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Acrylic vs. Enamel Projector Paint

Acrylic vs. Enamel Projector Paint

Every projector needs a projection screen or surface. You can buy and install a projector screen, or you can paint your DIY projector screen.

DIY projector screens are budget-friendly and you can create the projecting surface in any size you like. 

There are several materials for making projector screens. Some of the more common materials are black or white cloth and projector paint. 

This article contains a detailed comparison of two types of paints for projector screens — acrylic vs. enamel paint. 

Projector Screen Paint Explained

Projector Screen Paint - High Definition | 4K - Ultra White - Gallon

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Projector screen paints are paints that you can use to create projector screens on a smooth surface. You can apply them to a smooth surface and project clear images onto the painted surface. 

If you have enough wall space or a canvas for the screen size you want, you’re almost good to go.

The only thing left is choosing the right kind of paint. This requires careful consideration because not all paints are good for projector screens. 

Projector screen paint should reflect a good amount of light, have a bright look, and a smooth finish. 

The color depends on your personal preference, ambient lighting, and the brightness of the projector.

You may also follow our recommended formula to learn how to mix your silver projector screen paint

Acrylic and enamel are popular choices for projector paints. They have different features and projection qualities. 

Want to find out which of these is the best paint for a projector screen? Let’s get to it!

What is Acrylic Paint?

acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is created by suspending a pigment in acrylic polymer plasticizers and emulsions, defoamers, silicone oil, metal soaps, or stabilizers.

It is one of the most versatile painting mediums. It is a fast-drying water-based paint, so you can change its thickness, by mixing it with water.

When acrylic paint dries, it becomes water-resistant. It hardly fades and fares better than other paints when exposed to light.

Acrylic paint is characterized by a very smooth finish that gives off bold and vibrant colors. When dry, it has a darker hue than its wet counterpart.

What is Enamel Paint?

Enamel paint

Enamel paint is solvent-based paint that dries up into a hard paint layer, with a glossy finish. 

The paint is oil-based, water-proof, and convenient to wash when dirty. It is ideal for coating surfaces that are often exposed to drastic temperature changes. 

Enamel paints offer vibrant colors and don’t fade quickly. You can apply them without using primer, they are easily removed with some mineral spirits. 

Enamel paints can either be brushed on, rolled on, or sprayed to give a durable glossy finish.

A Comparison of Acrylic Vs Enamel Paint: Which is Better?

Acrylic and enamel paints each have their strengths and weaknesses as projector screen paints. 

Certain features of paint like the finish and longevity can affect the look of a DIY projector screen. 

In this section, we will compare acrylic and enamel paints based on these parameters.

1. Solvent

a set of solvent tools

Acrylic paint is water-based. Water-based paints do not have a strong odor after application and are non-toxic. However, it is difficult to apply them uniformly. 

Enamel paint is oil-based. It has good coverage and it is easy to apply it uniformly. However, they have a characteristic strong and intrusive odor and can pose health risks. 

2. The Finish

The finish is the result, and it is the most important part of any painting. 

Acrylic paints have a matte look when they are completely dry. The colors come out flat, but they can be made glossy if it is varnished. 

Enamel paints give off a glossy look when they are dry. Their colors are attractive and they may have medium to high levels of vibrance after application.

3. Application

brush used to paint a matte surface

When working with acrylic paints, it is hard to get a smooth painted surface in one coating. To get a smooth finish, you would have to apply a double coating.

The brush marks may be noticeable, and the paint easily accumulates dirt, especially around high traffic areas.

Acrylic paints are easy to erase in case of a mistake. They are water-based, so they can be washed off with soapy water even after they have dried. 

Enamel paints are easy to apply. However, they are best applied with natural bristle brushes which are soft enough to easily spread the thick paints.

The brush strokes fill in spaces and they stick easily to wall or canvas surfaces. 

On the downside, enamel paints can be messy if you’re not careful during application. They are more difficult to wash off or erase. 

4. Drying rate

The drying rate is an important factor to consider when choosing projector paint. 

Fast-drying paints quicken your setup pace.

Acrylic paints dry very fast. They typically take between 2 and 3 hours to dry completely. This also makes double-coating fast and easy.

Enamel paints, on the other hand, need between 6 and 24 hours to completely dry out.

5. Durability

a projector screen placed outdoors

If your projector setup is for outdoor use, then this is an important factor to consider. Durability determines how long paint will retain good form before it begins to fade or crack.

Acrylic paints have more flexibility than enamel paints, and they do not crack when exposed to sunlight. They are good for outdoor projector painting.

On the downside, acrylic paints are prone to swelling in moist environments. For this reason, they perform better on surfaces with good air circulation

Enamel paints are not ideal for outdoor use due to their hard finish and low flexibility. Exposure to sunlight causes them to get harder and crack open.

Both paints are durable, but they are better suited to different environments. 

6. Reflective Capacity

Projector screens should be reflective. This helps them capture the light from the projector lens and reflect it to viewers. 

Acrylic paints have a mild glossy finish with an ideal level of reflectivity. They also come in matte finishes that can be mixed with a glossy medium to increase reflectivity. 

Enamel paints have highly glossy finishes. Excessive gloss can cause too much light to be reflected and damage image clarity. 

To project clear images on enamel paint screens, you need to mix in a matte medium to reduce the glossiness.

Paint mediums are substances that you add to paint to change certain properties like texture or appearance.

7. Environmental Considerations

CO2 emission from industrial factory

Sustainable practices are a subject of concern, and your projector paint is not left out.

What do projector screen paints contain? What are their effects on the environment? The answers to these questions are very important.

Enamel oil-based paint has a high content of carbon-based chemicals. These chemicals pose a danger to our health and the environment.  

The new LEED standard for non-flat paint states that toxic chemicals must be less than 150grams per liter for interior surfaces.

Most enamel paints contain over 300g per liter. It is best to wear a paint mask and latex gloves to protect yourself while applying them.

Acrylic paints on the other hand have a lower carbon content of about 50 grams per liter. 

Final Recount

Acrylic paint is completely water-based and non-toxic. It dries fast and it hardly fades. It is also easy to paint over it and correct mistakes because of its opaque quality.

Acrylic paint is ideal for outdoor projector screens. However, it does not do well in areas with high moisture due to its tendency to absorb water and swell. 

The enamel paint presents a hard-layered and glossy finish when dry. However, its excessive gloss can be a problem during projection.

Enamel paint is best used indoors because it is water-resistant and inflexible. This makes it prone to breaking or cracking when exposed to excessive sunlight.

As long as you understand the downsides of these paints and steer around them, you would have little trouble with making a choice. 

Table: Advantages and Disadvantages of Acrylic Paint and Enamel Paint

  Advantages Disadvantages
Acrylic Paint
  • It dries up very quickly.
  • It applies evenly to surfaces.
  • Acrylic paint is versatile and can be used on a lot of surfaces.
  • It has low carbon content, so it is eco-friendly.
  • It doesn’t have a strong pungent smell.
  • Acrylic paint does not support the growth of mildew.
  • Acrylic paint colors do not fade easily.
  • It does not turn yellow with age. 
  • The finish is moderately reflective and very suitable for image projection.
  • It is more expensive than its enamel counterpart.
  • Acrylic paint is prone to swelling in environments with high moisture.
  • It can easily be removed by scraping off or peeling.
  • Application is not smooth and brushstrokes may be visible.
  • It needs repeated coating to get good color depth.
  • Acrylic paint needs a primer because it doesn’t stick well to smooth surfaces.
Enamel Paint
  • Enamel paint is durable and water-proof.
  • It gives good coverage.
  • It doesn’t require double-coating to attain good color depth.
  • It is easy to wash painted surfaces due to its water-resistant nature.
  • It doesn’t fade easily.
  • It offers vibrant colors.
  • It has high carbon content that exceeds the standard.
  • It can be toxic and harmful to the environment.
  • Enamel paint often has a repulsive smell. 
  • Its glossy surface might be too reflective for a projector screen.
  • It takes long to dry up completely.
  • Enamel paint is prone to cracking when exposed to sunlight for long periods.
  • It turns yellow over time, especially when it is used indoors.


a FAQ note

Is projector paint any good?

If you are on a budget, paint is an excellent way to make your projection screen. The process is fast and relatively easy.

The downside to projector paint is that the painted walls are immobile. You will have to project onto that same spot every time. 

If you want a mobile or portable projector screen, paint your screen on a sizable canvas or purchase one of the many types of regular projectors available. 


In the acrylic vs. enamel paint deliberation, acrylic paint emerges as the more durable and environment-friendly option for outdoor use. 

However, there is no loser in the comparison because enamel paint has its unique strengths too. 

If you want the cinema experience within the comfort of your home, choose the paint that suits you best and get to painting! 

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