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 winner, as is Dulux Supermatt. Both priced around £30 for a 10ltr tub. 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.
They 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.
The Vinyl Emulsion is very thick and covers extremely well. One coat covers a newly plastered wall better than you would believe. It has one drawback: it is so thick that you have to be very quick in application because it dries within seconds - and if you are not careful - you can be left with patches of thick paint all over the place. To remedy this, instead of adding water to thin it down, we use PVA glue. It helps strengthen the paint and also stops it from drying quite so fast. After over a year of testing every brand of white emulsion – this is the one we are happy with.
Emulsions: At the high end of the market, something like £35 (or more) for 2.5 ltr. It is pretty good. 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: Extremely good. Better than Farrow and Ball, for a comparable price.
Emulsions: Again, high end price wise. It is pleasant to use and covers well.
Gloss paints – untested.
Emuslions: Dulux suffers from inconsistency in terms of quality. 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; all of which are too unpredictable to rate fairly. (Again, best to add PVA glue if unsure)
Oil Based: Comparable to Dulux. Good standard.
Out of all of the manufacters, Johnstones have made the biggest improvements in recent years, seemingly blazing a trail in paint technology. 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.
Emulsions: Very good. As mentioned, the ‘vinyl’ white emulsion is our No 1 choice. Similarly, the vinyl coloured emulsions are very good. Reasonably priced, they have the best covering capability of all the paints mentioned.
The range of exterior masonry emulsion paint (white and magnolia only) is extremely good - hard wearing and easy to apply. They stock very large 15 litre tubs which although heavy are priced very reasonably at less than £40.
Oil based: Good. Again, comparable to Dulux and Crown. All three are on a par.
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 ok.
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.