Types of Paints and Finishes for Inside and Outside Projects

Purchasing the best type of paint for your DIY project will give you the desired result and help you avoid having to repaint later. Emerge2 has made researching the types of paint and finishes easy so you can choose the best product for your next interior or exterior home project.

Types of Paint

Picking the right paint isn’t as simple as choosing the color you like. Once you’ve selected a color, start deciding which type of paint would work best for the job. Different paint products include primer, finishing coats, and interior or exterior paint. Each product is used on various surfaces and in different ways.

The following are the types you need to know before purchasing your paint.


The base (or initial) coat that is applied to the surface before your paint color is called primer. The foundation coat assists in making a smooth and even surface on the final product. The primer is usually white and helps to reduce the number of applications of color needed. It can also prevent the color underneath from showing through. Don’t skip this step – using a primer will significantly improve your finished product.

Finish Coat

The finish coat is the final paint you've chosen to complete your project, painted on top of the primer. There are many varieties of finishing coats. Here are some to be aware of:

  1. Use interior paint for the surfaces inside your home. These can consist of walls, furniture, cabinets, doors or trim.
  2. Exterior paint is generally more costly than interior paint, but don’t skimp on the product you purchase. Exterior paint is weather-resistant and capable of withstanding varying temperature changes. Using exterior paint for an outside project will create a better-looking, long-lasting result.
  3. Water-based latex paint is typical for most indoor paint jobs. It’s easy to use and is quick to clean up.

Choosing a Finish for Your Project

Paint comes in different finishes, and each finish serves a unique purpose. The finish, or sheen, determines the amount of light reflected from it. The finish is created by adding tints and additives to the paint. Some finishes look better on particular surfaces and are more cleaning-friendly.

There are four types of finishes: flat, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Some paint producers may give the paints a more creative name, such as matte or eggshell. The sheen affects the appearance and the durability of the painted surface. The higher the sheen level, the more durable and hard the paint is.

Not all paints will generate the same light reflectivity. The sheen is different from brand to brand. One manufacturer’s satin finish will not necessarily be as glossy as another. Be sure to check your samples.

Different finishes will change the hue of your paint slightly. For example, the same shade of white may look brighter in a gloss enamel than in a flat finish due to the higher amount of color reflected with high gloss paint. Take home paint samples of different finishes in the color you’ve chosen. Apply the paint to test surfaces to see which finish is best for the area.

Flat Paint

Flat paint is also called matte. This type of paint is appropriately named as it is almost chalk-like in appearance. This finish does not reflect light well – you can expect little or no shine. Because of that, surfaces painted with a flat finish can hide flaws. A disadvantage to flat paint is that it is not very durable and unable to be cleaned like other finishes. Low-traffic areas such as ceilings are good uses of this paint.

Satin Paint

A satin finish reflects a small amount of light, making the texture more visible. Satin is an ideal paint for a child’s room or a high-traffic area such as a hallway where walls require more frequent washing.

Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paints are more resilient and durable than satin finishes and stand up better when cleaned. This paint is best used in kitchens and bathrooms and also for trims. If painting cabinets, sand and clean them with a vinegar wash or TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) product before painting. A semi-gloss finish makes imperfections more noticeable, but it also has the advantage of being a more reflective surface and makes a room feel light and bright.

High-Gloss Paint

A high-gloss finish is shiny and the most reflective of all types of paint. This finish will brighten your color choice. This paint will endure daily use on furniture. However, remember that the highly reflective surface will bring attention to any scratches or marks.

The best paint type and finish will depend on what you want to accomplish in the project you're working on. Consider the colors and finish carefully to make your project the best it can be. Do you have questions about interior or exterior paint options and colors? Contact Emerge2, we’re here to help!