The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Paint

After going through dozens of samples and visiting the paint store who knows how many times, you’ve finally decided on a paint color. You head back to the store for what you hope will be the last time, hand them the sample, only to be asked one more question: what kind of paint? It’s a simple question with a lot of answers, and it can be confusing for someone who doesn’t know much about the topic. Thankfully, we’ve put together a simple guide to help you navigate all of your painting decisions.

Types of PaintThe Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Paint

There are two main types of paint: water-based and oil-based. Choosing the right one will depend on the kind of project you’re working on and your own personal preferences.

Water-based paint

Water-based, or latex, paint is the most common type of paint sold today. This is mainly due to its ease of use and cleanup. It doesn’t require any pre-treatment, and it dries much quicker than oil-based paint. It’s also carries less odors than oil-based, a plus for commercial buildings with high traffic.

Oil-based paint

Oil-based paints, in the past, were the preferred choice for durability on exterior painting applications.  Now, however, the EPA has put regulations on the amount of solvents allowed in oil-based paint and has handicapped it as far as flexibility. As a result, oil-based paint is not recommended for exterior wood surfaces, but it can be used for exterior metal.

Types of Paint Finishes

Once you’ve decided on your type of paint, you next have to think about the finish. The finish will decide the sheen of the paint, so it’s an important factor to consider.


Matte paint finish is the least reflective sheen available. For what it lacks in sheen, however, it makes up for in color, offering greater depth with less coats. Its flat service also helps to hide any blemishes in the wall, such as nail holes, but once it’s on the wall, it’s not as tough towards damage. As a result, you should probably put matte finishes in low-traffic areas or adult bedrooms where damage will be minimal.


Eggshell is a popular, “in the middle” choice, as it adds more reflectivity than matte, but not too much. It’s also more durable, so you can place it in slightly higher traffic areas like hallways, living rooms, and family rooms.


Satin is just a step above eggshell in reflectivity and durability, but it’s still a good “in the middle” kind of choice if you’re looking for paint with only a bit of sheen. Because of its high durability, though, it’s great for both indoors and outdoors, resisting all sorts of damage, mildew, and fading. If you’re painting indoors, then use satin in high-traffic areas such as playrooms, or high-moisture such as kitchens or laundry rooms.  If you’re painting outdoors, then use it for trim, shutters, or siding.


Now we’re starting to get into the high-reflectivity finishes. Semi-gloss will give a room a shiny, sleek appearance, but it will show blemishes more than the previous options. It does have high durability, and it’s also extremely resistant to moisture, so put it in your kitchen or bedroom if you want more sheen than satin will provide.

High Gloss

The shiniest, most reflective finish you can get, high gloss is great for cabinets, trim, and doors, but not-so-great for walls. Its resistance to moisture will make it an excellent choice for outdoor shutters and window casings, not to mention it’s the toughest paint finish you can find. However, it will show previous damage, so if you’re going to use a high gloss finish, do some prep work beforehand to fix any blemishes.

Don’t forget the primer

Speaking of prep work, make sure you put on a layer of primer before you start painting. Primer is pretty much required for newly painted walls, but even if your wall has a coat of paint on it, using primer is a good way to cover up the previous color and add longevity to the new one.

Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to hire a professional to get the job done right. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, give Richard Stewart Painting a call at 818-951-1181 to schedule a paint job for your residential or commercial building today!

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