Oil based paints or alkyds (as they're sometimes called) are still used by a number of painting contractors due to durability, lower levels of brush/roller marks and uniqueness or brilliance of colors.

With that said, there are now products called alkyd waterborn's that work almost as well as the old oil paints but lack their disadvantages (discuses below).

Even so, if you're more interested in how a can of alkyd based paint is formulated and their inherent advantages then have a look at the information that follows.


A synthetic resin binder called alkyd is the most common oil based paint product.

Alkyd is made with a linseed or soya bean oil and cleans up with mineral spirits. It works best on metals, well used trim (woodwork), ceilings, some high traffic areas and commercial or industrial type surfaces.

Adds color to the paint.

Creates a film on the surface.

Thickening, drying, or an anti-foam agent.

Makes the paint soluble prior to paint application.

High VOC (volatile organic compounds) latex and alkyd based paints have a lot of the same formulations. The biggest difference between the two would be that an oil paint uses a base of turpentine or mineral spirits while latex paints are based in water.


Health and the Environment:
Alkyd paints have a noticeable odor and high VOCs or volatile organic compounds. A study by John Hopkins University found that some oil base products contain 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens.

Why are volatile organic compounds bad:
VOCs have been known to cause eye, lung and skin irritations, along with headaches, dizziness, nausea, respiratory difficulty, muscle weakness, as well as liver or kidney malfunction etc.

Alkyds paints can be difficult to use:
Oil type paints have more drag (stickiness), takes up to 48 hours to dry, attracts dirt and insects when wet and are harder to clean from your brush and roller covers.

Alkyd is made from vegetable oils which gives needed food for the mildew to grow. Even with a mildew inhibitor added, oil paints have a difficult time keeping fungus away. Some people add a coat of latex (that has a fungicides) over their ceiling paint so as to guard against mildew growth.

Oil paints, when dry, can become brittle, prematurely crack, fade and can developed a powder on its surface. They also have health and environmental concerns.


Can I apply latex over oil ( Alkyd ) or oil over latex:
Yes, latex can be painted over oil or oil over latex. Prior to doing so a gloss or semi gloss surface must be primed, sanded or a liquid dulling solution applied. If either of these steps are not followed properly the paint may not adhere to the painted surface.

Are there precautions for alkyd paint:
Oil type paints are flammable and have potential health hazards. Alkyd should never be thrown into a land fill. Oil based paint need to be properly disposed of and according to your local government regulations.

Can I thin alkyd paint:
Thinning of alkyd paint can cause drips, sags and the probability of extra coats. However, diluting alkyd by up to 25% is recommended for some paint spraying equipment. To do so use mineral spirits (be sure to read your paints label instructions to be sure).

How do I keep my can of paint from aging:
Alkyd paint can be kept for a decade or more (most manufacturers recommend a maximum of two years though).

Be sure the lip of the paint can is clean and free of debris. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the can and then hammer down the lid. The paint should be stored upside down in a cool dry area protected from freezing.

My paint froze what should I do:
Prolonged or repeated freezing can cause paint to separate. Even so, most alkyd paints can still be applied if it stirs and mixes completely when thawed.

Where should I use alkyd paint:
Oil type paints works best on metals, high traffic areas or surfaces that are frequently cleaned. High quality alkyd based paints are tough and can stand up better than latex based products.

Is oil based paint more costly than latex:
Yes, in the majority of cases alkyd paints are generally more expensive than latex coatings. With that said, some waterborne products can be much more pricey than an oil based paint.

Can I use oil based paint on my new rain gutters (eavestrough):
Alkyd should not be applied directly to galvanized metals (it can to other metals though). Even so, properly primed gutters will do well with an application of a quality alkyd coating (depending on the surface preparation and weather conditions).

Should alkyd be used on stucco or masonry etc:
Before doing so the surface needs to be throughly dry and a special primer applied. It's best to ask your local paint supplier though for advice prior to painting.

Benefits of oil paints:
Has excellent adhesion and is the best type of ceiling paint or when you need to re-coat a heavy chalked surface. Alkyd also goes on thicker and in a lot of cases requires only one coat.

In time, alkyd or oil based paints will (more than likely) no longer be used. The majority of dollars spent (by paint manufacturers) on research has been spent creating latex or lower VOC type products. With that said, if at all possible, it is always best to use a latex paint (or coating) as the quality is getting better and better as time goes by.

From oil based paints to the types of paint page

Return to the home page

If you're not in need of advice regarding oil based paints, check out other painting and decorating information by using the home page link above.

On the home page you will find navigation buttons such as ask a question along with interior or exterior projects and ideas.

Using the navigation bar should help find what you need or project your looking for.