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The best paint finish for different surfaces

Whether you’re a professional painter and decorator with many years’ experience or a painting novice, choosing the best paint finish for different surfaces is essential in order to make your project a success. But with the variety of paint finishes on the market, how do you know which is best paint for the job!

We’ve put together this simple guide to choosing the best paint for different surfaces.

Choosing the best paint finish for you:-


Emulsion is the best paint finish for use on interior walls and ceilings, emulsion is a water based paint that’s best applied with a roller or brush and can be used on previously painted walls or newly plastered areas. There’s a choice of finishes on the market, from flat matt emulsion, standard matt to mid-sheen (which is sometimes known as silk finish emulsion).

Flat matt emulsions are lovely in older properties and contemporary styles of décor, whereas silk finish emulsions are ideally suited to hallways and kitchens where they are more durable options. The breathability levels of emulsion can also vary, so if you’re painting lime plaster check you’re using the most breathable paint you can.


This is the best paint finish that’s usually designed for use on interior or exterior woodwork and metal (but check the labelling of your tin to see if it’s suitable outdoors!) and can be water or oil based. It’s not completely matt, but not as shiny as gloss paint, and is becoming increasingly popular as a contemporary alternative to gloss on interior trims like skirting boards, banisters, doors and radiators.

Eggshell is hardwearing and wipeable so it’s a durable finish for high traffic areas and some brands of eggshell can also be used on walls and ceilings too. In many cases, a primer is applied first.

Satin or Satinwood give

This is similar to eggshell paint but a little shinier, so sits in between eggshell and gloss in terms of sheen level, and is suitable for both interior and exterior woodwork (again check the labelling!)


Gloss can usually be used inside or outside on both wood and metal surfaces. There’s lots of water based options on the market nowadays, along with the traditional oil based variety that many decorators swear by due to its unparalleled durability. Whether oil or water based, most (but not all) gloss paints require a primer first.

Gloss tends to have higher VOC levels than other paint finishes but UK regulations mean that VOC content must be labelled and not exceed a certain amount. Always check the label to make sure you can use gloss for your intended surface as some are better suited to certain areas, like interior wood or exterior metal, for example.

Masonry paint

Masonry paint is simply paint that’s designed for brick, stone, render, pebbledash etc. There are a few options on the market, from ‘weather resistant’ plastic-based masonry paint to highly breathable silicate based masonry paint that’s suitable for lime render. It’s generally used on exterior surfaces but can be used on interior brick or stone too.

Furniture and cupboard paint

As a general rule, paint that is designed for interior woodwork (such as eggshell and gloss) can also be used on furniture, although there are many other types of furniture paint too – from chalky matt finishes to ones that require a wax or glaze finish. Most furniture paints perform better with a primer first especially if covering plastic or melamine surfaces.

Floor paint

Many brands of hardwearing wood paint (ie eggshell, satin and gloss) can be used on wooden floorboards, but some are labelled specifically as ‘floor paint’. As with most surfaces that will be subject to heavy wear and tear, the key is in how well the surface is prepared and a primer is almost always needed for floors help make the paint extra hardwearing. As for painting concrete or stone floors, there are a number of specialist epoxy-resin based paints that form a super tough finish.

Remember, if you’re using an oil based paint, you can keep your brushes soft and pliable by storing them in Brush Mate Trade 4+ or Trade 20 boxes, ready for use next time you paint!