Is Spray Paint Oil Based Or Water Based? (DIY How To Tell)

Knowing whether you start spraying paint is oil based paint or water based paint is important information that can affect how you use and handle your paint. 

Mistaking oil based spray paints for water-based can lead to frustrating results for your project and cause safety issues if you are mishandling oil paint. Always wear a paint respirator to protect your mouth, nose, and eyes while painting.

Luckily, if you’re asking yourself, “Is spray paint oil based paint?” there are some simple methods for figuring it out. 

The easiest way to tell if spray paint is oil-base is to look for clues on the can. For example, on the back of a paint container, there should be a section on clean up, describing how to clean the paint off of surfaces.

Visually, oil-based paints will dry with a glossy finish. Although the finish will dull over time, the final coat of paint should stay durable and unchipped.

Oil based spray paints, like other oil-based paints, is made with pigmentation and oil. The oil dries and evaporates once you apply it, leaving the colored pigment behind. 

Oil-based paint contain linseed oil or another drying oil. Most oil paints usually also have a solvent, such as turpentine, to enhance the viscosity of the medium. Oil paints may also contain varnish, which helps increase the gloss and shine of the paint when it dries. 

Oil based spray paint is a particularly convenient medium in that you can successfully apply it to most surfaces. You can use it on traditional surfaces such as canvas, wood, or metal. It can also work well with ceramic, glass, concrete, and plaster. 

Because of oil spray paints versatility, it is probably the most common spray paint type available.     

If the clean-up section instructs you to use paint thinner or mineral spirits to remove the spray paint, this means it is oil-based spray paint. Paint thinner and mineral spirits are chemicals that can remove oil, and it only makes sense for them to be called for if the paint is oil-base. 

Are Rustoleum paints Oil-Based? 

Rustoleum spray paints are predominately oil based paints. If the rust oleum spray paint starts to come off, rust oleum is not oil-based.

Another simple way to determine if your rustoleum spray paint oil based is to test rustoleum oil based with acetone or rubbing alcohol. 

  1. Apply the rustoleum spray paint is oil base to a surface and let the rustoleum oil based dry. 
  2. Then dip a cotton ball or rag into the acetone or rubbing alcohol, and rub it on the dried rust oleum spray paints.

Rust oleum oil-based spray paints will not react to acetone or rubbing alcohol.  Like other rust oleum spray paints, oil-based paints have some pros and cons. Generally, alkyd-based primers are mainly oil-base, which come in aerosol form.

Is Spray Paint Oil Based Or Water Based

How To Tell If The Paint Is Water-Based? 

The easiest way to tell if a paint is water-based is to read the label. If you want to confirm it yourself, you can do the acetone or rubbing alcohol test.

Let the paint dry and rub it with some acetone or rubbing alcohol. If the paint rubs off, it is most likely water-based paint. Lightly sand if necessary.

Water-based spraying paint is any paint made by combining pigmentation with water. Examples of waterborne spray paints include acrylic and latex paints.

Most spray paints are oil-based, some types of spray paint are water-based paints. 

This spray paint is a good option if you want less toxic spray paint that can be used on surfaces that are sensitive to solvents.

Although the oil itself in oil paints usually isn’t that harmful to your health, the additional solvents and varnishes can be dangerous to inhale in large quantities. 

While using water spray paint still requires proper ventilation, it can be a little safer than traditional oil-based paints.

Water-based spray paints uses water based formula, have lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and are especially useful for crafts and DIY projects that deal with sensitive materials such as styrofoam or a more delicate paper surface, as these can react poorly to the solvents in oil paints.  

Water spray paint dries with a slightly less glossy finish than oil based spray paints, but the finish should last longer than typical oil paint. Water based paints are also a little less durable than oil-based spray paint and may need touch-ups from time to time.  

Benefits Of Oil-Based Spray Paint 

Oil-based spray paint is a great option if you want a paint job with an attractive smooth finish that will last a long time.  

The main benefits of oil-based spray paint are its versatility and as much durability. Oil-based spray paint can be used on almost any surface, as long as the entire surface isn’t sensitive to solvents. This style of spray paint can be used on canvas, wood, metal, and more. 

Oil-based spray paint is also an excellent choice for painting furniture. A coat of oil paint should last a very long time, especially if you start with an oil based primer or spray primer.  Now, if you ask, ‘how many coats of spray primers do I need to paint furniture?' Well, 1-2 coats are okay.

Finally, oil-based spray paint is convenient due to its quick drying time. The oils used in oil paints dry and evaporate fast, meaning that you won’t have to wait around a long time for your project to be done drying.  

Benefits Of Water-Based Spray Paint 

Water-based spray paint is a nice option if you want paints that can work with delicate materials and don’t require as much intense ventilation.  

This spray paint is easy to work with and can be used on virtually any material. It may not last as long as oil paint, but it is more effective on solvent-sensitive surfaces and for fine art spray painting job.  

Additionally the spraying paint can be less finicky to work with. Oil-based paints will start to have issues if the certain temperature range is too cold, whereas water-based spray paint is not as impacted by climate.  

Furthermore, the spraying paint is water-soluble when it’s still wet, which allows the artist to blend colors and experiment with basic techniques, as well as provides for easier clean-up spray painting.  

man mixing a paint in a can

Common Spray Paint Base Questions 

Is Krylon spray paint water or oil based? 

Krylon Paint is oil-based spray paint.  

Is Rustoleum paint oil based? 

Rustoleum paint is also oil-based spray paint. The rustoleum paint uses its oil-based formula to contain the spread of rust, making for an ultra-durable paint job.  

Is enamel spray paint oil-based? 

Traditionally, enamel paint is oil-base. This type of paint is long-lasting and has a shiny finish. It is usually used for buildings and metal surfaces.  


Spray paints are predominantly oil-based. Oil-based paints are well-suited to most surfaces and last a long time, so are usually the right choice for a spray painting project. 

When you aren’t sure if paint is oil-base, you can always check the label before starting spray painting. If it doesn’t explicitly say, the clean-up instructions should indicate if the paint is oil-based. Of course, you can always test it yourself with acetone.  

By understanding the chemical composition of your spray paint, you will be able to successfully execute and enhance your artistic spray painting.