Latex Paint vs Enamel Paint: Choose the Right Paint for Your Project

Bob Thomas


When it comes to painting projects, choosing the right paint can make all the difference.

Two popular options are latex paint and enamel paint.

Both paints have their own unique properties and uses, so it's important to understand the differences between them to make the best decision for your project.

 In this article, we will explore the differences between latex paint and enamel paint and provide tips on when to use each type.

Quick Summary

When deciding between latex paint and enamel paint, consider these factors: 1) Drying time, 2) Durability, 3) Ease of application, 4) Odor and VOCs, and 5) Clean-up. Each type of paint has its advantages and disadvantages, so understanding the differences will help you make the best choice for your project.

Drying Time

One of the most noticeable differences between latex and enamel paint is the drying time.

Latex paint dries more quickly than enamel paint, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.

  • Latex paint: Typically dries within 1-2 hours and can be recoated within 4 hours.
  • Enamel paint: Takes longer to dry, often requiring 8-24 hours between coats.

Pro Tip: If you're in a hurry to complete your project, latex paint may be the better option due to its faster drying time. However, be aware that quick-drying paint can be more challenging to work with, as it leaves less room for error during application.


Another key difference between latex and enamel paint is their durability.

  • Latex paint: Water-based and less durable than enamel paint. It is prone to chipping and peeling over time, especially in high-traffic areas or on surfaces exposed to moisture.
  • Enamel paint: More durable and long-lasting. Enamel paint is oil-based or water-based with added resins, resulting in a hard, glossy finish that resists chipping and peeling.

Ease of Application

When it comes to applying paint, there are some differences between latex and enamel paint to consider.

  • Latex paint: Easier to apply and has a smoother finish. It's also more forgiving when it comes to blending and touch-ups.
  • Enamel paint: Can be more challenging to apply, as it requires a steady hand and attention to detail. However, the end result is a glossy, professional-looking finish.

Odor and VOCs

The odor and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by paint are important factors to consider, especially for indoor projects.

  • Latex paint: Low odor and typically low in VOCs, making it a more environmentally friendly and healthier option for indoor painting.
  • Enamel paint: Strong odor and higher VOC content, which can cause respiratory issues and other health concerns.


The clean-up process for latex and enamel paint is quite different.

  • Latex paint: Easy to clean up with soap and water.
  • Enamel paint: Requires the use of paint thinner or mineral spirits for clean-up, which can be more time-consuming and hazardous.

When to Use Each Type

Now that we've discussed the differences between latex and enamel paint, here's a quick guide on when to use each type:

  • Latex paint: Ideal for interior walls, ceilings, and trim, as well as exterior surfaces that are not exposed to extreme weather conditions.
  • Enamel paint: Suitable for high-traffic areas, doors, cabinets, and surfaces that require a durable, long-lasting finish.

Here's a recap of the main differences between latex paint and enamel paint:

    • Latex paint dries faster, is easier to apply, has a lower odor and fewer VOCs, and is easy to clean up with soap and water.
    • Enamel paint is more durable, provides a glossy finish, has a stronger odor and higher VOC content, and requires paint thinner or mineral spirits for clean-up.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper application and safety precautions, and take the time to prepare your surfaces before painting to ensure a long-lasting, professional-looking result.

No matter which paint you choose, a well-executed paint job can refresh and transform your space, adding beauty and value to your home or property.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. Can I use latex paint and enamel paint together on the same surface?

  A: It is generally not recommended to mix or layer latex and enamel paints.

If you need to apply a different type of paint over an existing one, make sure to properly prepare the surface and use a primer to ensure proper adhesion.

Q. How do I choose the right paint finish for my project?

  A: The right paint finish depends on your project's specific needs.

For high-traffic areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms, a semi-gloss or gloss finish is best.

For bedrooms and living rooms, a matte or eggshell finish may be more suitable.

Q. Are there any eco-friendly alternatives to traditional latex and enamel paints?

  A: Yes, there are eco-friendly paint options available, such as low-VOC or zero-VOC latex paints and natural oil-based paints.

These alternatives can offer a more environmentally-friendly choice without sacrificing quality or durability.

Q. How can I properly dispose of leftover latex and enamel paint?

  A: For latex paint, if there is a small amount left in the can, allow it to dry out completely before disposing of it in the trash.

For larger quantities, contact your local waste management facility for proper disposal instructions.

Enamel paint is considered hazardous waste and should be taken to a designated collection site for proper disposal.

Q. Is it possible to paint over wallpaper with latex or enamel paint?

  A: Painting over wallpaper is generally not recommended, as it may cause the wallpaper to bubble or peel.

However, if you must paint over wallpaper, use an oil-based primer before applying latex or enamel paint to ensure proper adhesion and prevent problems with the final result.


In conclusion, the choice between latex paint and enamel paint will largely depend on your specific project needs.

Consider factors such as drying time, durability, ease of application, odor, VOCs, and clean-up when making your decision.

By understanding the differences between these two types of paint, you can make an informed choice that will help you achieve the best results for your painting project. 

Suggested Products:

  1. Latex Paint: Behr Premium Plus - A high-quality, low-VOC latex paint with excellent coverage and durability, suitable for painting walls and ceilings in any room. Its smooth finish and easy application make it an ideal choice for a professional-looking paint job.
  2. Enamel Paint: Benjamin Moore Advance - A superior-quality, waterborne alkyd enamel paint, perfect for trim, doors, and cabinets. Its excellent leveling properties and durability provide a smooth, long-lasting finish, enhancing the overall appearance of the room.
  3. Primer: KILZ 2 All-Purpose - A versatile, water-based primer that can be used on a variety of surfaces, including drywall, wood, and masonry. It helps ensure proper paint adhesion, improves coverage, and contributes to a more uniform final result when painting a room.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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