Enamel Vs Acrylic Paint (Differences Between Them)

When you have a project that requires the use of paint, it’s important to know what you’re using to ensure that the project turns out perfectly.

If you fail to use the right paint, the project could get ruined, leading to nothing but wasted time and frustration from the process.  

Use this guide to learn more about oil based enamel and acrylic paint while deciding which one is best to use based on what you’re trying to accomplish. 

Enamel and acrylic paint are two totally different options that are great for different purposes. Here are several differences between the acrylic enamel paint paints: 

1. Durability

Enamels tend to be more durable paint than acrylic paint. Enamels form a hard and durable topcoat that is rust-resistant and waterproof. Acrylic, however, can crack and peel over time. 

There are many acrylic types, such as exterior acrylics to withstand harsh weather conditions or acrylic spray paint. You can purchase the spray paint in a variety of gloss colors.

2. Adhesion

You will find that enamel model paint adheres better to services than acrylic paint does. With acrylic paint, some surfaces will need primer and a sealant, whereas enamel model paint can be applied without a primer.

3. Ease Of Application

Water-based paints like acrylic are always easier to apply. The paint spreads easily over the surface. You can add acrylic paint mediums in paint to change its consistency or texture.

Enamels, on the other hand, can be difficult to spread without the proper technique, making imperfections more noticeable. 

4. Ease of Cleaning

Because they are water based paint, acrylic modeling paint is easier to clean. They only require soap and water.

Apply enamel paints will require solvents or acrylic thinning medium or paint thinners to clean your workspace.

5. Longevity

When it comes to paint longevity, enamel lasts longer than best acrylic model paint. This is because it is more resistant to cracks and does not fade. 

6. Dry Time

Acrylic paint dries much faster than enamel paints. Acrylic dries within a few hours, whereas enamel takes a minimum of 8 hours to dry, depending on the type. 

7. Finish

Oil based enamel paints give you a glossy finish, and acrylic paint is more of a matte finish. However, enamel does start to yellow over time. 

Roller and White Paint

8. Color Options

Acrylic paint offers you more color variations than enamel paints does. This is because of the powder pigmentation that’s added to the paint.

When it dries, it has a matte finish. However, enamel paints offers more vibrant colors than acrylic paints. 

9. VOCs

VOCs are volatile organic compounds that are toxic fumes for personal health and harmful to the environment. Enamel paints contains a high amount of VOCs, but acrylic paints are typically safer and have fewer VOCs. 

The main difference between acrylic and enamel paint, however,  is the base and how acrylic and enamel paint are used. Acrylic paint is water based paint, and enamel oil based paint.

As stated above, both acrylic and enamel paint have their pros and cons and can be very versatile. So, the choice between the acrylic and enamel paints really comes down to the project you are doing.  

You can paint enamel over acrylic to provide a gloss finish. However, the chemical makeup of the paints could cause the acrylic coat underneath to rise over time.

Enamel Paint Overview & Pros & Cons

Acrylic vs enamel paint - Enamel paint is a type of paint available in hundreds of unique shades.

While applied wet, it dries and hardens, ultimately leaving the painted surface looking polished and slightly glossy or semi gloss with a brighter, bolder appearance. 

Oil based enamel paint contains a blend of different ingredients, including white lead, resin, petroleum, and other ingredients.  

It works best when applied to surfaces outdoors, such as the outside of a home or even a bench situated in the backyard. The paint has a thicker texture compared to some other types of paint but is easy to use and work with.  

painting with Enamel Paint

If you're asking, "Why would I use enamel paint?" it's because this is a durable, high-quality option that works well on your property's exterior. It's one of the reasons that homeowners and painters tend to use it the most.

Although it has its fair share of advantages, there are some disadvantages associated with enamel paint and enamel spray paint.

For example, Enamel paints tend to go yellow. If you were asking, "Why does enamel paint go yellow?" it's something that happens after repeated exposure to the elements. 


  • Beautiful glossy finish 
  • Easy to apply 
  • Many color options 
  • Long lasting option 
  • Good choice for outdoor furniture 


  • Can tarnish more easily than other types of paint 
  • Starts to “yellow” over time 
  • Not as flexible to use as other paint types 
  • Slow to dry 

Acrylic Paint Overview & Pros & Cons

Now that you know more about oil based enamel paint, let's learn more about acrylic paints and what it's commonly used for.

Acrylic paints consists of pigment, acrylic polymer blend, and acrylic vehicle to create bright, bold shades that are perfect for use on interior and exterior surfaces, including plastic, metal, fabric, and even leather 

As long as there is no oil paints or water paints on the surface, you can apply acrylic paints to the item. When applied to different surfaces, the acrylic paints will appear smooth surfaces.

Bottles of Acrylic Paint

If you have a surface with oil or water, the acrylic paints won't stick well to it, so it’s best to avoid that by all means possible.  

It’s also important to know that there are different acrylic paint types, including heavy body acrylics, slow-drying acrylic paints, and fluid acrylics. If you’re wondering what you use acrylic paint for, it’s great on glass, plastic, stone, and even fabric. 

Acrylic Gouache – Professional quality paint that leaves you with vibrant colors in a matte finish.


  • It’s great to use on different surfaces, including glass! 
  • The acrylic paint is available in many colors. 
  • There are different types of acrylic paint available for different projects 
  • It dries faster than other products 


  • The color does get darker after it dries 
  • Once the paint dries, it’s difficult to remove! 
  • You’ll need to work quickly with the paint because it does dry at such a fast pace 

When to Use Enamel Paint

Enamel paint is easy to apply and enamel paint dries slowly, so you’ll have the opportunity to work with it without feeling rushed. It’s also easier to clean with plenty of color options available to choose from. Here’s when you should use enamel paint: 

For Painting Your House

When painting the exterior walls, go with enamel paint because it works best for exteriors. However, you’re going to need to reapply only a few coats after a while because the basic color paint tends to get yellowish after a while. 

When model painting the inside of the home, acrylic paint is the best option to use. 

For Painting Wood 

If you're painting indoors wood, enamel works well. It dries at a slower pace, so you have more time to go over it and fix mistakes if need be. It's also available in many colors, so you can customize the wood to your liking with some of your favorite shades. 

When to Use Acrylic Paint

In contrast, if you’re working with fabric or completing arts and crafts industry projects, acrylic paint is the best option for paint job. It’s easy to use and dries quickly. However, because it does dry quickly, you’ll need to work at a fast pace with it. 

It's also more challenging to remove the paint from your hands and paintbrushes when working with acrylic paint. Here's when you should use normal acrylic paint:  

For Painting Plastic Models

If you’re trying to paint plastic models, use acrylic modelling paint. It works best, dries quickly, and is available in lots of different colors, so you can get as creative as you’d like with the plastic. 

For Painting Miniatures 

When you’re using different items like models and miniatures, acrylic paint is the way to go, especially since there are different types of acrylic paint that will work best on these items. 

For Painting Cars (Automotive) 

Enamel paint isn’t the best choice when painting a car because it’s more challenging to work with and can quickly cause frustration. However, different types of acrylic paint would work best. 

Make sure you’re buying paint specifically designed for use on cars before getting started because you don’t want to give the car a rough appearance. 

For Painting Metal 

When you’re painting metal, stick with acrylic paint. It works exceptionally well on such smooth surfaces, allowing you to customize the metal surfaces to your liking with the paint color of your choosing. 

Enamel Vs Acrylic Paint FAQs

Do you need a primer for enamel paint?  

Yes! It’s in your best interest to apply a primer before you end up using enamel paint. It makes it that much easier for you to complete a precise, flawless painting job with a smooth, fresh finish. 

Is enamel paint waterproof?  

If the enamel paint is oil based paint or even lacquer-based, it’s definitely waterproof. Be sure to take that into consideration when you’re choosing the type of paint you’d like to use for specific items. 

Is it possible to paint acrylic on top of enamel paint?  

It’s safe and possible to use acrylic paint on top of enamel paint, but you'll have to carefully prepare the surface before you get started. 

Can you paint enamel over acrylic paint? 

As long as the acrylic paint doesn’t have a top coat added to it, it’s fine to use the enamel paint over it. Of course, you’d need to apply the primer beforehand and then apply the enamel paint over the acrylic paint. 


Knowing the differences between enamel and acrylic paint, you may now wonder which is better? The truth is that the best option will depend on what you’re trying to paint. 

If you have plans to paint the outside of your home, stick with oil based enamel paint because of its durability and quality. 

However, if you’re working on a project inside the house, whether you're painting the walls or trying to complete an arts and crafts project, it's best for you to use professional grade acrylic paint.