types of paint

Types of Paint — How To Choose the Right Paint (Complete DIY Guide)

Have you ever found yourself entirely baffled by all the different types of paint and their many finishes? This comprehensive guide demystifies 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. 

Table of Contents

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 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 powerful and used intelligently; it can be a beacon for inspiration.”

Once you’ve narrowed your colour options and 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 personal 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 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 and unsure how much paint you’ll need, paint calculators can be beneficial. The paint calculators on the B&Q and Dulux websites 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 and our health. High or regular VOC exposure can cause headaches, nausea, and skin irritation. 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 paint brushes.

Water-based Paints

acrylic white paint and paint brush

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

Overall, water-based paints retain excellent colour, dry faster, and 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, the 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 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 a 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 of emulsion does what it says on the tin; it only needs one coat. It’s also high-opacity and has excellent coverage. However, it becomes patchy if you try to spread it too thinly. 

New Plaster Emulsion

New plaster emulsions are specially designed for painting freshly plastered walls, allowing moisture from drying plaster to escape. Regular paint traps 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

Have you spent hours painting a wall white, leaving it to dry and returning 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 paint rollers. You can use a paint brush, but we recommend a short-pile roller for better coverage. 

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 when 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 with marks, dips, or 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 significantly increased 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 acrylics or oils, there are 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 various colours. While high-street retailers follow the chalk paint trend, their colour ranges are limited and more expensive than other paints. 

Oil-based Paint

decorator painting skirting board

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

The resin forms a hard film as the solvent evaporates during the paint-drying process. 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. 
  • Water-based paints are flexible and more effective at resisting damage from changing temperatures. 

Painting Exteriors 

  • If you want 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 under UV exposure, 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. 
  • On the other hand, water-based paints can only tolerate small amounts of moisture. The moisture can thin out the paint, 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

varnish tin and brush

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, 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 paint bare timber, you first sand and seal the wood. Next, 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

Using a primer creates 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, blocking 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 want to brighten a dim room, glossier paint will reflect more light.
  3. Any imperfections. The glossier the paint, the more pronounced the flaws. So, go with a matt finish if you paint a wall with blemishes or marks.

We’ve broken down the various finishes in the section below.


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 (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 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, like gloss, a silk finish reveals any lumps or bumps on 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 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 receive 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 that it reveals any imperfections. Gloss looks great in paler colours and on skirting boards against a matt wall. 


The shiniest of all paints, high-gloss (aka 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, ensure you’re extra careful, as imperfections such as brush marks are evident if not applied correctly. 

Pro Tip: If you’re still unsure what paint finish is best for your project, check out the video below:

YouTube player

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 decorating our homes, we typically think about the interiors, but what about the exterior? A coat of paint is a great way to dramatically up your home’s kerb appeal. 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, 93% of us are more likely to attend a house viewing if the exterior is well maintained.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for other ways to boost your home’s saleability, check out 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

decorator painting textured wall

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 prevents flames from spreading by releasing flame-dampening gas. These life-saving 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 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, cutting your project times in half compared with oil-based paint. 

Quick-dry paint is available for various surfaces, including wood, metal and plaster. By using quick-dry paint, your surface can be touch-dry within an hour.

Light Reflective Paint

Light-reflective paints are a great way to boost brightness if you want to brighten a room. 

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, 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 that 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, dries fast and produces a slight odour. 

Radiator Paint

painting radiator with white radiator paint

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

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 brick, stone, cement and render surfaces. They’re available in various finishes, from smooth to different textures.

Water-based Masonry Paint

Most masonry paints are emulsions with anti-mould additives designed for exterior surfaces. 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 out 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 manufacturer’s guidelines. Solvent-based masonry paints can be applied in almost any weather and dry without issues. However, we never recommend painting in the rain! 

Reinforced Masonry Paint

Reinforced masonry paint is perfect for coastal districts, including powdered mica, which 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, 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 very cost-effective 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 decorate any surface with cement paint, spray it with water before applying two coats. 

Pro Tip: Add sand to the mix if your wall is dense or treated with a stabilising solution. Add one part 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 paint, ensure your floor is clean and dry, and no oil is 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 go around the edges with a paint brush. 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 emulsions, so they can cope with hard scrubbing without damaging your paintwork. 

Choosing the Best Paint for the Job — Surfaces

This section looks at the best types of paint for each 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 off 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 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, 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. You only need two coats on your woodwork for the perfect high-sheen look. 

Polish Wood Finish

A polished wood finish gives a fantastic mirror finish to timber. 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 each paint type’s expected coverage.

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. Certain super matt paints have great coverage if you’re short on time, even on drying plaster. 

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/primer has dried, you can treat your wall like any other plastered wall.


Before painting your 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. Like 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 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 paint brush that doesn’t shed.

Choosing the Best Paint for the Job — Rooms

This section looks at the best types of interior paint for each room.


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 durable, and their light-reflective properties give you extra brightness. 

We’d choose satin paint on the walls with semi-gloss on any kitchen cabinets. Both finishes resist heavy cleaning, and satin paints resist 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, gloss paints reflect light and stand up to more regular and rigorous cleaning. 

You can find whole ranges of bathroom 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 want 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 matt 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 determine whether you have oil or water-based paint on your wall. Dip a cloth into the spirit and wipe it over the wall. If pigment appears on your cloth, water-based paint is 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 and 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 stand up to stains, mildew and dirt extremely well. 

Pro Tip: We’ve found that most people paint their ceilings in a white or ivory shade, making 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 out 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.

Paint Brushes

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


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

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

Paint Pads 

Paint pads are great for tight spots and work well with 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 and its various types, finishes and colours. If you’re still confused, the video below summarises what to consider when choosing the right paint for your next painting project. 

YouTube player

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