Wokingham Decorating Services - Reliable, Experienced Decorator based in Wokingham

Paint is not just paint...

...and while I may need to make some assumptions as to what to use for the purposes of completing my estimates, I want to be certain that what I actually use when I come to do the job is what you want, and also that you are fully aware of the possible cost implications of your choices. I have therefore put together this quick guide to the main types of paint that we might consider using for an interior decorating job. As always, I would of course be more than happy to discuss this with you in more detail.

Paint for Interior Walls and Ceilings

The two main areas in which emulsion paints differ from each other are the finish they provide, and the quality of the paint (which does not always correlate with its price!).


There are two factors to consider here - how wipeable/scrub-able/hard-wearing you need the paint to be (practical considerations), and how matt/shiny you like your paint to be (aesthetic considerations). I have listed below the main types of emulsion paint available, starting with the most matt and working through to the shiniest, and commented against each to indicate how hard-wearing it is, along with any other factors to bear in mind:

  • Contact Matt is often used by builders on new-build houses. It is usually relatively inexpensive, and works very well on new plaster. However, it scuffs and marks very easily, and cannot really be cleaned (and certainly not scrubbed), as this often results in wiping the paint off the wall. Some decorators use it on ceilings, arguing that people don't often clean their ceilings anyway, but I personally prefer to use a paint that can at least withstand some gentle cleaning.
  • Vinyl Matt is probably the most frequently used emulsion, and is relatively inexpensive, depending on the brand. While perhaps not the most suitable paint for high-traffic areas, it can be wiped to clean off minor spills etc.
  • Durable Matt (variously known as Cleanable Matt, Clean Extreme, Endurance Matt, Diamond Matt, etc). Fairly self-explanatory - it's a matt finish, but is more suitable for high-traffic areas such as hallways, children's bedrooms, or kitchens, where the walls are more likely to be scuffed or have things spilled on them. They do tend to be slightly shinier/less matt than other matt paints, but it's a slight difference that probably isn't noticeable unless you had the two paints side-by-side, or in certain lights. It is typically 30-40% more expensive than Vinyl Matt.
  • Eggshell (some are durable/scrub-able, some less so). These paints are a good compromise and offer something a little different, being slightly shinier than matt, but nothing like as shiny as silk. Being slightly shiny, they are very easy to wipe down, so the most durable ones are ideal paints for public buildings and other areas where there are high levels of wear and tear.
  • Soft Sheen is probably the mid-way point between matt and silk. These are often used in bathrooms (in fact some manufacturers label them as "bathroom paints"), as they are very easy to wipe clean and to some extent resistant to steam.
  • Silk is the shiniest of emulsion paints. Many years ago the only option used to be matt or silk, so silk was used in any rooms where the walls might need to be wiped or cleaned. Today there are more options, and some matts are very cleanable (see above), so you only need to choose silk for aesthetic reasons (because you want a shiny finish), not practical ones (as many other options are just as practical).


The quality of emulsion paints varies enormously, and is an important factor to take into consideration. Lower quality paints generally contain lower percentages of pigment (the actual colour in the paint), so may need additional coats in order to cover the existing paint. This can mean that buying cheaper paint can be a false economy; if a cheaper paint needs three coats to achieve the desired finish, it may mean that we need to buy an extra tin, and will certainly need extra time. Below are listed the main brands of matt emulsion available, with an indication of price (per 5L tin or coloured {not white} paint, based on the last time I purchased it, so may possibly be out of date) and quality (marked out of ten, and purely subjective based on my own personal experience).

  • Retail Paints
    • Crown Vinyl Matt: £30, 3/10
    • Regular Dulux Vinyl Matt: £35, 4/10
    • Dulux Endurance Matt: £40, 5/10
  • Trade Paints
    • Crown Trade Vinyl Matt: £35, 6/10
    • Johnstone's Trade Vinyl Matt: £45, 7/10
    • Dulux Trade Vinyl Matt: £50, 7/10
    • Crown Trade Clean Extreme Matt: £55, 9/10
    • Johnstone's Trade Cleanable Matt: £65, 8/10
    • Dulux Trade Diamond Matt: £75, 9/10
  • Designer Paints
    • Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion: £95, 4/10 *
    • Farrow & Ball Modern Emulsion: £100, 6/10 *
    • Little Greene Emulsion: £100, 8/10

* Farrow & Ball recommend using one coat of their primer first, followed by two coats of the emulsion. While this probably does help achieve a more even colour/finish, it means that three coats (and one extra tin of paint) will definitely be required, making this a very expensive option.

For these reasons, it is actually really helpful to me to know your choice of paint (not necessarily colour) as far in advance as possible, so that if I need to amend your quote, or allow extra time in my diary for applying additional coats of paint, I am able to do so.

Paint for Interior Woodwork

A brief history:  Not so long ago, if you wanted to paint the woodwork in your house, your only option was gloss. Manufacturers then introduced "less shiny" options such as satin and eggshell to offer consumers more choice, but all of these were oil-based. Then "quick drying" (water-based) paints were introduced (don't worry, I'll come on to the strengths and weaknesses of each shortly). In 2010 the EU introduced new laws to address environmental concerns about oil-based paints, and all the manufacturers had to reformulate their products in order to comply. Unfortunately it soon became apparent that the new formulations discoloured with age; your nice white skirting boards turned gradually yellow over a couple of years, and the problem was noticeably more pronounced in rooms where there was less natural light. To be fair, oil-based paints had always had this tendency, but the new formulations performed particularly poorly in this respect. NB: this really only affects white oil-based paints. If you want your woodwork painted a colour (not white), then there isn't really an issue.

Most (but not all) manufacturers now offer all three finishes (eggshell, satin and gloss) in both oil and water-based paints. The exception is often eggshell, where some manufacturers only offer an oil-based formulation, and others only water-based, although some do offer both. So how shiny is shiny? As a rough guide, on a scale of 1-100 (where 1 is absolutely flat matt and 100 is the most reflective surface you can imagine), the different finishes would appear roughly on the scale as follows:

  • Eggshell: 20
  • Satin: 30
  • Semi-gloss: 50 (only offered by a very small number of manufacturers, so probably best ignored!)
  • Gloss: 80 (although some water-based glosses are more like semi-gloss!)

As a rough guide, a typical matt emulsion for walls would be somewhere around 8-10 on this scale.

So now we are left with two relatively new technologies (water-based and reformulated oil-based), neither of which is perfect yet (although improvements are apparently being worked on). To further complicate matters, some "water-based" paints are actually hybrids and contain some oil, and therefore fall somewhere in-between. Both oil and water have their good points, but both have their downsides as well:

  Oil-Based Water-Based
Coats Required Usually a two-step processIf applied over existing oil-based paint, may require a primer first to help it to stick properly, so can be a three-step process
Consistency (which affects the quality of the finish) Great, so it both covers the paint underneath well, and reduces problems such as drips and brush marksTends to be thin, so doesn't cover so effectively, and is prone to drips and visible brush marks
Odour Strong (but not as bad as they used to be)Much less strong
Drying Time Anywhere from 8-24 hours, depending on the finish, manufacturer, and drying conditions3-4 hours is normal, can be less in some conditions, and can be more, especially for hybrids
Yellowing Affect Still a problemNo problem for pure water-based paints, some issues with hybrids
Robustness Generally hard-wearingGenerally less hard-wearing, although harder-wearing paints are available in some finishes (but are more expensive)


Because of the differences in drying times, and the possible requirement for an extra process (priming) for some water-based paints, it is really helpful for me to know in advance what your preference is, as the decision will have an impact on how long the job takes, and therefore on the price and on my diary management. I'm happy to use either type of paint (and to discuss in more depth if you wish), so the decision is yours, based on the factors above and which are the most important to you.