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How to Choose the Right Paint

By Edited Jan 11, 2015 1 0
How to Choose the Right Paint
Credit: Opensource

Painting the inside or outside of your home is one of the quickest and easiest options to spruce up your house. It is relatively cheap and can be done over a weekend, depending on the size of the room or the size of the area you are focusing on.

When deciding to paint, the most important decision is not what color you are going to choose, but the type of paint you will be using. Each type has its pros and cons and how your finished product ends up will be determined by this crucial decision at the beginning before any brush or roller is dipped.

So where do you begin? How do you decide between latex or an oil based paint, flat or satin and whether you should you use a primer or not?

Types of Paint

Paint is divided into two types and every other choices you make will just be a variation on these two choices.


  • Dominates the market
  • Water based, durable
  • Spills and brushes clean easily with soap and water
  • Initially contained rubber, but now is produced with resins such as acrylic
  • Once dried, it is durable and washable


  • Became known as oil based paint because it is composed of linseed oil
  • Not water based so it is not water soluble which will be an issue if you mistakenly spill some on the floor
  • Must clean spills and brushes with paint thinner
  • Still used mostly as a primer because it seals in stains
  • Paint fumes are much stronger than latex paint
  • Provides a vapor barrier on the walls
  • Leaves a powdery coast when sanded that wipes off easily
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To Prime or not to Prime

Whether you choose latex or alkyd, you should you use a primer on the walls before you paint.  Primers contain a bonding agent that will adhere to any bare wall or other paint that was already on the wall. It is not simply clear paint. It serves an important purpose.

Once walls are primed, it prepares the surface for anything to stick to it. Furthermore, that first layer of primer really is like the first coat, so after you apply the color of paint you want, you do not need to apply a second coat of it.

Note: One tip is to tint the color of the primer with about half as much color as you will use in the top coat of paint. After you apply the top coat, it is like having two and a half coats on the walls.

Painting and Priming Wood

If you are painting wood, smoke and oil stains will eventually bleed though any paint unless you use a stain-blocking primer. These come in alkyd, latex aerosol and liquid versions, but for most wood situations, an alkyd or shellac based stain blocker works best to seal in stains before the top coat.

Types of Primers

Latex primers work the best in most situations but if you have a particularly rough wall, it is

How to Paint a Room
best to use an alkyd based primer. However, that will not affect the type of top coat you use. You can still use a latex paint over an alkyd primer.

Here is a breakdown on the types of primers available:

  • PVA Latex – seals new drywall for painting
  • All-purpose – can be used for metal, tile, laminates, plastics, glass and melamine
  • Latex stain blocker – blocks oil stains in wood and other items such as crayons, permanent markers, grease and water stains
  • Alcohol based shellac – adheres to anything and block smoke, oil and resin stains in wood while acting as a barrier against pet odors
  • Enamel – good for satin, semigloss or gloss paints for a better effect

Types of Paint Sheen

Once you have decided between latex or oil based paint and a primer, you will have to choose a sheen for the paint. A sheen is a reference to how much light the paint reflects. For instance, on one end of the spectrum, a flat paint absorbs more light, reflecting only about 5 – 10 percent of light. What that means is that it will hide imperfections more easily than say a gloss paint at the other end of the spectrum which reflects as much as 50 percent of light. Each sheen will vary the appearance of a color. For instance, a color on a flat sheen will look duller than the exact same color in a gloss version.

Here are the choices of sheens from the least reflective to the most reflective.

How to Choose the Right Paint
  • Flat – Absorbs more light so it hides dings or changes in the texture of the wall well but tends to show dirt more easily and you have to be careful when cleaning or scrubbing walls.
  • Eggshell – Also hides imperfections in the wall and is easier to clean so it has become one of the more popular choices in recent years despite reflecting more light than flat.
  • Satin – Easily washable with a silky finish.
  • Semigloss -  An extremely durable option that reflects between 35 and 50 percent of all light and is well suited for surfaces that get a lot of hand prints such as in areas like the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Gloss – A very durable sheen for areas that get a lot of use like a washroom or utility closet,  however, it is not a good choice to use in main areas because of its high shine that tends to highlight minor imperfections in the wall.

What to Buy for Your Painting Project

Now that you have a good idea of the pros and cons of each type and sheen of paint, it is time to go to the home improvement store and get the paint, the primer and all of your supplies. Here is a list of items that you can use as a check list.

  • Rags 
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • 1 quart bucket
  • Roller grid tray  
  • Painter’s tape 
  • Safety goggles
  • Round corner sponge
  • Latex and Sanding mask
  • Roller cages with a long handle
  • Sanding block with sand paper (120 grit)
  • Various quality brushes with different angles
  • Large Poly sheeting to protect areas from paint

How to Choose the Right Paint

Prepping and Painting the Walls

Now that you have all of your supplies, it is time to get to work on your weekend project. Hopefully you invited some friends over to help.

Wall prep work is the key to having a professional looking outcome. Do not skip over these steps.

  1. Wash the wall with a cleaning solution (soap and water is fine) then wipe it clean with a wet sponge.
  2. After the wall dries, look for imperfections and repair each with a surface compound or drywall repair ‘mud’. These things typically come in tubes for your convenience. Just squirts some in the hole or ding, let it dry, then sand it lightly.
  3. For gaps between the moldings on the ceiling  or around doors, use caulk to close those by applying a thin layer with a caulk gun, then running your wet finger along the caulk to smooth it out.
  4. Before you start to prime, run your hands across the walls and feel for any left over marks on the walls. Some people like to lightly sand the entire wall then wipe it down again with a rag. This only takes a few minutes and might be a good option, depending on the age of your walls.
  5. Protect any edges with painters tape, while apply the poly or canvas cloths down on the floor to protect those areas from paint.
  6. Begin priming with a roller.
  7. ‘Cut in’ along the edges with a brush.
  8. Lightly sand the wall again and wipe the dust off with a cloth.
  9. Paint during the daylight hours with lots of natural light available.
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Now you know what all of those descriptions on the paint cans at the store mean and you can make a more informed choice. With paint, it really is true, you get what you pay for so if you have a nice home and you want your painting masterpiece to fit in, do not cheap out on the paint. It will cause you more headaches and money because you will be repainting sooner rather than later.



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