Can You Paint With Oil-Based Paint Over Latex?

Randy Charles
Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Latex paint is one of the most renowned and popular types of paint used worldwide, making it a common choice for homeowners. They usually apply latex on their furniture or walls. On the other hand, oil-based paint comes with certain benefits over latex, making it a preferred choice for your forthcoming projects. But can you paint with oil-based paint over latex?

It’s possible to paint Oil-based paint over latex. However, you’d need to spend time preparing the surface you want to paint over. The reason is simple, although oil paint can stick to latex paint, improper preparation can affect its adhesion, resulting in peeling, cracking, and other challenges.

On the good side of things, the procedures for preparation aren’t very confusing, and we know how to do it rightly. So, if you’re ready to know how to apply an oil-based paint over latex, follow this article till the end. Let’s proceed.

How to Tell If Paint Is Oil-Based?

You want to paint a piece of furniture or your wall but can’t state clearly if the paint you’re using is oil-based or latex. There are certain ways to find out, and we’d talk about them in this segment. Below are some fail-proof tests to find out if your paint is oil-based.

How To Tell If Paint Is Oil-Based

Survey the Old Cans

The first step to finding out if the paint in your reach is oil-based or latex is to check the old cansif you still have them. Surveying their labels can help you get all the info you need to know if the paint you have is oil-based.

However, if the surface you want to paint was there before you moved in, then you won’t see the cans. There are still other ways of knowing this.

Acetone Test

This test is quite simple to carry out. If you’re looking for a simplified DIY test, you can try this. The first thing to do is pick a spot on the wall or surface to carry out your test. Then, use a mild washing soap and water and clean the surface gently. Afterward, allow it to dry completely. After that, soak a piece of cotton ball in acetone, then rub it on the surface.

If, after dabbing the cotton on the wall, it gets stained with the paint, then that’s likely a water-based paint or latex. However, if the cotton ball remains clean, then its an oil-based paint.

Rubbing Alcohol Test

This test works similarly to the Acetone test. It is straightforward. To do this, spot a location on the surface. Then, using mild washing soap and clean water, clean off the test area and allow it to dry. After that, dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and dab and rub it over the paint various times.

If the cotton ball contains some paint, then it’s almost like you’re working with water-based paint or latex. But, if the cotton ball has no paint stain, then it’s probable the surface in question has an oil-based paint.

Latex Paint Test

Another test to find out if your paint is oil-based is to try using a tiny amount of latex to test. This is a very easy test as latex doesn’t stick well to the oil-based underlayer. So, select a spot on the surface you want to test. Then, dab some latex paint on the spot and allow it to dry overnight.

During the next day, try to scratch the latex overcoat using your fingernail. If the overlayer scrapes off easily, then theres a very high possibility that its oil-painted.

Nail Polish Cleanser Test

Imperatively, most nail polish cleansers contain acetone, which allows you to use them for the test. To do this, ensure to clean the spot using clean water and mild dish soap, then let the spot dry completely. After that, use a cotton ball soaked in nail polish cleanser to rub the surface in concern.

Now that we’ve seen how to find out if your paint is oil-based or not, lets find out the differences between the two types of paint.

Oil-Based Paint Vs. Latex

Oil-based and latex paints are two very popular types of paint. Typically, both paints use the same kind of pigments but different binders, which distinguishes them from each other. Asides from that, several other factors differentiate both paints, and we’d jump into them in this section.

Oil-Based Paint Vs. Latex

Here are the factors that differentiate oil-based paint from latex.


The first to be considered in this factor is the oil-based paint. This is because oil-based paint is usually thicker and harder to spread. Thus, you’d need several brushes and various rollers to apply this paint. However, latex paints are thinner, lighter, and much easier to paint.

In addition, oil-based paints require more time to dry completely, as they are thicker and denser.

Also, you can only apply one coat at a time before the paint can spread more evenly. Whereas the reverse is the case for latex paint.

Oil-based paints generally have bubbles, so it’s important that you stir the paintrather than shakeit before mixing it. However, latex paints don’t even require stirring before use. Another essential thing to note is that oil-based paint priming prevents the applied paint from peeling, while latex doesn’t.

Home Painting

As latex is lighter and easier to dry, it’s a more preferred choice for painting your walls. Moreover, when applied to wood, it tends to swell the wood grains, so you need to sand the surface properly before painting. Then, unless painted with a primer, you can’t apply latex paint on steel. Latex also doesn’t stick to chalky or dirty walls and is always less effective on surfaces that encounter high humidity, e.g., bathrooms.

On the other hand, oil paintsbeing denser and thickercover more areas seamlessly and effectively in one coat, although this needs much carefulness. You can apply this paint on chalky areas so it doesn’t require priming. Furthermore, they stick better to chalky and dirty surfaces and provide better stain coverage.


You can use latex paints to paint other materials, like charcoal, pastel, pen, etc. In addition, you can also dilute the paint in water to give you a watercolor effect and paint. But on the other hand, oil-based paints are not as versatile.


Remarkably, oil-based paints are more stain-resistant and durable than latex paints. Moreover, when cured, latex paints can last much longer without peeling or cracking, while oil-based paints may oxidize and turn yellow with time. This is why oil paints are ideal for places like the bathroom, kitchen, trims, and other external areas. But, latex paints are ideal for interior painting, especially for beginners.

Also, when spilled, latex paints are easier to wash off using water and soap than oil-based paints, which need a thinner or solvent to clean them up.

Color Variations

Some specific colors, such as Zinc white and Prussian Blue, are only accessible in oil-based paints. However, latex paints comprise specific colors like fluorescent colors.


While the price depends on the finish and brand, latex paints are generally nearly 40% cheaper than oil-based paints.

Type of Finish

While latex paints come in either a matte or glossy finish, oil-based paints are only available in glossy finishes.


Typically, oil-based paints have a much stronger odor than latex paints. So, if you’re applying oil-based paint on a wall, then ensure to provide enough ventilation to diffuse the odor before returning to the room.


Notably, oil-based paints are toxic and hazardous to human health. On the flip side, water-based latex paints aren’t toxic.

Can You Paint With Oil-Based Paint Over Latex?

If you want to paint a surface that has latex paint, can you paint with oil-based paint over latex? It is possible to paint oil-based paint over latex. But, you’d need to prep the surface you want to paint properly before applying paint on it; else, you could have adherence problems at the end.

While painting, the two layers must adhere properly because improper adherence affects the surface. If this happens, then, as time goes by, the layers will begin to develop split between them, and the furniture they’re applied on becomes more exposed to the elements.

Can You Paint With Oil-Based Paint Over Latex

Worse of all, if you don’t do it properly, the splits in the layers will expand over time, and the layers of the oil-based paint will begin to peel off.

Lets consider the steps in applying oil-based paint over latex below.

Step 1: Sand the Surface Using Rough Sandpaper

The first thing to do is to sand the surface in question using coarse sandpaper. Usually, 80-grit sandpaper will do a great job removing some parts of the latex paint. While working, ensure to maintain consistent pressure, as you don’t want the pressure on the surface to be too hard. This way, you can scour the surface without harming it. Ensure to keep scouring until you attain a matte finish on the latex paint on the surface, as this ensures that the oil-based paint adheres properly to the latex paint.

Step 2: Sand the Surface One more time using a finer Sandpaper.

After sanding the surface the first time, you’d need to sand it one more time using finer sandpaper. Preferably, you can use 150-grit sandpaper, which will give you a more even outlook.

Remarkably, as youve already sanded the entire surface before, it’d be difficult to tell where you’ve not sanded. So, we recommend that you do it methodically, from the upper-right or upper-left to the counter-part.

Step 3: Clean the Surface using a Damp Cloth.

After successfully sanding, you’d need to clean off all the excess dust. So, dampen a clean, soft cloth in clean water and wipe the walls. While working, you may need to dampen and rinse the cloth several times. Just repeat the process till the surface is free from dust, then allow it to dry completely. After then, use a dry cloth to clean the surface one more time.

Step 4: Prepare your Primer

Now, you’d need to prepare your primer. However, before applying your primer, you must take precautions and do it very carefully. Use painter’s tape to mark out the edges of the areas you don’t want to paint; also leave a drop cloth by the floor of the area you’re painting.

Step 5: Apply Primer

After prepping your primer, it’s time to prime. This acts as a middle layer between both paints, giving it a smoother surface. Also, you can use a bonding primer (oil-based) as it is most effective for difficult surfaces. You can also go for a water-based primer as it works well with the oil-based latex paint combination.

After priming, allow it to dry completely to ensure that the overcoat will stick properly. Then, after surveying the surface for any unwanted outlook, apply a second layer of primer and then let it dry completely.

Step 6: Apply Your Oil Based paint.

You can apply the paint methodicallyfrom top-left to bottom-left, then move right a bit until you cover the whole area. Ensure to cover all inconsistencies and streaks. If you need another layer of paint, wait for the first layer to dry completely before applying the second.

Step 7: Take off the Tape

When you’re done following all these steps, it’s time to take out the tape. Do so carefully after the entire paint has dried off.

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

If applied wrongly or without preparations, you might have some issues while painting oil-based paint over a latex undercoat. While latex is flexible, oil-based paints are brittle and rigid. In cases of binding issues, the painting could crack, peel off, and increase drastically. While this takes some time before being very visible, it will eventually be noticeable, and dealing with such becomes challenging.

Cracks on walls are much slower than those on furniture. Now, to avoid all these, you’d want to prepare the surface properly before applying your oil-based paint to the latex.

Advantages of Oil Based Paint Over Latex

There are notable advantages of painting oil-based paints over latex. Lets find out about them below.

  • Oil-based paints provide a glossy finish, smoother and not chalky or dusty.
  • Mistakes made on oil-based surfaces can be washed off using water and soap without harming the texture of the paint.
  • Oil-based paints help to cover and hide wall flaws.
  • Also, they don refract light particles.
  • The surface of oil-based paints is resistant to scratches, recoloring, stains, and fingerprint marks.


Can You Paint With Oil-Based Paint Over Latex? It’s possible to paint oil-based paint over latex paint. Howbeit, you must prepare the surface properly, as that can cause problems adhering to the undercoat. This can cause peeling, splitting of layers, and cracks. So, ensure to prepare the surface properly.

Randy Charles
Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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