3 Basic Interior Paint Types

There are three basic interior paint types for the home.  This is often assumed to be common knowledge, but let’s take nothing for granted.  For interior painting we are going to use water based or acrylic paint rather than oil based paints.

The 3 basic interior paint types are:

  • Enamel
  • Satin finish
  • Flat finish 

The question is which one is best to use where and when in the home.

Differences Among 3 Interior Paint Types

It is impossible to show the differences visually online.  A visit to the paint store is the best way to get a correct view.  Most paint departments are more than willing to show chips of each of the types of paint used in the interior of the home.  The trip will be worth the time and effort.

  • Enamel Interior Paint

Enamel paint is available in high gloss or semi-gloss or flat.  The high gloss enamel reflects the maximum amount of light while the semi-gloss reflects less light but is still shiny.

Semi-gloss is usually the preferred selection for use in homes.  It provides a clean look and has a lovely finish without too much glare.  Some high gloss enamels seem to distract rather than add to the decor.  They often are just too shiny, especially in the typical home or apartment.

Best uses for semi-gloss enamels include:

  • Trims
  • Moldings
  • Facings
  • Doors

Best uses for flat enamels include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Some areas of a kitchen

Acrylic enamel is easy to clean using a damp cloth and occasionally a little detergent in case of greasy prints or excessive handling, such as around the door handle or if the kids grab the edge of the door to push it open or pull it closed.

If there is a need, it is easy enough to “touch up” a blemish on enamel paint.  For that reason, it is imperative to retain any left over enamel after initial painting or to keep the paint tab showing the exact mixture.

  • Satin Interior Paint

The best use of satin paint is for interior walls.  It also has varying degrees of finish, some being more reflective than others.

A well done job with satin paint is beautiful.  It looks like flat wall paint with a slight reflective glow.  The glistening effect is so subtle that it is barely noticed, but it does create a lovely effect in a room.  That’s the good part.

Here’s the down side.  It is next to impossible for a non-professional painter to make this paint look good.  And in some cases, they cannot make the paint job look good.  Much depends on the walls.  If the sheet rock is not almost perfectly done, every blemish will show.  The ripples in the walls will stand out and every nail head can be seen.  The satin paints reflective nature makes usually unnoticed blemishes hard to dismiss.

The paint job should be done professionally and come with a guarantee.  Even using a sprayer as most pros do, what is called the “hat band”, the small section that is hand painted next to the ceiling or floor moldings will stand out from the walls if the edging paint is allowed to dry before the spray is applied.

Once satin paint is dry doing a quick touch up in case of a blemish or accidental scratch will mark the spot forever.  There is just no blending satin paint once dried.

Okay, I guess I sound as if I would never use satin paint.  That is not the case.  It is just important to make sure the sheet rock is even and well prepared and that the painter has one helper trimming the ceiling area and another trimming the floor area while he sprays right behind them.  It takes a real pro.

  • Flat Acrylic Interior Paint

This is the old standby!  This is the paint we grew up with.

  • It is not glossy.
  • It does not emphasize wall blemishes as satin does.  
  • It can be cleaned with a damp cloth.  
  • Touch ups are quick and easy.
  • Any body can paint with it and make it look good!

The difference between the appearance of satin paint versus flat acrylic paint is negligible.  The average person could not tell the difference.  Of course, I am sure a trained eye could, but let’s face it, most of our friends and family are not going to know the difference.

If this is a do it yourself paint job, by all means use flat acrylic for the walls and semi-gloss enamel for the trim and doors.  Before taking my word for it, go to the paint store.  Ask for sames of each.  Ask the paint mixer to demonstrate each of the varieties.  After all, it is better to check it out in the store than it is on your walls at home.

AND, remember that paint always looks darker in your home on your walls than it does in the store.  ALWAYS!