Oil Based vs Water Based Paint for Color Filling

January 21, 2020
Oil Based vs Water Based Paint for Color Filling

When it comes to color filling after sandcarving, the type of paint you choose will affect the finished look. Below we compare the advantages and disadvantages of oil based paint versus water based paint. Check out our Color Fill Guide for more information on application tips, what photoresist to use, and how much to charge.


Oil Based Paint for Color Filling

Advantages of Oil Based Paint

  • Completely opaque; normally a one coat application
  • Self leveling for ease of use for bigger areas that were etched
  • Dries to a hard shellac within 24 hours – very durable
  • No need to bake the enamel to harden like most water based enamel
  • Ultraviolet resistant; will not fade or discolor over time
  • Stains, absorbs or fills into the small pores you created after blasting
  • You will not get breaking, flaking, or big color contrast differences
  • Easy to remove mask by soaking in hot water - can also use denatured alcohol, Windex, or isopropyl alcohol to help remove the mask or paint residue
  • Mask can be peeled off within 1 hour when paint is at a rubbery stage - worst-case scenario is paint smearing in some areas which can be easily removed with a rag dabbed in isopropyl alcohol
  • Can easily be darkened with Tint Black or lightened up with Tint White
  • Gloss and matte additives available
  • Can be diluted with Low Temp reducer which acts as a drying accelerator
  • Can be found at any craft store such as Pearls, Michaels, or automotive outlets
  • Can be diluted for spraying in an air brush or air pen; rule of thumb is that it should be consistency of skim milk; typically this is a 1 to 4 part mix
  • Will even out your etch if your etch is slightly uneven (without flaking)
  • Easy to cover up mistakes with opaque finish
  • Easy to multi color fill; lighter color paints can be applied over darker paints without any bleeding occurring
  • When taking mask off with razor blade, Windex can be applied onto mask to avoid blade scratching glass by mistake

Disadvantages of Oil Based Paint

  • Takes 24 hours to dry to a shellac
  • Cleanup for brushes, stains on table, etc. requires mineral spirits to remove; soap and water will not work
  • When spraying these paints you will need to be cautious of the mist; a respirator may be needed if your ventilation is not adequate
  • Not transparent (if that is what you are looking for)
  • Cannot use a heat gun to speed up the drying time; this will affect the adhesion properties
  • Cannot be found at any home improvement stores like Home Depot (they do not use oil base paint in homes any longer due to materials not being porous like plaster, wood, etc.)
  • The tips/nozzles need to be cleaned daily with acetone, turpentine, or spirits
  • Needs to be stored in a metal or glass container

Water Based Paint for Color Filling

Advantages of Water Based Paint

  • Can air dry in less than 10 minutes
  • With a heat gun you can get it to dry in less than a minute; heat will not affect the adhesion
  • Can just add water to dilute for air brush and air pen
  • Can be easily found at home improvement stores
  • Can be easily sprayed and ventilation is not as important
  • Can be easily cleaned with soap and water
  • Can be stored in any container over time

Disadvantages of Water Based Paint

  • Semi transparent finish
  • To get opaque, 2-5 coats are recommended
  • Not durable unless baked on enamel which is put in an oven or kiln
  • Flakes off if your etch is slightly uneven
  • When doing multi colors you will need to cover up the areas you do not want to color, remove this cover when paint dries, then cover up dried paint area, and paint again
  • Colors will bleed so need to be extra careful with water based transparent paints

Contact IKONICS Imaging

If you have any additional questions about color filling, please contact our support team today.


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