Types of Paints and Finishes Explained

It’s important to know what’s going into your home when selecting paints, as understanding the advantages and disadvantages of all available choices will help you narrow down your choice. With this guide, you’ll be able to pick out home paints with confidence that you’ve made the best decision for you and your family.


Any good paint job starts with the proper primer. Its purpose is to protect the material you’re about to paint over, while also allowing the later paint colours to appear true to colour and providing a smooth canvas for application. But you can also use a primer over walls that have already been painted to create a fresh canvas. Primers come in both oil-based and water-based options. However, primer itself isn’t paint. Rather, it’s an adhesive layer that allows for the paint colour to stick to the surface.

Oil-Based Paint

Also known as solvent-based paint, oil paints are highly durable. It’s perfect for walls and baseboards, as it’s capable of standing up to wear and tears for many years. Oil-based paints may take hours to dry (up to 16 hours between coats), but the colouring is sure to stay vibrant and smooth for a while before it needs to be repainted. They’re reliable in high-moisture areas like basements, but cleaning the paint brushes aren’t a simple task. Harsh chemicals or paint thinners are required to properly clear away oil residue.

Oil-based paints can be made from either organic oils or synthetic ones. Organic oil paints are more delicate during the drying process than their synthetic counterpart. However, synthetic paints are full of volatile organic compounds that leave a heavy odour behind and shouldn’t be inhaled. A respirator is needed when using synthetic oil paints.

Water-Based Paint

Also known as latex paint, even though it uses acrylic or vinyl resins instead of latex in its compositions, water-based paints are the preferred choice for interior painting jobs. It’s less durable and more expensive than oil-based paint, but it dries quickly. Fast enough, in fact, that multiple layers can be painted in one day, without having to worry about strong VOC odours.

Other advantages to using water-based paints include not having to pre-treat the surface before painting, not worrying about mildew growth from the paint itself, its resistance to cracking as well as it’s resistance to fading in direct sunlight. Cleanup only requires soap and water to get the job done.

Paint Finishes

Flat or Matte

Offers little reflection but provides a velvety texture once dry. This paint style hides imperfections in walls and ceilings, and offers colour depth but can be difficult to clean. It’s best for lower traffic areas and is considered the standard in wall sheens.

Satin and Eggshell

As the most popular choice for paint finishes, satin offers some reflectivity as well as improved durability. It’s often used in higher traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms, as it’s easy to clean. Eggshell provides the same advantages while being slightly more reflective.

Semi and High-Gloss

Best suited for bathrooms, kitchens and high traffic areas, semi-gloss finishes offer a fair amount of light reflection and are remarkably durable. High gloss gives the most reflective finish and is usually saved for doors, wooden trims and mouldings. It’s preferred for adding decorative touches while being easy to clean. Tends to highlight any and all imperfections.

At Monarch Paints, we’ve been selling high-quality paints for over 50 years. With paint stores in both North York and Bloor West Village in Toronto, Ontario, our knowledgeable staff works to make sure each customer is confident in their paint choices, with popular brands that include Benjamin Moore, C2 Paint, Valspar and more. Be sure to visit our store or go online at www.monarchpaints.ca for more information.