Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex?

Image of latex paint but Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex?Using the recommended paint for latex is usually the easy way out as you don’t have to crack your head over which formulas are compatible or not. In addition, latex contains solvents and pigments, which provide color for your overall finish. Thus, you need to mind the paint you use on it to preserve the sheen. But, painters get more creative by the day and want to try out various formulas on latex. So, let’s discuss a common concern: can you paint enamel over latex?

Yes. It is possible to paint enamel over latex. But, ensure that you do all the necessary preparation work to avoid peeling issues in the future. Clean, dull, and dry the surface before you pant. Also, apply a compatible primer and wait for it to dry completely, as it will help hold and retain the paint.

However, the new paint hardly adheres to the surface as the higher the gloss, the smoother it becomes. So, painting enamel over latex is a tough endeavor because the surface sheen can be problematic.

But, all hope is not lost. The following sections will give you all the information you need to complete the job. Please read on and quench your curiosity.

Can You Paint Oil Based Enamel Over Latex?

You can paint oil-based enamel over latex, but it would help sand the surface and add a primer between the layers. Also, latex is flexible and may not hold oil-based enamel. So, you will end up with incomplete work if the priming process is not perfect.

Luckily, we have simple tips that help you to get the procedure correctly. Check them out!

  • Use P80 grit sandpaper and try to remove as much latex as you can from the surface. This move improves the enamel’s adherence and guarantees you a durable finish. So, sand until you achieve a natural matte appearance.
  • Next, get 150 grit sandpaper and smoothen the surface. Also, use a clean cloth or a damp towel to wipe away the dust.
  • Use masking tape to preserve other surfaces and objects from accidental painting. They may include cabinet and light switch edges. In addition, masking enhances a clean and sharp look when everything dries.
  • Apply the primer. It would be best to use acrylic or water-based primers as they create an excellent isolating surface. On top of that, you can apply a second coat for better results.
  • Then, apply the oil-based enamel formula and give it enough time to dry. Also, if need be, you can have another coat and get superior coverage.
  • Finally, remove the masking tape before the topcoat cures fully. The reverse may cause the paint to break, tear, or chip.

Can You Paint Enamel Over Water Based Paint?

It is okay to use enamel over water-based paint as it dries quickly. However, that is as far as you can go. If you work the other way around, the water-based paint will crack as the oil dries very slowly.

In addition, ensure that you get the correct primer. It will help the surface to adhere to the surface and deliver a nice, smooth, and long-lasting surface.

How Can You Tell If Paint is Latex or Oil Based?

A simple text helps to reveal if the paint is latex or oil-based: rub a cotton swab or a wet cotton pad/ball over a small region on the surface. If the paint comes off, the formula is latex or water-based. On the other hand, the formula is oil-based if it does not rub off on the cloth.

Additionally, you can put some methylated spirit on a rag and wipe off a section of the surface. If the cloth gets a stain with the paint, you have a water-based product. Also, you will know that the solution is oil-based if the cloth remains clean.

Oil and water-based solvents vary because of the solvent type that manufacturers use. A solvent is the liquid component of the formula that evaporates when it cures. For example, oil-based paints use mineral turpentine, which is an organic solvent. On the other hand, water-based solvents use water as the main component in the solution.

On top of that, you can use other avenues to tell whether the paint is water or oil-based. They include:

  • Sheen Levels

Oil-based formulas achieve a higher sheen finish than water-based paints. They have a unique make-up that allows them to deliver more luster. However, they dull over time, making water-based formulas suitable if you want to maintain the sheen for an extended duration.

  • Outdoor Application

Water-based formulas are perfect for exterior use. They are resistant to UV rays, and thus they retain their color and sheen levels. Also, the paint’s flexibility allows it to move with the substrate as it contracts and expands in different outdoor conditions.

Oil-based formulas are nothing like the above as they break down easily in UV light and become chalky. On top of that, they are more susceptible to cracking since they cannot contract and expand with the substrate during changing weather conditions.

  • Application

Oil-based paint products have a stickier and thicker feel, making them slower to apply than water-based ones. Also, the formulas release high VOCs that create a strong paint smell.

In contrast, water-based solutions have fewer VOCs and don’t have a strong odor after application.

  • Durability

Water-based paints afford you maximum flexibility, and thus they can stay intact for a very long time. They can contract and expand with weather conditions, and thus, less vulnerable to cracking. Also, technological developments in the painting field allow water-based formulas to cure quite hard and resist wear and tear.

On the flip side, oil-based formulas naturally dry harder than water-based ones and offer excellent resistance to wear and tear. Unfortunately, they do not have innate flexibility and thus are more likely to crack and become chalky and brittle.

  • Surface Conditions

Oil-based paints repel water, but they can only be effective if you allow them enough time to dry. Also, ensure that you do not give them moisture exposure during the application, as they may be unable to create a strong bond to the surface.

Conversely, water-based solutions tolerate small moisture levels during applications. The paint absorbs the water, and thus, it will still have an adhesion bond with the surface. However, the moisture will thin out the paint slightly. So, for perfect results, be in a dry environment.

  • Clean Up

Water-based formula is easy to clean up because the main solvent used is water. Therefore, painting accessories such as brushes and rollers clean up properly with water.

On the other hand, oil-based paints need turps and other specialty thinners during the clean-up process.

  • Weather Conditions During Application

Water-based solutions do not deliver the expected outcome when you apply them in harsh weather conditions. Lower temperature and humid levels extend the curing time, whereas higher levels dry it too quickly. This too quick or too slow drying negatively impacts the final results and the paint’s future performance.

In contrast, oil-based paint is more tolerant to fluctuating weather conditions during application. So, extreme humidity and temperature levels do not significantly affect the drying time and paint performance.

That said, you can easily identify these formulas as long as you know what and where to check. Also, it is fascinating to note that, unlike water-based solutions, oil-based paints do not cure by evaporation. The drying process is usually a function of oxidation, where the oil converts into a polymer chain.

Lastly, you cannot reuse brushes after oil painting. Therefore, use disposable ones or get specialty clean-up products.

Can You Put Oil Based Paint Over Latex Primer?

It would be best to avoid applying oil-based formula over latex primers. Latex is smooth and flexible, and thus, may not hold the paint properly. In addition, latex primers are water-based, and they work better with water-based paints.

Conversely, you can apply latex paint over oil-based primer. But, ensure that you prepare the surface adequately before application.

Besides that, oil-based primers are suitable for exterior and interior unfinished wood. They soak deep into the lumber and seal the porous surface, allowing the paint coat to deliver a perfect covering. Also, they prevent tannins released from the limber from bleeding through the paint.

Is Enamel Paint Better than Latex?

Enamel paint has numerous benefits. For instance, it has a longer drying time, which offers you more time to work with the formula and get a perfect top coating. The paint also sinks deep into the surface and offers better coverage compared to latex paint. In addition, the formula’s smooth thick coats level and dry to deliver a flawless durable finish.

The ease of cleaning is another benefit that you will get as you work with enamel paint. It is a general rule that the shinier the finish, the easier it is to clean. Also, the paint is waterproof and can withstand any outdoor conditions.

However, if you want to get an eggshell or matte finish, you will have to go with latex paints. They deliver a more modern and sophisticated finish, are easy to clean, and are durable enough to accommodate traffic areas.

Even so, enamel also delivers a hard-to-stain and easy-to-clean surface. You will get it in satin, semi-gloss, or high-gloss. In addition, the paints are perfect for cabinets, trim, and other high-impact areas. 

Other differences that will help you determine the paint that serves you better include:

  • Indoor Versus Outdoor Use.

Enamel delivers a hard glossy finish that can appear harsh and dated when used over large indoor areas. So, you are better off using it outdoors. In addition, although the paint may yellow or fade over time, formulas in earth tone colors like tan, beige, or taupe will not break down.

In contrast, latex paint has become more popular for ceilings and internal walls. It is easy to clean, durable, and water-resistant, making it suitable for multiple interior jobs. Also, the paint is slightly flexible even after drying and thus ill-suited for harsh climates.

  • Fumes

Latex formulas have a milder order than animal products. Therefore, they are the most suitable choice for walls and other bigger indoor projects. Conversely, enamel paints are excellent for smaller or outdoor projects because they have more fumes.

Besides that, inhaling fumes causes lightheadedness, irritation to the eyes, headaches, and troubled breathing. Hence, it would be best to consider paint formulas with fewer fumes or be in a well-ventilated area if you must use more toxic paints. Also, if you must use oil-based formulas indoors, it would help ensure that the room is well ventilated.

  • Brushes

Although we have many available brushes for paint application, it will be best to use the recommended brush for your paint. For instance, enamel paints require natural bristle brushes such as the pork hairbrush. On the other hand, you will be better off using synthetic brushes with latex paint.

  • Drying Times

Enamel solutions require more time to dry but deliver a better finish. You can also achieve a perfect, thick, and even coat by laying the paint quickly and leaving it to level. On top of that, giving the paint a longer trying time enhances the overall finish.

  • Clean-Up

Latex paints are water-based solutions and thus, require water and cloth during a clean-up. In contrast, enamel formulas need paint thinners for cleaning brushes and other stained surfaces.

Do I Need Primer for Enamel Paint?

It is a recommended practice that you apply a primer on the surface before the paint coat. Thus, consider approved primers for the surface, especially furniture, interior surfaces, molding, and cabinets. Also, some manufacturers offer enamel paint with built-in primers for improved adhesion.

Primers are essential during enamel paint applications because they seal the surface. In addition, they help the wood to hold the paint better and for longer.

How Do You Apply Water Based Enamel Paint?

Water-based formulas have the edge over oil-based ones because they have a higher water content, have less odor, dry faster, and do not contain many VOCs. However, you still need to be keen during the application process to a perfect finish. Check out the following guidelines.

  • Ensure the Surface is Dirt-Free and Clean

The surface or wall to be painted should be clean before any further procedures. Use paper towels dipped in detergent to eliminate accumulated dirt. Also, ensure that you keep water away from any cracks and holes.

Then, get a paint prep and de-gloss the oil paint. Ensure that you eliminate as much gloss as possible because it may hinder the formula from adhering properly.

  • Use Sandpaper to Fix Imperfections

Sandpaper helps to remove the remaining shine from the wall or surface. It also helps you to even out the surface after filling holes with spackle paste. In addition, we have electric sanders that complete the work in record time.

  • Use a Primer

Once you eliminate the gloss coat, apply the primer. You can have two thin coats but ensure that you allow enough dry time in between. Also, use a small paintbrush to reach tight areas such as windows and door corners.

Unfortunately, larger areas may pose a challenge, and you may need to purchase a paint tray and roller.

  • Ensure Safety

All paint formulas have some toxic elements. Therefore, use protective clothing, like gloves and goggles, to keep your eyes and skin safe. Also, it would help to be in well-ventilated areas during paint application.

If you are unsure of what safety measures to take, you can get expert opinions on how to handle the paint.

What Happens If You Put Latex Paint Over Oil Based Paint?

Latex paint over an oil-based paint will deliver desirable results. But, once you apply it, the only way to remove it during future repainting projects is by sanding it off. So, ensure that you follow the correct procedure during application to get an easy removal time.

Fortunately, I have listed some steps that will help you with the process.

  • Begin by sanding the surface to eliminate any gloss from the surface. Sanding ensures that the latex paint adheres strongly on the surface. Also, use 150 grit sandpaper as it delivers a matte finish.
  • Mask the surrounding area to deliver sharp and clean-cut edges. Also, ensure that you remove the masking tape when the paint is still moist. The exercise helps to keep the paint from breaking, chipping, or ripping.
  • Apply a layer of latex ‘conversion’ primer formula and cover all the surface areas. It allows the oil-based paint to adhere with no trouble. Also, give the finish adequate time to dry before adding more coats.
  • Finally, apply the oil-based paint and allow it to cure.

Can You Spray Enamel Paint Over Latex Primer?

It is okay to spray enamel paint over a latex primer. But, the surface shine may present issues during future repainting projects. The smoother the surface becomes, the tougher it is for any new paint to adhere.

However, the enamel paint will still deliver a lovely finish even if you have it on a latex primer. So, it will serve your needs if your only concern is the present finish.

Can You Put Clear Coat Over Enamel Paint?

You can apply a clear coat over enamel paint as they bond well to deliver a perfect look. But, ensure that you pick compatible formulas. For instance, Rustoleum clear coat formula works best with Rustoleum enamel paint. However, do not limit your creativity levels as long as you know what you are doing.

In addition, a clear lacquer coat is not a good idea over new enamel. The lacquer has a thinning agent that may degrade the enamel beneath it. Therefore, read the manufacturer’s instructions before doing any ‘chemist’ work. Ensure that the formulas can work together before using them.

Also, some water-based acrylic clear coats can turn yellowish over time. Hence, they compromise the bright shine on light colors. Besides that, we have enamel paints that will not bond well with certain clearcoat formulas because of quality differences.

Is Oil Based Paint Better than Latex?

Oil-based paints are slow drying and are generally suitable for wood, metals, and paintings. However, they have toxic fumes that cause health and environmental hazards. But, some instances require you to use oil-based paint. So, ensure that you choose the paint based on its application and your project needs.

Working with oil-based formulas is harder because they are thick and difficult to spread. They also require more drying time than water-based paints and produce more bubbles during applications. Therefore, it would help to stir and not shake them before application.

In addition, oil-based solutions require a primer to help them adhere to the surface. Also, the primer prevents the coat from peeling. Thus, you cannot do without it.

On the other hand, water-based paints are much easier to use and apply. For example, they are thinner, and thus, you can apply more than one coat to help it spread more uniformly. Also, they do not form bubbles while painting. So, they deliver a leveled coat quickly.

Additionally, latex paints deliver results quickly because you do not need to prim before painting. They are also easy to obtain and dry faster.

However, they swell the wood’s grain, and you must sand between coats. Also, they do not adhere to chalky and dirty walls and may not adhere properly in regions with high humidity levels like bathrooms.

Oil-based paints apply more smoothly and deliver more coverage in one coat. But, the process requires maximum care. The fumes can be overwhelming. Also, you can use the formula for chalky surfaces and deliver a more presentable finish.

On top of that, the solutions are more durable and resist stains better than latex paints. But, they may experience a color fade or oxidize with age. Therefore, it would be prudent to use these paints for bathrooms, trims, and kitchens. Also, you need to spend more on solvents and thinners during clean-ups.

Conversely, water-based products last longer as they are not prone to peeling or cracking. Also, you can easily clean them up with soap and water. Thus, no additional cleaning costs.

Finally, whether oil-based or latex, you can only get the formula that works magic for your project. So, consider your desired finish and select the most suitable product. 

Can You Use a Roller for Enamel Paint?

Yes. You can use a roller for enamel formulas. More specifically, use a ‘Mohair roller’ as it helps to apply the paint without putting on too much at the start. The roller also helps to spread out the formula very easily. Thus, you work faster.

In addition, natural fiber rollers consist of mohair or a mixture of polyester and lamb’s wool. So, they deliver a perfect finish. On the flip side, synthetic fiber roller accessories are more suitable for latex paints.

What Is the Best Way to Apply Enamel Paint?

The best way to apply the enamel formula is by using a clean brush. Stir the paint and dip the brush into it. Also, wipe off all excess paint before touching the surface.

Begin painting in the middle, moving outwards. It helps you to concentrate on the most visible areas. Then, do another coat after the first dry for more coverage.

How Do I Get a Smooth Finish With Enamel Paint?

Use lots of primer formula if you want a smooth finish with enamel paint. Also, ensure that you sand until perfection before applying the paint. Then, apply the paint and even it out to give a uniform finish.

In addition, you can get a smooth finish by basically cleaning the surface and work area. Dust and dirt hinder paint flow on the surface and may compromise the overall finish. Also, ensure that you get high-quality natural fiber brushes to apply the formula. Synthetic brushes will not do much as they work best with water-based or acrylic paints.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I Need Clear Coat for Enamel Paint?

A clear coat is not always necessary after every paint job. However, depending on the type of enamel paint you use and the application procedure, you may or may not need the clear coat.

For example, there are enamel paint formulas that need a top clear coat for a perfect result. On the other hand, single-stage system solutions do not need a clear coat.


Enamel paint benefits painters immensely, especially those who want to deliver a glossy finish. However, mishandling the formula may cause you grief. For example, you have to use a compatible primer in the surface preparation process, or else the finish will peel off later. So, it would be best to ask questions before experimenting. Like, 

Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex?

You can apply enamel over latex as long as you prepare the surface adequately. Dull and prime the surface to enhance the paint’s adhesion qualities. Also, eliminate all dirt from the surface to deliver a smooth and uniform finish.

In addition, as long as you consider the formula’s and primer’s compatibility, you can get as creative as possible.