Oil-Based Paint vs Water-Based Paint

woman painting outside of house

Picking the color of paint is essential, and choosing the right type is equally crucial. It helps to know how different paints suit your project. There are two major types of paints: oil-based paint and water-based paint.

These paints are different in composition and give different results when used. Therefore, it's essential to know what your needs are before settling on the type of paint.

Oil-based paint can take a long time to dry and cure, for example, but holds up well on high tough surfaces. Water-based paint retains color well and is environmentally friendly, making it a good choice for exterior design.

Durability Levels

Painters often use different types of paints to maximize durability. Oil paint can hold up to heavy contact, for example, so it makes a good choice for railings and other high-touch surfaces. Water paint can hold its color longer in a spot exposed to bright sun.

Matching Your Current Paint

Choose a color and texture that matches, or at least complements, your existing paint jobs.

What most homeowners find challenging is determining whether the existing paint is oil-based or water-based. If you can't tell, wipe the wall surface with denatured alcohol.

If there's no paint on the rag, the paint is likely to be oil-based. If there's paint on the rag, the paint is water-based.

Picking a Gloss Level

paintbrush dripping white paint on wood

Glossy paints reflect more light and are generally shinier. Matte paints diffuse more light and make surfaces less shiny.

Reflective sheens like semi-gloss and satin are easy to clean but tend to show imperfections on the wall. Dark and non-reflective sheens don't show more spots but can be hard to clean and maintain.

Generally, if you want to paint high traffic areas like bathrooms or kitchens, go for simple sheens. Choose matte finishes for low-traffic areas like bedrooms for a more calming effect.

Consider Frequency of Repainting

Consider how regularly you're likely to change the color of your walls.

In most cases, sections like trims, indoor doors, and moldings receive a white or neutral paint variation. Walls tend to get more color.

This might suggest a strategy of using oil-based paint for trim and molding, but water-based on walls.

When to Use Oil-Based Paints

Oil-based paints are one of the most commonly used paint in painting. These paints contain either natural oils or synthetic alkyd. Oil-based paints consist of a resin and a pigment in a solvent thinner. Upon the evaporation of the thinner, the resin will form a hard coating.

The best place to use oil-based paint is any surface where you want the paint to last for several years. You should also use it when you don't intend to change the color regularly.

What makes oil-based paint an excellent option is that it is incredibly durable. This type of paint can also withstand regular and aggressive contact, making it ideal for trims and moldings.

Since oil-based paints have a resin that creates a hard coating that is not breathable, they can resist rust and stains over time.

As much as they are advantageous, oil-based paints take longer to dry. Therefore, oil-based paints won't be a good option if you intend to use the room right after painting. It is also important to note that oil-based paints have a more pungent odor than water-based paints. They can also be tough to clean.

brush painting wood

When To Use Water-Based Paints

Water-based consists of a binder and pigment, with water being used as a carrier. This type of paint is the most common and environmentally friendly. Water-based paints give excellent color retention and dry up faster than their oil-based counterparts.

They also produce fewer odors. What makes them unique is that they can be used over existing oil-based paints. Therefore, you can use them anywhere regardless of the existing paint.

The best place to use water-based paints is on exterior walls that are exposed to outside elements. You can also use them in interior walls that tend to experience excessive moisture, like laundry rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.