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Ultimate Guide to Water-Based Paints

This is the third of three in a series of "Ultimate Guide" to different types of paint. Click for the Ultimate Guide to Oil-Based Paint and Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Paint!

Early paints were manufactured from a variety of vehicles such as cow’s milk combined with pigments. Up until 1867, commercial paint mills would only grind the pigments. Individual customers would blend pigments with their vehicle-- carrier of the color-- to make their own paints. In 1865, DP Flinn received the first patent for a water based paint. Flinn's formula consisted of a blend of potassium hydroxide, zinc oxide, milk, resin, and linseed oil. In the following decades manufacturers continued to improve formulas for paint products.

The introduction of latex in 1940s revolutionized the paint industry. The material made it possible to produce better quality water based paints with enhanced applicability. This latex that goes into the paint consist of a synthetic polymer that has unique properties and characteristics and should be confused with latex rubber.

Types of Water Based Paints

Acrylic and latex makeup the two types of water based paints. In water based paints, water is the ingredient that accounts for most of the benefits of latex paint, as well as a few of the disadvantages. For example, water based paints becomes difficult to use when temperatures fall below 50 degree Fahrenheit. The lower temperature also make it possible to see brush strokes in the final results. Although consumers can purchase latex paint that works at 35 degrees F and above, the paint cannot withstand freezing temperatures. Both paints, which are produced from acrylic resin, have many similarities as well as a few differences. Latex paint is the primarily used to paint homes, other structure and spaces. Generally, acrylic paints, which are chemical based, are used in artwork.

High quality latex paint contain more acrylic resin than vinyl and cost more, but will not chip or splatter and brushes well. Once the paint dries, you can scrub the surface without harming the finish. In addition, acrylic paints maintain its color and gloss, over time. Some paint companies add the less expensive costly vinyl to their formulations instead of acrylic resin or blend vinyl and resin to lower the cost of their paint. However, both vinyl and acrylic resins have the stain, water resistance and covering capabilities coveted by professional painters and do-it-yourself painters.

Applications of Water-Based Paint

Quality water based paints have 100 percent acrylic binders that makes the paint especially durable and very flexible. Latex paint adheres well to a variety of interior and exterior surfaces. As a result, you can expect these paints to have significant resistance to paint failures, such as flaking, peeling, and blistering. The primary benefits of water based paints include:

  • Durability-Superior adhesion to most substrates and has better flexibility than oil
  • Color Retention- Resists chalking and fading
  • Ease of Application- Smooth and even application with less brush drag
  • Mildew Resistance- Additives reduce mildew growth and help maintain the paint's fresh appearance
  • Versatility- Can be used on a variety of substrates, including wood, concrete, stucco, brick, aluminum siding, vinyl siding, and galvanized metal.
  • Odor- Virtually no scent
  • Drying Time- Dries in one to six hours, which permits same day recoating
  • Cleanup- Easy cleanup with water and soap.



To test whether the paint in your home is latex or oil-based, try digging your thumbnail into it. If you can make a dent, it's latex. If you cannot, it's oil-based.

Painting is the number one improvement project for homes, offices and other spaces. For most professional and do-it-yourself painters, water based paints have become the preferred choice.

Five Star Painting specializes in interior and exterior painting for both residential and commercial customers. Our experienced painters can help you find a suitable water based paint or other paint for your project.

Contact us for a free estimate today!