Artists, craftsmen, and DIY enthusiasts constantly seek the perfect medium to bring their creative visions to life. Among the myriad of choices available, spray paints and water-based paints stand out as the most popular options for mural work. Whilst it is true that each has its unique qualities, making them suitable for different projects, understanding the wider impact of the paints you are using is essential in making an informed decision. In this blog, we’ll delve into the distinctive features of spray paints and water-based paints, helping you understand their differences and choose the right one for your project.

Northampton hospital undersea mural
Northampton school playground van gogh style mural

Water based paints are a much safer choice for schools

Chemical Composition: At their core, spray paints and water-based paints are vastly different. Spray paints are solvent-based, meaning they contain chemicals like acetone or mineral spirits. These chemicals facilitate the spray paint’s ability to adhere to various surfaces and dry quickly. On the flip side, water-based paints, as the name suggests, employ water-soluble chemicals as a base, making them safer for both the environment, the artist and those using the space.

Application: Spray paints are incredibly quick and convenient, providing a smooth, even coat when applied. This coupled with their quick drying time is why they have become a firm favourite with graffiti artists. When speed is of the essence, and there are no ventilation issues to consider, spray paints are undoubtedly the way to go. Water-based paints, on the other hand, are typically brushed or rolled onto surfaces. This method offers more control, making them preferable for detailed artworks or where blending is required.

Toxicity and Environmental Impact: In the realm of eco-friendliness, water-based paints emerge victorious. They contain fewer toxic chemicals, emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and are easier to clean up. This makes them a top choice for artists and DIY enthusiasts who prioritize a greener approach to their creative endeavours. Spray paints, due to their solvent base, emit more VOCs and have a stronger odour, making them less environmentally friendly and potentially harmful if not used in a well-ventilated area. This doesn’t just apply at the time of painting, spray paints emit harmful chemicals up to two years after they have been applied.


Versatility: While both types of paint have their unique applications, water-based paints tend to be more versatile. They adhere well to various surfaces, including wood, metal, and canvas. They are also easier to mix and blend, allowing artists to create a wide range of colours and effects. Spray paints, although versatile in their own right, are often preferred for specific tasks like creating gradients, stencilling, or achieving a smooth, professional finish on surfaces like automobiles. . It is worth bearing in mind that they were never designed to be used inside.

Football mural for a hospital courtyard
Yellow Lamborghini car mural for a hospital courtyard

Water based paints are preferred in hospital environments


Longevity: Water-based paints are durable and resistant to fading, ensuring that your painted surfaces retain their vibrant appearance over time. They are also less prone to cracking and yellowing, contributing to the longevity of your projects.


In summary, both spray paints and water-based paints offer unique advantages, catering to different preferences, styles and project requirements. If you value quick application, precise coverage, and a wide range of finishes, spray paints might be your go-to choice. On the other hand, if you prioritize environmental sustainability, easy cleanup, and versatility, water-based paints are an excellent option. Ultimately, the decision between spray paints and water-based paints depends on your specific needs, but by understanding the differences between these two types of paints, you can confidently choose the one that aligns with your creative vision and environmental values.