ in composition and properties. Synthetic polymer and acrylic resin are the main ingredients of acrylic paint. They work by dissolving colorants in water. Acrylic paint dries quickly to form a water-resistant layer and is ideal for fine art, handicrafts, murals, and street art.

Latex paint is made of a water-based polymer emulsion. The paint type uses polyvinyl acetate (PVA), a polyester made from tree resin or synthetic materials. Pigments, fillers, and other additives improve the paint’s appearance once it’s dry. It’s best for walls and woodwork projects.

2. Drying Time

The average drying time for acrylic paint is between 15 and 20 minutes. It’s suitable for projects requiring several coats within a short time. The paint hardens in 24 hours.

It takes longer for latex paint to dry. The drying process could last a few hours to a day, depending on temperature, humidity, and paint thickness.

3. Damage Resistance

The brand, product line, and paint type all influence the durability of paint. But durability also depends on surface preparation, painting technique, finish, and the environment.

Acrylic paint peels, chips, and cracks less often than latex paint. It also resists fading, chalking, and mildew much better.

4. Adhesion

Acrylic paint has better adhesion than latex paint. It sticks to many surfaces, including metal, wood, and concrete. Latex also has solid adhesion but may require a primer on some surfaces. Acrylic paint stretches and shrinks without cracking or losing its adhesion.

5. Toxicity

Since latex paint is water-based, it’s non-toxic when dry. But, you may experience dizziness, mild nausea, and headaches during application. Latex paints containing titanium dioxide and iron oxide are toxic when inhaled in large amounts.

Some acrylic paint brands also contain toxic ingredients like lead. Lead is unsafe for inhalation or skin contact. Check for lead-free paint or a warning label. The warning label indicates the presence of toxic ingredients in the paint.

6. Cost and Availability

While latex paints are cheaper, acrylic paint brands are readily available in various colors. Both are available in glossy, matte, and satin finishes.

Latex paints come in larger quantities, making them more cost-effective for large surfaces. Despite their high costs, acrylic paints offer more durability.

7. Shelf Life

Latex paint lasts up to 10 years in a sealed container, while acrylic paint lasts for 15 years unopened. But acrylic paints dry faster when opened. Leftover paint stays good if properly sealed and stored in a cool, dry place.

8. Elasticity

Acrylic polymer emulsion makes acrylic paint elastic after drying. The binder expands and contracts with temperature change. As a result, acrylic paint doesn’t crack on exterior walls and wooden furniture. Latex paint isn’t as elastic. Hence, cracks and peeling may occur with exposure to water and extreme temperature changes.

9. Areas of Use

Latex paint is suitable for interior walls, ceilings, murals, and trims. Acrylic paint is a better choice for metal surfaces since it protects the metal from rust and resists water and sun damage.

10. Ease of Maintenance

Latex-painted walls are easy to clean, especially if painted in semi-gloss or satin finishes. Acrylic painted surfaces are also easy to clean, so there’s not a big difference in this category.

11. User-Friendliness

Water-based latex paint is more user-friendly than acrylic paint. Unlike acrylic, latex paints are chemical-free and non-toxic. Acrylic paints emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) indoors and strong odors during application. Acrylic paints are also flammable at high temperatures.

Acrylic vs. Latex: Comparison Table

Drying Time15-20 minutes1-2 hours
Damage ResistanceResists fading, sun, water damageProne to chipping on outdoor walls and furniture
AdhesionAdheres to metal, wood, and concreteAdheres to drywall, needs primer for other surfaces
Cost and AvailabilityMore expensiveCheap, available in large quantities
Shelf Life5-10 yearsUp to 10 years
ElasticityHigh elasticity and flexibilityMore likely to chip and peel
Areas of UseMetal, canvas, furniture, exterior surfacesInterior surfaces like drywall, wood
Ease of MaintenanceResists stains, washableEasy to clean
User-FriendlinessThick and harder to use for beginnersThin and easier to apply
Mold or Mildew ResistanceHighModerate

Pros and Cons of Latex Paint


  • Non-toxic 
  • Easy clean up from brushes and surface
  • Cheap and available in most paint stores
  • Requires few coats for maximum coverage


  • Prone to chipping and peeling on wood surfaces
  • Less durable on outdoor surfaces

Pros and Cons of Acrylic Paint


  • It adheres to most surfaces, including wood, canvas, glass, metal, and plastic
  • Acrylic paint is durable in extreme temperatures
  • It’s suitable for indoor and outdoor use
  • Breathable and flexible


  • Acrylic paint comes in small quantities, unlike latex paint
  • It’s challenging to clean up from brushes, clothing, and hands when dry

What Is Acrylic Latex Paint?

Acrylic latex paint is a water-based paint with an acrylic resin binder. It combines the best of latex and acrylic products into one paint. 100% acrylic latex paint is high-quality, with superior adhesion, washability, and color retention. Using acrylic resins also makes the paint flexible, so it’s durable on outdoor surfaces.

Acrylic latex paint adheres to wood, stucco, and metal surfaces. But, painters must prime it before applying it on glossy surfaces. Acrylic latex paint spreads out evenly and takes 1-2 hours to dry. It’s available in matte and glossy finishes and various colors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can you thin acrylic paint using water?

Yes, water thins acrylic paint, but it still allows good coverage. Blending 30%- 50% water to acrylic paint helps achieve a thinner and flowy consistency. But, using too much water dissolves the binder and might not adhere to the surface.

Can acrylic paint be used on fabric?

Acrylic paint adheres to fabrics if an acrylic medium is added. A fabric medium improves the flow of paint and prevents color bleeding. You can also sand and wet the fabric without a medium using acrylic paint.

Does latex paint yellow over time like oil-based paints?

Latex paint, unlike oil-based paints, is not prone to yellowing over time. Yellowing on oil-based paints starts during the curing stage and worsens with time. Choose latex paint over oil-based paint for white pigments and clear varnishes.

Is it necessary to prime surfaces before applying latex paint?

Using a primer is necessary when painting latex over oil-based paint. But latex paint can substitute the primer when painting on a smooth drywall. A bonding primer improves adhesion on new drywall, wood, and masonry.

Can acrylic paint be mixed with other types of paint?

Acrylic paint can be mixed with latex paint since both have a water base. Yet, acrylic paint and oil-based paint don’t mix. Most artists use oil paints on acrylics rather than mixing them.