Home Decor Basics: Paint


If you’ve never painted a wall in the past you may be quickly confused upon entering a modern paint store. Gallons of paint, treatments and finishes line the shelves without much explanation of why you’d choose on can over the next.

Take heart! There are just a few basics to consider when choosing the right paint for your home decor task you’ve begun. Paint is, simply put, a mixture of pigment, resin and a carrier agent. In general, the main (white or eggshell) pigment is the base of which small amounts of other pigments are added to obtain your chosen color.

Warm yellow paint treatment.Resin is what makes paint adhere to your wall, furniture or other surface. The carrier is the evaporative liquid that is included in the bulk of the mixture that allows you to brush or roll on the surface for an even finish. Water is the primary agent in latex paints and solvents for oil or alkyd paints. In smaller quantities, paint also contains clay or other inert ingredients used to adjust a paint’s sheen.

Past the basic ingredients, the quantity of titanium dioxide and other additives define the paint’s characteristics, quality and price.

Latex or Oil/Alkyd for Home Decor

What’s the difference?

Up until a few years ago, the first question you’d be asked at the paint store (once you chose your color) is whether you’d like to use latex or oil. For years oil (aka alkyd or solvent-based) paints were favored for trim, woodwork, most exterior and some interior surfaces for the reason that they flow uniformly, are long lasting and mold resistant. Solvent paints have excellent leveling characteristics and adhere well particularly to poorly-prepared or chalky surfaces. They even give a tough, hard-shell finish, and most of the exterior alkyds can be utilized in sub-freezing conditions. These finish looks must be considered when attempting DIY home decor.

In the last few years however, the change in paints is extreme. Very seldom would you choose oil paints today as many state and federal air-quality laws are clamping down on their use and the latex paints have developed well enough to manage all household needs. The problem, environmentally, with solvent-based paints is that they contain high concentration of mineral spirits that evaporate into the air as volatile organic compounds resulting in air pollution.

Many experts say that solvent paints that comply with ‘green’ standards don’t really have advantages over the water-based paints as they dry slower and are more difficult to apply and clean up after, not to mention that they cost 50-100% more than latex.

Choosing Between Alkyd-Modified, Vinyl-Acrylic, or Acrylic Paint

Latex paints are not all the same. The first known latex paints were named after their synthetic ‘latex’ rubber base but the synthetic rubber is not used today. Stating ‘latex’ at the paint store could refer to all and any water-borne paint. Within the latex category you will have three more decisions to make: vinyl-acrylic, 100 percent acrylic, or alkyd-modified latex.

The best option? Well, vinyl-acrylic latex is the least costly of the three and is considered appropriate for most interior walls and some short-durability exterior uses. Best known high performance interior paints are 100 percent acrylic and cost a little more. Many home decorators claim that 100% acrylic has better color retention and better adhesion than any of the types. Finally, in exterior paints, use either 100 percent acrylic or alkyd-modified latex. Although both of these types are excellent if house siding was previously painted with an alkyd or is chalking, alkyd-modified latex is preferred. It has been said that the alkyd-modified latex does an excellent job of penetrating and anchoring the coating on a chalky surface.