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?

  • The ratio of Polyvinyl Acetate to Acrylic Resin contained in the paint. Commented May 28, 2013 at 21:11

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 7
    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
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 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. Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 11:30
  • 4
    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. Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 11:37
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    +1 because both Acrylic Latex and Latex paint are emulsions in water and water cleanup capable. The difference is the ratio of Acrylic Polymer to Vinyl Polymer. Acrylic resin is longer lasting and the higher the Acryl content, the more expensive the paint. They are both "chemical based" as I've not come across any Acrylic Trees or Vinyl Trees in the wild (given genetic engineering, maybe a future possibility). Acrylic resin is also soluble in other mediums and therefore can also be formulated as an "oil based paint". Commented May 28, 2013 at 21:04
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    Acrylic paint IS soluble ... I use it all the time rather than oil for art.
    – user20023
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 19:52

You almost answered your own question, in terms of practicality. Acrylic paints are more durable, resilient and more expensive paints. They thin with water, clean up with water, just as latex (as in the house paint sold by the gallon at Home Depot or Lowes) but just as mentioned by others, latex paints are mixed down using vinyls, making them more porous and less durable.

Many commercial paints make claims about durability and performance compared to other latex based paints, but will never compare their products to an acrylic or oil based paint. The main difference is the outcome of the different applied paints. Oil has the most durable finish, most resistant, while also being the least flexible; acrylic is next, then latex.

You may have noted differences in prices between the different bases for latex, especially between that of base flat, and high gloss bases. High gloss contains more polymers, more acrylic, and simply put has more "in it" which makes it a high gloss. Adding durability costs money, and it usually reflects the things a company has to put into the paint in order to raise the quality. There are more ways to add "durability" today than simply raising the % of acrylic in the mix.


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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