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Enamel paint is paint that air dries to a hard, usually glossy, finish, used for coating surfaces that are outdoors or otherwise subject to hard wear or variations in temperature; it should not be confused with decorated objects in "painted enamel", where vitreous enamel is applied with brushes and fired in a kiln. The name is something of a misnomer, as in reality, most commercially available enamel paints are significantly softer than either vitreous enamel or stoved synthetic resins, and are totally different in composition; vitreous enamel is applied as a powder or paste and then fired at high temperature. There is no generally accepted definition or standard for use of the term enamel paint, and not all enamel-type paints may use it.
Typically the term "enamel paint" is used to describe oil-based covering products, usually with a significant amount of gloss in them, however recently many latex or water-based paints have adopted the term as well. The term today means "hard surfaced paint" and usually is in reference to paint brands of higher quality, floor coatings of a high gloss finish, or spray paints. Most enamel paints are alkyd resin based. Some enamel paints have been made by adding varnish to oil-based paint.
Although "enamels" and "painted enamel" in art normally refer to vitreous enamel, in the 20th century some artists used commercial enamel paints in art, including Pablo Picasso (mixing it with oil paint), Hermann-Paul, Jackson Pollock, and Sidney Nolan. The Trial (1947) is one of a number of works by Nolan to use enamel paint, usually Ripolin, a commercial paint not intended for art, also Picasso's usual brand. Some "enamel paints" are now produced specifically for artists.
Uses and categories of enamel paint
- Floor enamel – May be used for concrete, stairs, basements, porches, and patios.
- Fast dry enamel – Can dry within 10–15 minutes of application. Ideal for refrigerators, counters, and other industrial finishes.
- High-temp enamel – May be used for engines, brakes, exhaust, and BBQs.
- Enamel paint is also used on wood to make it resistant to the elements via the waterproofing and rotproofing properties of enamel. Generally, treated surfaces last much longer and are much more resistant to wear than untreated surfaces.
- Model building - This paint is usually sold in 14 ml tinlets (in the UK) and is available through specialist hobbyshops. Xtracolor and Humbrol are well known UK brands that have a wide range of colours, covering most of the ones used by various armed forces. Testors, a US company, offers the Floquil brand for railroad models, and Pactra, Model Master and Testors brands for aircraft and car models. Liquid enamels are sold in 1/4 to 1 oz. bottles, and some colours are also available in spray cans.