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What is Water-Based Paint?

When you are in your home as much as most people are, especially in today’s day and age, there is no doubt you are noticing things that you might not have otherwise. Like that faucet that drips in your bathroom, the light fixture that needs a new bulb, or the discoloration of the paint on your walls. Finding ways (and time) to get everything you need to get done in your home can be a little overwhelming. 

A fairly easy fix to turn your home from drab to fab is by painting. From trim to walls and more, there is always something that can use a little bit of updating. As dark earthy tones are out, and bright cool tones are in, it may be time to update your space.

Although picking your color may seem like the first step in the process, it should actually come second to determine what type of paint you need. This may be a little confusing as most newcomers don’t expect there to be a ton of options.

You first need to decide if you want to use oil-based paint, latex paint, or water-based paint. If you are painting surfaces like walls and ceilings, water-based paint is probably going to be your best choice for many reasons. 

Related: Our epic guide listing and describing all paint types | Satin Paint | Flat Paint | Eggshell Paint | Oil-Based Paint | Gloss Paint | Enamel Paint | Latex-Based Paint | Chalkboard Paint | Matte Paint | Primer Paint

What is Water-Based Paint?

A close look at white and blue water-based paints mixing.

Water-based paint is made of microscopic plastic particles of pigment, binders, and water. Water-based paints ARE water-soluble, but likely become resistant to water when they are dry. There are various types of binders that are used in water based-paint, such as acrylic and alkyd.

Water-based paints are generally used in places that will not endure a lot of wear and tear. They also dry quicker than other types of paint, which makes it perfect for quicker home projects. 

When Should You Use Water-Based Paint?

Gray water-based paint with roller.

Water-based paint is super easy to work with. If you have a party coming up in a few days and you just noticed your walls have a ton of marks, water-based paint will be the best way to turn your space around. Unlike oil-based paint that requires specific ingredients to clean, water-based paint can be cleaned with soap and water.

If you do not prepare your space properly and accidentally spill paint on something, soap and water should do the trick. According to some recent painters, water-based paint is easier to find than oil-based paint. So, if you are a DIY expert, who wants a quick turnaround, water-based is for you.

What Materials Can Water-Based Paint Be Used For? 

Water-based paint should usually only be used for walls and ceilings. They do not experience a lot of scuffing as trim can, which makes it the perfect option. Water-based paint should not generally be used on surfaces such as metal. Oil-based paint can adhere to surfaces such as metal better than water-based.

A wooden wall being whitewashed with water-based paint.

This allows the paint to last longer on such surfaces. Also, metal surfaces are much more likely to rust than other options. When you use water-based paint this can speed up the process of rust and ruin your metal item. If you have items around your home such as metal railings or iron cast tubs, using oil-based paint is better.

Oil-based paint can be used on wood, but it is not the best choice. Given the makeup of water-based paint, you will need to prime and sand your wood before painting which may be a step you do not need to take when using oil-based. Water-based paint may also swell on the wood. Because of this, there is a good chance you will also have to sand in between coats. If most of your regularly used items are wood, use oil-based as it will last longer!

Types Of Water Based Paint

There are a few types of water-based paint: acrylic and latex being the most common amongst the bunch. These specific branches of water-based paint are generally used to paint both the interior and exterior of homes. Although they seem similar in makeup, they can be used for very different projects.

Acrylic Paint

A close look at a wooden chair being coated with acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is called such due to the fact that it has a large number of acrylic polymers. This type of plastic used is known for its elasticity, transparency, and resistance to breakage. This type of paint tends to be a little more expensive. It generally costs more because it provides much better durability and adhesions in comparison to its counterpart, latex.

For items such as interior walls, this extra cost may not be necessary. But for items such as cabinets, furniture, and exterior furniture, it can save you money in the long run as you will not need to repaint as often. 

Latex Paint

Rust-Oleum 1976502 Painter's Touch Latex Paint, Quart, Flat Black

In cost-saving efforts, acrylic paint contains a lower ratio of acrylic polymers. This specific type of paint is great because it is less expensive than other options and can be used on larger spaces in your home such as ceilings and walls. Again, you should not use this on outdoor spaces or furniture that is getting a lot of use. However, it is perfect for projects that you do not want to spend a lot of money or time on! 


If you are wanting to quickly throw together a home project to elevate your space, consider using water-based paint to redo your ceilings and walls. If you want an inexpensive and quick way to update your space, this is the paint option for you. 

So pick up your paintbrush and let’s get to painting!