Understanding the Different Types of Paints and Finishes

If you want to protect or decorate your surfaces, natural wood finishes and paint are among the first line materials you need to gather. This means an understanding of the different types of paints and finishes is important because surfaces differ and so are the paints and finishes. To have a successful project, you need to choose the right products, bring along the right tools and identify the best application technique.

Good planning with reference to how you want to tackle a painting project is also important as you prepare the surfaces to be painted.

Types of Paints

A majority of the paints can be assigned to any of the following categories:

  • Semi-gloss
  • Eggshell
  • Flat
  • Gloss

Depending on the surface to be painted, you may also have to apply first coat or primer. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation when applying paint.


It is essential to use the right basecoat if your decorative finish coat is to look good and last long. Basecoats can be further sub-divided into primers and first coats.

Primers are normally used on new uncoated surfaces. Their main job is to protect the underlying material and offer a good base for additional coats. If you are working on surfaces such as melamine or tiles, there are special primers that go with these surfaces.

A first coat on the other hand is a specially formulated paint useful in building up opacity under finish coats. Experts recommend one or two coats of paint before applying the decorative finish coat. There are water-based and oil-based first coats.

Finish Coats

When you are done applying basecoats, you can then apply the finish or decorative coat. These coats come in different categories as pointed above.

Flat finish coats are latex-based paints which are used for ceilings and walls. They also come in different varieties including matt, dead-flat matt, silk, and a water-based eggshell. Flat is sometimes used on siding materials to enable them cope with moisture.

Eggshell is considered more durable than flat. It is commonly used on interior wooden surfaces as a semi-gloss alternative. Because eggshell is easier to clean, it can also be used on wall surfaces requiring a hardwearing finish.

Gloss and satin is a hardwearing finishing paint mainly used on metallic and wooden surfaces. Latex-based gloss paints are relatively easier to apply unless vulnerable to yellowing, but do not provide a high shine compared to solvent-based paints.

Solvent-Based and Water-Based Paints

Paints are generally composed of a binder and pigment. Water-based paints also known as acrylic or latex use water as their binder while solvent-based paints make use of mineral spirit binders. When using thinner-based or mineral spirit products, you must have a plan on how you will get rid of the excess paint.

Although good quality paints perform exceptionally well in all commercial and domestic situations, sometimes it pays big to use paint that is formulated for a specific task also known as specialty paints. For instance, kitchen or bathroom paints are usually formulated to resist moisture or fungal growth while floor paint is solvent-based and extremely hardwearing.