Confused about which paint is best for your project? Don't skip the research. The type of paint you choose is just as important as the color, and can have a major effect on the character of your room. Read on to learn more about each type of paint — and potentially prevent a time- and money-consuming mistake.
The majority of wall paint sold today is water-based, but oil-based paint remains popular for glossy woodwork, doors, and furniture, as well as demanding surfaces such as floors.
Be cautious when switching to a water-based paint if the surface has previously been coated with an oil-based product, as the new paint may not stick. In this situation, recommends washing the surface and then roughening it all over with a medium to smooth grit sandpaper—making it clean, dry, and dull in order to prevent peeling of the new coat.
Advantages of water-based paints
- low VOCs (low levels of toxic emissions)
- easy cleanup with water
- quick drying
- an elastic, flexible finish resistant to cracking
- stable color over time, without yellowing
For those instances when an oil-based paint would traditionally be preferable, but you desire a water-based product, a number of companies have introduced "waterborne enamels" or "waterborne alkyds." These paints look and behave much like oil-based options because they have good leveling qualities for a smooth finish.
Advantages of oil-based paints
- attractive gloss
- good "leveling" (brush strokes fill themselves in to create a smooth finish)
- hard, durable finish
Sheen options vary by manufacturer, but share some common characteristics.
As durability improves across all sheen levels with newer paints, many people are finding creative ways to mix and match them. "We've noticed that customers are becoming more experimental in their use of paint finish, to create real impact and texture within a scheme," says Farrow & Ball director Sarah Cole. "Try painting a stripe of full gloss on a matte wall in the same color to create a striking, textured look," she suggests.
- is the least reflective sheen available
- has a velvety texture
- helps hides imperfections in walls and ceilings
- offers great depth of color
- is generally considered the standard sheen for walls
- can sometimes be difficult to clean
Eggshell and satin paint (satin is slightly glossier than eggshell):
- have some reflectivity
- offer improved durability
- are frequently used in demanding environments, like kitchens and bathrooms, where easy cleanup without a highly glossy finish is desired
Semi-gloss and gloss paint:
- are the most reflective sheens
- are highly durable and stand up to multiple cleanings
- are traditionally used on baseboards, moldings, and doors
- can make a statement, but also highlight imperfections
Sue Kim, color trend and forecast specialist at , recommends trying an accent wall with a gloss sheen, while painting the rest of a room matte. But at the end of the day, "It's all about how you want to set the atmosphere of your home," she says. "A matte sheen gives you a calm and serene feeling, because of that textural element." On the other end of the spectrum, gloss adds energy and excitement.
As for eggshell and satin, Kim likes to use them in smaller spaces with little natural light. "I always say that a satin finish is great in a powder room," she says. "It reflects the light to bring out the color."