Paint is split into water or oil/solvent-based. Anything with oil takes longer to dry and generally more forgiving on older and uneven surfaces. With water-based (as the name suggests) is easy to wash off with water and dries quickly.

I am sure we have all had that moment at the hardware store when embarking on a DIY project when the store assistant asks you “do you want it in matt or gloss?”.  You think to yourself first of all how must I know, and secondly, does it make a difference?

Yes, it does, maybe not in the short term but it does save you effort in the long run and give the right impact…  if like anything in this world you take the time to understand why.

As the store assistant doesn’t always know what and where you are painting here are a few key tips in being able to answer that question without guessing.


What are you painting?

The beauty of paint these days is that there are even such miracles as water-based enamels… so the prolonged kneeling, days of fumes and stubborn paint on skin are probably behind us. Just rinse and repeat.

Furniture or aged surfaces would suit an enamel better because of enamels high score on durability and it’s very forgiving (and thick) leveling qualities.

Walls generally would be painted in a water-based paint, but this depends on where you are painting.

As a rule, if its new surfaces or freshly plastered walls, a bonding or primer will be required first before you apply the paint. Cement is porous and hence a layer needs to be in place for the paint to stick too. The same is said for painting smooth surfaces such as MDF board; melamine etc. Prime it first. 


Where are you painting?

High traffic areas such as passageways and kitchens tend to get grubbier quickly with inevitable scuffs and marks. Here it’s always better to go for a matt PVA or matt enamel (if there is water nearby). Matt surfaces hide all manner of dents, scratches, handprints, dog slobber etc.

Enamel or oil-based paint is suitable for wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, as well as areas you want to protect from general wetness (like wood, windows etc.). It also gives you the gift of time allowing longer periods, one might even say years, before repainting or touching up.


How much light is there?

A note on matt, satin, eggshell and gloss. These are all variations of each other, from matt being the least shiny to gloss being the most. The second important point is the amount of paint required. Generally, matt paint requires more coats to get that smooth even finish. Though each paint manufacturer has their own qualities, rather speak to the paint professional in store before deciding on matt vs eggshell vs satin.

Rooms that have more light can do well with matt paints as matt colors tend to absorb light whereas a shiny finish reflect it (we can all easily imagine the reflection of sunlight on a shiny surface such as tiles or wood vs a matt surface where the unit itself is more the feature).

If for example you had a small bathroom to paint with limited lighting, then consider using a gloss enamel in a lighter color to reflect light in the room and give the impression the room is bigger than it is.

Just like satin dresses are not flattering for all figures, the same is true for households. Modern, sleek and perfect plastering? By all means, go to town on gloss paint! Or perhaps you are like me, love living life a bit on the fray but routine still rules, kids and dogs abounding everywhere every day, then stick to satin finishes. 


And after all of this if you are still not sure rule of thumb is large surfaces stick to matts, eggshells and satins; and small surfaces such as accent walls or trim go for gloss!