Decorating Painting

How to Choose the Correct Paint

choosing the correct paint

Learn how to choose the correct paint for any decorating project. Painting is one of those DIY jobs that almost anyone will feel able to attempt. But to get the best results, you really need to take your time and prepare surfaces to be painted properly.

You also need to ensure that you are using the correct paint for the job at hand, as this makes a big difference to the finish.

Paint technology has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years, and the days of gloss, matt emulsion or vinyl being your only choices are long gone.

Types Of Paint


Undercoat is designed to give you a uniform base onto which the topcoat is applied. It usually contains more pigment than most topcoat paints, meaning that it will cover dark colours more easily.

Don’t be afraid to apply two coats of undercoat if a particularly dark colour is still showing through the first coat. You can buy fungicidal undercoat for areas prone to damp and mould.

Solvent-based Gloss

choosing paint

Gloss paint is usually used only on wood and metalwork around the home and, as the name suggests, dries to a glossy finish. Gloss will have the best finish if the surface it is applied to is completely free from bumps and defects.

If applying to woodwork always use a suitable undercoat, as this will result in a better finish by stopping the solvent in the gloss being absorbed into the wood.

The general rule of thumb when applying gloss is that it is better to apply two thin coats, than one thick one. After you finish painting, clean your brushes immediately with white spirit.

Water-based Gloss

Water-based gloss is also mainly used for woodwork and metalwork, but does not dry to such a high-gloss finish. It does, however, provide a hard-wearing finish.

Water-based gloss dries much faster than solvent-based gloss and does not require as much ventilation (although you should always ensure some ventilation when using any paint). Brushes are also much easier to clean, requiring only water and a little detergent.

Non-Drip Gloss

This type of paint usually combines undercoat and topcoat, meaning that it is quicker to apply than normal gloss and is sometimes called One-Coat Gloss. It is suitable for painting interior woodwork and will cover most base colours well. However, despite the name, it may be that very dark base colours will need two coats. Wash brushes with white spirit.


Emulsion is designed to be used on very porous surfaces such as walls and ceilings. As it is water-based it is quick drying and easy to apply, but two or more coats may be needed to create the best finish.

Emulsion is available in several finishes including Matt, vinyl and semi-gloss, but as a rule, the more glossy the finish, the more resistant it will be to dirt and marks.

You can buy “solid” non-drip emulsion, which is perfect for painting ceilings. Emulsion is best applied with a good quality roller or paint pad. These can be washed in water and a little soap when you are finished.

Masonry Paint

Designed to be used externally on render and other porous surfaces. Masonry paint is generally available in two varieties: Smooth and Textured, and will seem thicker than interior paints. Textured paint will help to hide small blemishes, but it is not a magic cure for holes and cracks.

Modern masonry paint is available in almost as many colours as gloss and emulsion are.

Anti-Condensation Paint

This type of paint is specifically designed for use in areas where steam will cause condensation such as bathrooms and kitchens. It is semi-porous and as such allows moisture to be absorbed and then evaporated back into the air.

It is not a cure for condensation, but simply a way to stop condensation damaging paint and walls. Usually contains at least some fungicidal properties.

Enamel Paint

Enamel paint is used on metalwork and wood, and provides a very durable finish when dry. Enamel paint is available with gloss and matt finishes. Brushes will need to be cleaned with white spirit.

Specialist Paints

There are numerous specialist paints for use on everything from floors to tiles. If you need to paint something which isn’t metal, wood or a wall, it is worth checking with your local DIY store to see if there is a specialist paint available.

Paint Finishes


Matt paints, such as matt emulsion should be flat and smooth, but have little shine to them when dry. Matt paints are good for smoothing out fine imperfections in the surface being painted.

Satin or Silk

Satin and silk finishes should be smooth and have a slight shine, with light colours being good for reflecting light into a room. Silk is a finish associated with walls and satin for woodwork.


Eggshell should give a slightly textured finish (like an eggshell), and so will not reflect light as well as silk or satin finishes. Eggshell is usually a fairly durable finish, and can give a very classic look to woodwork.


A shiny finish designed for woodwork. Gloss reflects lots of light in light colours, so can really help to lift a room when used properly. Works best on perfectly flat surfaces, and can create brilliant contrasts when used alongside matt or eggshell finishes.

Paint Coverage (per litre)

This is not a hard and fast rule, but should give you a good idea of how much paint you will need to paint any particular surface.

Primer = 8-12m2 (square metres)

Undercoat = 16m2

Gloss = 14m2

Non-Drip Gloss = 12m2

Emulsion = 10-14m2

Masonry Paint = 6-10m2

Environmentally-Friendly Paint Options

Traditionally, paints have always contained lots of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These VOCs can be harmful to the environment when they get into the water course or into the atmosphere through burning. Recent EU rules have helped to reduce the amount of VOCs in paint products, and have encouraged paint manufacturers to offer a range of natural, greener paint options.

1. Milk Paint

Milk paint is made using a mixture of casein and earth pigments. Casein is a protein found in milk (hence the name). Milk paints give a smooth matt finish and are suitable for interior walls and furnishings, but unsuitable for humid areas or those susceptible to damp.

2. Natural/Organic Paint

Often made from vegetable or mineral extracts combined with natural oils and resins. In many cases, paint sold as natural or organic can contain some conventional paint pigments like titanium oxide, but the level of VOC emissions are still far lower than from conventional paints.

3. Lime Wash/Lime Paint

As the name suggests, lime wash is made from a base of lime mixed with natural pigments and dyes. Often used on traditional builds, lime wash gives both internal and external walls a soft, weathered look and feel.

4. VOC-Free Paint

Almost the same as ordinary paints, but without the VOCs. VOC-free paint tends to be more expensive than a comparable standard paint.

With all natural paints, the general rule is to use them soon after purchase. This is because they contain few (if any) preservatives and will not last as long in the tin as conventional paints. You also need to take into account longer drying times because natural paints contain no chemical drying agents.