Paint 101

Paint 101 banner image

When selecting the right paint for your project, there’s a lot more to consider than just color. With so many options available, it’s important to be familiar with the characteristics and terminology of paint so that you can select the best choice for your space.



There are two types of pigments: prime and extender pigments. Prime pigments are found in higher quality paints as they create vibrant color and excellent hide properties. These pigments allow for easier application and greater durability. Extender pigments are less expensive than prime, and do little to add value to a paint. These pigments create bulk but don’t improve paint quality.


Binders affect the stain resistance, glossiness, adhesion, and crack resistance of a paint. Higher quality paints have better binders that increase a paints longevity. Improved binders are less prone to peeling or blistering. There are a variety of binders used in today's paints. Most latex-based paints contain acrylic binders. Oil-based paints usually contain linseed oil, soya oil, or alkyd binders.


Liquids don’t offer paint performance benefits. Rather, this is the component that blends all of the other ingredients. High quality paints have a higher ratio of solids (pigments and binders) to liquids.


Additives are components that give paint a special benefit for a specific application. There is an additive that improves hide, one to ward off mildew, and another that prevents paint from spoiling.


VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. In the painting industry, VOCs are carbon-based solvents that give paint a strong odor and can cause poor indoor air quality. There are many options for low or no-VOC paints on the market.


Paint adhesion is the measurement of how well a paint sticks to a substrate. Depending on the project, it may be necessary to select a paint with special adhesive properties. For example, paint can have a difficult time adhering to glossy surfaces, so an adhesion primer may be necessary to anchor topcoats.

Color Retention

Color retention is the capability of paint to maintain its color after exposure to the elements. Paints that resist fading usually have high quality binders to help grip the surface and bind pigment particles together. Color retention is also improved with durable prime pigments that are more difficult to breakdown from sun exposure.


Sheen measures the shininess of a paint. There are many paint sheen options that are appropriate for different applications. The list below defines each type of sheen as well as acts as a guide for usage.

Paint Sheens


Flat paint has no sheen. Therefore, it does not clean as well as other sheens. This finish is best suited for ceilings and rarely used for rooms. Flat paint also hides imperfections better than all other sheens.


Matte paint has a slight sheen allowing for washability. This finish works well for higher-traffic areas where surface imperfections are a concern.


Eggshell paint has a soft polished glow, is washable, and is great for high-traffic areas. This finish works well in bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining rooms.


Satin paint has a medium sheen and is more durable than eggshell paint. It works well in kitchens, mudrooms, and kids’ rooms. Satin paint is also perfect for cabinets, trim, and doors when a durable yet low sheen paint is desired.


Semi-gloss paint has a prominent sheen and is extremely easy to clean. This finish works well for trim and doors when a shinier finish is desired. Semi-gloss paint will highlight imperfections on the walls.


Gloss paint is the shiniest of them all. This finish reflects light and highlights any surface characteristic. Gloss paint is great for cabinets and trim.