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Acrylic Vs. Latex Paint

Wondering what type of paint to use for your DIY painting project? Maybe you have some furniture to refurbish and just can’t decide what type of paint to use. You’ve probably found that there are two main types of paint for crafting projects: acrylic paint and latex paint. Today we’ll break down the difference between these two types of paint and the best ways to use each one.

Acrylic vs. Latex Paint

acrylic vs. latex paint

While many people swear by a certain type of paint, I have found that different types of paint are best for different projects. We will cover the pros and cons of acrylic and latex paints for each project. You will be able to settle on the right paint for your furniture project in no time.

So, what’s the difference between acrylic and latex paint? Simply put, the main difference between acrylic and latex paint is that acrylic paint is chemical-based, and latex paint is water-based.

The name “latex paint” can be a little bit misleading. There’s no rubber latex in paint with the name. Both acrylic and latex paints are made with acrylic resin and polymers. Latex paint is just a term used to refer to any water-based paint.

Acrylic Paint

Painting a sign with acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is made from acrylic resins and pigment in a chemical base. There are pros and cons to using acrylic paint for your DIY furniture project.

Pros of Acrylic Paint

  • Once it’s dry, acrylic paint is much more resistant to the sun and water than latex paint.
  • Acrylic paint is elastic. It expands and contracts with temperature, so it works well on wood or outdoor pieces.
  • It is easy to apply and goes on smooth and level. High-quality acrylic paint doesn’t always need a top coat.
  • Acrylic paint is more durable than latex paint and adheres very well to porous surfaces.
  • You don’t need to prep furniture as carefully for acrylic paint as you do for latex paints.

Cons of Acrylic Paint

  • Acrylic paint is more difficult to clean up with soap and water than latex paint since it is chemical-based.
  • There aren’t as many finishes of acrylic paint as there are latex paint. Most acrylic paints have a slightly glossy finish. I have never seen matte acrylics.
  • It is generally sold in small containers and can be expensive.
  • The chemicals in acrylic paints are toxic and flammable. It is less environment-friendly than latex paint.

Consider acrylic paint if you are new to DIY painting projects. It’s straightforward to use and goes on easily. Even if you haven’t prepped a piece of furniture perfectly, acrylic paint adheres well to most porous surfaces.

I like to use acrylic paint for small crafts and anything that will expand or contract (such as wood furniture). It can be difficult to find in large quantities, as acrylic paints are more commonly used for art projects than walls or furniture painting.

Overall, you’ll want to use acrylic paint if you’re painting outdoor furniture that needs to hold up to use and weather. Acrylic paint is often used for small crafts or projects such as painting signs. It’s durable, rich in color, easy to use, and will withstand the elements better than latex paint.

Latex Paint

Painting a chair with latex paint

Latex paint is made from acrylic or vinyl resin and pigments in a water base. High-quality latex paint can work for most of your furniture projects, but there are still pros and cons you should consider.

Pros of Latex Paint

  • Latex paint is cheaper than acrylic paint and easy to find. You can find it in all sorts of colors and finishes at almost any paint store.
  • It’s less toxic than acrylic paint. Chemical-based acrylic paints release fumes that water-based paints do not.
  • Latex paints provide good coverage in fewer coats if you’re painting a large piece of furniture.
  • Latex paint dries than acrylic paint, although they take a long time to cure.
  • Water-based paints have fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are bad for the environment.

Cons of Latex Paint

  • Low-quality latex paints are prone to chipping. They’re a fine option if you are looking for a cheap way to add color to an accent piece, but low-quality latex paint will not hold up well under much use.
  • Latex paints are not as resistant to the sun and water as acrylic paints are.
  • It’s important to sand and prime furniture before applying latex paint. Latex paint bonds to the surface layer of furniture, so it will chip and scratch if the furniture is not prepped properly.
  • Latex paint isn’t very elastic. It may chip on outdoor wood furniture, which expands and contracts with temperature and water. Acrylic paints are a better option for wood that will be outdoors.

You should consider the finish of latex paint when choosing paint for your DIY furniture project. Matte latex paints don’t hold up very well under use. High-gloss latex paint is the most durable but also shows every imperfection. Somewhere in the middle will be the most practical. Here’s the rule of thumb: a satin or semi-gloss latex paint is the best choice for most furniture projects and kitchen cabinet painting.

Acrylic Latex Paint vs. Vinyl Latex Paint

If you’re choosing paint for a furniture project, you may have been confused by the term “acrylic latex paint.” Weren’t acrylic and latex paint different things? Acrylic latex paint is just latex paint (water-based) that uses 100% acrylic and no vinyl.

All-acrylic latex paints are the highest quality of latex paint. Vinyl latex paints are much cheaper. The more acrylic resin in the paint, the better it tends to hold up and adhere to a surface. All-acrylic or 100 percent acrylic latex paint is the highest quality of latex paint and is the most durable.

Exterior latex paints tend to be all-acrylic or mostly acrylic, because then they hold up better to the weather and are slightly more elastic. Interior latex paints can use stiffer resins such as vinyl. If you’re painting furniture for outdoors or refurbishing a piece that will be heavily used, go with all-acrylic exterior latex paint.

How to Use Acrylic Paint for Furniture

To paint furniture with acrylic paint, there are a few things you should know. Acrylic paint tends to adhere well to surfaces like wood. However, sanding and priming pre-painted furniture is always a good idea for the best results.

Acrylic paint is chemical-based and can release toxic fumes during the painting process. If you’re removing a previous coat of paint or applying acrylic paint, be sure to protect your eyes and nose.

You’ll want the following supplies:

  • Assorted grit sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Sponge and cloths
  • Dish soap or pre-paint cleaner
  • Acrylic primer
  • Paint scraper
  • Painting respirator or mask
  • Disposable gloves

Clean the furniture and remove any previous paint with the paint scraper. Sand moving up to finer grits as you go, and then clean and prime the piece of furniture before applying your acrylic paint. It usually takes 1-3 coats of acrylic paint to paint furniture. It usually takes two to five hours for acrylic paints to dry in between coats.

What are some good projects for acrylic paint? Here are some ideas for your next DIY acrylic painting project.

  • Use acrylic paint for outdoor furniture such as deck chairs and tables.
  • Acrylic paints are great for hand-lettered signs.
  • Paint wooden chairs with acrylic paint since wood will expand and contract with heat and cold.

How to Use Latex Paint for Furniture

If you’re painting furniture with latex paint, you’ll want to be sure to prep the piece before painting it. Latex paint is known to chip when used for furniture that is not prepped correctly.

Do be aware since latex paint is water-based it will not mix with oil-based paints. If you have a piece of furniture covered with oil-based paint, for best results you’ll want to remove it and sand the piece before applying latex paints.

You’ll want the following supplies:

  • Assorted grit sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Latex paint
  • Sponge and cloths
  • Dish soap
  • Water-based primer
  • Paint scraper
  • Disposable gloves
  • Protective top coat (Polycrilic Protective Finish works well with latex paint)

You’ll want to sand the piece well so that the latex paint can adhere well to the surface. Work up to finer grits as you sand. Get an even coat of primer all over the piece of furniture. Furniture usually requires two or three coats of latex paint. It usually takes latex paint one or two hours to dry in between coats. It’s good to put a clear top coat over latex-painted furniture, as it will help seal and protect the piece.

What are some DIY projects where you should use latex paint?

  • Latex paints are perfect for refurbishing a dresser or antique trunk.
  • Use latex paint to add color to an accent piece.
  • Latex paint is a great option for covered chairs. It adds some color and protection, but the area that gets the most use is covered with fabric so there’s less wear.

As you see, acrylic and latex paints both have their pros and cons for different types of projects. Now you should know everything you need to choose the right type of paint for your next DIY furniture painting project. Have fun painting!