House Painting 101: Oil Based Paint VS Latex Paint

Oil Paint Vs Latex Paint

When selecting paints for your house painting project you have many options. To make things even harder you must first figure out which type you should go with, oil based paint or latex paint. In this article we will compare and contrast the two so you can easily find the right choice for your project.

First, A Little About Paint…

All paint is made up of three components: a pigment, a binder, and a vehicle. The pigment is finely ground substance that comes up with the color. The binder is what determines the paint’s performance, including adhesion, washability, sheen, and fade resistance.

In oil based paints the binder is made from various oil derivatives such as linseed oil, tung oil, and soya oil. In latex paint, the binder is made from an acrylic material. Different types of binders provide different performance characteristics. A vehicle is simply a solvent used to get the paint from the can to the surface. Oil based paints use a paint thinner as a vehicle and latex uses water(which is why people will call it water based paint).

Oil Based Paint

Oil Based Paint
Advantages Of Oil Based Paint
  • Dries harder, making it more durable and longer lasting
  • Will look smoother due to the long dry times(allowing the paint to level out better)
  • Has better coverage, needing less coats
  • Superb stain blocking
  • Side by side comparison oil paint simply looks better than latex
Disadvantages Of Oil Based Paint
  • Must ventilate – heavy odor
  • Must use paint thinner to clean up
  • Yellows over time
  • Takes a long time to dry
Common Uses Of Oil Paint
  • Woodwork
  • Water stains on drywall (for its hide)
  • Exterior primer
  • Metal Surfaces

Latex Paint

Latex Paint
Advantages Of Latex Paint
  • Not as thick making it Easier to paint with.
  • Very little odor
  • Can be painted over either oil or latex paints.
  • Better for the environment
  • Easier to clean up
Disadvantages Of Latex Paint
  • Generally Less Durable
  • Less hide for stains
  • Less evening out = More brush strokes/imperfections
Common Uses Of Latex Paint
  • Walls / Siding
  • Ceilings
  • Decks / Fences

Things To Consider

  • Oil paint is combustible
  • Oil paint is a Hazardous material and you must dispose of it correctly
  • You cannot put oil over latex but you can out latex over oil
  • Water based paints take shorter time to dry but a longer time to cure


When it comes to specific situations oil based paint is still superior to latex paint, due to it’s durability and self leveling characteristics. But, if it’s not absolutely necessary for your specific application, latex paint is overall a better choice. With latex paint you can still get a very durable product that is less toxic, has less fumes, and far easier to clean up.

Do you prefer oil over latex or vise versa? Tell us why below!

Tony Nordeen is the CEO and Co-Founder of BLUE Painting, a full service house painting company offering a range of Interior and Exterior painting services. From room painting to kitchen cabinet painting, from popcorn ceiling removal to full exterior house painting. If you are interested in getting a 100% Free Estimate click here or email

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