Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex + Full Enamel Painting Guide!

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With latex paint making a comeback and seeing a spike in its popularity for home decoration as well as in some niche arts and crafts, we have noticed a number of questions being asked about using latex paints to get the most out of them. One of the most frequently asked questions that we see is based around if you can paint enamel over latex and if it will cause you any issues.

With so many people reaching out about using enamel and latex paint together in various situations, we have decided to publish this dedicated article. Our hope is that we will be able to help our readers get the most out of their paints and avoid any of the common issues that usually occur when mixing the two.

This should help to ensure that your enamel paint will bond to your latex paint correctly and not cause you any issues that can easily be avoided. As the majority of people who we see reaching out about using enamel over latex are using it for home decorating, we will be focusing in on this use case for the article but you can use the same principals for any arts and crafts too.

Can You Paint Enamel Over Latex Paint?

Although many people presume that you are not able to use enamel paint over a latex paint due to one being an oil-based product and the other being a water-based product, the two can work well together provided that you take the correct steps. The main issue is that most people fail to use a suitable paint primer on their latex paint prior to applying their enamel paint.

This simple step helps to ensure that the vast majority of decent enamel paint products will easily bond onto the required surface without having any issues in the future. This helps to prevent peeling and bubbling that tend to be the most common problems that people see when usually using enamel paint on top of latex paint.

Although the majority of decent latex paints on the market will work fine with this technique, some of the cheaper options may have issues. That said though, there is no need to go with the most expensive latex paints on the market, even a cheap reputable latex paint will usually work fine.

Is Enamel Water-Based Or Oil Based?

Although the majority of enamel paint products on the market are oil based, there are a small number of paints labelled up as enamel that are actually water based now. This does add a little confusion into the mix as historically, enamel paints have been oil based and these new water based variants are usually closer to acrylic or latex paint formulas than actual enamel paints.

This is why we usually recommend that our readers try to stick with an established enamel paint that is oil based as you know what you are getting and they do tend to perform much better. They offer you the best possible performance and that robust outer coat that enamel paints are known for while also holding their color very well.

Although the “water based enamel paints” are rare, we feel that it is just a marketing ploy that is failing as they tend to have a worse reputation than the oil based enamel paints due to their poor performance. We would always recommend that our readers avoid these water based enamels as they are a waste of time and money in our opinion.

What Happens If You Put Oil Based Paint Over Latex?

If you apply an oil based enamel directly to a water based latex then there is a high chance of your paints bubbling and peeling as well as having a few other potential issues. This is due to oil based and water based products tending not to mix well with each other even when the base coat has been left to dry fully.

This simple fact is the main reason that a huge number of people still presume that you will always have issues if you apply an enamel paint over a latex paint with many people avoiding it completely. Although this did used to be true and practically unavoidable for most people, the developments in the formulas of decent paint primers have changed things.

These modern paint primers allow you to apply a stable coat between your latex paint and enamel paint that allows your enamel to bond with the primer and the primer to bond with the latex. This is essentially the magic trick that allows you to use the two paint types together without the issues of peeling and bubbling.

What Type Of Latex Paint Is Best To Use With Enamel Paint?

Provided that you use a paint primer on top of your latex paint layer, you can essentially use any type of latex paint but the cheaper ones tend to have issues with bonding with some surfaces so you have to keep this in mind. We usually recommend that you go with a simple flat latex paint due to their excellent color retention and solid performance while having a low price tag.

Although some people do tend to prefer egg shells over flat latex paint formulas due to flat formulas being a little harder to manipulate, the color range and lower price of the flat latex paints usually push them ahead for most people. Both flat latex and egg shell latex paint formulas usually bond very well with the vast majority of surfaces without issue allowing you to paint as required too.

One mistake we constantly see beginners make is that they will try to apply their primer coat onto their latex within day due to latex paint forming an outer skin within days. This does not mean that your latex paint is fully dry and it can take around four weeks in ideal conditions so you have to keep that in mind too.

Why Would You Paint Enamel Paint Over Latex Paint?

There are a wide range of reasons that people will choose to apply a coat of enamel paint over a coat of latex paint depending on the situation and their goals for their paints. One of the more common reasons is due to the enamel usually being more robust than a latex paint and allowing you to apple a protective layer on top of the latex paint.

Although rarer, some people will use their enamel as a top coat for custom artwork or lettering on top of their latex as you can usually get a wider range of colors in enamel paint than you can with latex. That said though, we feel that acrylic paint will usually be a much better option for custom artwork and lettering on top of a base coat of latex.

Some people will also apply a coat of enamel over a base coat of latex as they don’t have the time to remove an old coat of latex paint that they have used in their home for years. Quickly applying a coat of primer on top of the latex and then adding the enamel on top of that tends to save you a huge amount of time making it another popular use case.

Is Enamel Paint The Best Option?

As we touched on above, depending on what you are actually using your enamel coat of paint for, it may not be the best option as we feel acrylic paint is considerably better for any custom artwork or lettering on a coat of latex paint. We have our dedicated article on how to paint acrylic over latex that may be worth checking out if you are looking to take this route though.

The advantages of acrylic paint over latex is that it tends to be the better option when used with a fine brush allowing you to get much higher levels of detail over your latex. This allows for better custom artwork with higher levels of detail as well as sharper lettering.

On top of this, you can usually get acrylic paints in pretty much any color you can dream up where as enamels can often be restricted. This is due to acrylic being designed for general arts and crafts rather than home decoration so the market for rarer colors is still there so paint brands will product paint colors that are simply not available in enamel.


That brings our article going over if you can paint enamel over latex to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you realise just how important it is to use a primer layer between your latex paint and your enamel paint to help ensure that your enamel paint layer will not peel or bubble. Thankfully, the majority of paint primers are relatively cheap so it does not tend to increase your costs much while still allowing you to use enamel paint with latex paint without having to break the bank.