Paint Tips & Techniques: Choosing the Right Paint for Your Project

Selecting the right color for your project is important, but choosing the right paint for the job and using good application techniques is even more critical to achieve a beautiful, long-lasting finish!  Yesterday, I shared an easy-peasy calculation for estimating how much paint your project will need, and today we’ll explore:

What is the best paint for the project?

Latex or Oil?
Flat, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss, or Hi-Gloss?
And, do I really need a primer?

Let’s start off with the last question first ~ {Is a primer a must?} YES!!!  Primers provide the necessary foundation to give the “cleanest” look and create a more uniform result.  It acts as a sealant, especially for walls that have never been painted, as well as walls that you are drastically changing colors. Using a primer will also save you money!  Because most primers can be tinted, you will not have to apply more than 2 coats (you may only need 1 coat depending on the hue).  Using a primer in a kitchen or bathroom also helps in preventing mildew.

Let’s recap ~ Primer is a MUST!

A good primer to use, is one with low or No VOCs, like this one from Olympia (available at Lowe’s).  What are VOCs?? It stands for: Volatile Organic Compounds which emits as a gas from certain solids or liquids ~ You know when you open a can of paint and it smells REALLY BAD, you want to (throw up)?  That is something that has a high VOC.  There are huge campaigns going on to eliminiate high VOCs and most (if not all) paint companies have created paints with low or No-VOCs. This is the one to buy!

So now on to…Latex vs. Oil based.  Hands down, I use latex paint 99% of the time.  I have used oil based paint a handful of times, but it makes me sick to my stomach. Here’s a run down comparing the two ~

Advantages and Disadvantages of Latex paint


  • Latex is water based and for a typical interior project, it’s perfect!
  • Latex offers great results and allows for easy cleanup with mild soap and water.
  • Dries quickly in 1-2 hours
  • Non-toxic and emits very little odor (but it’s still good to open a window and vent your space)
  • Can be used indoors and outdoors
  • Latex is often resistant to fading and pealing, more so than oil based paints because it has the ability to breathe more.
  • Non-flammable
  • Will not yellow over time


  • Latex paints are temperature sensitive resulting in possible shrinkage during the drying process.
  • If you are painting OVER stain, it can easily penatrate latex paints (using a Kilx product might help avoid this problem).
  • Latex does not adhere well to dirty or chalky surfaces.  To achieve the best results, the surface should be clean.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Oil based paint


  • Covers stain better than latex
  • Covers previous oil paint better.  Using latex over oil can result in pealing (it’s happen to me).
  • Better in lower temperatures resulting in less shrinkage
  • Best in higher traffic areas ~ more durable and easier to clean


  • Strong Odor
  • Long drying time (up to 24 hours)
  • Potential to fade over time and yellow
  • Oil based paint becomes brittle over time resulting in cracking and pealing
  • Cleanup involves turpentine or mineral spirits
  • Highly-flammable
  • Oil based paint is considered a hazardous material, so disposing of unused paint can be cumbersome.

So you make the decision ~ What’s better for your next project: Latex or Oil?

You’ve got your primer and you know your type of paint, now what about the finish??

Here are some basic guidelines to follow when choosing a paint finish:

*Flat ~ Flat paint provides a matte finish and has no reflective qualities.  A flat finish hides imperfections in the wall and is great for low traffic areas and ceilings. This finish is good for family rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.

*Eggshell / Satin ~ This paint finish provides a small amount of reflection, allowing you to wipe it with a lightly dampened cloth. Eggshell or Satin is more durable and is more forgiving with stains (from little fingers).  This finish is good for all of the above, plus kid’s rooms and hallways.

All of the walls throughout my home are eggshell (satin) ~ With kids it’s a must!  Over time, the paint holds up better with this finish.

*Semi-Gloss ~ This finish is much more durable than eggshell and is mostly used for doors, windows, accents, trims, and furniture.  It has more sheen and is better resistant to stains.  Semi-Gloss is also recommended for the kitchen and bathroom walls, but I’m a believer that eggshell is the way to go for those spaces.

* High-Gloss ~ I can honestly say, I have never used a High-Gloss finish, but it is the MOST durable, MOST stain resistant, and EASIEST to clean, BUT has ALOOOOT of sheen. Maybe that’s the look you want?!  High-Gloss can be good for doors, windows, mouldings, cabinets, and furniture.

Check out this great go-to “sheen” chart on where to use what

Now it’s your turn…tell me what paint techniques you use. What’s your favorite paint sheen?  And do you prefer latex or oil based?

After yesterday and today’s post, you are READY to paint.  O, but there is still more.  Check back tomorrow for some more “how-to” basics for painting the perfect room!

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  1. says

    Hi! Thanks for coming by my blog today!

    These are some great tips! You’ll be surprised how many people don’t know this. Love your blog, btw. I’m a new follower!