Latex vs. Acrylic Paint - Which One for Your Project?

Wondering about the difference between latex and acrylic paint? The main difference between the two is their ingredients. Although both are water-based, latex releases a lower amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than acrylic does, making it more suitable for interior use. Conversely, acrylic is more adhesive and elastic than latex. These features allow acrylic to expand and contract with temperature changes and minimize cracking or flaking. For this reason, acrylic is often better for exterior projects than latex is. 

However, there are numerous other concerns as to whether you should pick latex or acrylic for your project. The experts at Five Star Painting® have put this guide together to help you choose. Let’s review what each paint is, when to use it, as well as pros and cons.  

  • What latex paint is and when to use it
  • Pros and cons of latex paint
  • What acrylic paint is and when to use it
  • Pros and cons  of acrylic paint
  • FAQs about latex vs. acrylic paint

Five Star Painting painter using latex paint to paint drywall

What Latex Paint Is and When to Use It

Latex is a water-based paint that consists of synthetic polymers to create a durable, nontoxic film when the water evaporates. Out of all the paints available, latex emits the lowest amount of (VOCs) — making it safer for indoor use, especially around children and pets. 

It also provides smooth, even coverage on furniture, cabinets, and other wooden surfaces because it adheres well to wood and is easy to touch up when necessary. 

Latex is usually used for:

  • Interior projects
  • Concrete
  • Ceilings
  • Aluminum siding
  • Plaster and drywall
  • Wood
  • Stucco 

Pros and Cons of Latex Paint

The fact that latex paint is water-based makes it an excellent choice for nonprofessionals and those learning how to paint. It’s easy to apply, quick to dry, and can be washed out of brushes and rollers with water. 


  • Masks surfaces with just a few coats
  • Resists turning yellow for years to come
  • Comes in different finishes 
  • Cleans up easily with soap and water
  • More affordable than other interior paint types are
  • Dries quickly between coats
  • Resists moisture 
  • Emits little odor and low VOC levels 


  • May expose brush strokes on surfaces 
  • Doesn’t bind to metal and steel surfaces well
  • Can cause grain swelling on painted wood

Five Star Painting painting crew using acrylic paint to exterior trim

What Acrylic Paint Is and When to Use It

Acrylic is a type of water-based paint that is made from binders, pigments, and acrylic resin. Unlike latex paint, acrylic has added chemicals to allow it to expand and contract. Because of this, it’s well suited for exterior spaces such as your house siding and trim. It also retains its color and protects the surface it’s painted on.

Additionally, it’s mildew, mold, and water resistant when dry — making it an excellent paint for moisture-prone rooms such as bathrooms.

Acrylic paint is commonly used for:

  • Bathrooms
  • Cabinets
  • Exterior projects
  • Metal surfaces 
  • Interior trim
  • Covering rust
  • Siding 

Benefits and Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is best for outdoor areas because it can withstand temperature fluctuations and extreme weather (e.g., sun, heat, rain, and snow). However, keep in mind that it creates some levels of VOCs and is more expensive than latex paint.


  • Helps prevent cracking and peeling, especially when temps change
  • Repels mold and mildew
  • Contains built-in UV protection 
  • Consists of a thick, tough film
  • Resists water (when dry)
  • Adheres extremely well


  • Costs more than than latex does
  • Offers fewer sheen choices as latex does
  • Generates moderate VOC levels 
  • Requires multiple coats 

FAQs about Latex vs. Acrylic Paint

Which is more durable: latex or acrylic?

Acrylic is more durable than latex is because of the chemicals added to withstand harsh temperatures.    

Can I paint acrylic over latex?

You can usually paint acrylic over latex paint without problems because they are both water-based. Contact a professional painting service, though, to ensure compatibility.

Five Star Painting painter consulting with homeowner

Call Five Star Painting for Assistance

Although the above tips will help you to determine whether to use latex or acrylic, why risk making the wrong choice? Contact your local Five Star Painting specialist for professional guidance on which type of paint would work best for your project. Learn more about our residential and commercial painting services. You can also give us a call or request a free estimate online to begin your next painting project.