Painting Possibilities: Oil-Based and Water-Based Paints

Oil-Based and Water-Based Paints

Depending on the desired aesthetic, a coat of paint possesses the power to inject character and color into any interior, calling for a careful consideration of the correct coating. After pinpointing a precise color, it is important to understand which type of paint will have the most potential to meet a project’s needs. “When selecting a paint coating for a project, designers should consider the space and how it’s used,” says Rick Watson, director of product information and technical services at Sherwin-Williams. Being properly prepped on paint’s many performance possibilities is imperative. The information below explores the differences between water-based and oil-based paints.

Performance Potential

Different spaces demand unique competencies from their coatings and determining which type of paint will perform best for a particular project provides assurance of long-lasting results. Water-based paints, also referred to as latex, and oil-based paints, otherwise known as alkyds, each have distinctive qualities. “Latex and alkyds have different application and post-application characteristics,” says Mike Mundwiller, field development manager at Benjamin Moore. “An example simply put would be that latex typically dries faster than alkyds but takes longer to cure.” Being prepped on the pros and cons of both paints will benefit a project.

Water-based Paint

Water-based paints are a prevalent choice celebrated for their quick-to-dry and easy-to-clean qualities. Consisting of a pigment and a binder with water used as a carrier, latex paints provide premium color retention. They are also environmentally responsible with fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “Generally, water-based coatings deliver on the many performance features of oil-based paints while meeting the most stringent VOC requirements,” says Watson. “Water-based coatings may have greater durability, color retention, yellow resistance, flexibility, and dry much faster than the old oil-based paints.” Water-based paint are considered to be the most commonly chosen coating today.

Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paints are extremely durable and can be used on almost all surfaces, though they are most-often reserved for high-moisture and heavy-traffic applications. Composed of a pigment and a resin in a solvent thinner, oil-based paints form a hard coating that allows inimitable stain and rust resistance over time. While exceedingly enduring, oil-based paints take longer to dry, emit strong fumes, and are difficult to clean—solvents such as turpentine are needed for removing unwanted markings. Moreover, more VOCs make them less environmentally friendly. On the other hand, oil-based paints do offer an attractive gloss with good leveling that allows brush strokes to fill themselves for a smooth finish. Durability acts as an oil-based paint’s most ubiquitous advantage and enables it to be an ideal choice for projects that won’t require paint changes down the line.

Water-based paints are well suited for many applications with more sustainable standards and an unparalleled ease of use, while oil-based paints are extremely durable and can accommodate long-lasting results. Deciding on the right type of paint also requires finding the best finish or sheen to suit a project’s needs—a topic that will be covered in detail in an upcoming article. Popular finishes include, flat and matte, eggshell and satin, and semi-gloss and high-gloss. Careful consideration of all of these options will lead to extra layers of possibility for any painting project.

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