Today there are many different types and brands of paints available. Specialized paint for your house indoors and outdoors, paint for your furniture, or numerous arts and crafts projects. This is why you should learn to understand the difference between acrylic and enamel paint. Acrylic vs enamel paint, knowing which one is appropriate for your paint task. Both of these options have their own pros and cons, so choosing the correct paint will ensure the best outcome.
Acrylic Paint Overview
Acrylic paint is made up of color pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer blend. This type of paint is most popular in the arts and crafts industry, as it is water-based and non-toxic. Acrylic paints are easy to clean, as you do not need any solvents and only a little soap and water to wipe any messes up. You can also add various paint mediums to thicken it, make it dry more quickly, amongst many more options.
The paint dries quite quickly and tends to be cheaper than your enamel paints. Acrylic paint can also be used on many different surfaces from paper and wood to canvas, plastic, stone, fabric, glass, and even metal. Some surfaces, you can apply the acrylic paint to directly, while other surfaces like metal might need a bit of preparation before you begin painting.
Application of acrylic paint is easy, as it paints evenly onto a surface and will level out. Sometimes a primer will be needed for the paint to adhere better. Applying multiple thin layers is best, and you do not have to wait long for each coat to dry. You can easily finish a paint job in a short amount of time. Once you are done, the painted item should be left to fully dry. The paint is more appropriate for use on smaller furniture items and other decorative objects.
Types of Acrylic Paint
The type of acrylic paint you get will depend on what you are doing and what surface you will be applying it to. The professional-grade acrylic paint is the best and most expensive option, but it offers you vibrant and long-lasting colors, as it has high color pigment levels. You then get your artist-grade and then student grade, which has lower color pigment levels and is usually more affordable.
Other Varieties of Acrylic Paint
Heavy body acrylic paints, which is the thickest paint and falls under the categories of professional and student grade
Soft body paints are smoother and easier to mix with various paint mediums
Fluid acrylic paints come in bottles and are used for certain effects like staining
Acrylic Ink is a more fluid paint with vibrant colors
Open acrylic paints dry slowly and are used to mimic effect similar to oil paint
Interactive acrylics are normal acrylic paint that dries quickly but can be reactivated using a special unlocking formula
Acrylic gouache provides an opaque, flat, or matte finish
Acrylic marker pens used for drawing and painting
Acrylic paint spray
Craft acrylic paints which can be used on a variety of surfaces
Exterior acrylic paints specifically design to be able to withstand harsher conditions
Using these different acrylic paints, you can create and paint almost anything. The paint can also be protected further by applying varnish. Even though the acrylic paints dry quickly, you will need to wait at least a week before applying a varnish coat. Another popular paint product is acrylic modeling paint. The acrylic model paint is a lot easier to use, as you can do touch-ups, it is simple to clean up and acrylic model paint should be obtainable at your local craft store. The acrylic modeling paint is unfortunately not as durable as your enamel model paint.
The Best Acrylic Model Paint: VALLEJO Basic Color Paint Set
The Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set has a variety of colors that are lightfast and highly pigmented. The water-based paint can adhere to most surfaces, which is great for all kinds of model painting. All you need is an acrylic thinning medium and you are all set to use the paints in an airbrush. The application of the paint is smooth and even and leaves no brush strokes behind.
VALLEJO Basic USA Colors Paint Set Model color has been formulated with permanent pigments
All colors are completely lightfast and opaque
Extremely smooth and uniform paint film, with no trace of brushstrokes View on Amazon
PROS Applies evenly
Comes in a variety of vibrant colors
Versatile and can be used on most surfaces CONS Expensive
Can be removed easily by scraping off
Enamel Paint Overview
This is a solvent-based paint that dries to a hard paint layer. The main difference between acrylic and enamel paint is that acrylic paint contains water as part of its makeup, while enamel is oil-based. You can use enamel paints on surfaces like wood, plastic, metal, copper, glass, and is an excellent choice for all your outside surfaces. Enamel paint is resistant to moisture and you can wash the painted surface often.
Enamel model paint is used for its vibrant colors and the durability it offers. You can apply enamel model paint without the use of a primer, and it can easily be removed with some mineral spirits. Enamel paints can be rolled on, brushed on, and even sprayed, giving you a durable glossy finish.
Some examples of where you can use enamel paints:
On certain appliances
Oil-based enamel paints dry slowly and since they are solvent-based, give off a strong odor. Besides a durable finish, you can also get enamel paint that comes in varying finishes from matte and semi-gloss, gloss to eggshell, and a satin finish.
The Best Outdoor Enamel Spray Paint: RUST-OLEUM Stops Rust Spray Paint
The Rust-Oleum spray paint gives surfaces a tough and durable coating that has superior rust-resistance. The oil-based paint will dry to the touch at around two to four hours and can cover up to 15 square feet. The enamel paint is also resistant to fading and chipping and provides a nice glossy finish to surfaces. Can cover surfaces like wood, metal as well as masonry, and plenty more. You can purchase the spray paint in a variety of gloss colors.
RUST-OLEUM Stops Rust Spray Paint, Gloss, different Colors Weather and corrosion-resistant glossy coating protects exterior and interior surfaces
Oil-based formula provides a durable protective coating with excellent rust prevention
Dries to touch in 2–4 hours and covers up to 15 sq. ft View on Amazon
PROS Durable and rust-resistant
Resistant to fading and chipping
Available in a variety of gloss colors
Comfortable spray tip that can spray hard to reach areas CONS Might have a bad odor and fumes
Problems with the spray nozzle
Difference Between Acrylic and Enamel Paint
Understanding the difference between acrylic and enamel paint can help you to make a more educated choice when purchasing. Getting the right product, the first time will also save you some money in the long run. To make things even easier, we have created an easy-to-read table. Here is enamel vs acrylic paint:
Acrylic Paints Enamel Paints Water-based paint that is softer than enamel Oil-based paint that dries hard Dries to a matte finish Dries to a Glossy finish Water-resistant Water-proof In most cases, you will need a primer No need for a primer Clean using soap and water Clean using mineral spirits Best for smaller projects indoors, for example, acrylic model paint Great to use on kitchen and bathroom cabinets indoors where moisture is involved Best used on furniture indoors Best on outdoor furniture Quick-drying Takes a long time to dry No strong smell Has an odor and contains VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) Retains its color May turn yellow Many assorted colors available Limited colors
When it comes to enamel vs acrylic, it is best not to combine the two. If, for example, a coat of enamel paint is applied over an acrylic coat, the solvent in the enamel paint will eventually raise the acrylic coat underneath. You may be able to apply an acrylic coat over an enamel paint coat, however, you must prepare the surface properly and sand it down before applying the acrylic paint. Ultimately, it would be best to start painting from scratch to avoid any issues later on.
Enamel vs acrylic paint in the case of spray paint? Both can be used to spray paint, but you will most likely need to thin the paint before application. However, there are pre-thinned products on the market that are ready to spray.
Enamel vs Acrylic: Pros and Cons
When dealing with enamel model paint and acrylic modeling paint, it can be a matter of preference. The same can be said for any other art or paint project. Now that we know a few of the differences between acrylic vs enamel, let us check out a few of the pros and cons of each.
Enamel Paint Pros
Easy to apply with consistent cover
Needs only a few coats
No brush strokes
Can be applied to a variety of surfaces
Available in various sheens
In most cases, you do not need to apply a primer first
Enamel Paint Cons
Can be toxic and has an odor
Enamel paints can separate if stored for long periods
You need a special paint stripper or paint remover
Enamel paint takes longer to dry
The color can fade and turn yellow over time
More difficult to airbrush, as it needs to be thinned more
Fewer colors available
Can be expensive
You will need special rollers and brushes for the job
Acrylic Paint Pros
Easy to clean up and dilute simply using water
Types of acrylic paints can easily give a similar look to that of oil paints
Dries quickly, so layering can be done more easily and faster
Comes in a variety of vibrant colors
You can use additives and mediums to change the texture, consistency, and more
Acrylic Paint Cons
Since it dries faster, you need to work faster
You need more layers of paint to achieve the best color depth
Visible brush strokes can be left behind
Does not adhere to smooth surfaces well
Once completely dry, it can be difficult to remove
Tends to peel
Frequently Asked Questions
Enamel vs Acrylic Paint, Which is Best?
Both have their pros and cons; however, enamel paints are solvent-based and give off toxic fumes and require mineral spirits to be thinned and when cleaning up. Acrylic paints are non-toxic and need only water for cleaning and thinning the paint. The choice ultimately depends on your painting project and your own preferences.
What Paint is Best for Metals, Enamel vs Acrylic?
Enamel paint works better on metals, as it forms a hard and durable coat that is rust-resistant.
Do you Need a Primer for Enamel Paint?
In most cases, enamel paint can be applied without a primer. However, it can only benefit to apply a primer so that the paint will last longer.
Acrylic vs Enamel Paint, how do you Tell the Difference?
Acrylic paint produces more of a matte look once applied, while enamel paint is glossier. Acrylic paints also preserve their color over time, while enamel paint can fade and turn yellow. Enamel paints contain solvents and acrylics main constituent is water.
Is it Possible to Paint Acrylic on top of Enamel Paint?
Preferably not, as these two types of paint do not go well together. By painting over enamel paint with acrylic, the underlying acrylic paint will start to chip and peel away. However, you can prepare the glossy surface by sanding it down, so that the acrylic paint can adhere better to it. The best option is to not mix these two at all and to remove any paint and start fresh.