Paint Type 101

The biggest impact on your room with the least impact on your wallet, painting is an important part of your redecorating project.  But where do you start?  What paint do you buy?

Picking a paint for your project is key to the outcome of your room makeover.  The wrong paint can intensify every flaw in your wall or make your best architectural feature fade in to the woodwork.  Learn how to pick the perfect paint for your project:


Flat – a flat paint has less reflective characteristics, so it’s perfect for hiding flaws.  Have a rough, plaster wall or want to hide drywall joints?  Use flat paint.  It’s not as easy to clean as the higher gloss paints, so it’s not always your best bet for high traffic areas, but when you need to hide those bumps and dents that can’t be fixed, go flat.  Ceilings are usually painted with flat paint as well.

Satin and eggshell – One step up from flat, both satin and eggshell finishes are the normal wall coatings, as they give a greater warmth and depth to surfaces than flat paints. They also resist stains better than flat paints, and are more cleanable than flat.

Semigloss – To highlight a feature or area, use semi-gloss.  I usually reserve it for trim work or any architectural element, such as a column or molding that you want to stand out in the room.  Semi-gloss is much easier to clean and resists stains better than the lower sheens.  I’m not keen on semi-gloss on walls, I find the sheen to be much too distracting to appreciate the wall color.

Gloss paints – With the highest sheen, gloss paints are reserved for smaller areas or features.  I’ve used them on a banister, a column and other woodwork.

Latex vs. Oil Based Enamels

The most popular interior paint is latex.  It’s water based, and I find it easier to work with, dries quickly, has less smell and a better mildew resistance.  More importantly, it’s easier to clean up, usually with just water and less expensive than the oil-based paints.

Oil based enamels are harder and more durable, and also have a higher gloss.  In fact, if you are looking for a high gloss sheen, you’re going to need an oil-based enamel.  I’ve always used oil-based paints for exterior painting, as the smell can be a problem when they’re used inside.  It’s also harder to clean up, you’ll need turpentine or similar to clean brushes and rollers.  The drying time is also longer for enamels – taking eight hours or more until it dries to the touch, so you can’t plan on adding a second coat in the same day.

So what happens when you get to the paint store and forget everything you just learned?  Just ask the ‘paint mixing guy’ he or she is perfect for helpful advice on picking and choosing sheens and types of paint.

With a little knowledge on paints and a basic how-to guide, you can create instant impact in your redecorating project rather than your bank account.