Specifiers: Marketing vs. Effectiveness
"Acrylic" - Quality or Promotion?

The term "Acrylic", when applied to paints elicits the impression of quality and durability. Is this impression always correct?

I think not.

What does "Acrylic" mean? The term Acrylic refers to a family of organic acids with the general chemical formula of CnH2nC00H. These organic acids are often polymerized to create film-forming materials. These range from Plexiglas to latex emulsions used in paints. The Acrylic emulsions used in paint usually employ a number of different Acrylic acids, which are reacted together to form an Acrylic co-polymer. These Acrylic co-polymers, when used as resin in paints, can provide improved properties, although, this may not always be the case.

The term Acrylic cannot be exclusively relied upon to ensure that a product will provide a high level of performance. The paint product you select is a mixture of a great number of ingredients, all of which have an effect on the ultimate performance of the product. How these ingredients are combined to create an individual paint is a science, and the final performance of the coating can be significantly affected by how well the coatings formulator selects and combines these individual ingredients. The Acrylic resin forms the binder in the paint formulation. This is the portion of the coating that, in effect, holds all the other parts together and provides adhesion to the surface. Some would say this is the most important ingredient in the paint. However, some of the other ingredients, if poorly selected or processed can negate any advantage that a high performance resin provides. This means, that it is possible for a well-formulated "non-Acrylic" paint to outperform a poorly formulated Acrylic paint.

A major influence on the formulating process is raw material cost. It would be somewhat naïve to assume that every paint formulator is striving to produce only the highest quality paint formulations. All manufacturers produce a range of products of varying levels of performance and price. This is where "marketing" starts to influence the selection process.

How much Acrylic is in an Acrylic paint? The answer can vary significantly, and with it the performance of the product. Even the term "100% Acrylic" does not ensure that all the resin portion of the paint is pure Acrylic.

Don't misunderstand what I am saying. I do not claim that Acrylic products are Bad, or that they don't provide High levels of performance. I am saying that there are a great number of factors which influence the ultimate performance of a coating, which all must be considered during the selection of the paint product.

The Master Painter's Institute has taken the approach that the composition of a product is less important than the performance properties. For this reason, products submitted by manufacturers for inclusion in the MPI Approved Products List are subjected to a battery of performance and durability tests to ensure the level of quality is of a high order. Once a product has passed these tests you can be assured that it will provide performance, regardless of whether it states "Acrylic", "100% Acrylic", or some other marketing language on the label.