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Acrylic vs Enamel Paint: A Comparative Guide

acrylic vs enamel model paint

There are two basic paint finishes you can use if you plan to paint your house: acrylic paint and enamel paint. In this article, we will differentiate acrylic vs. enamel paint. As we stroke through the characteristics of each paint, you will see their differences which will help you determine how and where to use them.

Differences Between Acrylic and Enamel Paint

There are many factors you need to consider when choosing your paint finishes. For example, will this paint work best on the outside of the house? Will I need to use a primer and a sealant to apply it? Will it fit the overall decoration? Let’s answer these questions one by one.

Oil Base or Water Base

Acrylic paint is water-based paint that tends to be nontoxic. Since it is not waterproof, you can wash it away with water, and it will come off. However, it is fast-drying paint. It can take some time and force to wash off after drying over time.

There are brands that make acrylic paint water-resistant, but it still will not hold well with dampness. It is excellent for indoor use, and it sticks well on many other surfaces, but it can also definitely go outdoors where it will not be exposed to moisture. However, since it is water-based, it does not adhere well to smooth surfaces.

The enamel paint, on the other hand, is an oil-based paint. There is a tendency that certain brands are toxic while others are not. It is waterproof, making it the perfect choice for exterior paint. Enamel paint also takes a more extended period to dry than acrylic paint.

Matte and Glossy Finish

The acrylic paint has a matte finish to it. But this also means that you will see the brush strokes even when it dries. One of the many advantages of using acrylic paint is that it does not reflect sunlight making it a suitable paint for brightly lit rooms.

As mentioned above, acrylic paint is fast-drying. You will need to work quickly if you want to get the best result out of this paint finish.

If you would rather have a glossy look, then use the enamel paint. It is also highly durable, making it perfect paint on metal and wood. It holds well in high moisture and is more likely to last long.

Color Variation and Coverage

differences between acrylic and enamel paint

For the subsequent comparison, let us talk about the color variation and coverage of each paint.

There are more color variations for acrylic paint. You can choose from different colors of different shades. And all for a much more affordable price than enamel paint.

To get that beautiful color depth you’re trying to achieve, you might want to make several coats because it provides less coverage. Being able to coat over it multiple times allows you to cover mistakes easily.

Enamel paints are yet to have more variations in color. There are limited choices sold at a more expensive price. But with only a few coats of this paint, you will easily have consistent and beautiful coverage.

Application and Use

Lastly, let us compare acrylic vs. enamel paint regarding their application and use.

Applying acrylic requires a primer, especially if you want it to adhere to smooth surfaces such as metal and plastic. It may also peel off easily without a sealant. With a sealant, it can definitely last longer.

It is the more flexible medium option between the two. So if you’re looking at paint for many types of surfaces, this is your pick. It does not fade under the sun, which might make you think it is suitable for outdoors too; however, keep in mind that it is not waterproof.

The enamel paint does not require you to apply primer first as it adheres to smooth surfaces well. You can definitely use it for indoor items such as glass, metal, and wood. It also does not need a sealant as it is the most durable paint next to lacquer.

One disadvantage of using enamel paint is that it turns yellow over time. Exposure to UV rays affects the color and can cause it to fade while acrylic paint retains its color. So you might want to use enamel paint in the kitchen and the bathroom.

Although the enamel paint does not require a primer or a sealant in the application stage, it does need a thinner to remove or clean. And with its pungent odor that may be toxic in nature, I suggest good ventilation and caution when using this paint finish.


Painting a house or anything, for that matter, needs informed decision-making. You want to know the advantages of using a particular paint and how well it would work on your project. As we have compared acrylic vs. enamel paint, I hope this helps you decide what to use and where to use them.

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