Which interior house paint should I buy?

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Choosing an interior house paint seems like a fairly simple task until you walk into a paint supply or home goods store. There, you’re bombarded with the vastness of options, and color is just the beginning of your choices.

The best interior paint choice also requires an understanding of function, from the right shade to the amount of sheen and other added ingredients.

To help you make the best decision on which interior paint to choose, read this complete rundown on what you need to know, as well as a list of the best interior paints to help guide your purchasing decision.

Choosing a color actually doesn’t begin with a paint swatch; instead, it starts with your room. Study your furniture colors. Choose an inspiration piece, such as a color in a painting, quilt or pillow.

To choose either a cool or warm color, consider the mood you want to set in your room. Cool colors create the calming feel of nature (think water) while warm colors offer coziness and energy (think campfire).

If you’re new to choosing colors, stick with a safe neutral color. If you want to take a bit more of a risk, move into more vibrant colors. A retail color expert can help you decide.

Purchase a sample size container of your paint before painting an entire room. Observe the color on both bright and cloudy days as well as the different times of the day.

Every paint color comes in a selection of sheen, and there are five to choose from.

A flat sheen covers wall imperfections nicely but doesn’t reflect light and is difficult to clean. Flat paint is appropriate for a low-traffic room such as an office or library. It’s also the best choice for a ceiling. It doesn’t resist moisture, so it shouldn’t be used in bathrooms.

An eggshell sheen contains a slight shine and also covers imperfections nicely. Eggshell can be used in bedrooms and rooms with more traffic, such as family and living rooms.

A satin sheen contains more shine than eggshell but has similar properties and can be used in most high-traffic rooms. Satin paint is easier to clean than eggshell. It’s especially good for children’s rooms, bathrooms and trim.

Semi-gloss paint has a shiny, glossy appearance. While it highlights imperfections and brush strokes, it’s easy to clean, making it appropriate for trim, windows, doors, kitchens and bathrooms.

Traditionally, high-gloss paint is reserved for spaces other than walls, as it creates an almost lacquered finish. Some people might create an accent wall with glossy paint, but be sure to get advice from a paint expert or interior designer with experience in using glossy paint.

Interior wall paint comes in two formulas: oil-based and water-based, or latex. Oil-based paints take longer to dry, are more difficult to use, have a strong odor and require mineral spirits for cleanup. These days, latex-based paints are preferred over oil-based paints. Latex-based paints take less time to dry and are easy to use.

What is zero or low VOC paint?

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. They’re the invisible chemicals found in paint (and other building products) that float into the air and can be harmful to a person’s health.

Low VOC paint means the paint, usually latex-based, has fewer VOCs than other paints. However, low VOC paint still has harmful chemicals. Zero VOC paint has very few, if any, harmful chemicals. The EPA recommends consumers look for specific labels on zero and low VOC paints.

Should you use a primer first?

Many brands of paint come with a primer already in it, but there are times when you might want to include this step. If your walls are new and have never been painted, you definitely want to use a primer. If you’re painting over dark or chalk paint or if your walls are porous, use a primer. Primer is also beneficial when painting over glossy paint. In all these instances, the paint will go on smoother and look better in the long run than without the primer.

The best time to paint your interior is when humidity is low and temperatures are in the average range.

How much paint will you need?

A good rule of thumb is that every 350 square feet requires 1 gallon of paint. That amount may vary, depending on the color of paint being covered and the condition of the walls. Know the square footage of your room along with the number of closets and doors in the room you’re going to paint, then ask a paint specialist at your local retailer to help you determine how much paint you need.

Cost to paint interior of a house

Paint costs can vary greatly, depending on a number of factors. Typically, flat and eggshell paint costs less than the glossier finishes. Primer added into the paint also increases the cost. Beyond that, the more expensive the paint is, the higher quality of ingredients have been used. You can find a really good interior paint that costs $30-$60.

Best paint for interior walls 

Best of the best interior paint

Behr Marquee applies easily and smoothly. It’s self-priming and contains low VOCs. It offers an extensive palette of colors.

Best bang for the buck interior paint

Glidden Essentials Interior Paint: available at Home Depot

This is a good low-budget paint for low-traffic rooms. The price is under $20. It’s recommended to use a primer prior to applying this paint.

Most durable interior paint

PPG Diamond Semi-Gloss Interior Paint with Primer: available at Home Depot

This semi-gloss paint has a low VOC content and costs under $30. It’s also backed by a lifetime guarantee.

Best zero or low VOC interior paint

This zero-VOC, non-toxic paint uses sustainable ingredients. If it’s safe enough for a baby’s room, it’s safe enough for any room.

KILZ Color-Change Stainblocking Interior Ceiling Paint: available at Amazon

This ceiling paint combines stain-blocking technology with a coverage indicator. It rolls on light pink and dries white.

Montage Signature Interior-Exterior Low-Sheen Paint: available at Amazon

This paint combines both raw and recycled paints to create an environmentally-friendly latex paint. It has a slight sheen but still hides wall imperfections.

Best eggshell interior paint

This mid-priced paint has zero VOCs and is self-priming. It covers even darker paints with usually one coat.

Best satin interior paint

Prestige Interior Paint and Primer: available at Amazon

Prestige paint goes nicely on walls, windows and trim. It contains a self-primer to apply velvety smooth.

Best semi-gloss interior paint

This interior paint provides a durable semi-gloss texture for trim and bathrooms. It’s dirt- and grease-resistant and holds up nicely in rooms with moisture.

Best glossy interior paint

Glidden Premium High Gloss Interior/Exterior Paint: available at Home Depot

This high-gloss paint provides a mildew-resistant covering, making it good for bathrooms and kitchens. It applies easily and doesn’t leave brush marks.

KILZ 2 All-Purpose Interior/Exterior Primer: available at Home Depot

KILZ primer blocks stains and odors while prepping the wall for new paint. It covers the previous wall color nicely, but it does have a chemical odor.

Best oil paint for wood and trim

Behr Oil-Base Semi-Gloss Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint: available at Home Depot

True to an oil-based paint, this brand protects trim from scuffs. It dries more quickly than other oil-based products but still requires around a 6-hour dry time. It emits a strong chemical odor.

Tammy Tilley is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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