What Type of Paint do I Need?

It’s hard enough to decide on a specific paint color. Then you go to the paint store, and there are so many different TYPES of paints to pick from! How do you know which one you need?

I wanted to inform you on the differences between types of paint that there are! Paints have different bases, different finishes, and different purposes. I never know which one to pick, so here’s all the information you need in one spot.

Paints by Base

See the below image from homeglazer.com to reference while I go through the different paint bases.

Oil based: This type of paint can be used on virtually every type of surface. It is also durable, goes on nice and smooth (typically glossy), and is usually more reasonable in price. The downsides… first, the FUMES! Oil-based paints emit really strong odors. Another downside is that oil-based paints are hard to get out of carpet, clothes, etc. They also take longer to dry. Many people consider oil-based paints an environmental hazard, so they are not as popular anymore.

Water-based: Most wall paint today is water-based. It dries a lot faster, allowing you to do several coats of paint in one day. It is easy to clean up, and it doesn’t emit harmful fumes. Water0based paint can be used on almost every surface. Downsides to water-based paint include being less durable (making it prone to chipping and scratches), and it is usually more expensive.

Latex: Latex paints used to have a rubbery base, but now have a water-base to it. They are easy to clean up and very durable. Since they are so durable, latex paints are commonly used on exteriors. There are three types of latex paints:
1. Vinyl-Acrylic: least expensive, good for interior walls.
2. 100% Acrylic: Highest performance, withstands abrasion well.
3. Alkyd-Modified Latex: Great for exterior.

Paints by Finish

Use the below picture from nixsensor.com to reference while I discuss the different paints.

Flat Paint: Flat paints have the least amount of shine to them. They are able to cover surfaces more easily, requiring a smaller number of coats. However, they are the least durable and least expensive of the paint finishes.
*When/where to use flat paint: use in rooms without a lot of traffic (ex: closets); use when affordability is important.
*When/where NOT to use flat paint: high-traffic areas (kids’ rooms, hallways, kitchens). Fingerprints and scuffs will show up easily!

Matte Paint: Matte paint is slightly glossier than flat paint, but still covers well and hides imperfections. It is more durable than flat paint. Matte paint is smooth and is easily cleaned. Matte is considered the “standard” type of paint.
*When/where to use matte paint: low-traffic rooms, new construction homes, ceilings, drywall, adult bedrooms, dining rooms.
*When/where NOT to use matte paint: high-traffic rooms.

Eggshell Paint: This type of paint is slightly glossy, is easy to clean (all you need is a damp sponge), and covers really well.
*When/where to use eggshell paint: low-to-mid traffic areas (entry ways, living rooms, and living rooms).

Satin Paint: Satin paint has more of a sheen than eggshell paint, and it provides a smooth and velvety finish. It is more glossy than flat & matte, but still has a flat feel to it. It is durable and is ideal for interior walls, as well as exterior surfaces. Satin paint is great at being near moisture.
*When/where to use satin paint: high-traffic areas (hallways, kids’ rooms, kitchens, bathrooms- really any interior wall), and exterior surfaces like trim, siding and shutters.

Semi-Gloss Paint: This paint is more glossy than satin paint, and goes on smooth and silky. It is durable and has a high tolerance for moisture. It dries very solidly. Cons are that it doesn’t cover wall/wood imperfections that well. Also, the gloss allows light to bounce off the walls, which can be good or bad.
*When/where to use semi-gloss paint: Higher humidity areas, like kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. It also works for high-traffic areas and doors and trim. It is also good for woodworking.

High-Gloss Paint: This is the highest glossy paint, and it is shiny, easy to clean, and resistant to stains. The gloss gives the walls an almost glass-like look to them. Cons are that this type of paint is expensive, and it doesn’t cover wall imperfections… in fact, it can make them stand out. It requires more coats to fully cover the surface than other types of paints. High-gloss paint is usually the most expensive type of paint.
*When/where to use high-gloss paint: Doors, trims, shutters, cabinets, bathrooms, kitchens, banisters. Since fingerprints can be easily cleaned off, this paint is great for high-traffic areas.
*When to NOT use high-gloss paint: On walls or wood with a lot of imperfections.

What to ask yourself when choosing a paint:
When choosing a paint, the three biggest things to ask yourself about the area you’re painting are:

  1. What is the traffic like around the space you are wanting to paint?
    Higher-traffic areas will benefit from more glossy paints, like semi-gloss or satin. Lower-traffic rooms will do better with eggshell, flat, or matte. This is probably the best question to first ask yourself.
  2. What kind of surface blemishes does your project entail?
    The more blemishes your area has, the less reflective/glossy you want your paint. If your area has a lot of nail holes, divots, or scratches, you will want to go for more of an eggshell, flat, or matte. If surface blemishes are not of concern, you can use the more glossy types!
  3. How light/bright/shiny do you want your room to be?
    If you’re wanting to lighten a small or dark room, you may want to go more glossy, since the light reflects more on glossy paint. If you don’t want much light reflection in your room, go for a less-glossy paint.

There you have it! The most common types of paints that are out there, broken down by what they do best. Hopefully you can bookmark this for any future projects you might do. Happy painting!


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