Choosing the right paint finish

Colour may be the most exciting part of planning your scheme, but getting the paint finish right is just as important. The choices can be overwhelming; from solvent-based to quick-drying varieties, to paints that promise to do the job in just one coat. But if you don't want to be stripping down peeling paintwork six months down the line then you need to make sure your paint is fit for purpose.

Choosing the right paint finish

How to get a great finish

  • If you are decorating in a hurry go for a more expensive single coat paint with superior coverage.
  • Use a metallic finish for woodwork and furniture to add a touch of glamour.
  • Avoid blistering on previously unpainted woodwork by coating in a primer first.
  • Choose an odourless paint if you are sensitive to chemical smells.
  • Try to make sure you have enough paint in one batch to cover the whole room or otherwise finish in a corner before switching pots as there can be slight variation between mixes.

Ten tips on choosing paint colours

Walls and ceiling
For the ceiling and walls a water-based matt or silk emulsion will give you the best coverage. If it is a cramped room, go for a light shade and a reflective silky sheen to create the illusion of a few extra square feet. Dulux has a range called Light & Space that is specially designed to create a luminous effect and make the most of small rooms.

Silk finishes are fantastic for highlighting embossed features such as ceiling roses, but are best avoided on walls that have any defect as the reflective surface will draw attention to imperfections. Use a matt emulsion to mask uneven patches and if necessary, prime the wall first with a base coat that will fill in any hairline cracks or other blemishes. Mid-sheen emulsions can be good for stairways and childrens' rooms which can easily get smudged by greasy hands.

Woodwork and trim
Doors and window frames are more likely to get knocked or stained by grubby fingerprints and so oil-based paints that are durable and can be wiped clean are normally used for these features. Oil-based paints are also used for skirtings and radiators which collect dust and can be easily scuffed by careless feet. Some paint suppliers now make water-based trim paints like multi-surface emulsion that claim to be just as tough and can withstand fluctuating temperatures without flaking. They tend to smell less, have a quicker drying time and make cleaning your brushes easier.

If you want to create a seamless transition between the walls and the wood surfaces choose an eggshell finish, but if you want to a more formal look, emphasise the contrast in surface material with a gloss. A satin finish makes for a happy medium between the two. Try using a non-drip variety to avoid getting ugly blips in your paintwork.

Speciality paints
Kitchen and bathroom paintwork face the greatest challenge to keeping that freshly painted air about them with all that grease and steam to contend with. To stop your paintwork from peeling you need a finish that can take the heat, so look out for the extra hard wearing emulsion that many shops stock, which is formulated with these rooms in mind. The kitchen splashback and shower will most likely be tiled, but you don't necessarily have to rip them all out if they are a mismatch with your new colour scheme. Tile paints can breathe a new lease of life into tired old ceramic.

Painted floors can also look modern and fun, but it goes without saying that you can't just splash on the same paint as the walls. Floor paints are tough enough to take the constant passage of human traffic without chipping away.

Minimise the impact your home décor has on the outside world by checking your paint has low VOC levels. Volatile Organic Compounds are chemicals that evaporate quickly causing damage to the environment, so look out for the globe symbol which is part of a voluntary industry code. Ecos and earthBorn both sell extensive ranges of eco-friendly paints.