What is Alkyd Enamel Paint – How to Use it On Wood Correctly?

what is alkyd enamel paint

Alkyd enamel is a type of oil (or solvent-based) paint that’s highly lustrous, smooth, and viscous. The paint is generally made of three elements, namely the thinner, the binder, and the pigment.

Although alkyd paint does not contain oil, it is many times also called oil-based paint. The reason is it uses chemical binders along with thinners.

The paint is generally produced from alkyd resins dissolved in a chemical liquid. And it dries when the solvent evaporates, leaving just the alkyd resins behind. As the resins cure and oxidize, it leaves a long-lasting glossy appearance on the paint.

Knowing all these about alkyd enamels, you may be wondering whether it is a good choice for wood surfaces or not.

So, here is all that you should know about alkyd enamel paints, their pros & cons, including how to apply them on wood surfaces in the best possible way.

Why Use Alkyd Paint for Wood?

Conventional alkyd enamels can be used anywhere, which requires highly durable and shiny paint.

They offer a mirror-like waterproof finish which makes them a great option for surfaces like wood cabinets, metals, glass, plastics, and even walls or plywood used in bathrooms and kitchens.

Doors, trims, and cabinetry made of wood are often the surfaces that are mostly painted with it because it treats the porous wood much more durable and long-lasting.


  • High durability and tough to wear
  • It offers a shiny and mirror-like finish
  • It’s washable and waterproof after cured


  • It needs paint thinner for cleaning
  • It May turn yellow with age and heat
  • Releases a high number of VOCs, which leads to the emission of carbon dioxide

Since the chemical solvent in conventional alkyd enamels diffuses a high volume of Volatile Organic Compounds, which are hazardous to people and lead to carbon dioxide emissions, they are not a common choice compared to water-borne enamel paints.

how to use alkyd enamel on wood

How to Use Alkyd Enamel Paint on Wood?

In comparison to interior latex paints, alkyd enamel paint is thicker and more viscous. Hence, it can be tough to apply if you haven’t done it before.

The key to getting success here is picking the right materials to apply the enamel paint.

Materials You Will Need

The very first thing is to select a rigid-bristled paintbrush that can help you evenly spread the viscous enamel paint on the surface. Make sure the brush you choose is clean and free from any dust or dirt.

Then you will need to select the most suitable primer for the kind of enamel you want to apply.

Oil-based primers will generally work great with enamel paints because they seal the bare wood of the trims and cabinets you may be working on, thereby allowing the enamel to stick well.

Based on the project, you will also require the materials such as:

  • Primer
  • Paintbrushes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Painting respirator
  • Old sheets to cover the area
  • Sander, sandpaper, or sanding sponges

Also, for cleaning the surfaces (before and after the painting), you will require soap and water for hybrid enamels and paint thinner for oil-based enamels.

Steps for Paint Application

No matter whether you are painting trim, cabinets, or doors, the application for enamel paint is relatively similar.

The steps you can follow are as follows…

Step 1. Protect

Put an old sheet below the wood furniture or other item to prevent staining the area you are painting on.

Also, do not forget to tape around trims and baseboards.

Step 2. Clean & Sand

If the surface already has a paint coat, wipe it off with a paint stripper.

Sand the surface, and clean the sand dust completely.

The random circular pattern is just what you need to sand wood properly.

There is a unique sandpaper disc on the random orbit sander. The disc is what smooths out the wood surface of your project without leaving too many swirl marks on it.

You’ll get much better results this way than you would by manually sanding the wood with your hands. The results will come faster too.

If required, wipe the surface again with a cloth dampened in soapy water to make sure all the grime, grease, or black soot, if any, is removed.

Step 3. Apply Primer

After the surface is completely cleaned and dried, apply a high-quality oil-based primer.

If you are working on outdoor surfaces, make sure the primer is meant for exteriors and is labeled so.

You can use a paintbrush, sprayer, or roller, depending on the surface area you want to cover.

Step 4. Apply the Paint

After the primer has been dried, it’s time to apply the alkyd enamel paint.

If you are looking for the best enamel paint for wood Valspar Oil-Based Door and Trim Paint, Benjamin Moore ADVANCE, and ProClassic Acrylic Alkyd Enamel are some great options you can choose from.

Sometimes you may get hybrid enamels with a mix of alkyd and acrylic or urethane resins. These offer additional hardness and lower yellowing to the paint when applied outdoors.

These will have no impact on the application procedure of the paint and will offer similar benefits without emitting high VOCs.

So, if you want, you can pick them for indoor and outdoor applications. Just make sure that you thin the paint properly before application.

Penetrol is an oil-based paint additive that will perfectly thin the paint and give it the right consistency to make your work easier.

To get brilliant results, apply at least two layers of enamel paint over the primer coat using a paintbrush. If required, you should go for a third coat to get perfect finishing and shine.

Also, make sure you take a gap of about 15-24 hours between the coats to dry them completely.

Step 5. Clean and Dry

In case there are any paint spills, clean it as soon as possible, or it may be tough to remove when dry.

Make sure you clean the brushes (roller or sprayer) and dispose of the leftover paint properly.

Freshly painted surfaces with alkyd enamel paints can dry to the touch within 24-36 hours but may take as long as a week or two to cure completely.

So, it’s good to avoid any heavy use till the paint is completely cured.

Also, if you want to apply a clear coat of varnish or polyurethane over the alkyd enamel, you can do so.

Just make sure that you do this after the paint is completely cured on the surface.

Tips & Warnings When Working with Alkyd Paints

It is important to note that if you are using traditional alkyd enamels for cabinets – it has higher levels of VOCs.

So, you should use a painting respirator during the paint application process. Also, select a well-ventilated open area to avoid inhaling toxins.

Enamel paints, when applied on surfaces like wood cabinets, can also leave brush marks. These can easily draw attention due to the glossy smooth finish.

One good way to avoid these brush marks while painting is by following the natural grain of the wood.

Use sandpaper (to sand the surface in the direction of the wood grain) to smooth the surface before painting, and consider mixing a paint additive like Penetrol.

This will also allow you to adjust your strokes better and in hiding imperfections, especially when you are painting over long surfaces like doors or decking.

how to use alkyd enamels for painting

Is Hybrid Enamel Paint and Alkyd the Same?

Hybrid alkyd enamels combine the best water-borne paints with the best oil-borne paints.

These types of enamel paints typically make use of waterborne alkyd technology to suspend the resins in a water-borne liquid instead of a chemical liquid.

Hybrid enamels are similar to conventional alkyd enamels but show a less hard finish in comparison to oil-based enamels.

While both paints give the same feel and finish, the only difference is that hybrid enamels are simpler to clean.

They are generally odorless and can be easily cleaned with soapy water.

Their added advantage lies in low VOC release due to the fact that it’s formulated with water-borne pigments and formulas.


  • Hard and shiny finish
  • Water-proof after curing
  • Long-lasting and tough to wear
  • It can be cleaned easily with soap and water
  • Low VOCs release in comparison to conventional alkyd enamels


  • Some variants are less shiny in comparison to oil-based enamels

How to Fix Tacky Alkyd Enamel Paint That’s Not Drying?

Under normal conditions, you can expect alkyd paint to take about 24 hours to cure fully.

However, if the alkyd paint you applied to your wood furniture turns out to be sticky or tacky, it is likely that the paint didn’t cure correctly.

To fix the problem, there are two different ways you can try. These include:

1- Ventilate the area where the paint is located

Now, this seems to be common sense, but you would be surprised at how often people forget to do this simple step.

If the area is too humid, the paint will not dry properly. Therefore, you need to increase the ventilation by opening windows or using a fan.

If possible, you can also try moving the painted furniture out into the open air.

2- Apply a topcoat

If you don’t want to or can’t ventilate the area, another way to get alkyd paint to dry is to apply a topcoat.

A topcoat is a clear coating that goes over the paint and protects it from dirt, dust, and other environmental factors. It also helps the paint to dry faster.

You can buy a topcoat at your local hardware store or online.

3- Use a paint-drying accelerator

There are also products on the market that you can use to help paint dry faster.

These are called “oil-based paint drying accelerators,” and they work by absorbing the moisture from the paint.

You can find them at your local hardware store or online.

4- Use a hair dryer or a heater to dry the paint faster

Use a hair dryer or heat gun on the low setting and hold it about six inches away from the tacky paint.

Slowly move the hair dryer across the surface until the paint becomes hard to the touch.

You can also use a room heater, but be sure to keep it on the low setting and at a distance from the paint so that you don’t end up melting the paint.

5- Wait it out

If you don’t want to use a hair dryer, heater, or paint-drying accelerator, you can just wait for the paint to dry on its own.

This will take longer, but it is the safest method.

Tips for Preventing the Paint Coat from Getting Tacky

To prevent the paint from getting tacky in the first place, there are a few things you can do:

1- Use a thinner paint

If you are using oil-based paint, try thinning it with mineral spirits. This will help the paint to dry faster.

2- Apply a thinner layer of paint

If you’re applying a thick coat of paint, reduce it and try applying thinner layers. This will aid in the drying time of the paint.

3- Use a fast-drying paint

Using slow-drying paint is also a common cause of tacky paint. To avoid this, use a fast-drying paint such as an alkyd enamel.

4- Paint smaller sections at a time

Trying to paint too large of an area at once can also cause the paint to take longer to dry. To avoid this, paint smaller sections at a time.

5- Add a paint-drying agent

If you’re using latex paint on wood, you can add a paint-drying agent to speed up the drying time. You can find these at your local hardware store.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the product.

6- Check the temperature and humidity

Lastly, the temperature and humidity can also affect the drying time of the paint.

For best results, try to paint when the temperature is between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is below 85%.

The paint will not dry properly if it is too cold or too humid. So, use a thermometer and hygrometer to check the temperature and humidity levels.


Can you paint over alkyd paint?

If you want to paint over an alkyd or oil-based paint with water-based paint, remember first to remove the gloss and prepare the surface for adhesion.

This can simply be accomplished by using fine-grit sandpaper. You can also use a deglosser, but sanding by hand is just as effective.

Once the surface is dull and dry, you can apply a water-based primer before painting.

If the paint is in good condition and you just want to freshen up the color, you may be able to get away with painting over the alkyd paint without priming first.

Just keep in mind that the new paint may not adhere as well and could end up peeling.

Alkyd vs. acrylic enamel – what’s the difference?

The key difference is in their composition. While alkyd paint is oil/solvent-based, acrylic is a water-based paint.

Unlike alkyd enamels, acrylic enamels come with lower VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are classified as hazardous.

Do you need to seal the enamel paint on the wood after painting?

If you have coated your wood surface well with alkyd enamel paint with at least two coats, it’s enough to work as a tough protective layer due to the additives added and standard paint blends.

Sealing your wood with a clear coat over enamel is, therefore, not required after the paint job.

Moreover, enamel paints usually hide the beautiful grains of wood, so there’s no point in adding a clear sealer coat if your purpose is to get a beautiful finish.

With that said, there are times when it may work, like if you have coated the wood with old leftover enamel paint in a single layer, you may add a layer of clear coat for additional protection.

Ultimately it’s a matter of personal choice and your project needs.

Final Thoughts

Alkyd enamel paints offer a long-lasting glossy finish and are recommended for surfaces such as doors, kitchen cabinetry, baseboards, trims, metallic furniture, and appliances.

As they are waterproof, washable, and tough, you can use them for your bathrooms and kitchens as well. Some of them even provide a great scratch-proof finish that can easily be cleaned with soap and water.

So, choose carefully whether you want to go for traditional alkyd enamel or hybrid enamel. Make sure you look for the amount of paint you require, collect the materials needed, and follow the right procedure to apply the paint.

Whats More on Wood Thrive:
How to Apply Epoxy Paint on Plywood Floor – 3 Easy Steps

Traditionally most floors in houses were made of concrete. But today, depending on personal preferences, the room or space that Read more

How to Get Mold, Moss & Algae Off Fence – Before Painting?

We are constantly finding new ways to update our home exteriors. If you are a bit tight on budget, renovating Read more

How to Clean Your Hardwood Floors with Mineral Spirits?
clean wood floor

The reason why people choose hardwood flooring is it's durable and provides a rich classic look to the home. Plus, Read more

How to Seal Your Cypress Wood Benches for Outdoor Usage?

Cypress wood has been used for thousands of years in shipbuilding, so it is well-known for its water-resistance properties. Due Read more

error: Content is protected !!