15 Different Types of Paints For Interior and Exterior Uses

What’s the best kind of paint for your project? There are lots of types of paints to choose from, ranging from material composition to finishing texture and sheen. Find out their different uses here.

Home Decorating Paints

When it comes to renovating your home, there are many different types of paints you can choose from, but they can all be split into two categories; oil-based or water-based paint. 

Understanding the differences between these two types of paint will help you to understand which type is best for which areas of your home and which surfaces.

Oil-Based Paint

Check Price on Amazon

Oil-based paints are very durable, and for this reason, they tend to be used in more high traffic areas, for example, on stair railings, floors, doors, and furniture. Using oil-based paint on these parts of your home will make it much less likely that they will chip or scuff over time with wear and tear, meaning you won’t need to re-paint them again any time soon.

The fact that oil-based paint is so tough can be a disadvantage in some situations. Working with this type of paint can be messy and unpleasant.

It doesn’t wash off, so if you make any spillages, they will be permanent. It’s also very difficult to get off your hair and skin so take precautions when using it by wearing protective gloves and old clothing. It’s also difficult to clean oil-based paint off a paintbrush or roller.

Oil-based paints take longer to become touch-dry compared with water-based paints, but after just a few days, they harden completely. By comparison, water-based paints tend to take several weeks before they are completely hard.

The fact that oil-based paint dries slowly is an advantage in some situations. It means that you can re-work the brush strokes to get a good, even finish, unlike water-based paint, which can dry so quickly that it will leave brush strokes.

Oil-based paints have alkyd resins among their ingredients, and this can cause yellowing over time. White oil-based paint is especially susceptible to this and can look unpleasant after a few years. Water-based paint does not yellow over time, and even white water-based paint will remain bright white.

The finish of oil-based paint is one of its greatest features. With oil-based paint, you can get a very high gloss, almost mirror-like sheen, which is unachievable even with gloss water-based paints. Oil-based paints are also easier to work with. They can be sanded down and recoated easily, whereas water-based paint has a tendency to peel.

Anyone who has used oil-based paint will know that it smells quite offensive when it is wet. Oil-based paints require plenty of ventilation until the paint has completely hardened, which is usually at least a couple of days.

This type of paint contains higher levels of volatile organic chemicals compared with water-based paint, so while it is safe to use with adequate ventilation, you should be sure to take precautions when using it. It is best to avoid using it when children are present or in children’s bedrooms.


  • Durable
  • Workable longer
  • Dries hard quickly
  • Quality finish


  • Messy to use
  • High VOC levels
  • Intense odor
  • May yellow over time

Water-Based Paint

Water-Based Paint

Water-based paints are considered to be less durable than oil-based paints, and so they are most commonly used in areas that are not subject to a lot of abuse, such as ceilings and walls.

The one exception to this is that water-based paints are flexible, whereas oil-based paints are not. This means that in some situations, they will be more hard-wearing, for example, on a wooden gate which might expand and contract with temperature changes.

The flexibility of water-based paint allows it a little give, which can mean it is durable for longer in this instance. By comparison, oil-based paint may crack when used on surfaces that have movement in them.

Water-based paints become touch dry very quickly, which is ideal in the home because it means you can rest easy knowing nobody is going to accidentally cause handprints in your fresh paintwork. It’s also handy if you want to get a room renovated quickly because the quick drying time allows you to add more coats after just a few hours, making it possible to completely re-paint a room in just a day.

Although the quick drying time certainly has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks. Getting a good finish can be hard with water-based paint because it dries so quickly that you can easily leave brush strokes in it, which are still visible when it has dried. For this reason, it is better to use a roller when decorating with water-based paints.

Despite the quick touch-dry time, water-based paint actually takes longer to become completely hardened than oil-based paint and can take several weeks until it has fully cured. This means you’ll need to be careful not to scuff the paint for a few weeks after you’ve used it.

Water-based paint is much easier to clean up than oil-based paint. Water-based paint easily washes off skin with some soap and warm water, and the brushes you have used will also be easy to get back to their original state with some running water.

The level of VOCs in water-based paint is lower than in oil-based paint. This makes it safer and more pleasant to work with, as the odor is much less chemical-smelling. It is still advisable to ensure good ventilation when using water-based paints.


  • Touch dries quickly
  • Easy to clean up
  • Low VOCs
  • Low odor
  • Won’t yellow over time
  • Flexible


  • Less durable
  • Takes longer to fully cure
  • Harder to get a good finish

For some insights about several water-based paints, follow our guide ‘ Non-Vinyl vs. Vinyl Matt Paints ‘ 

Paint Finishes:

Once you have decided on an oil-based or water-based paint, you’ll have an array of finishes to choose from. The finish you select can make a big difference to the look of the space or object you are painting, and it can also affect its durability. The finish of the paint can also affect how messy it is to work with, and you’ll need to adjust your paintbrush cleaning method accordingly.


Check Price on Amazon

A flat finish, which is also known as a matte finish, is the paint that has the lowest level of shine. This type of paint will have a sheen level lower than 10%, which means you’ll get a very muted finish. The lack of luster makes this paint perfect for covering imperfections on walls and ceilings, as it won’t highlight any uneven bumps or cracks.

This type of paint offers the best coverage compared to other finishes and will usually cover well in just a few coats. Despite this, flat paint is actually the least durable of all the paint finishes. It is very susceptible to scuffs and knocks, so it is best used in low-traffic areas such as on ceilings or in lesser-used rooms.

This type of paint tends to rub off when treated with cleaning products, so if you like to wipe down your walls after sticky fingers have been touching them, then you should opt for a finish other than flat.


Check Price on Amazon

Eggshell paint has a sheen level of around 20%, which gives it a very delicate shine similar to that of an eggshell, as the name suggests. This is a very popular finish for walls, ceilings, and wood trim because it offers a good balance between coverage and durability.

Eggshell doesn’t cover quite as well as flat paint, but it is significantly more durable and is able to be wiped down. While it doesn’t offer as much durability as gloss finishes, it is perfectly adequate for medium-traffic areas of the home.


Check Price on Amazon

Satin finish paints have a similar level of sheen to eggshell paints, with a more silky texture. This type of paint is excellent for wiping down, which makes it ideal in bathrooms and kitchens where splashes of water or food may occur. It is also perfect for playrooms and children’s bedrooms because mucky handprints or accidental crayon drawings can be wiped right off.

This finish of paint offers a very good level of durability, which also makes it suitable for use on wood trim in high traffic areas of the home. The many advantages of satin finish paint make it the most popular type of paint used in homes.

The main drawback of this finish of paint is that it has a luster that can highlight imperfections on the wall. Brushstrokes can also be quite apparent when using satin paint, which means if you do touch-ups in the future, it will be quite obvious.


Check Price on Amazon

Semi-gloss paint has quite a shiny finish, but it isn’t as slick-looking as high-gloss paint. This is quite a reflective-looking paint that can draw attention to imperfections on the surface it is used on.

It is very durable and is ideal for use in high-traffic areas. It is commonly used on wood trim because it is very resistant to scuffs and scrapes, but it can also be used on walls. It is perfect for use in rooms where the walls may get dirty because it is easy to wipe down and can even withstand daily scrubbing.


Check Price on Amazon

This finish of paint gives the highest shine of all finishes. It is also the most durable and the easiest to clean, as it tolerates wiping and cleaning products brilliantly. People often opt for a high gloss finish on doors or wood trim to give the best chance against scuffs and marks. It is also ideal for use on cabinetry and furniture. High gloss paints can also be used outdoors and are ideal for metal railings and other external fixtures.

The biggest problem with high gloss paint is that it amplifies any imperfections on the surface it is used on. If you’re using high gloss paint on a wooden door, for example, you’ll need to make sure the surface is sanded down to perfection before painting.

Good preparation is key when using high gloss paint to ensure a good finish. If you have surfaces that you can not make smooth, it is best to avoid high gloss paint and opt for something that will give a flatter finish so as not to draw attention to any imperfections.


Check Price on Amazon

Chalk paint has become popular in recent years, especially for furniture renovation. This type of paint gives a finish reminiscent of chalk, with a very flat, powder-like finish. It will have a sheen level of around 2%, making it significantly more matte than even flat paint. This type of paint covers very well and can completely transform the look of a piece of old furniture. It gives off a shabby chic vibe and won’t necessarily work with all styles of interior.

Chalk paint is not very durable and cannot be wiped clean. Any scuffs or marks that appear on the furniture will need to be touched up with a lick of paint, as trying to wipe down the chalk paint can just make the mark look worse. If durability is important, you can put a top coat over the chalk paint of sealer or wax. This will increase the durability of the chalk paint and make it less likely to suffer scuffs.

Specialist Paints

As well as your basic decorating paints, there is also a range of paints that have extra additives to allow them to perform in a certain way. One type of specialist paint is anti-mold or anti-mildew paint, which typically only comes in white. You can use this as the final coat of paint, but most commonly, this is applied as a base underneath your final chosen color of the paint.

As the name suggests, this layer of paint helps to prevent mold or mildew from forming on the surfaces you use it on, and therefore it is ideal for damp rooms such as basements or anywhere that you have experienced problems with mold or mildew.

Another specialist type of paint is fire retardant paint, which can be used to paint over surfaces that come into contact with high levels of heat, such as a fireplace or a wood burner. These paints can be colored, but most often, they are found in black.

A third specialist type of paint for the home is anti-condensation paint. This paint is moisture resistant and prevents condensation from forming on your walls, therefore addressing any mold issues. It adds an extra layer of insulation to a wall and will typically have a finish that is scrubbable or can be wiped clean. Like anti-mold paint, anti-condensation paint can be used alone, or it can be used as a base layer underneath a colored paint.

Art Paints

When choosing a paint to use for artwork, there are a lot of things to consider. As well as thinking about the look you want to achieve, you’ll also need to think about the practicalities of the paint. For example, if you want to hang your painting in the bathroom, then you’ll need paint that is not affected by humidity.

If you are new to painting, you might want to consider a type of paint that dries slowly, as this will allow you the advantage of making adjustments to the art as you go. If you are buying art, you should also consider what paint was used to create it, as this can affect how you need to care for it and how well it will age.


Check Price on Amazon

Acrylic paint is water-based and is known for its ability to dry very quickly. As the water evaporates from the painted surface, the remaining paint dries out and becomes quite durable. This is a popular paint for many reasons, one of those being that this paint is not affected by changes in light or temperature in the same way that oil paint is.

Acrylic paint can give various different looks, depending on how it is mixed. When watered down, it can give the effect of a watercolor, or when thicker, it can look similar to oil paint.

Acrylic paint is inexpensive to buy, which is another reason which makes it so popular to use. It can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, including metal, wood, and canvas. Typically, acrylic paint dries slightly darker than it looks when wet.


Check Price on Amazon

Oil paint is a popular and commonly used type of paint for artwork and has been in use for several centuries. It is oil-based and can be made from numerous oil types, including linseed or walnut.

Oil paint is known for its slow-drying properties, which is considered an advantage by most artists as it allows them to correct and change the painting as they work. The slow drying aspect of oil paints also means they can mix well directly on the canvas to create a variety of colors and blending.

The finish of oil paint is rich and glossy. It fills in its own brush strokes across the surface to give a smooth and even finish. When it comes to preserving artworks painted with oil paint, lighting is important.

Oil paint which has been exposed to light for long periods of time, can change color. If the art is kept in a dark space, the oil in the oil paint can darken and give a darker overall look to the painting. Even just a few weeks in storage can cause this to happen, though exposing the art to light should revert the problem.


Check Price on Amazon

Watercolor paint is made from a mixture of color pigments and a binder. The binder is most commonly gum arabic, which is a type of water solution. Watercolor paint works by staining the surface of the paper with color as it absorbs into it. It dries quite quickly and will look transparent when completely dried.

Due to the fact that watercolor paint dries translucently, it is important that you use high-quality paper to paint on, as it will be seen through the dried paint. Watercolor paints are believed to have first been used in Ancient Egypt and later on in China. It wasn’t until much later that watercolor paint gained widespread popularity in Europe during the Renaissance. Watercolor paint gives a fluid and graceful look to paintings.


Check Price on Amazon

This type of paint is wax-based, generally beeswax. Color pigment is added to the heated beeswax to form a paint. It is also known as hot wax paint.

To use this paint, artists will use a heat source to warm up the paint and metal tools. It is best used on a firm surface that is absorbent, such as canvas. This paint has no additional solvents and due to its wax base, it is waterproof.


Check Price on Amazon

This type of paint has qualities of both watercolor and acrylic paints. It is water-based and contains chalk, which makes it a thicker and heavier paint than watercolor.

Unlike watercolor paint, gouache dries opaque and does not allow the paper to be seen through it. This paint dries very slowly, which means adjustments can be made to a painting even several hours later.

Gouache has very strong color pigments, which give its paintings a very vivid and vibrant look. It is ideal for posters of artwork that you want to be eye-catching.

A little gouache paint goes a long way, so a small pot can last a long time. It is important to note that this type of paint is vulnerable to water, including humidity, and so once a painting is finished, it should be coated with a clear varnish to protect it.


Check Price on Amazon

Painting with ink is a form of art that originates from East Asia. Ink is one of the lesser common types of paints used in art today but has been gaining some popularity among artists on social media.

Originally, ink paintings would have been done in all black, but today, there are a variety of colored inks available.

15 Different Types of Paints For Interior and Exterior Uses