What is the Difference Between Emulsion and Paint?

Difference Between Emulsion and Paint

Most people prefer to paint their house bright and beautifully these days.

However, as there is a vast range of different paints, it is confusing what to select for the home?

It is the point where people feel nervous.

Most of the time, they come across and choose either an emulsion or paint.

It is a common myth that emulsion and paint are the same. However, there are many fundamental differences between these two terms.

In this article, I will try to explain all the ordinary and technical differences between them. 

So, let’s get started…

Emulsion vs PaintEmulsionPaint
Primer needNeeds primer and putty before paintingCan be applied without a primer
DurabilityStays longer and are durableLess durable compared to emulsion
CracksDon’t dry or crack even in sunlightPeel off, crack and fade with time
SmellLeaves an attractive smellLeaves a distinctive smell
FinishBetter finishingDepends on the type of paint
CostExpensive compared to paintLess expensive
WashableCan be washed easilyNot completely washable

What is Paint?


Paint is extensive science and has different meanings.

In general, paint is the covering or coating that is applied to any surface that can be metallic or non-metallic.

They give a decorative and protective finish. 

According to different concepts, paint is a liquid solution that contains pigments and solvents.

Keep in mind, in the case of paint, the solvent will be mostly the oil.

So, these are mostly oil-based. 

Paint has easy application as compared to the emulsion.

It does not need any primer or putty coating on the walls before use. You can directly apply it with the paintbrushes.

However, if you put it directly, it can drop off the walls.

So, we will suggest you apply the primer before application. 


What is an Emulsion?


The emulsion is the suspension of specific material globules in the water.

One most important thing, these two materials, like vinyl and water, persist as a suspension.

They do not mix at all. These are the water-based resins.

As far as the composition is concerned, they consist of solvent, resin, pigments, and other additives.

Types and Uses

There are different types of emulsion based on the kind of finish like:

  1. Vinyl silk: Grabs the imperfection of walls and give glossiness. 
  2. Vinyl soft sheen: Long lasting finish with efficient moisture handling ability.
  3. Vinyl mattes: Reaches to the small imperfection and cover them. 

In addition to the variety of matt, satin, and silk finishes, vinyl emulsion paints can also be categorized according to their consistency.

These include:

  • Solid emulsion: These paints are extremely thick and will not cause any splatters when applied carefully
  • Non-Drip emulsions: These paints come with a jelly-like consistency and are ideal for high ceilings and surfaces where the paint can drip while applying
  • Liquid Vinyl Matt Emulsion: These types of paints are the cheapest of all and the most popular that can be easily applied by a brush, roller, or pad

While mostly used for painting walls and ceilings (in your bedroom and sitting room), emulsion paint can also be used for applying special finishes like rag rolling.

Plus, you can use them for stenciling and sponge painting, too.

emulsion paint vs distemper

Emulsion vs Paint: What is the Key Difference?


An emulsion is basically a suspension of globules of different liquids (like latex or vinyl within the water).

These two liquids do not mix together and remain as a suspension.

Paint on the other hand is a completely liquid substance (water or oil-based) that can be easily used for coloring your walls, ceilings, doors, and windows.

When it comes to application, the process seems to be time-consuming with emulsion-based paint.

However, the finish you get can be superior depending on the type and quality you use.


Is Emulsion Paint Same as Distemper?


Many people who want to paint their walls in the house often confuse between distemper paint or emulsion paint.

While both of them may sound to be similar for most of us, both of these are different and have their own pros and cons.

Distemper (also called whitewash paint or cement paint) is among the most economical type of paint that are available on the market.

These are convenient to use as they can be directly applied to any walls (inside or outside) you intend to paint.

This means you do not need any kind of surface preparation to apply this paint on the walls.

Emulsion paints on the other hand are water-based. This type of paint provides a matt finish to your walls and is washable.

This means you can easily wipe out any stains with a simple cloth damped in water and soap solution.

Unlike distemper paint, emulsion paint gives you a shinier surface and is relatively expensive.  


Why Painters and Contractors Prefer Emulsion?


Emulsions are better than oil-based paints and are found to be more suitable and efficient for homes by many homeowners and contractors.

Emulsion increases the shine and glossiness of the walls and is also suitable for the woodwork.

This type of paint does not dry or crack in the sunshine.

They are water-resistant and do not peel off with water.

The most appealing feature is that they are washable, and stains can be removed easily from them. These are easy to maintain as well.

The emulsion is always a better option for those who are allergic to paint primer odor and fumes. 

Also, the color of the emulsion does not fade with time and they stay longer as compared to the paints.

However, the emulsion is expensive than the paints. They need to have a proper primer and quoting on the walls before the application.


So, What to Choose between Emulsion and Paint?


You can find different types of paint available in the market.

And these can be selected according to the surface you are painting on, the kind of finish you want, and the level of satisfaction you want to hit. 

The emulsion is a type of water-based paint that is usually used to paint interior walls and ceilings.

Hence it is ideally good to choose for your interiors.

However, when choosing between an emulsion vs paint, you should note that the emulsion is an expensive option to choose, while a distemper paint can be used as a cheaper option.

So, overall it is best to choose the type of paint (either emulsion or distemper) depending upon the construction of the building and the budget.

Related questions:

Can I use emulsion as undercoat on wood?

Yes, emulsion paints can easily be used on bare wood as an undercoat before you apply a topcoat.

This means you can use them for undercoating your stairs, spindles, doors, window trims, skirting boards, etc.

With that said, emulsion paint is not very good for painting hardwood floors as these can come off easily due to heavy foot traffic.

Can I use white emulsion paint as a primer?

Primers and undercoats are different. However, you can use emulsion paints as a primer as well for sealing unpainted surfaces.

With that in mind, you can easily make your own primer at home by diluting emulsion paint with water in an 80:20 ratio.

The good thing is you use the same paint for a primer and for a top coat which will help you achieve a streak-free finish on drywall, brick, plaster, concrete, wood, and metal.

Depending on the type of emulsion and viscosity emulsion paints can take two to three hours to dry.

How can I make emulsion paint waterproof?

If you plan to use emulsion paint for exterior purposes, waterproofing this water-based paint can be a good idea.

Typically, you can do this by using a paint additive in the paint (before the application process) or by adding a clean coat of waterproofing sealer (after the paint application).

The idea here is simply to protect your less durable emulsion paint by sealing the woodwork with a durable clear coat.

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