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What Type of Paint Do I Need?

I bet you never thought about the different type of paints there are until you went to paint your first place. Most of us just think about the color. And I admit, that's where I start too. But once you get to the actual store, select the color swatch and walk up to the counter to get that coveted gallon, you are suddenly slammed with questions and you realize that the options are definitely overwhelming. What finish do you want? What brand do you want? Do you need primer? And so on. The salesperson may be able to steer you in the right direction, but then again, they may not. And then you make the horrific discovery that prices vary widely, I mean WIDELY! And sometimes I find the frugal little part of my brain thinking, why buy the $50 dollar can when there are so many cheaper options?!?

Paint samples

Well, paint is like anything else. You get what you pay for. I have learned this the hard way, after not learning my lesson the first 10 times. Cheap paint scuffs quickly, requires several coats to go on and doesn't always look the best. It also off-gasses, meaning it releases chemicals into the air over time. Bottom line, not all paint is created equal.

Here's some rule of thumbs I try to follow when picking out my paint now:

I pay extra for eco-friendly products. That's just part of my value system. You don't have too, but I prefer knowing that my products aren't off-gassing and are better for the environment.

When it comes to finishes it is all based on the texture of the surface.

Primer: As I get older, I get wiser, and primer has become my friend with age. Why prime? It saves you the hassle of doing many, many coats, especially when taking a wall from a darker color to a lighter color. It also helps you to hide imperfections. After patching a wall, it helps smooth it out and prep it to hold the paint. There is also special primer that helps lock in smells. So if you bought a house that reeked of smoke (like I did), there is a primer out there that will lock that smell up so it doesn't seep through the paint. Primer is my friend.

One of my favorite primers

Walls: I prefer eggshell finish usually. It hides imperfections. I especially go for eggshell in areas with water like the kitchen and bathroom. It tends to be easier to wipe clean. I also consider a matte finish sometimes depending on the color and the use of the space. I only feel comfortable putting it in a pet free/kid free space generally because it is definitely more difficult to clean should something get on it.



Trim and Doors: These two are high traffic areas, meaning peoples hands will touch them, often. It is essential you have a finish that you can wipe clean. Especially if you have kiddos. The easiest to clean is semi-gloss. It is also standard. Sometimes, if you want less shine, you can opt for a satin finish. It will still do the trick for you.

Ceilings: I wrote about this is my "Top 10 Pet Peeves" post, but please don't overlook the ceiling. I always go with a flat finish up there, again to hide imperfections. The less shiny the paint, the more you can camouflage little glitches.

Painting a ceiling can drastically change a room

Lastly, I strongly recommend you buy samples and paint swatches on the walls in the places you intend to put that color. I never used to do this. I always felt strongly that I liked the color and it would work... Well, I have a wall in my living room that begs to differ. In day light it looks a couple shades of darker gray than the other walls and looks exactly how I want it to look: like the focal wall it was meant to be. However, at night it looks completely identical to the other walls. The focal wall moment disappears. Now, had I taken the time to let a sample sit and checked in on it in all different lighting, I would have caught that mistake... but I didn't. Nope. Young little Mackenzie just was so eager to paint her walls that she grabbed the swatches and off she went.

Sample paint swatches

Don't be me. Paint a swatch, let it sit. Mull over it in different lighting and at different times of day. It will save you time, money and energy in the long run.

Hope this helps a little bit. Those that know me know I love painting. I hope this helps you to experience the joy of finding the perfect color, putting on your perfect podcast or music, and losing yourself in updating your space with a gorgeous coat of paint.

If you have any other tips that I may have left out, drop them in the comments below. I'm always eager to learn more!

Forever grateful,


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