types of paint uk

Types of Paint in 2021 (Complete UK Guide)

Have you ever found yourself entirely baffled by all the different types of paint and their many finishes? In this comprehensive guide, we demystify paint so you can confidently choose the right paint for your project.

We’ll take you through everything you need to know, from choosing the perfect palette to which type of paint and finish you’ll need. 

Choosing Your Colour Palette 

colour palette samples

Before you start any project, choosing your colour palette is the first crucial step. If you’re stuck, start with three colours. It’s balanced visually whilst also giving you enough variation without overwhelming the room. Start with a neutral shade and then choose two tones or shades that complement the first colour. 

Jean-Michel Gathy, a world-renowned architect and interior designer, states that colour is the most critical element when decorating. In an interview with House Beautiful, Gathy says: “colour has an immediate effect on mood – the ability to calm or invigorate – and creates energy and depth of field. It’s a powerful thing and used intelligently; it can be a beacon for inspiration.”

Once you’ve begun to narrow down your colour options and you have two or three potential winners, ask for sample paint pots to test at home. Next, grab some A4 paper and apply two coats of each colour. Once dry, Blu-Tac them to your wall to see what the colours look like in different lighting. 

By painting your swatches, you’ll be able to assess the room’s colour and check how the colours will work in rooms that are linked together. We always recommend creating your own swatches over ready-made sample cards, as even larger cards can be deceptive. 

Top tips for choosing your colour palette: 

  • When choosing your colour palette, consider the rooms which are visible to one another. Take a walk through your house and see which spaces you can see from each room. 
  • If swatches don’t help you visualise the room in a particular colour, technology is your friend! Dulux has an excellent Visualiser app that uses augmented reality to show you what your room would look like in a specific colour. 

How Much Paint Do You Need? 

If you’re not used to painting big spaces, or you’re just unsure of how much paint you’ll need, paint calculators can be beneficial. The paint calculators on the B&Q and Dulux website are useful for getting a more accurate idea of how much paint you’ll need based on wall measurements.  

Pigment, Binders, Liquids, Additives, and VOCs: What does it all mean?

colorful powder pigments

Understanding paint terminology will help you understand the different types of paint available and what works for your project. 


The pigment is particles of finely ground powder that provide the colour element of paint. The most common pigments come from titanium dioxide. 


Binders are the polymers that bind pigment together to form a strong film. In oil-based paints, you’re looking for linseed or modified oil. In water-based paints, you’re looking for 100% acrylic binders.


Liquids hold the pigment and binders together, evaporating as the paint dries. You’ll find mineral spirits in oil-based paints and water in water-based paints. 

When the mineral spirits in oil-based paints evaporate, a hard film/coating is left behind. Water-based paints remain durable as conditions change, improving colour longevity. 


Along with pigment and binders, the manufacturing process adds additives to the paint. Additives give paint unique qualities, such as quick-dry, non-drip and glossiness.


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are organic solvents released as the paint dries, producing a strong odour.

VOCs are highly flammable and can harm the environment as well as our health. High or regular exposure to VOCs can cause headaches, nausea, and skin irritation for some people. When using oil-based paints, it’s vital to ensure adequate ventilation and airflow. 

As their name suggests, water-based paints primarily consist of water. Water-based paints release fewer VOCs and are better for the environment and our health.

Pro Tip: To learn more about harmful chemicals in paint, check out this guide from allergy standards. As you’ll read in their guide, understanding what chemicals are in paint is especially important for those suffering from asthma and allergies.

Different Types of Paint

Understanding the differences in paint types is essential for picking paint that looks great and will also stand the test of time.

A paint’s formula and binder are essential to its colour durability. The formula also determines how the paint soaks into various surfaces and how smoothly it applies using paintbrushes.

Water-based Paints

acrylic white paint and paint brush

Water-based paints typically consist of pigment and binder, with water used as the carrier. They’re also the most common and environmentally friendly type of paint. 

Overall, water-based paints have excellent colour retention, dry faster and tend to produce less odour.

Advantages of water-based paint

  • Dries quickly, with much less odour released
  • Fewer VOCs, so better for your health and the environment
  • Easy to clean up (just soap and water)
  • Resistant to cracking due to its flexible finish
  • Excellent colour retention
  • Resistant to UV rays (doesn’t yellow or fade in the sun)

Disadvantages of water-based paint

  • Colours aren’t always as vivid as oil-based paints.
  • Less durable
  • If the surface gets wet, paint comes undone.

Different Types of Water-based Paint

Acrylic Paint 

Acrylic paint comprises pigment in an acrylic polymer solution with acrylic resin. Due to these chemicals, acrylic paint has better elasticity than other paints, which allows it to expand and contract with changing temperatures, reducing any cracking. Furthermore, it’s sun-resistant and unaffected by UV rays, making acrylic paint an excellent exterior paint option. 

Acrylic paint also dries incredibly quickly, which is useful when painting a smaller area but can make painting larger rooms harder. 

It’s important to note that acrylic paints do not mix well with oil-based paints and won’t form a bond. 

Emulsion (Latex) Paints

Emulsion paint – or latex paint to our friends across the pond – is water-based paint with vinyl or acrylic added for extra durability. 

Emulsions are primarily used for painting walls & ceilings and come in a wide range of finishes: gloss, satin, eggshell, silk, matt or flat matt. 

One Coat Emulsion

One coat emulsion does what it says on the tin; it only needs one coat. It’s also high-opacity and has excellent coverage. However, if you try to spread it too thinly, it becomes patchy. 

New Plaster Emulsion

Specially designed for painting freshly plastered walls, new plaster emulsions allow moisture from drying plaster to escape. Regular paint traps in moisture, causing your paint to flake.

Anti-mould Emulsion

Anti-mould emulsion has a special fungicide additive that prevents mould and mildew growth. 

Colour-fugitive Emulsion

Ever spent hours painting a wall white, left it to dry and returned to find it patchy and missing spots? Colour-fugitive Emulsion goes on pink but dries white, ensuring evenly covered white surfaces. 

Solid Emulsion

Instead of being supplied in your standard tin, solid emulsion paints come in a tub, perfect for emulsion paint rollers. You can use a paintbrush, but for better coverage, we recommend a short-pile roller. 

What’s the Difference Between Emulsions and Acrylic paints?

Emulsions and acrylic paints are quite similar, and both feature acrylic resin in their makeup. However, we recommend using emulsion if you’re painting larger areas as it offers better value per litre. 

Acrylic paint is typically used more for artwork, whilst emulsions are more prevalent in homes and commercial projects. 

Vinyl Paints

Vinyl paints work well on ceilings as their unique formula gives them a smooth finish and a discreet sheen. This finish makes vinyl paints perfect for surfaces that have marks and dips or for freshly plastered areas. 

Vinyl paint is thick, so two coats are perfect for covering walls and ceilings with a smooth finish. Also, the resin in vinyl paint makes it resilient.

Thanks to their light-reflecting properties, they brighten darker spaces or make them seem bigger using vinyl paint. 

Clay and Chalk Paints

Clay and chalk paints have seen a significant rise in popularity over the last few years. They are the go-to favourites for upcycling projects and children’s bedrooms. 

As clay/chalk paints don’t contain any acrylics or oils, there’s no strong odours or high-level VOCs.

Over the last few years, companies such as Frenchic and Annie Sloan have developed a beautiful range of chalk paints in a wide variety of colours. While high-street retailers follow the chalk paint trend, their colour ranges tend to be limited and more expensive than other paints. 

Oil-based Paint

painting skirting board with white oil-based paint

Oil-based paints either contain natural oils (like linseed oil) or synthetic alkyd with pigment and resin.

As the solvent evaporates during the paint drying process, the resin forms a hard film. This film makes oil-based paints incredibly durable. It also makes them stain-resistant, making oil-based paints ideal for skirting boards, railings and mouldings. 

Advantages of oil-based paints

  • Glossy finish
  • Great for rooms with lots of moisture like bathrooms and kitchens
  • Durable finish – perfect for high-traffic areas

Disadvantages of oil-based paints

  • Longer drying time 
  • Messy – always have paint thinner, mineral spirits and turpentine nearby when working with oil-based paints.
  • Contain much more VOCs
  • Produce a strong odour when drying

Oil-based vs Water-based Paints: Which is better? 

There’s no clear winner, as each type has its pros & cons. 

The paint type you choose depends on your project. For example, water-based paints are better for bedrooms (and your health), whereas Oil-based paints are better suited for bathrooms and kitchens. 

Still unsure which one to choose? The points below may help:


  • Oil-based paints typically provide a higher level of sheen. However, this sheen will fade and become duller over time.
  • Water-based paints provide a lower level of sheen, but this sheen is longer-lasting.


  • Due to the resin in oil-based paints, they typically dry harder and leave a durable film. 
  • Unfortunately, this film means there isn’t much flexibility in the finish, making oil-based paints more liable to crack, flake or become brittle over time. Oil-based paints are also prone to yellowing. 
  • Water-based paints have made giant leaps and bounds over the last few years, giving them increased durability. 
  • As water-based paints are flexible, they’re more effective at resisting damage from changing temperatures. 

Painting Exteriors 

  • If you’re looking to paint an exterior surface, you’re best going with water-based paint.
  • As mentioned above, water-based paints have a more flexible finish, making them excellent at expanding and contracting in changing temperatures. 
  • Water-based paints resist more UV rays than oil-based paints. Oil-based paints break down when exposed to UV rays, creating a chalky residue. 

Application and Painting 

  • It typically takes more time to complete painting projects with oil-based paints as they’re slower to dry and go on thicker. Oil-based paints have an almost ‘sticky’ feel to them. 
  • Due to higher VOCs, oil-based paints produce harmful emissions and that ‘fresh paint’ smell. 
  • Water-based paints have substantially fewer VOCs. 

Painting Conditions

  • If your surface isn’t bone dry, you can run into some issues with oil-based paints as they repel water, leaving the paint unable to form a solid adhesive bond. 
  • Water-based paints, on the other hand, can tolerate small amounts of moisture. The moisture can thin out the paint a tiny bit, but it won’t affect the bond. 


  • Thanks to water-based paints having a water solvent, brushes, rollers and accessories are washable with water.
  • Oil-based paints require a thinner or turpentine for clean-up. 

Choosing the most suitable paint for your project will depend on many factors. Hopefully, breaking down the key differences between oil-based and water-based paints will help you choose the right paint for your project. 

Paint Protective System

paint protective system

It’s essential to build up your paint layers as this creates your paint protective system, adding durability to your paintwork.

If you’re painting walls or ceilings, it’s a straightforward system consisting of two or three coats of the same paint. Depending on the finish you’re painting onto, you might also need to apply a primer. 

Painting woodwork or metal surfaces is a more complicated process. You need to build up the layers using various paints with different qualities. For example, if you are painting bare timber, you start by sanding and sealing the wood. Next, you use a primer to apply an undercoat, painting the wood in one or two coats of your finish colour. Finally, you apply a topcoat in the same colour. 

Primer and Undercoats

By using a primer, you create an even surface of absorption that balances out any variable adhesion, giving you a uniform surface. Primer acts as the foundation for your paint. You can get primers that are suitable for both water-based and oil-based paints. 

An undercoat evens out the surface and gives you a level base. Undercoats also provide a consistent topcoat colour, as it blocks any underlying colours from bleeding through the paint. 

If you’re going for a pale pink topcoat, apply a pale undercoat. Alternatively, a dark undercoat gives the topcoat a richer or darker finish. 

Pro Tip: when painting interiors, it’s OK to use a 2-in-1 combined primer/undercoat. 

Not sure whether you need to use a primer or an undercoat? If the surface is already painted, use an undercoat. If the surface is bare, use a primer.

Getting the Perfect Paint Finish: Different Types of Finishes 

Do you know your super-glosses from your silks? With so many finishes available, how do you know which finish will produce your desired look? 

When choosing the finish for any project, there are three elements you need to consider:

  1. Traffic. Possibly one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a finish. Rooms with heavier traffic, like kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms, need a more durable paint finish like a gloss.
  2. Sheen level. Professionals categorise a paint’s finish by its lustre, shininess or sheen level, which measures light reflecting from the painted surface. So, if you’re looking to brighten a dim room, a glossier paint will reflect more light.
  3. Any imperfections. The glossier a paint, the more pronounced the flaws. So, if you’re painting a wall with blemishes or marks, go with a matt finish.

In the section below, we’ve broken down the various finishes with a quick explanation of each one.


painting furniture with white paint

Chalk paint gives a unique finish and has seen a rise in popularity over the past few years, especially in upcycling furniture. With a flat finish that creates the perfect shabby chic look, the sheen level is typically around 2/3%.


With a low sheen level, matt provides a smooth finish. Furthermore, matt offers the most coverage and requires fewer coats to achieve a smooth finish, hiding imperfections. However, matt is not the most durable and is best used in low traffic areas and on surfaces that aren’t touched regularly (e.g. ceilings). 

Flat Matt

With an even smoother finish than flat or matt, a flat mat has almost a velvety finish. 

Like regular matt, flat matt is excellent for coverage. As light barely reflects off flat matt, you’ll have similar colour across all surfaces, regardless of light levels. 

Flat matt works exceptionally well in darker colours and gives a great depth of colour. 

Super Matt

Super matt paints have the highest opacity, which gives them fantastic coverage and makes them perfect for surfaces with blemishes. 

In particular, super matt produces fantastic results on freshly plastered walls. Its thick formula means you need fewer coats to get a perfectly flat finish. 


If you want your walls as shiny as the surface of an egg, then eggshell is for you! With less sheen than silk or satin but not as flat as a matt, eggshell produces a classic look, especially on woodwork. 

Eggshell paints are also great for covering up imperfections and are typically more durable than matt finishes. 


Silk has a mid-sheen level, so silk surfaces look polished and reflect some light, but nowhere near as much as gloss. 

Silk looks lovely on walls and benefits from being durable. With silk, you can wipe down walls without worrying about the paint coming away from the wall. However, similar to gloss, a silk finish reveals any lumps or bumps in the surface. 

Before you use silk paint, be aware that it’s more likely to show brush strokes due to its sheen level.


Just like a silk finish, satin is a mid-sheen paint. Satin is typically used on woodwork to hide any imperfections and gives a lovely, smooth finish. 

Glossier than eggshell but flatter than semi-gloss, satin tends to give colours a softer appearance on wood. 


If you’re looking for an extremely durable, shiny and mildew-resistant finish, then semi-gloss is the paint of choice.

Semi-gloss paints work well in rooms that get a lot of wear & tear (e.g. kids’ rooms) or rooms that get damp, like kitchens and bathrooms. 

Remember, being a glossy paint means that any imperfections on the surface are more likely to show up in your finish. Proper preparation, such as an undercoat, can help mitigate this problem.


Gloss is a high-shine paint finish designed for wooden surfaces. Its sheen level is approximately 90%!

Ideally, you need a perfect surface to work with as gloss is so reflective, it reveals any imperfections. Gloss looks great in paler colours and on skirting boards set against a matt wall. 


The shiniest of all paints, high-gloss (sometimes known as super-gloss) is incredibly durable, making it ideal for high-traffic areas. 

As well as being an interior paint, great for doors, skirting boards and railings, high-gloss paints also work well for exterior paint jobs (e.g. shutters).

When using high-gloss paint, make sure you’re extra careful, as imperfections such as brush marks are evident if not applied correctly. 

Speciality Paints

man painting house exterior with white paint

Sometimes there are situations where you’ll need specialist paint to do the job. Luckily, there’s paint for every scenario. 

Exterior Paint

When it comes to decorating our homes, we’re typically thinking about the interiors, but what about outside? A coat of paint is a great way to dramatically up the kerb appeal of your home. In fact, according to a study by Dulux Weathershield Foundation, adding a lick of paint to your home’s exterior can increase its perceived value by up to 25%! 

The study also identified that flaky front doors are a huge pet peeve for us Brits, followed closely by cracked walls and crumbling masonry. Finally, a massive 93% of us are more likely to attend a house viewing if the exterior is well maintained.

Pro Top: If you’re looking for other ways to boost your home’s saleability, take a look at our blog post: 31 Home Improvements that Add Value

When choosing exterior paint, you need to take the weather into account. The surface – brick, wood and masonry all require different types of paint.

Textured Paint

painting exterior wall with white paint

If your wall or surface is structurally sound but has some cracking (up to 2mm wide), you can correct these cracks with a single coat of textured paint. These paints come in a variety of textures for various applications. For example, finer textures are better for heavy-traffic areas. 

Available in matt and satin finishes, we recommend applying textured paint using a coarse-foam roller. If you’re looking for a finer texture, use a synthetic roller. 

Fire Retardant Paint

Fire retardant paint prevent flames from spreading by releasing gas that has flame dampening properties. 

Fire retardant paints are typically water-based and work well for interiors and exteriors. 

Galvanised Steel Paint

Although not designed for galvanised steel, acrylic latex works well when combined with a primer. 

However, special galvanised steel paint is a better option. It requires less prep work, forms a better bond, and protects against the elements.

Quick-dry Paint

Typically, quick-dry paints are water-based, which can cut your project times in half compared with oil-based paint. 

Quick-dry paint is available for use on a wide variety of surfaces, including wood, metal and plaster. By using quick-dry paint, your surface can be touch-dry within an hour.

Light Reflective Paint

If you’re looking to brighten up a room, light-reflective paints are a great way to boost brightness. 

These special paints make spaces feel up to 40% brighter than regular paints using unique light-reflecting particles. If you’re looking for light-reflective paint, take a look at Dulux’s Light & Space range

Enamel Paint

Enamel paints are oil-based paints that dry with a high gloss finish. They’re great for coating surfaces or objects that need a weather-resistant finish. 

Use enamel paints for garden furniture or outside surfaces that must be hard-wearing and withstand temperature changes. 

Anti-Mould Paint

Anti-mould paints are durable matt emulsions used to prevent mould growth on walls and ceilings. They’re particularly beneficial in high moisture rooms, like kitchens and bathrooms. 

Tile Paint

Painting tiles is a quick & easy way to refresh your décor. Tile paint is water-based, so it dries fast and produces a slight odour. 

Radiator Paint

painting radiator with white radiator paint

When painting your radiators, we recommend using specialist radiator paint like Hammerite’s Radiator Enamel Paint or non-drip gloss paint. 

Radiators should always be cleaned and primed before painting. For best results, take the radiator off the wall if possible. 

Masonry Paint

Masonry paints are designed for use on surfaces, such as brick, stone, cement and render. They’re available in a range of finishes, from smooth to different textures.

Water-based Masonry Paint

Most masonry paints are water-based, as they’re effectively emulsions for exterior surfaces with anti-mould additives. They’re generally ready to use straight out of the tin, but we recommend mixing the first coat with 20% water. Then top up with one or two topcoats as necessary. 

Be warned; only apply water-based masonry paints in good weather. If it’s damp or humid, the paint won’t dry properly and will flake. 

Solvent-based Masonry Paint

Some masonry paints thin with solvent or white spirit, which gives them the benefits of water-based paints and the durability of oil-based paints. Unlike most oil-based paints, they’re moisture-vapour permeable, ensuring that the surface can breathe in various weather conditions. 

We recommend thinning your first coat with 15% white spirit but double-check the manufacture guidelines. Solvent-based masonry paints can be applied in almost any weather and dry without any issues. However, we never recommend painting in the rain! 

Reinforced Masonry Paint

Perfect for coastal districts, reinforced masonry paint includes powdered mica that makes painted surfaces incredibly waterproof. It also dries with a textured finish. 

As with most projects, you must fill any significant holes or cracks before painting, but reinforced masonry paint covers most hairline cracks and fractures. 

What Masonry Paint Should I use on each Surface?

The matrix below shows you what type of masonry paint works on each surface. The matrix also covers recommended drying time, paint thinners, the number of coats and the expected coverage of each paint type.

Note: Circle denotes compatibility. All surfaces must be clean, sound, dry and free from organic growth. Data source: Collins DIY Manual

Cement Paint

Cement paint is perfect for garages and cellars or other areas where you’re looking for utilitarian decor. It has a matt finish with a white cement base with pigment added to achieve a range of colours. 

Cement paint is a very cost-effective paint because it comes as a dried powder for you to mix with water. Mix two parts of cement powder with one part water in a clean bucket. Stir until you have a smooth paste, add more water and continue stirring until you have a complete, creamy consistency. Only mix as much paint as you’ll use in an hour; otherwise, it starts to dry in your bucket.

Before you paint any surface with cement paint, spray it with water before applying two coats. 

Pro Tip: If your wall is dense or treated with a stabilising solution, add sand to the mix. Add one part of sand to four parts powder, but only add the sand when you’re at the paste-like stage. If the sand changes the colour of your paint, only use it for the first coat. 

Concrete Floor Paint

Floor paints include special additives to make them extra hard-wearing. Concrete floor paints are particularly suitable for garages and sheds with concrete floors. They’re also used for stone steps and paving stones. 

Before using concrete floor paint, make sure your floor is clean, dry, and there’s no oil present. If you’re working with freshly laid concrete, allow it to rest for at least one month before painting. If your flooring is porous, we advise priming the floor before you paint using a proprietary concrete sealer like Everest’s Ultimate Concrete Sealer.

The best way to paint your floor is to first go around the edges with a paintbrush. Next, use a roller fitted with an extension pole to tackle the rest of the floor. 

Washable Paint

If you have toddlers or furry friends with muddy paws, washable paint is for you!

Typically, washable paints are emulsions with a matt finish. They’re more hard-wearing than regular emulsion, so they can cope with hard scrubbing without damaging your paintwork. 

Choosing the Best Paint for the Job – Surfaces

In this section, we look at which paints are best suited for each type of surface.


woman painting woodwork

When painting woodwork, use gloss paint, as they’re incredibly durable and reflect lots of light. 

In the past, gloss paints were oil-based and would give off lots of VOCs. Nowadays, gloss paints are mostly water-based, meaning they dry quickly and are less toxic. 

Remember, gloss is unforgiving and will show brush marks if not applied correctly, so always use an undercoat. 

A quick note about Stains, Varnishes, Lacquers and Polish Wood finishes

Once you’ve painted your woodwork, why not go the extra mile and create an exceptional finish? Stains, varnishes, lacquers and polished wood are the four most common finishes for woodwork.


Whether you’re looking to stain a wood floor or upcycle furniture, wood stains are easy to apply, accentuate the wood’s grain and come in various colours. Stains come in both water-based and oil-based variations. 

varnish dripping from a paint brush

Varnishes are clear, colourless and dry quickly. They’re a great way to create a rigid, transparent finish on any wood. They work particularly well with stains, allowing the stain’s beauty to shine through while adding an extra layer of protection. 

Vanishes aren’t great for woodwork exposed to weather or extreme temperatures. If you use an oil-based varnish, make sure you always work in a well-ventilated area and wear the correct PPE. 


Thinner than other wood finishes, lacquer penetrates deeper into the wood and provides a durable seal that protects the wood inside out. For the perfect high-sheen look, you only need to use two coats on your woodwork. 

Polish Wood Finish

A polished wood finish gives a fantastic mirror finish to wood. Use a few coats to achieve the perfect high-shine finish. 

What Finish Should I use on each Type of Woodwork?

The matrix below shows you what finish works on each type of woodwork and the methods to apply it. The matrix also covers recommended drying time, thinners, the number of coats and the expected coverage of each paint type.

Note: Circle denotes compatibility. All surfaces must be clean, sound, dry and free from organic growth. Data source: Collins DIY Manual

Wet Plaster

Painting a freshly plastered wall requires more preparation than a regular wall. Ideally, you should give fresh plaster about a week to fully dry out before starting to paint. If you’re short on time, certain super matt paints have great coverage, even on fresh plaster that is still drying out (e.g. Dulux’s Trade Supermatt). 

If you can give fresh plaster the proper time it needs to dry, then the first coat should be a mist coat with a watered-down emulsion (three parts emulsion to one part water) which acts as a primer. Alternatively, you can use a water-based primer as the first coat. Make sure you give your mist coat 24 hours to dry before applying your topcoat. Once your mist coat or primer has dried, you can treat your wall like any other plastered wall.


Before painting plasterboard, double-check that the boards are correctly joined together, sealed and sanded down. 

Plasterboard is very porous and soaks up moisture like a sponge. Similar to painting fresh plaster, applying a mist coat or primer produces much better results.


painting metal railings

Before painting any material, we always recommend using a primer or undercoat. Applying a primer is even more essential if you’re painting metal that comes into contact with moisture. 

You can either use water-based acrylic paint or oil-based paint for your metal surfaces. Ensure the paint you’ve chosen is for metals (which it will say somewhere on the label). 

If you opt for oil-based paint, remember that they take much longer to dry than water-based paints. You’ll also need a good-quality paintbrush that doesn’t shed.

Choosing the Best Paint for the Job – Rooms

In this section, we look at which paints are best suited for each room in your house.


As kitchens are high-traffic areas with lots of moisture, we always recommend glossy paint, such as a silk or satin finish. These paints are very durable to hard scrubbing, and their light-reflective properties give you extra brightness. 

We’d opt for satin paint on the walls with semi-gloss on any kitchen cabinets. Both finishes are very resistant to heavy cleaning, and satin paints are excellent at resisting dirt, mildew, and stains.


Similarly to your kitchen, bathrooms are high-traffic spaces with high moisture levels. 

We recommend using semi-gloss or gloss as they’re moisture-resistant, thus reducing mildew and damp risk. Furthermore, being gloss paints, they reflect light and stand up to more regular and rigorous cleaning. 

You can find whole ranges of bathroom & kitchen paints that are extra resistant to steam, moisture and mildew.


As bedrooms are low to medium-traffic spaces, choosing the perfect finish depends on your room’s size and the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve.

If your room is small and you’re looking to maximise natural light, a gloss finish makes the room feel brighter and more prominent. However, if you’ve got a bigger space and you’re looking for a cosier vibe, matt paint with a smooth, velvety finish brings depth to any large room.

Living Room

Living rooms are similar to bedrooms in that they’re low to medium-traffic spaces and do not suffer rigorous wipe downs. Therefore, we recommend a flat or matt paint finish. Having said that, we’ve found that many homeowners opt for water-based paints with a satin or eggshell finish as they like the way gloss reflects light, making their rooms lovely and bright. 

Eggshell is a nice middle-ground for living rooms as it’s more durable than matt but not as shiny as satin or gloss paint. 

Remember, if you’re looking to hide any imperfections in your walls, we recommend a flat or matt over a glossy paint.

Small Rooms

If you’re painting a relatively small room, consider opting for glossy paint, making the room feel bigger thanks to its light-reflective properties.

Painting Walls and Ceilings – General Tips 

let plaster dry out and paint

Whether you choose water-based or oil-based paint, it’s essential to know what’s already on your walls and how you plan to cover them. For example, water-based paints are fine when painting over existing oil-based paint, but you can’t paint over water-based paints with oil-based paints. 

It’s easy to find out whether you have oil or water-based paint on your wall. Simply dip a cloth into the spirit and wipe it over the wall. If pigment appears on your cloth, you have water-based paint on your wall. If not, it’s oil-based. 

Damaged Walls

If you’re looking for great coverage on walls with marks, small holes, or are slightly bumpy, use matt paint. 

Matt paints have a thicker formula, better coverage, and their flatter appearance makes imperfections less noticeable. 


When painting your ceilings, a satin emulsion is a great choice. Or, if you’re painting a room with plenty of moisture, like a kitchen or bathroom, we recommend a semi-gloss emulsion. These emulsion paints are excellent at standing up to stains, mildew and dirt. 

Pro Tip: We’ve found that most people choose to paint their ceilings in a white or ivory shade as it makes the room seem more open and the ceilings taller.  

Paint Thinners

When your paint is too thick, you can’t apply it correctly. To fix this, use paint thinners to thin out your lumpy paint. 

Oil-based paints are thinned with white spirit, while emulsions thin with acrylic paint and water. 

Pro Tip: Some paints with particular finishes may need special thinners that you can only get from the manufacturer. 

Applying Paint

roller with green paint

This section covers all the tools for applying paint, including the best tool for each paint and surface type.


You can use paintbrushes for almost any type of paint or surface. We recommend using high-quality paint brushes as you’ll avoid loose bristles falling out.


A roller with interchangeable sleeves is a handy tool, covering an area roughly 3x faster than a paintbrush. You can use a roller for almost any type of paint. 

Choose long-haired, synthetic rollers for textured surfaces. For smooth surfaces and paints with a gloss or satin finish, go for a shorter pile. For floors and ceilings, choose a roller that can attach to an extension pole.

Paint Pads 

Paint pads are great for tight spots and work well with most oil and water-based paints. However, we don’t recommend using paint pads with oil finishes, colour preserving paints or wax polishes.

Paint Sprayers

Paint sprayers can save you lots of time and provide excellent coverage. 

Paint sprayers work with various finishes, including water-based paints, oil-based paints, wood stains and varnishes. However, we don’t recommend using a paint sprayer with oil/wax polishes or textured and cement paints. 

What Paint and Painting Tools Should I use on each Surface?

The matrix below shows you what type of paint works on each surface and the tools you can use to apply each paint. The matrix also covers recommended drying time, paint thinners, the number of coats and the expected coverage of each paint type.

Note: Circle denotes compatibility. All surfaces must be clean, sound, dry and free from organic growth. Data source: Collins DIY Manual

Types of Paint – Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand the complicated world of paint, with its various types, finishes and colours. 

For more information on different types of paint and how best to apply them, please check out our other paint-related posts.