Paint Glossary: All About Paint, Color and Tools
Learn what type of paint to use, which tools will work best and the basics for picking color schemes.
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All About Paint
Latex Paint: Often called "acrylic latex" because it contains a plastic resin made of acrylics or polyvinyls to help it adhere better (see Water-Based Paint).
Oil-Based Paint: Commonly used on molding, cabinets and furniture. It provides a protective coating and creates a smoother finish than water-based paint.
To tell whether your current wall color is water- or oil-based, douse a white cloth with rubbing alcohol and rub it on the wall (in an out-of-the-way spot). If the paint softens and begins to transfer onto the cloth, it is water based. If the alcohol does not remove any color, it is oil-based.
Primer: Used to seal bare surfaces and provide a base for paint to grab on to. If you've spackled your walls, priming is a must to prevent the spackle from bleeding through the paint. Use water-based primer on new drywall, previously painted walls (including those that have been patched, repaired or stained), galvanized metal and nonferrous metals. Use oil-based primer on severely stained or damaged walls, on paneling, under wallpaper, and on wrought iron, ferrous metal and raw wood.
Sheen: A paint's sheen gives it a certain finish and quality. There are several options:
- Matte/Flat – Smooth finish, has little or no sheen. Helps hide surface imperfections but may suffer damage more easily than other finishes. Best for low-traffic areas.
- Eggshell – Velvety sheen, easy to clean. Great middle-of-the-road option between flat and high gloss. Gives a flatter look than glossy paint but still provides hard-wearing and protective coating.
- Satin – Silky, pearl-like finish, stain-resistant. Creates protective shell that resists moisture and mildew. Good for kitchens, bathrooms and high-traffic areas.
- Semigloss – Sleek, radiant and high resistance to moisture. Good for cabinets, doors and windows.
- High Gloss – Very durable and easy to clean. Its glass-like finish makes it good for trim and molding.
Water-Based Paint: (Latex paint is often called water-based) Commonly used on walls and ceilings, it is less toxic and easier to clean up than oil-based paints. Water-based paint comes in a variety of sheens including matte, eggshell or high-gloss.
Water-based paint works well on surfaces previously painted with latex or flat oil-base paints. It usually doesn’t adhere well to high-gloss finishes, however, and cannot be used on bare steel because it will rust it. Water-based paint can be used on top of wallpaper, but there is a risk that the water in the paint may cause the paper to peel away from the wall.
The decorating experts at HGTV.com share tips for choosing which paint finish is right for your room.(9 photos)