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

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

Mistaking oil-based spray paint for water-based paint can lead to frustrating results for your project and cause safety issues if you are mishandling oil paint. 

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

Oil-based spray paint, 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 paints 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-based spray paint’s versatility, it is probably the most common spray paint type available. Visually, oil-based spray paint will dry with a glossy finish. Although the finish will dull over time, the coat of paint should stay durable and unchipped.   

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

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-based. 

Another simple way to determine if your spray paint is oil-based is to test it with acetone or rubbing alcohol. Apply the paint to a surface and let it dry. Then dip a cotton ball or rag into the acetone or rubbing alcohol, and rub it on the dried spray paint.

If the spray paint starts to come off, it is not oil-based. Oil-based spray paint will not react to acetone or rubbing alcohol.  

Is Spray Paint Oil Based Or Water Based

How To Tell If The Spray Paint Is Water-Based? 

Water-based paint is any paint made by combining pigmentation with water. Examples of water-based paint include acrylic and latex. Although most spray paints are oil-based, some types of spray paint are water-based. 

Water-based 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-based spray paint still requires proper ventilation, it can be a little safer than traditional oil-based paints. Water-based spray paints 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-based spray paint dries with a slightly less glossy finish than oil-based spray paint, but the finish should last longer than typical oil paint. Water-based spray paint is also a little less durable than oil-based spray paint and may need touch-ups from time to time.  

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.  

Benefits Of Oil-Based Spray Paint 

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

The main benefits of oil-based spray paint are its versatility and durability. Oil-based spray paint can be used on almost any surface, as long as the 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 a primer.  

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.  

Water-based 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 projects.  

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

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

man mixing a paint in a can

Common Spray Paint Base Questions 

Is Krylon spray paint oil or water based? 

Krylon Spray Paint is oil-based spray paint.  

Is Rustoleum spray paint oil based? 

Rustoleum Spray Paint is also oil-based spray paint. This spray 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-based. 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 spray paint is oil-based, you can always check the label. If it doesn’t explicitly say, the clean-up instructions should indicate if the paint is oil-based. And, 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 project.