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 price, coverage and quality is a constant challenge for us. When it comes to the quality of the paint, we are looking for:
- Depth of Colour : does the paint really cover other colours in one or two coats? Poor quality paints feel thin and watery and will take more coats to cover (5 or 6 in worst cases), meaning you will spend longer on the job. A false economy, for sure.
- Powderyness : I just had to invent a word. When some rubbishy paints dry they become powdery to the touch. This means that the walls will scuff and mark easily. You don’t want that. No sir.
- Drying time issues : Now, we all want paint to dry quickly, right? Yes. But also: no. Three main factors affect how quickly paint will dry. The temperature of the room, the humidity of the room and the porous nature of the surface you are painting. However, I suggest that some paints themselves dry more quickly than others (all other factors being equal). Some dry so quickly that they leave patchy roller or brush marks all over the surface. This can mean for example that you paint an already fairly decent ceiling and it ends up patchy and arguably worse than before. This will make you feel silly. Blaming the paint will remind people that “a bad tradesman always blames his tools” so you have to keep quiet and fix it. I have had to give up on paints that were good in every other way, because of this issue.
- Coverage/Efficiency: Some paints seem to last forever. As a rule, for a 4m x 4m room, you would buy 5 litres of paint for the walls. However, some paints seem to go on and on and on (and on). I remember a Johnstones vinyl matt that covered double the expected area. Cashback! Luckily, this detail is often written on the back of the tin so you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
Until recently, I professed that Johnstones premium contract matt was the best performer. We used it happily for a few months until drying time issues caused us to look elsewhere. We then switched to the decent Valspar white emulsion, but have moved on to Fortress VINYL (not trade) emulsion which seems equally good but is a good deal cheaper at £28 for 10 litres.
NOTE: we seem to change white emulsions every couple of months because every brand seems to go through phases of being good and then not so good. I have to assume the paint manufacturers change their formula or something
ANOTHER NOTE: I always say to customers that we are happy to use ANY brand of coloured emulsion. The only paints I would avoid personally are the very very cheap emulsions. If it costs £10 for a huge tub, it probably isn’t amazing, but even then, it will still do a job.
In order of what we like at the moment:
New in at number 1 is the American brand, only available at B&Q (to my knowledge). Coloured paints can only be mixed and are aligned with the Dulux colours. Meaning you can ask for Natural Calico and be obliged. The drawback is that you can’t pick a colour up off the shelf and it is mid-range expensivenesswise (another new word). Something like £40 for a 5 litre tin. You can purchase it for less if you happen to be a trader and have a Tradepoint card. Ask your decorator to buy it for you at the cheaper rate, perhaps. If they are good sort, they will.
The white emulsion is around £20 for 10 litres (a good deal) and although it is good paint, I’m sure that the mixed colours are even better quality.
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.
A posh paint company based in the Manchester area. They claim to have the highest pigment ratio of inks in their paint compared to any other company. Who can argue with that?
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, meaning you can only get the paint by the next day – at the earliest- if you run short. Also, the paint separates very quickly. A very clear liquid almost instantly rises to the top of the tin. It’s fine as long as you keep stirring. Also, it is expensive. But it’s good.
We used their emulsion recently and I was a big fan. I would use it in my own home.
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. 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 do think are good. (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.