best emulsion paint

Best Emulsion Paint – The Top 3 in 2021 (UK Buying Guide & Reviews)

Last Updated on 9 June 2021

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When it comes to the best emulsion paint, it’s often worth paying a little extra for a higher-quality product. High-quality paints have the texture and finish of single cream, whereas cheaper alternatives can resemble skimmed milk. 

Our three shortlisted products all claim to have near-identical coverage of between 12 and 13 square metres per litre. This number makes it easy to calculate how many tins or tubs you’ll need to complete a DIY job or whole-room refurbishment.

In a Hurry? Here’s our Top Pick for 2021:

Sale
Dulux Matt Emulsion Paint For Walls And Ceilings - Pure Brilliant White 5 Litres
  • For interior walls and ceilings
  • Capacity: 13m²/L per coat. This 5L can will cover 65m² with one coat (approx)
  • Unique creamy texture
  • Long lasting colour
  • Drying Time: 2-4 hours

Last update on 2021-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Show a Little Emulsion

Emulsion paint has a composition that makes it unsuitable for external use, while its array of matt and silk finishes wouldn’t work well on skirting boards or doors. For this reason, emulsion paint is very much a walls-and-ceilings product, and it’s generally advisable to lighten or darken existing wall shades incrementally. For example, applying white emulsion paint to a black wall requires numerous coats, whereas a magnolia wall only requires a single coat of emulsion.

Emulsion paint comes in a variety of different colours, though they’re usually pale or pastel. Our shortlisted Johnstone’s paint comes in 35 different hues, while Dulux offers 30 shades other than the Pure Brilliant White tested here. So, to ensure our review is fair, we’ve chosen the same shade of paint for all three shortlisted products.

Pro Tip: If you’re not sure whether a particular shade will complement or contrast against its surroundings, use a 30ml tester pot in an inconspicuous location (such as behind a sofa) before investing in enough paint to cover an entire room.

Brush Strokes

Even the best emulsion paint will look stippled or uneven if it’s not applied correctly. So we recently published a guide to the best rollers for emulsion paint. Similarly, our guide to the UK’s best paintbrushes will help you make light work of edges, corners and strips around windows or door frames where a roller is too large to reach.

For more advice on applying emulsion, this 15-minute YouTube video offers practical solutions to many common problems while decorating. We’ve also published a list of 27 top tips for painting a room without making a mess, which will appeal to anyone not blessed with a decorator’s instinct.

Try Not to React

Those of a sensitive disposition should be aware emulsion paint contains chemicals that may trigger an allergic reaction. Dulux’s contribution to our shortlist includes the snappily-titled ‘5-Chlor-2-methyl-2H-isothiazol-3-one’ and ‘2-Methyl-2H-isothiazol-3-one’

These compounds crop up everywhere, from fertiliser to cosmetics, and are better known as CIT and MIT, respectively. Some people are sensitive to these chemicals, so give yourself a while to acclimatise after opening the tin or tub, rather than rushing into a job you may have to suspend midway through.


The Best Emulsion Paint Shortlist

These are our picks as the best emulsion paints on the market, starting with a product drawn from a vast array of colours, finishes and sizes…

1. Dulux Matt Emulsion Paint

Sale
Dulux Matt Emulsion Paint For Walls And Ceilings - Pure Brilliant White 5 Litres
  • For interior walls and ceilings
  • Capacity: 13m²/L per coat. This 5L can will cover 65m² with one coat (approx)
  • Unique creamy texture
  • Long lasting colour
  • Drying Time: 2-4 hours

Last update on 2021-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For sheer diversity, it’s hard to look beyond Dulux’s range of emulsion paints. Although we’re reviewing the five-litre Pure Brilliant White Matt emulsion, it’s possible to get seven other finishes, from satin and silk to gloss and eggshell. You can buy 30ml tester pots and various tin sizes containing anything from 0.75 litres to five litres.

Dulux highlights the Chromalock technology incorporated into their paint, which they claim creates an invisible protective barrier. 

A five-litre tin covers 65 square metres, and our chosen colour delivers a consistently flat finish which customers report dries quickly with no drips. However, a water-based undercoat will never achieve as much coverage as an oil-based one, so you may find certain surfaces require a second application. 

Dulux also warns that the presence of ‘methyl-2H-isothiazol’ may cause allergic reactions in some users.

ProsCons
Extensive range of colours and finishesSome ingredients may trigger an allergic reaction
Competitively priced 

2. Johnstone’s No Ordinary Paint

Last update on 2021-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Part of an extensive range of matt and silk-finish paints across 35 pastel colours, we tested Johnstones’ Silk Pure Brilliant White emulsion. 

Reassuringly packaged in a sturdy metal tin, it initially looks poor value compared to the other two emulsions in this list. Yet, the overwhelmingly positive reviews for this product suggest it’s worth paying a little extra for the level of coverage it offers.

Thick and smooth, Johnstone’s paint is a low-odour product covering 13 metres per litre – precisely the same as Dulux. It dries quickly and consistently, meaning you can schedule second costs (if necessary) in confidence. There are few drips or streaks, so even a relatively amateurish decorator should be able to achieve a smooth finish with relatively little effort.

ProsCons
Good quality finishExpensive per litre
Huge range of colours 

3. Crown Matt Emulsion Paint

Sale
CROWN Matt Emulsion Paint 7.5L Pure Brilliant White
  • Crown Matt Emulsion Paint 7.5L
  • Pure Brilliant White colour
  • More details in description

Last update on 2021-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While Dulux and Johnstone’s offer plenty of choices, arch-rival Crown’s contribution to our shortlist of the best emulsion paints is all about value. 

Sacrificing metal tins for plastic tubs means it’s possible to buy 7.5 litres of their Pure Brilliant White emulsion for less than a 2.5-litre tin of competitor emulsions. That said, the eight-kilogram weight means this big tub requires a fair degree of upper-body strength lifting it in/out of a car boot or van. In addition, there are reports of the plastic tubs cracking and the lids failing, suggesting they can’t be stacked or roughly treated.

Some recent reviews of this product have been unfavourable, and you may need three coats to cover marks or soak into new plaster. However, it’s okay for applying to lighter or previously painted surfaces.

Crown promotes this emulsion as non-yellowing with a non-reflective finish. If you want different colours, you’ll have to explore the broader range of Crown paints.

ProsCons
Very well-pricedConcerns over coverage and packaging
One tub should do most jobs 

Final Thoughts

While Crown’s offering seems excellent value on paper, there are concerns about the thickness and coverage of recent batches – potentially suggesting a change in its composition. So unless value is paramount, we recommend looking at one of the other two products on our shortlist.

Value is the only thing counting against Johnstone’s entry, which has the widest choice of colours and offers generous coverage. However, costing almost twice as much per litre as Dulux’s offering, it’s simply too expensive. 

The Dulux range has 31 colours, offering identical coverage per litre. This consistent coverage, range of colours and price tag make Dulux our top pick for the best emulsion paint UK.


Best Emulsion Paint – Comparison Table

ModelCoverageVolumeColours in rangePackagingRating
Dulux Matt Emulsion Paint135 litres31Tin9
Johnstones No Ordinary Paint132.5 litres35Tin7
Crown Matt Emulsion Paint127.5 litres1Plastic tub6