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7 Types of Wall Paints and When to use Each One

When it comes to choosing interior wall paint, there are so many options it can be hard to know where to start! That’s why you need this guide on the different types of wall paints to make things easy for you.

You’ll learn about several different types of interior wall paint, what makes them different, and what each type is best for.

You don’t have to be a professional painter to choose the best type of wall paint for your rooms. Once you read this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to pick out the right type of paint for your situation and needs.

Types of Wall Paints

Does it Really Matter what Type of Paint I use on my Walls?

If you’ve ever been to a paint store or wandered down the paint aisles at a hardware store, you know how many different types of wall paints there are to choose from.

Some of these paints may look the same on the outside, but there are huge differences in what you find inside the cans. Sure you could just grab a can of paint and hope for the best, but choosing the right type of wall paint for each room means the paint job will look better and last longer.

Using the Right Paint for Each Room

Different types of wall paints are good for different things. A high traffic area like a mudroom needs a more durable paint than an office.

A bathroom needs paint that can handle drips and splashes without showing water spots. A kitchen or playroom needs paint that can be easily cleaned and wiped down.

The type of paint you choose matters because it impacts not only how the paint looks but also how it performs over time on your walls.

Types of Wall Paints

Selecting the right type of paint is equally if not more important than the color you choose. Here are seven different types of wall paint and what makes each one unique.

1. Oil Based Paint

Oil based paint is one of the most durable types of wall paint you can get. The color lasts for years and the finish holds up extremely well to frequent bumps and scratches.

On the downside, oil based paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have a strong smell and can irritate your respiratory system. This type of paint is less environmentally friendly, takes longer to dry, and is harder to clean.

Cleanup for oil based paint is tricky (especially for DIY painters) because drips, brushes, and paint trays can’t be cleaned up with soap and water. You have to use a solvent.

2. Water Based Paint

Water based paints have excellent color retention, dry quickly, and are easier to clean (and clean up from) than oil based paints.

The most commonly used water based paints for walls are latex. These types of wall paints have low to no VOCs which makes them low odor, but you should still only paint in a well-ventilated area.

Though not as durable as oil based, latex paint is still quite tough and can handle a fair amount of wear and tear. This type of wall paint is well suited for most homes.

3. Primer

Primer is used to prepare your walls for painting. It’s not always necessary but it’s important in certain situations. If you’re painting a light color over a dark color for example or preparing a porous surface like drywall for paint, then might you need primer.

Primer comes in both oil based and water based formulations. The simplest thing to do is go with a primer that matches the formulation of the wall paint you’re using (for example, get an oil based primer for oil based paint).

Some types of wall paint include primer so a separate primer may not be necessary. Even so, if you’re covering a lot of stains or painting a light color over a dark color, primer is a good idea.

4. Textured Finish

A textured finish is a unique way to add some style to your room. Textured paints use small particles like sand or other gritty materials to give the paint finish some texture. These types of wall paints may come textured already, or you can purchase the additive separately to mix in.

A textured finish can also be achieved through painting techniques or specialized tools like paint rollers with a raised pattern.

types of wall paints

5. Chalkboard Paint

Chalkboard paints contain ingredients that allow the painted wall to be used as a chalkboard. You can write and erase the chalk over and over again. Chalkboard paint is hard, durable, and resistant to scratches.

Chalkboard paints aren’t usually used to paint entire rooms, but they do have some fun uses. You can paint an entire wall or a small area with chalkboard paint to create a unique feature in a kitchen, playroom, or other space.

6. Non-Toxic Paint

Non-toxic paint or zero VOC paint is a good choice for someone who’s concerned about limiting potential irritants in the home.

Most major paint brands offer at least one variety of zero VOC wall paint, like Benjamin Moore Aura. These are often affordable and offer many of the same great features as other types of water based latex paints like being durable and easy to clean.

In addition to being zero VOC, non-toxic paints take it a step further by avoiding harsh chemicals in their formulations. Some brands that make non-toxic paints include ECOS and Clare.

7. Commercial and Industrial Wall Paint

Commercial or industrial types of wall paints are specially designed for large spaces and commercial uses.

These types of paint are made to withstand lots of traffic on a regular basis, like in a school, restaurant, or hospital. This level of specialized, industrial grade paint isn’t necessary for most homes.

Understanding Finishes

Choosing the right finish is an important part of finding the right type of wall paint for your project.

Paint finish impacts not only how the paint looks, but also how well it covers blemishes and imperfections, how durable it is, and how easy it is to clean.

Paint finish is sometimes called sheen. That’s because, generally speaking, paint finish has to do with how shiny the finished product is.

Flat or Matte

Paints with a flat or matte finish don’t have any shine at all. This type of finish provides excellent coverage for uneven surfaces, bumps, scrapes, and other minor blemishes. It’s not very durable though and needs to be carefully cleaned so it’s not ideal for high traffic areas.


Eggshell paint has slightly more sheen than flat paint, but no noticeable shine. This type of finish resists stains better than flat paint and is easier to clean. It can be wiped down with a damp rag


Satin is one of the most popular types of paint finishes for interiors. This type of finish looks incredibly smooth with only a small amount of shine. It covers blemishes well and is easy to clean.


Semi-gloss is shiny and doesn’t cover quite as smoothly as flatter finishes do. It’s strong and durable so it’s good for high traffic areas and spots that get a lot of abuse like trim or doors.

Semi-gloss can also handle moisture so it’s a good choice for bathrooms and other areas that tend to get wet.


High-gloss is the shiniest paint finish. The texture of high-gloss paint is very shiny, almost like glass. This type of finish is incredibly durable but it doesn’t cover blemishes like scratches or bumps very well.

High-gloss finishes are usually used for things like trim, doors, or cabinets rather than walls.

Where to Get Wall Paint

Once you decide on the best type of wall paint for your particular situation, it’s time to get shopping!

Paint Stores

Paint stores like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams are a good place to get samples and check out color options. They have a wide range of products including different types of wall paints, but these stores only carry their own brands.

Types of Wall Paints

Home Improvement Stores

Home improvement stores like Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, and Home Depot carry a wide selection of wall paints from different brands so they’re a good place to look if you’re still deciding what to get.

You can also get color swatches and purchase a paint sample to try out while you’re still deciding.


You can find pretty much anything online at Amazon, including several types of wall paints and primers.

Ace Hardware and other online hardware and paint stores also carry paint that you can order and have shipped right to your door.

Frequently Asked Questions on Types of Wall Paint

What type of paint is best for walls?

This really depends on the type of wall and your personal preferences but water based latex paint is an excellent choice for most interior walls.

What is the most common interior wall paint?

Latex paint with an eggshell or satin finish is one of the most common types of wall paints for interiors.

What type of wall paint do most professionals use?

Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore are two of the most popular brands used by professionals.

Final Thoughts on Types of Wall Paints

From paint formulation to finish, there are many types of wall paints to choose from. For most home interiors, a water-based latex paint makes a practical and affordable choice. For something a little bit different, textured or chalkboard paints are a fun option.

Whatever you decide to go with, don’t miss the interior painting page for helpful tips and information to help you with your next interior painting project.

If you’re not sure whether you want to do the job yourself or hire a professional, check out Interior Painting Costs to help you decide.