Brushing up: how to choose the right paint

Choosing the right paint is an integral part of any room makeover, but it’s not as simple as just picking a shade that matches your curtains. With so many different products to choose from, each with different qualities that make it suitable for different applications, getting it right can be a minefield. Luckily, a little […]

Choosing the right paint is an integral part of any room makeover, but it’s not as simple as just picking a shade that matches your curtains. With so many different products to choose from, each with different qualities that make it suitable for different applications, getting it right can be a minefield. Luckily, a little preparation can ensure you achieve the look you’re aiming for, every time.

The basics

There are various ways to classify paints, from where they’re used (interior versus exterior, for example) to what they’re made from (oil-based, water-based or even chalk-based). Before we get ourselves too confused, though, let’s start with basic emulsion paint, which is a common choice for interiors.

Emulsion is a water-based paint that’s usually used for walls and ceilings. It’s available in a number of finishes. Matte emulsion is the “flattest” of these; in other words, it has no sheen to it. This means it gives good coverage on most plaster surfaces, but it also absorbs light and isn’t particularly hard-wearing; you can’t scrub it too hard, or it will rub away.

For something with a bit more sheen, not to mention increased durability, choose a satin- or silk-­finish emulsion. Generally, the silk finish is associated with walls, while satin is used on woodwork. Eggshell is another option, somewhere between a matte and a silk or satin finish in terms of sheen. It can be oil- or water-based, and can be used on walls, as well as wood and metalwork.

At the top of the sheen scale are gloss and semi-gloss paints, which are oil-based, therefore hard-wearing and really easy to clean. Because they stand up well to knocks, they’re ideal for areas such as skirting and door frames in high-traffic areas. However, they can yellow over time because of the oil content, and do show drips if not applied evenly.

Specialist paints

Manufacturers are always innovating, and there are a range of speciality paints on the market, too. On the more day-to-day end of the scale are kitchen and bathroom paints, which are moisture- and steam-resistant, and can help protect against mould. You can also get dedicated tile paint, which is very useful if you want to update your colour scheme without forking out on new tiles.

But it doesn’t stop there. For those in a hurry, there’s one-coat paint, which has great coverage and, as the name suggests, only needs to be applied once, saving work plus the drying time you would usually need between coats. Other paints have added accelerants, which speed up how quickly the paint “cures” or dries.

Then there’s light-reflecting paint, for small, dark rooms that need a bit of brightening up. And also “magic white” paint, which goes on pink so you can see where you have painted and where you haven’t, but then dries to a perfect white.

Chalk paint is having its day in the sun at the moment. It’s ideal for upcycling furniture, and usually environmentally friendly, both of which are important trends right now. It adheres well to most surfaces, so doesn’t need a primer or endless sanding, and gives a lovely, soft, vintage finish. Be sure to use a finishing wax to protect it if you’re going to use it on a surface that will be well-used.

Speaking of environmentally friendly, there’s a whole eco-paint segment on the market, too. The main feature of these paints is that they’re free from VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These chemicals, which are found in many traditional paints, are the reason why you should always paint in a well-ventilated room. VOC-free paints and other eco paints tend to be made from natural ingredients that are better for the environment and your health.

The right choice

We have established that when it comes to paint, there’s no shortage of choice. So how do you start actually choosing one? The first step in narrowing down your selection is to look at what you’re painting – interior walls, exterior walls, woodwork, metalwork etc – and make sure you choose a paint that’s actually designed for this area/surface.

Now think about the kind of wear it will need to stand up to. If you have young children, for example, you might want to consider a hard-wearing, wipe-clean option. On the other hand, if you’re painting a guest bedroom, you can risk a delicate chalk paint for a soft, welcoming effect. And if you’re tackling a kitchen or bathroom, you will need one of those speciality paints to deal with the increased moisture levels.

When it comes to the look you’re trying to achieve, remember that the flatter or more matte your choice, the better it is for hiding imperfections on the surface it’s covering. However, shinier options tend to be easier to clean and more hard-wearing. Also, matte paint absorbs light to a certain degree, whereas gloss will reflect it, which may affect your choice.

Now it’s time to think about colour. Many brands have a colour-matching service, so you can get exactly what you want. For example, you may want to pick out a shade from your sofa or curtains. It’s still worth testing several options on the area that’s being painted, though, because it will look different depending on the lighting in the room. Check back at different times of day and in artificial lighting to see how that affects the shade. Another good tip for wall colours is to paint the inside of a cardboard box to see how shadows affect the colour.

Finally, you will need to decide how much paint to buy. Calculate how many square metres you need to cover by measuring your room – multiply the height and length of each wall, then add them together – before seeing the kind of coverage (in metres squared) that your paint offers. You will also need to factor in the number of coats required. If you’re painting onto bare plaster or trying to cover a dark colour with a lighter one, you will probably need to use a primer, which will give a better finish and also minimise the number of layers of your more expensive top coat.

Remember, any good DIY store should have specialists on hand to answer any questions you may still have. But in the long run, doing your research and preparation before you buy will save you time, effort and money.

Source: art & life

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