Alkyd Paint: Everything You Need to Know

Paints are usually segregated into two categories: oil-based, or water-based. Oil-based paints use an organic solvent, often mineral turpentine, in their makeup. On the other hand, a water-based paint’s solvent is almost all water.

Alkyd paint is traditionally an oil-based paint but it behaves differently than regular oil-based paint in many ways. For instance, it’s tougher than most other oil-based paints making it perfect for surfaces prone to wear and tear. However, the paint’s durability isn’t its only appeal.  

In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about alkyd paint.


Alkyd paint is traditionally is an oil-based paint, however, the oil content can vary. The paint uses pigment, solvent, and thinners, like any other oil-based paint.

Alkyd paint is even tougher than regular oil-based paint. It’s very resistant to damage, which makes it ideal for high-traffic areas of the house. It also retains its sheen for much longer compared to other types of paint.

What is Alkyd Paint?

Enamel, latex, and acrylic are the most common types of paint that you’d see on the shelves of any home improvement store. There might be some chalk paint or milk paint scattered about, but alkyd isn’t as common. 

Nevertheless, alkyd paint is actually one of the oldest types of paint. It’s similar to oil-based paint due to it using chemical binders and fillers. However, alkyd paints are typically created with an alkyd resin dissolved in a thinner rather than pigment suspended in oil. 

Alkyd paint is known to be very durable, even tougher than regular oil-based paints. This makes it ideal for high-traffic areas of the house such as the living room or the children’s play area. It also retains its sheen for much longer, which is perfect if you don’t plan to do some repainting anytime soon. It’s also resistant to water and humidity, which means you won’t have to worry about its color fading.

One of the downsides of this paint is it spatters easily compared to other types of paint, which can make it harder to work with. You have to be really careful when using alkyd paint.

Is Alkyd Paint Oil-Based, Water-Based, or Acrylic? 

Paint can either be oil-based or water-based depending on its composition. The solvent used determines which category a type of paint belongs to.

Conventional alkyd paint is oil-based however, however, the oil content can vary for modern versions of alkyd paint. There’s another variation of alkyd paint known as waterborne alkyd paint (a.k.a acrylic alkyd paint), that happens to be water-based. It combines features that you can find in conventional alkyd paints and water-based paint.

Alkyd Paint vs Oil Paint

Conventional alkyd paint is often considered an oil-based paint due to it using chemical binders and fillers. Its thinners are made of alcohol or some mineral spirits, similar to any other oil paint. However, many modern versions of alkyd paint don’t actually contain oil.

Unlike oil paint wherein its pigment is suspended in oil, alkyd paint is typically formed by an alkyd resin that’s dissolved in a thinner. That said, most commercially available “oil-based paints” have pigments that are suspended in a solution of alkyd resin and a petroleum-based solvent.

Alkyd paint is generally even tougher than regular oil paint, which says a lot since oil paint is known to be very durable. It’s also able to retain its sheen for far longer than oil paints. It also dries much faster too (though still not as fast as water-based paints).

That said, alkyd paint is more hazardous to the environment than most oil paints. It’s even banned in some places. It also spatters more easily compared to oil paints, so you need to be really careful when using alkyd paint.

Fortunately, there is a relatively new waterborne alkyd paint that combines the best features of conventional alkyd paint and water-based paints. These variations of alkyd paint are much less toxic than their traditional alkyd paint alternatives. 

Water-Based Alkyd Paint Vs Latex

Unlike conventional alkyd paint which is oil-based, waterborne alkyd paint (a.k.a. acrylic alkyd paint) is water-based. It offers all the benefits of conventional alkyd paint, only that it’s safer for the environment and human health.

Latex paint is known for its easy application. It spreads very easily on the surface. However, water-based alkyd paint can provide a smoother finish than latex paint given its incredible self-leveling qualities. 

Water-based alkyd paint and latex paint cure in very different ways. Latex paint contains small vinyl acetate or acrylic particles. These coalesce the paint to form a semi-permeable film when the water evaporates. It could take up to a month for latex paint (applied to a surface) to fully cure.

On the other hand, water-based alkyd paint uses polyester resin. It reacts with oxygen and then cures to form a hard coating. Water-based alkyd paint can cure in as little as a few days to a week. 

What is Alkyd Paint Used For?

Due to its excellent durability, alkyd paint is ideal for high-traffic areas of the house such as the living room or hallways. It’s also resistant to moisture, which makes it suitable for the kitchen or bathroom.

Alkyd Paint for Cabinets

Alkyd paint is a great choice for painting cabinets. After all, the paint is extremely durable and low maintenance, meaning that the finish will last a long time even in a high-traffic, high-use area of the house like the kitchen.

It is self-leveling properties make it easy to achieve a smooth finish. This makes it easy to create a beautiful professional-looking paint job in one of the most used areas of your house. Additionally, alkyd paint often comes in a semi-gloss sheen, which is perfect for giving your kitchen an updated modern look. 

Alkyd Paint for Furniture 

Alkyd paint’s durability makes it ideal for high-traffic areas of the house. This means that it’s also ideal for furniture that will be receiving a lot of traffic such as a dining table. It’s ideal if the piece of furniture is made from wood or metal.

If you can get your hands on water-based alkyd paint, that would be even better. It combines the best features of conventional alkyd paint and water-based paint. It has the durability of alkyd paint, with the ease of use of water-based paint. It’s also less toxic in comparison. 

Alkyd Paint for Metal 

Due to its durability and ability to adhere to most surfaces, alkyd paint is a great paint to use for metal surfaces. There’s industrial alkyd paint that is specially made to protect steel equipment and steel structures.

Alkyd paint greatly resists water and humidity, which makes it great for protecting a piece of metal equipment that will be frequently exposed to the elements. It also has great resistance against wear and tear.

Alkyd Paint for Trim, Doors, and Windows

Alkyd paint is often used for trim, doors, and windows. It can adhere to most surfaces, though it’s best used on wood or metal. Its self-leveling nature makes it easy to cover small uneven surface issues and avoid brush marks. 

Does Alkyd Paint Need a Primer?

Like most other paints, you should use a primer before painting to get the most durable results. The only time that you might not need a primer is when you’re repainting furniture. 


Related: How to Flip Furniture 

Related: How to Chalk Paint Furniture



Leave a Comment