This is a question we are asked frequently and we do have our own opinion. It’s only fair to give a response to all of the paints we have used:
TOP TIP: To make and standard emulsion more hard wearing (and easier to wipe down) add a globule of PVA glue to the tin and mix it thoroughly . It has no side effects other than making the paint stronger.
NOTE: one globule = as much as you want. Suggest half cup per 2.5 litre tin.
White emulsions are the staple paint of every job and finding the best combination of prince, coverage and quality is a constant challenge for us. Currently, Wickes vinyl matt is a good performer for the price but is a bit thick. Dulux Supermatt goes one better. The supermatt is recommended for newly plastered walls. I personally like the finish, but it is a paint that doesn’t like being wiped down all too often, if you happen to be something of a wiper.
Wickes also stock ‘Trade Emulsion’ which is slightly cheaper, and you would think because it’s called ‘Trade’ that it’s what tradesmen use and should therefore be better. It’s not. We were fooled by that.
Overall however, Johnstones premium contract matt is the best performer. It provides “excellent obliteration” which I hope is jargon for “good paint” because I often get it on myself and don’t fancy the idea of being obliterated by anything less than the Death Star itself.
On paint brands, I will list them in order of preference:
Out of all of the manufacters, Johnstones have made the biggest improvements in recent years, seemingly blazing a trail in paint technology. Exciting, eh? We recently used Johnstones trade emulsion, which covered so well that we only needed 10 litres where I expected to use 20. I was dumbstruck. In a good way.
Also, their water based undercoat is easily the best.
Also, they are a bit cunning in that they will mix colours for you “borrowed” from Farrow and Ball and Dulux. Tricksy Hobbitses.
Emulsions: Very good. Better than Farrow and Ball, for a comparable price.
Eggshell (for woodwork): same as Farrow and Ball.
Downsides: Little Greene are only available online and are a bit expensive overall.
Emulsions: At the high end of the market, something like £35 (or more) for 2.5 ltr. Always happy to use it. It’s like the Apple Macintosh of paints, it’s more expensive than the others and has a swanky tin, but it’s hard to say whether the paint inside is really any different.
Gloss/Eggshell: Farrow and Ball have a policy of only manufacturing paint with low VOC content, meaning they do not have any oil based paints. The main problem here is with colours like creams (and other shades which still require a white undercoat) the paint does not cover very well and can leave streaks. In this case two top coats are needed as well as an undercoat.
Emulsions: The vinyl coloured emulsions are very good. Reasonably priced, they have some of the best covering capability of all the paints mentioned.
Oil based: Good. Again, comparable to Dulux and Crown. All three are on a par.
Note: I have a soft spot for Wickes for no discernible reason. I think it’s the best place to buy coving/cornice.
Emuslions: You think you know what you are getting with Dulux. However, Dulux suffers from inconsistency in terms of quality. Sometimes you get a good tin, sometimes it can be powdery when rubbing down in between coats. To guarantee a hard finish that can be wiped if knocked, you have to go for the diamond hard finish. The problem with this is that the diamond finish range is small and comes with a higher price tag. I would suggest Dulux have been cynical in this matter by reducing the quality of their standard range over the last few years. (Refer to my top tip and add a PVA glue to the standard range)
Oil based: non-drip satin and gloss are fine. The one-coat satin and gloss are good if you want to avoid undercoating surfaces (only recommended if woodwork is in very good, clean condition).
Emulsions: Like Dulux, Crown suffers from inconsistencies with quality and price. To make it even more difficult, they have different ranges – alongside the standard emulsions, they have Period and Modern ranges; which I think are better but hard to rate fairly. (Again, best to add PVA glue if unsure)
Oil Based: Comparable to Dulux. Good standard.
There are a couple of different ranges. The cheapest (called ‘Value’) you must avoid; it’s as good as milk. The main range (called ‘Colours’) is not bad actually.
Same as above. The cheapest range is a no no. The middle range is ok. They have some bold and unusual colours in the range.
However, Homebase has a range called ‘Sanctuary’ which was very good to use and had excellent coverage.