How to Choose Paint

You can find the right paint for each room in your house with these tips. Plus, learn about safer, more eco-friendly paints.

| October 2, 2009

Eco friendly paint

Choosing the right interior paint is easy if you understand some basic terms used to describe paint.


Dreaming of the perfect color for your interior painting project is fun, but it’s just one step in understanding how to choose paint. Walking into the paint store is like opening a robust menu of options: satin latex low-volatile organic compound (VOC), high-gloss alkyd with primer, matte latex bright white, etc. Before the in-store paint expert runs through your options, it’s best to have done some homework to be sure you choose the best option for your home.

Latex vs. Oil-based Paints

Despite a host of dedicated followers, oil-based paints (or alkyds) have been overshadowed by the ease and versatility of latex paints. Cleaning up equipment after using oil-based paints requires paint thinner or turpentine. Oil-based paints still have their uses, but for most interior projects, latex is the way to go — they’re simply the easiest to apply.

More accurately called water-based paints, the paints labeled “latex” are often either artificial latex or acrylic. As of 2001, latex paints held nearly 80 percent of the market for interior projects. Latex won’t yellow or chalk (become powdery) — both of which are risks with oil-based paint — and it offers a series of environmentally friendly options.

Finishing Touches

The finish of your paint is how reflective it is. In general, the shinier the finish, the easier the surface will be to clean, although there are a number of innovative flat/matte and low-sheen paints formulated for easy cleaning. From no-shine to high shine, here are the options:

  • Flat or matte
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-gloss
  • Gloss

Which Paint for Where?

Here’s a quick list of recommendations for specific situations:

Most companies make a paint specifically suited for ceilings. Usually it’s a bright white, flat or matte latex that goes on easily without spattering or dripping, and it covers irregularities without multiple coats. Best choice: latex, flat/matte, bright white.

fran tracy
11/7/2009 3:10:48 PM

This article was especially helpful. I have recycled many gallons of paint from a recycling sourse. The one thing I would caution people is to get a paint strainer (available from sherwiin williams probably other paint stores as well for under $2. for either a 5 gal or a 1 gal size. If paint has been sitting for a while, ther will be lumps in the bottom that will not dissolve. Fran

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