When it comes to paint, we all think that choosing a color is the easiest part. But when confronted with seemingly identical shades on a sample card, confusing terms (aren't 'flat' and 'matte' the same thing?) and an array of rollers, it's no wonder why many of us simply put off the chore indefinitely.
Or, if we do commit to the challenge, there's a high chance of that yellow ending up more of a 'dirty beige', globs on the wall and uneven coloring. No wonder we're all frustrated.
To shed some light on the above and to get some insight on the general things to keep in mind when buying paint, we spoke with Aimee Desrosiers, Director of Marketing at the paint company BEHR.
Get the right tools. According to Desrosiers, the wrong paint supplies can make even the most high-quality paint look bad. Tools like rollers and brushes affect how the paint will spread out onto the wall. For instance, a good roller for a smooth surface like your home's wall would be one that has short and dense fibers while a fluffier roller is the best for rougher surfaces like concrete or stucco. With some low-quality rollers, "the little fibers can come off when you’re painting so when paint dries you’ll see them [the fibers] in the paint," says Desrosiers. As for a quality brush, she recommends ones with bristles that resemble split hairs, as they can hold more paint. Desrosiers adds that though you'll initially pay more, "Good rollers and brushes can be washed and reused while cheap ones will have to be thrown out after one use."
Have a general idea about sheens Sheen are often referred to as finishes and it's what makes paint look shiny, and there's a range for the shininess. The higher the sheen the more durable it will be. For a very general guide, Desrosiers explains that sheens can be (very) loosely divided into the following three categories: Low, medium (or mid), and high.
- Low sheen: Flat or Matte (little or no shine), Flat Enamels (little or no shine but more durable than flat). Low sheens are not very (or at all) reflective, so they are good for hiding imperfections on walls. However, word of caution: It does tend to collect dirt and dust easily. Best place to use: "In low-traffic areas like formal dining rooms and on ceilings," Desrosiers recommends.
- Mid Sheen: Satin (low shine), eggshells (like its name implies, it's shiny but subtle), semi-glosses (noticeable glossiness). They’re not super shiny so the paint results are easy on the eyes. They're also durable as well as dirt- and water-resistant. Best place to use: "In kitchens and bathrooms," says Desrosiers.
- High sheen: High-glosses (extra shiny, glass-like appearance). Though high glosses are the most durable (scuff-, dirt- and water-resistant), their reflective qualities will highlight all the imperfections in your wall. Best place to use: Desrosiers recommends high-traffic areas such as the living room and hallways as well as on details like stair rails and trims.
However, keep in mind that "there's no industry standard for paint sheens," Desrosiers adds. This means that every paint company measures sheen (glossiness) differently, so it's good to always check with the store about the sheens for the specific paint brands you're thinking of purchasing.
Paint chips may not be exact paint colors. "At hardware stores with big color systems, all the colors shown on paint chips are matched to a sheen, and it will have an effect on the perception of the color," explains Desrosiers. "Most of these paint chip colors are usually shown in a shade that has a medium sheen." This means that if you get the color in a low sheen or a high one, the color will appear different in the end.
Considering paint/primer combos. The best use of paint/primer combos is on already painted surfaces. The primer will help the topcoat of paint better adhere to the surface. "You may cover the surface with paint but a primer locks it into the surface," says Desrosiers. If you're painting over a similar shade and finish, one coat of paint-and-primer combo should be enough to cover up the preexisting color surface. But with darker colors, two coats may be needed. In that case, it's usually more cost-effective to buy the primer and a high-quality paint separately, and you'll get better results priming the surface first and then painting it.
Good questions to ask in store. If you find yourself unable to commit to a paint color or decide on a sheen, ask the store clerk if they'll be able to mix a small amount of the color in the finish you want to test it out. Most hardware stores will gladly do that. Another important question to always ask is how many coats will you need to do for your project and how many gallons of paint will be required for that. Depending on the size and scale of the room or space, your paint person at the store will be able to confirm the right amount for you.
For other tips about decorating with paint and color, check out these 25 ways to bring shades of green into your home and some of these great color combinations. And let us know in comments below what are other essential things you look for when buying paint.
Also watch the below video for some other tips on buying paint.