Pros & Cons of Oil-Based and Water-Based Paint

Pros and Cons of Oil Based Paint

Many DIY projects around the home involve paint as a finish. Furniture, cabinets, floors, walls, ceilings and doors are only a few examples. You might think of choosing the right color and the desired amount of sheen as being the main challenges when you need to pick your paint.
However, you will want to think about the type of paint and its composition as well. Oil-based, water-based and latex paint are made of different ingredients and come with their own pros and cons.

This comparison will help you decide whether oil paint, water-based or latex paint is the best method to finish your project.

Types of Paint

What Is Oil Based Paint?

Oil-based paint consists of natural oil, such as linseed oil, synthetic or alkyd oil. The use of oil paint generally produces a smooth texture. It can be sprayed or applied with a brush and usually leads to a rather glossy finish. It can be wiped off or removed using mineral spirits such as turpentine.

Find this and other oil-based paint / enamel on Amazon.

What Is Enamel?

Enamel is often used as a synonym for oil-based paints. However, latex or water-based paints are also sometimes referred to as enamel. When you stumble over a product labeled as enamel, it is therefore important to understand what particular type of paint it is and whether it fits for the intended use.

What Is Latex Paint?

Latex paint is a water-based type of paint. It tends to be less glossy then oil-based paint and it often requires several coats to cover dark surfaces or stains.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Different Types of Paint

Having introduced the different types of paint, we will continue looking at their pros and cons (source). The following table provides you with an overview of their respective pros and cons:

Oil-based paint / EnamelWater-based / latex paint
ProsEasy to work with,
Covers many types of surfaces well,
Requires only one or few coats,
Available with different grades of sheen,
Hard and durable finish.
Less expensive,
Easy to remove,
Dries quickly,
Not as smelly as oil-based paint,
Available in different types of sheen.
ConsOften more expensive than latex paint,
Special brushes, rollers or paint sprayers needed,
Special paint remover or stripper required to remove enamel,
Health effects if improperly exposed to certain paint removers,
Fresh oil paint tends to have an odor,
Longer drying time,
Color can fade or turn yellow over time.
Does not stick to all surfaces,
Application in several coats required (usually).

Check prices for oil-based paint, water-based paint, brushes or paint sprayers on Amazon now.

Pros and Cons of Oil-Based Paint

What Are the Pros of Oil Paints and Enamel?

Oil paint, also known as enamel, is comparatively easy to work with. It covers almost any kind of surface well and provides a so-called hard finish. In most cases, one coat of oil-based paint is enough to fully cover the object’s surface with the desired color. Oil-based paint takes some time to dry though.

Oil-based paint is available in different grades of sheen but it often tends to be glossy. This type of coating produces a hard and durable finish which is particularly handy for heavy-use areas, e.g. floors or countertops.

What Are the Cons of Enamel and Oil-based Paints?

Oil-based paint tends to be more expensive than water-based paint. The same holds true for the tools and equipment needed to apply enamel: If you decide to go for or oil paint you will have to get high-quality brushes or rollers that are labeled as compatible with such type of paint. Alternatively, you can consider getting a paint sprayer – although it is often more expensive than brushes, it can be handy and more efficient for painting large surfaces.

To remove enamel from a surface or to wipe it off, you will have to get a special paint remover or stripper like turpentine or mixtures that often contain turpentine or other mineral spirits. However, they can be smelly and even affect the health in case of excessive inhalation or direct contact with the skin or the eyes.

Be aware that oil-based paint will take a longer time to dry, sometimes even up to a few days. Over time, the paint also tends to fade or develop a yellow shade which will require removing it and repainting the area.

Pros and Cons of Latex Paint

What Are the Pros of Latex and Water-Based Paint?

Latex paint seems to be the more popular choice for most DIY projects. This is because it comes with a smaller price tag, it is easier to remove and it dries much faster than enamel. Even though you will likely need two or more coats to finish material such as wood and concrete, its quick drying time allows you to do the job within one or a few days.

Latex paint also does not exhume strong smells which makes it a good choice for indoor projects. In order to remove excesses, you can use water and soap. Water-based types of paint tend to be less glossy than oil-based paint. However, they are also available in different grades of sheen, ranging from matte to (semi-) gloss.

What Are the Cons of Water-Based / Latex Paint?

One of the disadvantages of latex paint is that it might not be practical for very smooth surfaces like metal or fine-sanded wood as it cannot stick to them. Also, for concrete and porous wood surfaces, it might not be the right choice because it tends to soak into the material rather than covering its surface. Thus, you would have to apply several coats of paint and, ideally, a primer to facilitate the application.

Latex paint should not be used over gloss paints ass it would not stick. In addition, it is not as durable as oil-based paint.

In general, water-based paints require more than one coat to fully cover the surface in the desired color.

Find this and other water-based / latex paint on Amazon.


If you need a durable finish that provides a certain degree of sheen or if you are looking for a finish to cover heavily used surfaces, oil-based paint or enamel will likely be your best choice.

Water-based or latex paint, on the other hand, is very useful if you want a fast drying and more affordable finish that is less smelly and easy to remove. It may require several coats though in order to fully cover a surface. However, some DIYers intentionally aim at a certain level of transparency and apply only one coat to achieve the desired look.

To get started, order your paint and equipment on Amazon now.

If you prefer a finish that helps retain the grain of the wood, polyurethane, varnish, shellac and several natural or synthetic oils are the alternatives to a thin coat of paint as a wood finish.

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