A paint primer —types of paint and their uses

A paint primer —types of paint and their uses

Unless someone works with paint all the time, like George Borlodan, the Atascadero painter, figuring out which type of paint to use for which job can be be confusing. Here’s a “Paint Primer” from Borlodan Painting that helps simplify the kinds of paint and there uses.

Paint is paint, right? Not necessarily. A stroll through the paint department can be somewhat confusing for the novice. Along with all the brands and prices, there are labels with identifiers like “exterior latex, “interior enamel,” “oil-based,” “rust prevention,” “satin interior.” There’s paint for painting on masonry and deck paint. There’s primer that you use as an undercoating to interior or exterior paint and then there’s paint with the primer already mixed in.

The two primary types of paint are oil-based and latex. From those two basics spring the difference between interior (to be used inside) and exterior, to be used outside, The sheen of the paint, such as flat, satin, gloss, and enamel and other special treatments such as rust-resistant, or special paint for the wear and tear on decks.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints are made with linseed oils or, more commonly, with a synthetic alkyd. Oil-based paint is more durable that water-based but takes longer to dry and needs a commercial paint remover, mineral spirits or turpentine to clean the brushes. Because it’s more durable oil-based paints are sometimes used for trim, but takes longer to dry.

Water-Based Paint

Also known generally as latex paint, water-based paint contains acrylic resins or vinyl (instead of actual latex). Water-based paint is the most common type of paint and is the top-choice for walls and ceilings. Brushes can be cleaned with soap and water. It dries faster than oil-based paint, but is not as durable.


Isn’t primer just white paint? No exactly. The basic difference between paint and primer is that paint contains resins and primers are resin. The basic purpose of primer is to provide a sealed surface for paint. The primer resins seal surfaces and provide a bond to the surface for the paint. Now, to complicate a simple topic, there are different kinds of primers for different jobs. Painting wood, metal, or painting over a surface coated with a varnish, requires differently formulated primer fro each job. Finally, if you are painting over a previously painted wall, you probably won’t need to prime it, unless you are applying a lighter color, or are painting latex over oil-based paint.

Enamel Paint

At one time “enamel” was the same thing as oil-based paint, but these days water-based paints can also be “enamel.” Enamel water-based paint is tougher than the “latex” variety and can be applied to exterior surfaces and often on kitchen and bathroom cabinets and interior trim. Furniture is often painted with enamel paint.

Paint Sheen

Paint sheen is the described by words like “flat,” “glossy,” or “semi-glossy” that you see on paint can labels. Sheen describes how shininess, or reflective property, of a paint finish. The degree of sheen also varies from oil-based to latex paint.

At one end of the sheen spectrum, are the least shiny paints are at one end of the sheen spectrum. Paint described as “flat,” “matte,” have the least shine, although depending on the brand, there might be a slight difference between “flat”and “matte.” Moving along the spectrum there is “satin,” with a bit more shine, “semi-gloss,” and “gloss.” These last two are the most durable and because they can take a good scrubbing are good in kitchens and bathrooms.

Talk to the expert

Keep in mind that there is no true economy in buying cheap paint. Always buy the best-quality paint you can afford. And when choosing colors with paint chips, remember that the color on the wall will be more intense than it appears on the chip simply because the surface area is much larger.

Avoid disappointment by discussing your paint project with your painter. Borlodan Painting, has been the painter of choice for Atascadero and Central Coast residences and commercial buildings since 2011. Paint is his specialty and he can recommend the best type of paint, finish, colors and color combinations that will deliver the look and feel you want.

Give Borlodan Painting a call for help making your color choices a little easier.


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