Best Interior Paint: Types, Difference and Finishes

So your house can stand a paint job? But where do you start? With so many different types of interior wall paints on the market, it can be confusing. Consider this; the same color of paint will totally change the look of a wall depending on the finish selected. This additional dimension broadens your choices of paints. It also makes the decision of purchasing any quality interior wall paint more difficult.

Before bringing your interior paint ideas to life, take the time to learn the different characteristics of paints and finishes. Find out how the different types of paint finish will impact the room. Learn about their durability. Wonders never cease and you may be pleasantly surprised at the result after making an educated decision.

interior wall paint

Water-Based Paints

Most of the paints being sold today tend to be water-based. This is because they are very easy to use, especially for the Do-It-Yourself enthusiast.

Here is where some technical knowledge comes in. If your initial interior paint was oil-based, there may be issues getting the water-based paint to stick.

How can you tell if your original paint was oil-based or not? Rub a small hidden spot with a piece of cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol. If the paint does not come off then it is oil-based, it rubs off it is water-based.

If you want to switch from oil-based paint to water-based, then be ready to put in a lot of labor. You will have to wash the surface, next roughen it by scraping with sandpaper, clean it and finally dry it. Now when you apply your water-based paint, it will not peel off.

Difference between acrylic and latex

There are two main types of water-based paints you need to be familiar with acrylic and latex. While many times the names are used interchangeably, each one has its own characteristics and benefits.

When a can of paint carries the “acrylic” label, it means this paint has more polymers than latex paint. A gallon of acrylic paint typically costs more than a can of latex paint, even though both are water-based. The added polymers allow the paint to stick to the surface better and it is more durable.

The added cost does not pay back when it comes to using it on interior walls. However, it is well worth it for cabinetry or outdoor furniture. Some paint makers also add the word “enamel” to indicate how tough it is. The fact that latex paint contains a smaller ratio of polymers provides it with some great benefits.

  • First and foremost the upfront cost of a can of latex paint is less than acrylic.
  • More than that latex paint covers more area compared to acrylic paint making it even cheaper to use.
  • It is easy to work with allowing you to complete two coats in a single day because it is quick-drying.
  • It tolerates surface expansion and contraction better which prevents cracking or chipping.
  • Walls covered with latex paint that don’t see much sunlight tend not to yellow with age.
  • Cleanup is as simple as washing with soap and water.
  • It is available in the full range of the color spectrum.
  • Latex paint is nonflammable and you do not have to put up with that strong foul paint odor.

Difference between Water-based Paints and Oil-based Paints

Unlike oil-based paints, latex paint does not release a significant amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are the biggest contributors to a chain of reactions that produces smog in the environment. In states with more strict EPA regulations, oil-based paint is not even readily available because of the VOCs they release.

They don’t have the same level of durability as oil-based paints, and colors are not as vivid. Water-based paints are not well suited to humid climates as they can’t dry completely. They don’t off as glossy a finish as oil-based paints and stick poorly to untreated metal and shiny surfaces.

Oil-Based Paints

There are certain places in your house where using oil-based paints will better serve your purpose. Being more expensive, you definitely don’t want to use oil paints where they will not give you a bang for your buck. Oil-based paints are best saved for smaller areas that need more appeal and strength.

For example, baseboards have to stand plenty of abuse so use oil-based paint here as it is stronger. Trims painted with oil-based paints will stand out and perk up the room. They will also give you your money’s worth in moist places like the bathroom or kitchen and provide a very attractive gloss.

There are many reasons why oil-based paints are not a good idea for interior walls.

  • Oil-based paints are difficult to work with due to the strong fumes they release. This is especially true if working in spaces with poor ventilation like a basement.
  • They provide less coverage on nearly every surface they are used on. After use cleanup is difficult requiring specific solvents.
  • They are not as elastic as latex paints and have poor UV tolerance. They will make them fade faster than latex paints and will also become brittle and chip faster.
  • The color choice here is limited compared to latex paints. So you may not be able to bring out all your creative abilities.

Selecting the Right Finish

So what is the difference between a flat finish and a glossy finish? Which will look better eggshell or satin? Let’s take a look and find out. There are a few important pointers to keep in mind before picking up that can of paint.

First of all, consider the kind of traffic the room you are planning to paint has to handle.

The kitchen, playroom, or any other area that has more traffic requires paint that is durable. Satin or semi-gloss paints provide this.

Rooms used sparingly like the formal drawing or dining room will be fine with a flat finish. The shinier a paint the more light it reflects. This makes a room appear brighter but it will also show more imperfections.

Flat Finish

A flat finish also known as matte has next to no shine. This paint needs few coats to hide wall imperfections, holes, and such and gives the maximum coverage. The downside is that flat finish paint is the least durable of all paints. It will not tolerate being cleaned. A flat finish will be best suited for places where there will be no people contact.


This is a popular finish because it gives just a hint of luster and can tolerate cleaning better than a flat finish. A bit more durable than the flat and is capable of covering those tiny bumps and bruises in the wall. They handle the medium-range traffic of entrances very well. The eggshell finish is great for the formal areas of your house too. Especially if you want to add a slight sheen to your walls.


Satin finish paint is the most commonly used interior wall finish. Cleaning away the tiny toddler handprints is easier with this finish. With its velvet-like sheen, it is more suitable for areas with more traffic. Places like a laundry room, playroom, or even kitchens can benefit from this.


Very durable, mildew-resistant, and very reflective this finish is up for some serious traffic. Rooms that have high humidity and loads of traffic would the ideal candidate for this type of finish. Keep in mind that being shiny means it will not conceal those wall imperfections too well.


The shiniest possible finish in a paint you can buy. Walls painted in this finish are washable and will tolerate scrubbing. It is most suitable for doors, cabinetry, and trims. Being exceptionally strong it can also be applied to outdoor shutters. It is hard to apply because if not done correctly, it will show every single fault on the surface.

Remember that buying interior paint is not just about which color is best for your needs. Yes, you need a color that reflects your decorating style and personality. But you also need interior paint that can withstand the wear and tear of your lifestyle. You need paint that will provide coverage quickly and dries up fast. You definitely want to avoid any paint that will be giving off fumes for days on end. Getting samples to try out on small areas may not be such a bad option.

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