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Enamel Car Paint and Acrylic Car Paint: What You Need to Know Before Using

enamel car paint and acrylic car paint

When you’re buying a car or considering a repaint job, it’s important to weigh your options. Each has its advantages, be it for the price, durability, finish, and so on.

Today, we’ll focus on two types, which are enamel car paint and acrylic car paint. Let’s find out all about these two kinds so you can have a clearer idea on which is best for your vehicle.

What’s Enamel Car Paint?

Starting with the enamel car paint, it’s an oil-based solution that hardens quickly once applied. This hardens significantly to avoid wear from sunlight exposure, water, dirt, and the wind. Hence, it’s an ideal paint for heavy duty machines like tractors, factory robots, and vehicles.

The distinct characteristic of enamel paint is that it gives your car a glossy finish, suitable for the outdoors. Although it’s typically oil-based, some brands have adopted this label even though its base makes use of water or latex.

Because of this confusion, the market sometimes label enamel paint simply as hard surfaced paint. However, it’s still in your best interests to grab an oil-based enamel since it’s originally intended for vehicle paint jobs.

Uses for Enamel car paint

uses for enamel car paint

Enamel car paint isn’t simply used for cars. There’s a wide range of uses for it, so if you’re planning to paint your car by yourself, it’s wise to know the varieties.

Here are some of its variations:

  • Floor enamel paint – Typically used for concrete, stairs, and different kinds of housing material.
  • High-temp enamel – Used for machines exposed to high temperatures. If you’re planning to repaint your engine or brakes, this one’s the best.
  • Fast-dry enamel – This kind of paint can dry as fast as 10 minutes. This is the one ideal for your car. However, it can also be used for other heavy duty equipment such as air conditioners, washing machines, and refrigerators.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Ideal for changing car colors

Enamel car paint works best with car surfaces that have hardeners. It’s usually common, so as long as you check if the old paint previously applied a hardener, using enamel would be easy.

A good trick is to have your car wet sanded. This will let you know if there’s any hardener from the previous paint job.

  • Clear coating

As previously mentioned, you’ll get a glossy finish with enamel. So it’s safe to expect a clear finish on your car’s surface with only enamel paint. However, there are poor products out there which you should avoid.

Usually, these products don’t give the promise of a transparent coating, so you’ll have to do extra work by applying a clear coat after sanding the body of the car.

  • Versatility

Lastly, enamel car paint works well with additives. One famous combination is using enamel paint with acrylic lacquer. The objective with this mixture is simple: It helps adhere the paint to the body without shaving the previous paint off.


For the disadvantages, enamel car paint can be costly compared to others. This might turn you off if you’re on a tight budget. Another disadvantage would be that it doesn’t work well when added to a clear coat.

As previously mentioned, some products don’t offer clear coats as it is, so you might be tempted to do extra work. However, the poorer brands are typically known to not work well with clear coats.

Acrylic Car Paint

Acrylic paint, on the other hand, is a water-based paint that can be used for cars. This kind of paint usually results in a matte finish, to which you can add a clear coating if you’re looking to make it shinier. Some variations of this paint are the acrylic urethane paint and the acrylic enamel paint which we’ll further discuss below.


  • Beginner friendly

Aside from being very inexpensive, acrylic paint is also very easy to apply. This is a good advantage, especially for beginners or people who have little to no experience in painting a car.

It usually ends up with a matte finish, which you can then layer with a clear coat if you want a glossy finish.

  • Durability

Acrylic paints or acrylic enamel paints last longer than other car paints. This is most especially true if the acrylic enamel paint is applied by a professional and “baked” onto your vehicle. Acrylic enamel paints are known to form a hard shell after drying.

This is what makes them outlast other car paints.

  • Multipurpose

Finally, acrylic paints or acrylic urethane paints (one of the newest acrylic paints out there) are known to serve two purposes: act as an enamel and act as a lacquer paint. Acrylic urethane paints are very easy to apply similarly to enamel and lacquer.

This is also the type of paint which you can use either as a stand-alone or in a multi-stage system. However, it is still best used in a two stage system that uses both the car paint and a clear coat for the finish.


However, no matter how good the acrylic paint seems, it is still best to be aware of its cons. First, it dries out pretty easily. This is because its consistency has already been modified to work well with spray guns and catalysts.

So you have to use it immediately, or it will dry out on you. It is also pretty “soft” when exposed to UV and chemicals. But most importantly, it can be pretty harmful and toxic to your health so you might need a lot of protective equipment when applying it to your car.

Wrapping it Up

Now that you know the differences and advantages of these two paints choose carefully on what you’ll be using the next time around. Both are great for your car, but their unique traits and your preferences will determine which is best for your car.

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Steven K. Galloway