Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do it youself painting tips: choosing paint for a smooth finish

Oil based or latex paint? Matte, semi-gloss, or even high-gloss? What’s primer? All of the basic paint questions answered.

Contrary to popular belief, matte is not always better. A glossy finish causes the light to reflect therefore tricking the eye into seeing a smooth finish. Why? Your eye only focuses on the reflection of the light, which then blurs the imperfections of the wall. It also distracts from brush strokes and other painting imperfections. A matte finish doesn't reflect light and so you are seeing every little defect of the wall. However, it's best to go semi-gloss since high-gloss will highlight imperfections rather than distract from them.
Ultimately there are two kinds of paint, oil based (also known as solvent based) and latex paint (also known as water based). Yes, there are other paints on the market but these are the two options you will be sure to find at any paint store.
Oil based paint is made of oil and resins. This paint is thin and will glide onto surfaces easily however it is very difficult to clean up. This paint also requires the use of products such as paint thinner, turpentine, and primer. It is smelly and more toxic than latex. However, it is more durable than latex paint but it costs more and is overall more difficult to use.
Latex paint is thicker than oil based. This means if done right it is more likely to leave you with a smooth finish, sometimes in just one coat. It's also very easy to clean up since it just takes water and soap. Latex paint is supposedly less durable than oil based, but most latex paints claim to last 15-20 years or so. And best of all latex is healthier. The fumes are much less dangerous than with oil based. All of these reasons are why latex is the preferred choice of paint.
Primer is a great way to ensure a smooth finish. Primer is different than paint. It is meant to fill in any rough spots to create a smooth even surface on which to paint. It also creates a barrier so less paint is absorbed into the wall so the paint adheres to a primed wall better. Acrylic / Latex primers are used for interior purposes. This means that you will also need to use latex paint. You know that cliché "water and oil don't mix." This is an example of it. You can use water based paint (latex) on top of oil based primer but the reverse is guaranteed to not give you that smooth finish you want. So it's best to just stick with water based and water based. When shopping for primer be sure to check the label. Paint and primer are generally sold in the same section so the label will be your sure way to tell the difference.
If you have the money, the best smooth finish paints on the market are high end emulsions. They are made to evenly disperse the combination of molecules of the paint. Emulsions are ultimately fancy water based paint. However, a good latex primer with semi-gloss latex paint carefully rolled onto the walls will give you just about the same smooth finish for less money. Or you can go in between the price ranges. There are a lot of paints specifically labeled "for a smooth finish," but most people would agree there's usually only a small difference between the less and more expensive paints.
Last of all, remember that preparation of your walls and your painting technique also play a large role in getting a smooth finish. Spackle holes and dents in the wall and sand the rough patches when dry. Prime thoroughly. Then paint with a roller in almost vertical lines (like very narrow w's) moving quickly so these lines won't become visible. Clean up, let dry, and enjoy your beautiful smooth finish walls.

Written by Sarah Eve Nichols - © 2002 Pagewise

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