enamel vs acrylic paint

Enamel vs Acrylic – The Difference Between Acrylic and Enamel Paint

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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.

enamel paint



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.

best cheap acrylic paint



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:

  • Outdoor furniture
  • Doors
  • Window trims
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Bathroom Cabinets
  • Decks
  • Floors
  • Handrails
  • 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.

acrylic model paint



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 PaintsEnamel Paints
Water-based paint that is softer than enamelOil-based paint that dries hard
Dries to a matte finishDries to a Glossy finish
In most cases, you will need a primerNo need for a primer
Clean using soap and waterClean using mineral spirits
Best for smaller projects indoors, for example, acrylic model paintGreat to use on kitchen and bathroom cabinets indoors where moisture is involved
Best used on furniture indoorsBest on outdoor furniture
Quick-dryingTakes a long time to dry
No strong smellHas an odor and contains VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)
Retains its colorMay turn yellow
Many assorted colors are availableLimited 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.

acrylic modelling paint



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
  • Durable finish
  • 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 vs enamel


Acrylic Paint Pros

  • Easy to clean up and dilute simply using water
  • Non-toxic
  • No odor
  • 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
  • More affordable
  • 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
  • Less coverage
  • 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

acrylics enamel difference



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.

professional acrylic paint


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.


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