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Unsure which paint is best for your project? Don’t skip the research. The type of paint you choose is just as important as the color. Choosing the wrong sheen can lead to dramatic differences in the appearance of the room. Read on to learn more about each type of paint — and potentially prevent a time- and money-consuming mistake.

White Paint Brush


Also referred to as “latex” paint. About 80% of all of paint sold for residential jobs is water-based, primarily because of its ease of use. If your surface has been previously coated with an oil-based product, be cautious when switching to water-based paint as it may have trouble sticking. When this type of situation comes up, Sherwin-Williams recommends washing the surface and then roughening it all over with a medium to smooth grit sandpaper. This makes it clean, dull and dry to help prevent peeling and ensure adhesion with the new paint going on top.

When customers prefer to have water-based paint, even when the situation typically calls for an oil-based paint, several manufacturers have introduced “waterborne enamels” or “waterborne alkyds.” These paints look and behave much like oil-based options because they have good leveling qualities for a smooth finish.

Advantages of water-based paints

  • doesn’t require pre-treatment
  • no mildew growth
  • low VOCs (low levels of toxic emissions)
  • easy cleanup with water
  • quick drying
  • an elastic, flexible finish resistant to cracking
  • can be used on almost all surfaces
  • stable color over time, doesn’t yellow or fade in sunlight

White Paint Roller


Oil-based paints are made with either alkyd or linseed oils, with alkyd being the more common of the two. This type of paint is sometimes favored over its water-based competitor because it goes on smoother, coating a surface more thoroughly in a single coat. This means that it’s the ideal choice to use on rough surfaces. These paints are also known to be durable, which means that they’re a great option for high-traffic areas in your home. Oil-based paints have a glossier finish to them than do water-based paints, which could be pleasing to some depending on personal tastes.

As with water-based paints, these substances have a few cons to think about. The first is that they have a more noticeable odor to them. Next, this paint could take up to 48 hours to dry for a single coat, which means that the paint is stickier for longer, attracting dust and bugs. This also means that your brushes and rollers will be trickier to clean as you’re working through the painting process. Keep in mind that oil-based paints should never be poured down the drain of your sink.

Advantages of oil-based paints

  • attractive gloss
  • good for high-moisture rooms like a kitchen or bathroom
  • longer dry time
  • paint levels out(brush strokes fill themselves in to create a smooth finish)
  • hard, durable finish

 White Painted Cabinets


Sheen options vary by manufacturer but share some common characteristics. As durability improves across all sheen levels with newer paints, many people are finding creative ways to mix and match them. For instance, painting a stripe on a matte wall that has a high gloss finish. It adds a level of texture to your room and gives it a different dynamic.

Matte (typically referred to as “flat”) paint:

  • is the least reflective sheen available
  • has a velvety texture
  • helps hides imperfections in walls and ceilings
  • offers great depth of color
  • is generally considered the standard sheen for walls
  • can sometimes be difficult to clean

 Eggshell and satin paint (satin is slightly glossier than eggshell):

  • has slight reflective sheen
  • offers improved durability
  • are frequently used in demanding environments, like kitchens and bathrooms, where easy cleanup without a highly glossy finish is desired

Semi-gloss and gloss paint:

  • great for kitchens, doors, window trim, accent walls, and bathrooms
  • are the most reflective sheen
  • are highly durable and stand up to multiple cleanings
  • are traditionally used on baseboards, moldings, and doors
  • can make a statement, but also highlight imperfections


Finally, it is important to remember that the paint you choose is only as good as the quality of the tools you paint and prep with. Although you may think rollers or brushes are a good place to save money, using high-quality tools will help you achieve the best look. If you’re looking for help on choosing paint colors, click here!