Water-based paint is more popular than ever due to the fact it includes less chemicals, but is there still a place for solvent-based paints and what the differences?

To put it simply, in water-based products, the thinner in the paint is water, whereas in solvent-based paints, the thinner is a solvent.

Water is a safer choice in terms of both the environment and the health of the painter.  Particularly in the painting phase, the environmental impact of water-based paints is smaller than those of solvent-based paints. Due to the lower emissions, also the indoor air quality is better and the allergy risks are smaller.

Water-based products dry fast and are nearly odourless. The odour of solvent-based products is stronger.

Water-based paints are better for your health because almost only water evaporates from them. From solvent-based products, VOC compounds (Volatile Organic Compounds), i.e. solvent emissions, evaporate. The most significant harmful environmental effect of using paints is the evaporation of solvents, the VOC emissions, which are known to increase ground-level ozone formation and to enhance air pollution, for example.

Solvent-based paints can offer a tougher finish than water-based paints, making them easier to clean; however, they can become brittle on aging.  Water-based paints have faster drying times, excellent adhesion, no need for additives, hardness, or thinness.

Water-based paints are more user friendly and smell less offensive and brushes are also easier to clean, but the surface will only dry quickly in the right conditions.

Solvent-based products have a better flow out and a better appearance. However, the odour is stronger and they can take 16 – 24 hours before being over coated.

Water-based glosses have less sheen but will keep the sheen throughout its lifetime. Solvent-based paint has higher gloss levels but will dull down over time.


There is a perception that water-based paints are not as hard-wearing as their solvent-based counterparts, but this is not correct.  In fact, they can perform much better because they stay flexible for longer. And this is especially important when used externally.


Another benefit to using water-based products is the surface will not yellow over time.  Solvent-based paints contain alkyd resins which are prone to yellowing over time.  White gloss paint is particularly susceptible, especially where there are low levels of natural sunlight.

Water-based paints contain synthetic resins which are not light sensitive, so will stay white for much longer.

There’s a place for both

So yes, they both have their benefits.  It all depends on what you want to achieve and what you are painting.

Water-based paints have come a long way and there are now products for almost every surface and finish.  They have a lot of advantages and should always be considered as an option before heading for an old favourite can of solvent-based paint.