Home » Paint » Paint Blog » Enamel Paint Vs Latex: The Key Differences

Enamel Paint Vs Latex: The Key Differences

Despite the wide range of paint products that paint companies produce, every paint can be classified into two types: enamel paint and latex paint. 

These types of paint can be applied on different surfaces inside and outside of your house, but each is better suited to specific surfaces.

If you’re trying to decide on the best paint to use for a project, you need to know the key differences between these types of paint, and to note the qualities your painting project requires.

So which is best when it comes to enamel paint vs latex? We’ve done comprehensive research to provide you with the key differences between each paint type and where best to apply them. Keep reading to find out more.

enamel paint vs latex

What Is Enamel Paint?

Enamel paint is a solvent-based paint that gained popularity around the 1800s. This type of paint forms a water-resistant, hard, and glossy finish. 

Enamel paint gained popularity because enamel is known for its durability and toughness.

Enamel is often associated with glass-made items, but enamel paint doesn’t contain any glass (despite its glossy texture). Most people believe that enamel is only oil-based, but there is a water-based version. 

This oil-based paint takes up to 24 hours to dry, and it needs to be applied  ain well-ventilated room because the fumes can be toxic.

Although less popular, water-based enamel paint takes less time to dry, around eight hours. It often stays a bit wet even after it begins to dry up. 

The water-base makes this type of paint easy to clean and resistant to moisture. You can use it on metal surfaces, wood, plastic, and glass surfaces.

What Is Latex Paint?

Latex paint gets its name from the rubber base that is used to make it, but the base was replaced by acrylic. Latex-based paint consists of a resin base and water, making it water-soluble, within the current Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) requirements that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends. 

Latex paint is an excellent choice for exterior walls, because you can easily clean up the surfaces with soap and water. 

There are three types of latex paint including:

Vinyl-Acrylic Paint

Vinyl acrylic creates a tough opaque shell, and is better for interior walls. The paint uses a synthetic polymer, which is easy to source for, making it economical to use. 

This paint creates a uniform coat and is practical because it’s the least expensive of the three latex paints

enamel paint vs latex

100% Acrylic Paint

100% acrylic paint is more expensive than acrylic blends because of its long-lasting nature. This paint is considered high performance because it’s easy to use, clean up, and good for the environment. 

You can apply acrylic paint on building materials, including metals, wood, plastic, and bricks, and it will adhere well.

Painters prefer using 100% acrylic paint on moveable surfaces because it’s not rigid and allows for movement without peeling. 100% acrylic paint doesn’t fade even when exposed to the sun’s effect and is resistant to mildew. 

Because of these advantages, 100% acrylic costs more than vinyl-acrylic, and most manufacturers prefer to mix them to balance the cost.

Alkyd-Modified Latex

Alkyd paint mimics the glossy finish of oil paints despite having no oil in it. This doesn’t work well for masonry, but is effective on metal or wood surfaces. This oil is suitable for exterior surfaces because it’s durable and less expensive. 

This type of paint is tougher and takes longer to dry, and needs turpentine or paint thinner to clean. Alkyd latex takes 6 to 8 hours to dry when painted under room temperature.

The Main Differences Between Enamel Paint And Latex Paint

Most people refer to water-based paints as latex paints and oil-based paints as enamel. These bases create features in these paints that we can use to differentiate them. 

These include:

The Final Look

Enamel and latex paint present differently when dry. If you’re looking for an eggshell, satin, or matte finish, then latex paint is the best choice for you. This goes well with the modern look and doesn’t weather easily, making it suitable for areas people frequent.

Enamel paint gives off a shiny, smoother finish when dry. This paint can present itself as either satin, semi-gloss, or high-gloss, depending on the brand you choose. 

Oil-based enamel paint creates durable finishes, making it suitable for cabinet surfaces and other most used surfaces in the house.

Suitable Brushes

There are different types of brushes that work well with these paints. If you’re looking to use enamel paints, you may need a synthetic brush or a pork hairbrush. Synthetic brushes are multi-purpose, and you can also use them on latex paints. 

Natural bristle brushes are excellent for enamel paint because of the oil base, which makes it dense but will fail with enamel paint because it absorbs the liquid instead of expelling it. 

The absorption would mean that no paint gets on the surface and makes the brushes difficult to clean.


Most paints give off toxic fumes, and we recommend wearing protective gear, including masks and safety goggles, if you’re starting a new DIY project. Toxic fumes create side effects such as eye irritation, dizziness, headaches, and trouble breathing. 

Oil-based paints produce more toxic fumes, and you should use them in well-ventilated areas. Water-based paint gives off less toxic fumes, making them safer in terms of toxicity.

Cleaning Mechanism

Each type of paint base determines its cleaning style. Cleaning oil-based enamel paint, for instance, requires paint thinner, but cleaning water-based latex paint requires soap and water to clean efficiently.


In a house, painters typically choose latex paint for walls, and then polish doors and window frames with enamel paint. Surfaces such as doors and windows undergo constant abuse and require a hard, durable, and smooth finish.

When choosing the best paint for metal surfaces, use oil-based paints instead of water-based paints. Water-based latex paints will most likely cause metal surfaces to rust. However, you can use latex paints on drywall, plaster, and porch flooring.

Enamel Vs Latex Paint, Choose The One That’s Best For You

We have explained the main differences between enamel paint vs. latex, and described the best surfaces to apply these paints. We have also explained how these paints were created, and the factors to consider before choosing between the two types of paints.

Although people are now leaning towards water-based oils because of their low VOCs, oil-based paints still play a large role in frequently-used surfaces. You can now plan where each paint type will go as you renovate your house.

About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

Leave a Comment