If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between oil based and water based (or Acrylic) paint was, wonder no more.
Oil based paint has been around for centuries. Until fairly recently it was what the professionals used. But Acrylic has come a long way and is technically much better than it used to be. I have it on good authority that water based paint can do almost everything you’ll need.
So here are the pros and cons.
Oil Based Paint – Pros
- Dries hard and resists knocks.
- If correctly applied can achieve a smoother more even gloss finish.
Therefore Oil based paints are good for internal doors, external doors (that have some shelter from the elements), internal trims and skirting boards: All surfaces that get bumped into a lot.
Oil Based Paint – Cons
- Smells for a few days. Anywhere from ‘not too bad’ to ‘abandon the house’.
- Slow to dry. The second and third coats usually have to wait 24 hours.
- Messy (and smelly) to clean up. Turps has to used to clean brushes etc.
- Becomes brittle in the elements. Australian sun, rain and dust are tough on exposed painted surfaces. Oil based paint’s ‘hardness’ becomes a liability, as constant expansion and contraction eventually cracks the surface.
Water based (Acrylic) paints – Pros
- Dries quickly. Can often be re-coated in 2 hours.
- Has very little smell.
- Washes out in water.
- More choices of can size/finish.
- Dries to a kind of ‘rubbery’ skin which can stretch and contract without cracking in the sun and rain.
Therefore Acrylic paints are good for external windows and other exposed wood work, and all interior walls and ceilings.
Water based (Acrylic) paints – Cons
- Hard to sand back – especially gloss finish.
- Gloss finish rips when bumped.
- Can get very gluggy on hot days and dry too fast on surfaces and brushes.
So it seems that paint, like so many things in life, is a case of ‘horses for courses’.
PS. If you have a painting problem click here and I'd be happy to help.
I've been drawing and painting since I was a kid. I've studied art and design and have worked in visual areas my whole life. Now I'm a house painter!