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I see lots of water dispersion paints in shops and they usually come in two flavors - "latex" and "acrylic". The application range and procedure seem the same, they are all relatively safe, don't emit anything toxic while drying, prices are more or less the same.

What's the practical difference and how do I choose?

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The ratio of Polyvinyl Acetate to Acrylic Resin contained in the paint. –  Fiasco Labs May 28 '13 at 21:11

2 Answers 2

up vote 16 down vote accepted

There actually is no difference between latex and acrylic paints because there is no latex in latex paints. Let me explain. All water based paints today are referred to as "latex", even though there is absolutely no latex rubber in the formula. Latex has become a generic label. The stain, water resistance and covering capabilities are achieved by using acrylic resins or vinyl . Better quality paints have more acrylic resins than vinyl. Paints with a higher percentage of acrylic resin cost more. Vinyl is much cheaper than acrylic and is often used to mix with the acrylic to keep the cost of the paint lower. If you have special needs that may require a superior or better adapted product, the best advise is to go to a professional paint store and discuss your situation with someone that can explain the chemistry and applications of better products.

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The irony is the technical explanation you provide greatly outperforms what any salesperson in our region can provide - the most clever though they have is "emmm, this one is two dollars per liter, it's emmm, maybe good, that one is ten dollars per liter, it's emmm, much better". It was very funny when I bought cheap paint, failed miserably because I didn't know I had to use a primer and then they said "come on, that's cheap paint, buy [the ten dollars per liter] and it'll be great". –  sharptooth Feb 15 '11 at 11:05
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Hear your pain. Paint is chemistry and having a competent paint supplier with trained knowledgeable sales people is priceless. My grandfather and uncles owned a Keystone/Valspar custom paint store and were painting contractors for over 40 years. No substitute for experience I guess. –  shirlock homes Feb 15 '11 at 11:30
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An entire different conversation about paint is pigment quality. Coverage is greatly effected by the amount of pigments used. Again, cheap paints are light on pigments, better paints have much higher and better quality pigments. The actual weight of the paint is different as well. There are several factors that effect paint quality and price. Would be a very long study, but you can read lots of good articles online. –  shirlock homes Feb 15 '11 at 11:37
    
-1 because of first line. There is a difference. Latex is water soluble, acrrylic is not. There are differences in weathering. Everything else you said may be entirely accurate, but there is a difference. –  Chris Cudmore Aug 17 '12 at 3:22
    
@Chris: Practicaly speaking, acrylic is included in most latex paints. I was referring to the amount (%) and quality. The resins and vinyl are not water soluble, but the formula is commonly refereed to as latex and is water clean=up as opposed to having to use mineral spirits. True 100% latex is rubber and is not in itself water soluble either. The chemicals in the paints are in suspension, and obviously are not water soluble once dry. –  shirlock homes Aug 17 '12 at 10:52

There are many water based "100% acrylic" "Latex" paints. I use them in the form of exterior porch and floor enamel. I don't really know what 100% acrylic means, except it's more expensive, and, in my experience, higher quality - more durable, lasts longer, sticks better.

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