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Painting Over Latex Paint: What Paint to Use and More

Latex paint is usually used for painting larger areas such as walls and ceilings. Latex-based paint is quite Cheap compared to most other paints. It is also water-based like acrylic paint and latex paint is available in a wide variety of different colors and finishes. In this article, we will take a closer look at latex paint, how to paint over it, and what type of paint will stick to it.

As a whole, latex paint is water-based paint so it is possible to paint over it with other water-based paint, like acrylic or latex paint. It is also possible to paint oil-based paint over latex paint but painting latex paint over oil-based paint is not possible.

I read over and over again that you can´t apply an oil-based paint over latex paint so I decided to look further into this by asking some specialists and calling some hardware stores and as it turns out, that information is simply not true.

You can paint oil-based paint over latex paint. What you can´t do is apply latex paint over oil-based paint. The reason for that is because water-based paint won´t properly adhere to oil-based paint but oil-based paint can very well adhere to water-based paint.

There are a few exceptions though especially if you are dealing with very old paint. Older indoor paints often had oil in them so if you want to paint over older paint then I would recommend using a primer on the older paint before applying new paint just to be sure.

Paint That Can be Used Over Latex Paint

Latex paint is mostly used to paint walls or ceilings nowadays. So if you want to give the walls in your apartment a new coat of paint then you can, most of the time, safely assume that they were painted with latex paint. But what type of paints can you use to repaint your walls?

As a general rule, any water-based or oil-based paint can be used to paint over latex paint. It is recommended to use a primer when applying oil-based paints over latex paint to ensure that the paint adheres properly. Latex paint can be applied directly to other latex-based paint.

Here is a table to give you a brief overview of all the paints that you can apply to latex paint and if you need a primer or not.

PaintPrimer
Acrylic PaintNo Primer Needed
Latex PaintNo Primer Needed
Oil-based PaintPrimer Recommended but not Needed
Shellac PaintNo Primer Needed
Spray PaintMost Spray Paints Don´t Need a Primer
Enamel PaintPrimer Recommended
Chalkboard PaintPrimer Recommended but not Needed

Using Acrylic Paint to Paint Over Latex Paint

Acrylic paint is water-based so it can usually be applied directly to latex-based paints without any issues.

However, you have to clean the surface from any dust or debris before you paint acrylic paint over latex paint.

I would only recommend using acrylic paint to paint over latex paint if the item, you want to paint, is small or if you want to add some details to a bigger area. Acrylic paint is perfect if you want to paint a mural on your wall, for example.

Unfortunately, acrylic paint is a little bit too expensive for painting a whole wall with it. So if you plan on doing that simply use another latex-based paint.

Using Latex Paint to Paint Over Latex-Based Paint

Latex paint is probably the best choice to paint over walls that were previously painted with latex-based paint. So if you want to repaint a wall then using latex paint is really the best way to go.

If the previous paint, that you want to paint over, is very dark or has a very different color then applying a primer first is really the best way to go. A primer will cover the underlying paint completely and prepare the surface for the new paint.

Doing this will ensure that the new paint sticks properly and you will save some of your paint because the primer will cover the underlying paint better.

But if the underlying paint is white or has a similar color that your new paint then no primer is really needed. You can simply apply the paint directly to the wall or the item.

Using Oil-Base Paint to Paint Over Latex Paint

Oil-based paint will stick to latex paint but I would still recommend using a primer to prepare the surface properly.

While primers aren´t really necessary when you paint oil-based paints over water-based paints I would still recommend applying a primer simply to ensure that the oil-based paint adheres properly and permanently to the surface.

It is also important to note that you can paint oil-based paint over latex paint but not vise versa! Latex-based paints will not adhere to oil-based paint!

Using Shellac or Pray Paint to Paint Over Latex Paint

Spray paints are known to adhere very well to most surfaces and that includes surfaces that were painted with latex-based paints.

You can apply most spray paints directly to latex paint. I would, however, advise you to check the product description to see to what kind of surfaces they adhere to best before applying them.

Using Enamel Paint to Paint Over Latex Paint

Enamel paint is oil-based paint. This means the same things apply for using enamel paint to paint over latex-based paint that also applied for oil-based paints.

So you can use enamel paint to paint over latex paint but it is generally recommended to prepare the surface by applying a primer first. Even though a Primer is not necessary using one will generally yield better results.

Paint Latex Paint with Chalkboard Paint

Chalkboard paint is a type of paint that can be used as a chalkboard after it dried. Meaning you can draw on the surface with chalk and you can clean the chalk off with some water and a sponge. It is an awesome effect paint and more and more people start using it to decorate children’s rooms or even use it in office and schools.

While it will adhere quite well when applied directly to latex paint I highly recommend applying a primer before painting the surface with the chalkboard paint.

The main reason being that you will draw on the surface. Meaning some force will be used to directly “scratch” over the surface with chalk. This is quite a lot of strain for the paint.

But if you use a primer to prepare the surface before you apply the chalkboard paint then you will ensure that the painted surface can take that extra amount of strain put onto it.

So while it isn´t necessary to use a primer it is highly recommended for optimal results and to ensure the longevity of the paint.

How to Paint Over Latex Paint

Now that you have an idea of what kind of paint to use to paint over latex-based paint, it is finally time to actually get to the painting part. The process is quite simple and straightforward. So let´s begin!

Prepare the Surface for Painting

Most of the time you will probably want to paint walls or ceilings that were previously painted with latex-based paint. The first thing you almost always have to do when painting something is preparing the surface.

Depending on what you plan to do exactly the process of preparing the surface varies a little bit.

Painting the Whole Wall or Ceiling

If you want to paint the whole wall or ceiling then you have to consider if you have to prepare the surface with a primer or not.

You will rarely need a primer when painting over latex-based paint. You really only need to apply a primer before painting when the previous color of the wall is significantly darker than the new color or if you want to apply oil-based paint.

I would also recommend applying a primer if you are not sure if the wall was painted with latex paint previously or not. If you use a primer on the wall before applying the new paint then you will make sure that the new paint adheres properly and you won´t get any nasty surprises.

If the color of the wall is white or has a similar color as the new paint then no primer is really needed.

If you want to use a primer I highly recommend using KILZ water-based Primer. This primer works for both water-based and oil-based paint and will stick to most surfaces easily.

You can buy KILZ Primer in your local hardware store or right here on Amazon.

A Primer is applied pretty much like regular paint. Simply use a roller to paint the primer directly on the wall or the ceiling and let it dry for a couple of hours.

The Primer should be applied in multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat to achieve a good-looking final result.

Painting a Smaller Item or Only Parts of the Wall

When you only want to paint parts of the wall or a smaller item then you don´t need to use a primer, most of the time. Instead, I would recommend using either Latex-based paint or Acrylic paint for that particular job.

You can use oil-based paint as well but I found that water-based paints will usually give me the best looking results.

You can paint directly on the surface without applying a primer first. Unfortunately, that also means that you need to apply the paint in multiple layers in order to make it cover the underlying paint properly.

Make sure to clean the surface from any debris and dust before you apply any paint to ensure that the new paint adheres properly to the surface.

Apply the Paint

After preparing the surface properly it’s finally time to paint it!

Depending on the scope of your project I would recommend using either a roller for bigger projects, like painting a wall, or a soft brush for smaller projects.

It doesn´t really matter what you choose to use but if you want an even and good-looking finish on your surface then you should apply the paint in multiple thin coats.

Try to apply the paint in the same direction every time for example, always roll the roller up and down and not up, down, and sideways. The same goes for using a brush.

Applying the paint like this will ensure that the finished result has an even coloration and a nice finish. Let the paint dry in between coats. I usually apply between 2 and 4 coats depending on how well the paint covers.

You will generally need fewer coats if you used a primer to prepare the surface.

Painting Over Peeling Latex Paint

Sometimes you may have the issue where you want to repaint a wall where the previous paint started peeling off. You can´t really paint over it directly but how can you prepare the surface for a new coat of paint?

As a whole, it is not advisable to paint directly over peeling latex paint. The best course of action is to scrape as much paint off as possible, then sand the surface until it is smooth, and finally apply a primer to prepare the surface for a new coat of paint.

One thing you should always keep in mind is that there was a reason why the previous coat of latex-based paint started peeling off.

So simply applying a new coat of latex paint directly to it won´t fix the problem permanently. Unfortunately, you have to properly prepare the surface before you can apply a new coat of paint to it.

Start by scraping off as much of the paint off as possible. Try not to damage the surface too much while doing that. I would recommend using a plastic spatular for this but a regular metal spatula will also work just fine.

After you got off most of the previous coat of paint it’s time to make the surface smooth again. Do this by sanding the surface with some fine-grit sandpaper. I would recommend using 100-grit sandpaper but you can also start with a rougher grit if your surface is very uneven.

Once your surface is smoother, it doesn´t have to be perfect, it’s time to apply a coat of primer. The primer will smoothen the surface further and get rid of any smaller uneven parts on the surface.

Apply multiple thin coats of the primer until you covered the whole surface.

The surface is now ready to be painted. So grab your new paint and start applying it in thin coats. Let the paint dry in between layers. You will probably need around 2 or 3 coats of paint to cover the surface properly.

And just like that, you are done!

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