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 paintLatex paint
Ease of applicationHeavier, thicker paint makes it more difficult to apply, but covers more completely, often in one coatApplies smoothly and evenly, but often needs more than one coat to hide dark colors
Fade resistanceMore likely to fade in sunny exposureResistant to fading, even in bright sunlight
Drying time8 to 24 hours1 to 6 hours
Durability and adhesionAdheres 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/VOCsStronger odor and more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than latexVery little odor and available in low-VOC formulas
CleanupRequires a solvent like paint thinner or turpentineCleans up with water only. Resists mildew.