Let’s Talk About Paint–Is There Really a Difference in Quality?

March 7, 2017

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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So, you’re at the big box store, ready to buy paint for the big project you’re working on this weekend. In your mind, there’s a battle…do I need to buy the more expensive paint or can I get the same results with the cheap paint? Is there really a difference in quality? Or is it all a money-making scheme? This is a question that we face in many different scenarios when making a consumer purchase. Is it worth the extra cost? Oftentimes, you get what you pay for, right? Let’s see if that holds true with paint…

Let's Talk About Paint

 Quality Paint vs. Standard Paint–Is there a difference?

Quality Paint: Higher price, prime pigments, more additives, more binders

Standard Paint: Lower price, extender pigment, less additives and less binders…more liquid

Ok, now I know what you’re thinking..”what the heck does all that mean? I thought additives were bad.”

So let’s break it down, without getting too technical and going all chemistry teacher on you (which I am clearly not, as you will see from my description of each of these–very basic).

Quality Paint:

  • prime pigment–increases color and hiding power. Provides better one-coat coverage.
  • additives–bad for you; good for paint 🙂 . Quality texture, improved surface (wall) life, improved shelf-life, increased UV- and rust-resistance.
  • binders–better durability, quality gloss, increased scrub and stain resistance, adheres to wall better.

Standard Paint:

  • extender pigment–does little for the color; serves more as a filler
  • less additives
  • less binders
  • more liquid–serving no purpose

Bottom line:

Yes! There is a difference between quality paint and standard paint. While quality paint is more expensive, it goes farther, looks better and is easier to clean.

My favorite to paint to use…Behr Marquee from Home Depot.

Let's Talk About Paint

It has a one-coat guarantee. However, if you read the fine print, this is somewhat dependent on the color and surface you are covering. Covering up a darker color may require a second coat. Touch ups are needed sometimes too, where full-coverage was not achieved. But overall, it covers very well and requires less work. 🙂

How do you choose the right sheen of paint?

With five different sheens of paint to choose from, how do you choose the right one?

Let’s break them down and talk about the characteristics of each of them…

Flat (matte):

  • Smooth finish; no sheen.
  • Doesn’t reflect light.
  • Hard to clean.
  • Best used on ceilings and low-traffic areas


  • Smooth finish; subtle shine; low sheen
  • Washes better than flat
  • Best used in bedrooms, family room, dining room, laundry room, study/den


  • More versatile; great for any room
  • Elegant, soft sheen
  • Reflects light
  • Easier to clean
  • Great for kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, hallways


  • Semi-shine; higher sheen than satin
  • Reflects light
  • Washes well
  • Great for kid’s bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, trim/moulding, doors


  • Highest shine level
  • Most durable
  • Easiest to clean; great for surfaces that need cleaned frequently
  • Gives more of a lacquered look
  • Best used on furniture and trim/moulding. Rarely used on walls



My personal favorite/go-to is semi-gloss. It provides just enough shine and is easy to clean. Which is a MUST with 5 kids!!

I know my paint and my sheen, where do I begin?

The best order to paint a room is:

If you’re painting the entire room, start with the ceiling. Just in case your paint splatters onto the walls, it won’t make a difference since you’re painting them anyway. Once you’re finished with the ceiling, move onto the walls, trim and lastly wood floors.

Let's Talk About Paint

What sheen should I use on my trim?

A good rule of thumb, when painting your trim, is to choose a sheen two sheens higher than the wall sheen it’s meeting up against. (Say that 3 times fast…tongue twister thrown in for free. 🙂  ) For example, if your wall sheen is flat, use a satin or higher sheen for the trim. If your wall sheen is egg shell, use a semi-gloss or higher.

My preference when painting trim is semi-gloss and in some cases, I’m not opposed to high gloss. I like high gloss against white walls. Like I used here in my bathroom remodel…

So, just for fun, what’s the color trend for 2017? Well, every year Pantone.com puts out the color of the year. This year’s winner: Greenery. What does “Greenery” look like? A quick video is much easier than me trying to explain the color. 🙂 Click here to watch the video. So, what do you think? Do you like it? I’m not sure if I’m a fan. It’ll kinda need to grow on me. No pun intended..haha…Greenery…ya, moving on. 🙂

Anyway….next week let’s talk about paint’s counterpart, polyurethane. I know, sounds exciting. 🙂 But hopefully, it will be chock full of helpful information.

This has been a fun post and questions about paint, are ones I get often. Kind of ironically, just today I was getting ready to sit down and write this post and reading through my comments, a friend asked about what kind of paint is best for trim. So timely. I had to chuckle. Pretty cool. 🙂

What are some questions you have about an upcoming or current project? If I don’t know the answer, I love to research and will find the answer for you. Just hit reply and let me know what you’re working on.

Until next time,

Happy building (and painting)!!

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