How to choose between latex and oil-based paints


Oil-based paint has a high gloss, shiny finish. It is durable and stain resistant, making it an excellent choice for areas that are susceptible to frequent stains, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and household trim.

Latex paint is available in a variety of finishes, from flat paint (no gloss) to a high gloss finish, and homeowners can choose different finishes to add texture and contrast to a project.

Whether you use latex or oil-based paint depends on many factors. You can use the chart below to determine the best fit for your project.

Oil-based paint Latex paint
Ease of application Heavier, thicker paint makes it more difficult to apply, but covers more completely, often in one coat Applies smoothly and evenly, but often needs more than one coat to hide dark colors
Fade resistance More likely to fade in sunny exposure Resistant to fading, even in bright sunlight
Drying time 8 to 24 hours 1 to 6 hours
Durability and adhesion Adheres well even to "chalky" surfaces (painted surfaces with powdery residue, especially on concrete, masonry or stucco) Adheres well to most surfaces. Better elasticity than oil paint.
Odor/VOCs Stronger odor and more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than latex Very little odor and available in low-VOC formulas
Cleanup Requires a solvent like paint thinner or turpentine Cleans up with water only. Resists mildew.