Ashton Woods Expertise

A Guide to Paint Bases and Finishes for Your Next DIY Project

Latex, acrylic, eggshell — oh my! 

Painting a space or piece of furniture should be an easy DIY project, but with so many options to choose from, picking the right type of paint can be complicated. That’s why we’ve put together a simple guide to different kinds of paints and paint finishes, plus the projects they’re best suited for. 

Which Paint Type Do I Need?

For most home painting projects, you’ll need to choose between oil-based paint, latex paint or acrylic paint. Each one has its own unique properties and uses. In most cases you will find a blend or hybrid of these formulas. Our favorite interior paint is made by Sherwin Williams and aptly named, Duration Home. It is a blend of acrylic and latex, layering the benefits of each.

Latex Paint

When it comes to painting both walls and furniture, latex is probably the most commonly used type of paint. Its water and acrylic resin base makes it easy to apply and faster-drying than acrylic paint. You can use latex paint on trim, walls, furniture, doors and even floors. It’s a popular choice for kitchen cabinets because of its water-resistant and easy-to-clean finish.

Acrylic Paint

Because it’s resistant to water after it dries, acrylic paint can be a great choice for furniture projects, cabinets and other surfaces where spills and accidents happen. It’s fast-drying, which is a pro and a con: it can be difficult to cover large surfaces, but it can make painting projects quicker. If you use acrylic paint on top of oil paint, it will cause the paint to crack and peel, so be mindful when painting over another surface. (You can, however, paint oil over acrylic.)

Oil Paint

With oil as its primary base, oil paint is one of the richest types of paint you can use in your home. It has a smooth and full finish, and its ability to cover a large surface area in one coat can make it appealing for home DIY projects just like latex paint. The catch? It can take up to twice as long to dry than other types of paint, which can make the painting process slower.

What Type of Paint Finish Should I Use?

The finish of your paint determines how shiny or matte your project will look after it dries–and some finishes are better suited than others for certain areas of the home. Here’s a list of paint finishes in order from lowest to highest gloss:

Matte Paint 

This smooth finish will give your projects a flat, even coat of paint. It’s great for hiding nail holes and patches, easy to touch up and takes fewer coats than paints with higher sheen. On the other hand, matte paint is the least durable finish, so it’s not a great fit for high-traffic areas. Consider it for adult bedrooms, spare rooms, ceilings and other surfaces that don’t see much wear and tear.

Eggshell Paint

This low-sheen paint is true to its name with a finish similar to an egg. Eggshell paint is more washable and scuff-resistant than matte paint and is best suited for low- and mid-traffic spaces, which makes it a popular choice for wall paint. Living rooms, hallways, bedrooms and entryways may be good spaces for paint with an eggshell finish.

Satin Paint

This all-around indoor paint gives walls a soft, pearl-like sheen. Durable and versatile, satin paint is resistant to both mildew and fading. This makes satin finish a great choice for playrooms, children’s rooms, bathrooms, laundry rooms and even outdoor surfaces like trim or siding.    


Paint with a semi-gloss finish is chic, sleek and moisture-resistant, making it a nice fit for restrooms, kitchens and other spaces prone to humidity. While semi-gloss paint may be easier to clean than some finishes, its shine can draw attention to blemishes or nails. When used in white or off-white, semi-gloss paint adds a little extra glow to a space than other white paints. 

High-Gloss Paint

This glass-like paint offers the highest sheen finish available, and it’s durable and stain-resistant as well. This makes high-gloss paint perfect for eye-catching accents like cabinets, doors, trim and molding. It can also be used outdoors on shutters and window frames. This paint requires the most coats to achieve a smooth result, so be sure to clean your surface before painting to get the best results. 

Check Out More Tips from Our Designers

Love interior design? We do too. Browse our blog for more inspiration from our team of designers, from The Latest Home Design Trends to Tips for Styling Your Coffee Table.