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a beginners guide to the

Different Types of Paint

Picking out paint is about much more than choosing the right color. With so many options of paint bases and finishes, it can be difficult to know what paint you should buy. Luckily, sales associates at Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore are happy to help you choose the right paint for your project. Or you can always call professional painters to take care of the job for you. But, if you opt to do it yourself, here is everything a beginner should know about types of paints. 

Oil vs Water Based

Oil-based paint is, you guessed it, made with oil. Many homeowners and contractors avoid oil-based paints for several reasons. First of all, oil paints take much longer to dry. While water-based paints are completely dry within a few hours, oil-based paints can take one to two days to dry. They can be extremely difficult to clean up without the proper chemicals. Since it is not water-soluble, you should plan on throwing out your paintbrushes and roller covers after you are done using oil-based paint. Oil-based paints also contain high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC for short). VOCs evaporate as the paint dries, releasing harmful chemicals that deplete the ozone and can cause skin irritation and respiratory illnesses. Since the Clean Air Act of 1990, paints have been regulated to lower VOC levels, but oil-based paints can still be harmful to you and to the environment. 

types of paint

Benefits of Oil Paint

The benefits of oil-based paints are that they are extremely durable and more affordable than water-based solutions. Oil-based paint adheres to the metal better than other types of paint and on your home’s exterior, it will hold up well against weathering. It’s also great to use on your windowsills since it repels moisture and will keep your wood from rotting. Oil-based paints are commonly used on baseboards, door frames, and other moldings throughout your home that are more susceptible to damage than your walls. If you opt to use oil-based paint on a project large or small, look for ones labeled as “Low-Odor” or “Low-VOC”. 

thick blue latex acrylic paint

Water-Based Paints

For the majority of painting projects, water-based paint is recommended. Water-based paints include latex and acrylic, although acrylic paints are technically chemical-based and require paint thinners for easy application. Both are fast-drying and contain significantly fewer VOCs than oil-based. Acrylic paints are the best substitute for oil-based paints. Their chemical composition makes them perfectly suited for exterior painting. Acrylic paints can expand and contract without cracking to accommodate extreme temperature changes. Plus, they do not get sun-bleached! Acrylic paints are typically the most expensive paint option, but they are also the most durable. 

Latex Paints

Latex paints are by far the most popular type of paint today. It is not as durable as other paints, but it’s cheaper than acrylics. Unlike acrylic, latex paint is best suited for interior painting projects. Latex paints have the lowest VOC levels making them safer to use indoors. Latex paint also dries in a matter of hours and typically covers with fewer coats than acrylic or oil paints, meaning that you can get an entire room painted in a single day! Another reason latex paint is great for indoor use is that it cleans up with soap and water, so you don’t have to worry about a few stray drops of paint permanently ruining your floors.


High Gloss

High-gloss paint is the shiniest option. It is commonly used on moldings because it is the most durable and decorative paint sheen. It can also be a great option for outdoor areas like shutters and doors because it is easily washable.


Semi-gloss paint is slightly less shiny than high-gloss paint. Like high-gloss paint, semi-gloss is durable and easily washable, making it great for kitchens, children’s bedrooms, and trim. There are also some mildew-resistant semi-gloss paints that are perfect for bathrooms.

high gloss paint on door
low sheen paint colors and swatches


Satin is the most popular paint sheen. It’s a happy medium between too glossy and too flat. It is more durable and washable than low sheen paints and is softer and covers better than glossy paints. Satin is a great choice for high-traffic areas like playrooms, living rooms, hallways, and entryways.


Eggshell paint is a low sheen. It is great for low and medium-traffic areas like dining rooms and bedrooms. It isn’t as durable as gloss paint sheens but it covers well and is fairly easy to clean. 


Flat/Matte paint is the lowest sheen. Flat paint covers the best and shows very few imperfections. However, it is the least washable and least durable. Flat paint is most commonly used for ceilings. It can also be used in low-traffic areas, especially formal living and dining rooms. 

Pro Tips

  • Be sure you always have plenty of ventilation (windows open and fans blowing) until the paint is fully dry.
  •  Chooses “Low-Odor” or “Low-VOC,” especially for interior projects. 
  • Use paint primer if you are trying to cover dark or brightly colored walls, or if you are painting new drywall. 
  • Always Use oil-based primer under oil-based paint, acrylic primer under acrylic paint, and latex primer under latex paint.
  • Acrylic paint will NOT adhere to oil paint. 
  • Keep damp rags on hand to wipe up any spills right away! 
  • The more shiny the finish, the more imperfections it will show. 
  • The more dull the finish, the less washable and durable it will be. 

Which type is right for your home or business?

With decades of experience throughout Michiana, Clayton Hoover & Sons has built a reputation for legendary quality! Our professional painters provide exceptional interior and exterior painting services and our customers are thrilled with the results. Learn more about our services at!