Painting FAQ

1. There are so many kinds of paint available. How do you choose?

It’s not as complicated as it seems. All paint pretty much consists of three things. These are:Painting FAQ

Pigment or tint that gives paint its colour. Binder, the paint itself minus the colour. This is what carries the tint and dries to make a protective film on the painted surface. The diluent or reducer or thinner. It’s what you thin the paint down with to make it a workable consistency.

So, just three things: 1. tint 2. binder 3. reducer. That’s it…

2. What is oil paint and what is latex paint?

This is just a question of which binder and reducer you use. Originally oil paint was made with linseed oil as a binder. (Hence “oil” paint, duh!) You reduce it with mineral spirits. (Paint thinners, turpentine, etc.).

Latex paint is a Canadian invention. (Swell with patriotic pride!) CIL invented it in the 1940′s. It uses a resin from the rubber tree called “latex” as the binder. The advantage is latex paint can be reduced with water and doesn’t smell bad.

In summary:
Oil paint – made with oil. Reduces with paint thinner. Smellier. Latex paint – made with… latex! Reduces with water. Less smell.

3. I see paint labels that say “Alkyd” and “Acrylic” What’s with that?

As in law and medicine, paint terminology is designed to keep mere mortals in line.

  • ALKYD – technically means a synthetic (man-made) resin. Alkyd is OIL PAINT using a man-made oil. That’s all it is. ALKYD = OIL PAINT.
  • ACRYLIC – you guessed it. Synthetic latex. ACRYLIC = LATEX PAINT.

To be fair to the manufacturers, the paint keeps improving even though they confuse you with names. Especially Acrylic. In some areas (California), oil paint is now illegal as it is considered too toxic. So research in Acrylic paint is going leaps and bounds. New stuff is coming out all the time. (We’re just glad we’re not working on computers!).

4. Which paint is best?

  • Well, it depends. For walls, usually, acrylic latex is best. For doors and window sills etc., oil paint is usually stronger. Acrylic paints breathe more. They allow moisture to evaporate better from inside walls. Acrylics are better for the environment. Disposal is less of a problem. You can wash up the brushes with soap and water.

    Having said all that, we find it hard to beat a nice coat of shiny oil paint for doors and trim. It dries with a smooth, hard finish. It stinks, and it’s a pain to clean up, but it really gives a nice result once it’s all over.

5. I was told this paint I bought was eggshell.
But when I got it home it was green! What kind of egg is that? A Lizard egg?

Paint comes in several different levels of sheen. Flat, Satin, Eggshell, Semi-gloss, Gloss, High Gloss. Not all paints come in all sheens, and not all companies make sheens with the same degree of shininess. Eggshell is a sheen or shine level, not a colour. It’s just another way to confuse you.

However, there are some general guidelines:

FLAT PAINT reflects little light. It looks rich and velvety, especially in deep colours. It doesn’t show all the imperfections in plaster or drywall. It’s great in a living room or a room frequented by adults who don’t have brawls or throw beer bottles too much. It’s the least washable.

SATIN PAINT is a step up from Flat. It’s one of the less common sheens. A lot of paints jump right up to eggshell from flat. It’s usually pretty close to eggshell.

EGGSHELL PAINT is a little shinier still. Not too shiny but still pretty washable. Good for offices and public areas and rooms with kids in them with dirty little sticky hands. (We love little kids for helping our business.) It is very popular as an all-around sheen.

SEMI-GLOSS PAINT is good for doors and trim. It’s not super shiny but still gives a nice glow to the painted surface. Bathroom and kitchen walls do well in semi-gloss because they are more washable than eggshell. But it tends to show flaws in the walls quite clearly, and in hallways, it looks sort of hospital-like. Consider semi-gloss if you want to use a firehose to clean your home or office walls. But mainly, it’s used for interior or exterior trim.

GLOSS/HIGH GLOSS/PLASTIC GLOSS are all shiny paints. They often look good on older traditional woodwork. The flaws show with this paint, but that can also be part of the charm. Plastic gloss always looks like wet paint, so you can play lots of jokes on your friends when they visit if you paint the fence with plastic gloss.

The binder ratio (alkyd or acrylic resin) vs diluent/tint determines how shiny the dried paint is.

6. I was told this wall was painted with a pattern to look like wall-paper. How do you do that?

That is called FAUX FINISHING.


Faux means “false” in French. It is applying a coat of paint to a wall, letting it dry, and then making a pattern by stamping or wiping with a sponge or rag to make the pattern using a different colour than the base coat.

The stuff you use to make the pattern is called a glaze, and it’s paint mixed with a special compound to slow the drying and thin it down. What kind of pattern you get depends on the colours, the type of rag or sponge, and who is doing it.

No two artists will make the same faux finish using the same material as snowflakes.

A faux finish can liven up a room, adding subtle depth to the walls. You can also pick exact colours to accent your rugs and furniture, which is hard to do with wallpaper. You can paint over it in a few years, unlike wallpaper you have to strip off.

7. I was told I should use stain outside my house but I want a painted look.
I don’t want a brown colour with the grain showing. Should I use paint instead?

There are two kinds of stain for exterior use on wood houses. One is called Semi-Transparent, and the other is Solid Colour. Solid Colour stain looks like paint and comes in lots of colours. You should use that on your house if you have wood siding. Semi-Transparent is the kind you were originally thinking of. It gives a thin covering, and you can see the woodgrain showing through. It looks nice if you want a natural look and comes in much more than just “wood” colours.

Unfortunately, semi-transparent may only last 1/2 as long as the solid colour. It fades quicker due to UV (sunlight) exposure and doesn’t give as much protection from rain. In Vancouver, you are better off with solid rather than semi. If you want the natural look of semi-transparent, you should be prepared to re-coat every 3-4 years.

8. How long will it the paint take to dry?

Acrylic (latex) paint dries much faster than Alkyd (oil). Usually, a couple of hours is plenty of time. Oil paint, though, should dry overnight. Flat paint dries faster than semi-gloss.