Note: This post is part of a larger series on generic coating types. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the entire guide.


This category refers to any type of coating formulated based on an acrylic polymer, including acrylic latex, emulsion polymers, etc. For a long time, water-based acrylics were considered solely for use as home or architectural paints. Certain formulations, though, have proved their worth for light and medium industrial duty.

There are two predominant types of water-based acrylics. One-component acrylics, typically useful in light to medium industrial settings, dry into a strong, hard film. They are typically easier to apply than the other main type, two-component acrylics. These are usually composed of an acrylic plus an epoxy for improved chemical resistance properties, or an acrylic and a polyurethane for heightened abrasion resistance.


  • Excellent UV resistance
  • High gloss retention
  • Customizable based on site-specific needs
  • Low VOCs
  • Easy to apply
  • Good chalking resistance


  • Application is weather dependent
  • Cure time depends upon humidity levels
  • Reduced water resistance compared to solvent-borne coatings

Common Applications:

Certain properties of water-borne acrylics, such as UV resistance and high gloss retention, can be useful for bridges and other structures which aren’t located in heavily corrosive environments. They are also often used as direct-to-metal exterior coatings for railroad boxcars and hopper cars.


Recent regulations governing acceptable levels of VOC emissions have led many coatings manufacturers and applicators to explore low VOC alternatives to other solvent-based coatings. For this reason, water-based acrylics have received renewed attention as coatings capable of offering good barrier protection and reliable durability properties.

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