Choosing The Right Type Of Paint For Different Surfaces

Mar 12, 2024

Painting can really help refresh your space in a simple and cost-effective way. Whether you’re tackling a DIY project like painting a room, or repainting your kitchen cabinets or hiring a professional to take on the job, understanding which type of paint to use can make a world of difference in your results. We know the amount of information and options can be overwhelming, so we’re breaking down everything you need to know about painting different surfaces, how to select the right paint type, and choosing the perfect finish for your next project.

Painting 101: Your Guide To Painting Different Surface Types

Depending on the surface you’re painting and the desired result, you may need a specific type of paint for different materials. Choosing the wrong type of paint for the surface you’re working on can cause damage to the original surface or may make your results wear and tear more easily over time. Luckily, we’re here to help! Consider these tips for your next paint project.


When painting wooden surfaces, the type of paint you choose can really impact the final result. Water-based paints, such as latex, are ideal for adding color and minimizing wood imperfections. On the other hand, oil-based paints provide a smoother finish on wood. For areas prone to moisture, like kitchen cabinets, oil-based paints are recommended for their moisture-resistant properties. It’s crucial to prime unfinished or previously painted wood surfaces before painting to ensure proper adhesion. If the surface is stained or painted, sanding and dust removal are necessary before applying primer and paint. Use blue painter’s tape to protect areas that shouldn’t be painted and allow each layer of paint to fully dry between coats for a smooth application. Sanding and dusting each layer of paint between coats will also help give a smooth and lasting finish for the best results. 


Painting on metal may seem intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. When you select a paint for your next project, prioritize durability and long-lasting protection. A high-quality finish not only looks good for an extended period but also helps maintain the metal’s health. For the most professional and long-lasting paint job, look for labels indicating “multi-surface” or “works on metal surfaces” to avoid issues such as peeling, blistering, or flaking, which can ruin the finish. It’s also important to keep in mind that not all metal paints are suitable for every type of metal (such as steel). Always verify the compatibility of the paint with the metal surface you’re working in before beginning your project. Another factor to consider is that Some metal paints can be applied directly to rust, which can save you time on preparation. It’s typical to prime before you paint, but you should check your paint label to see if a primer is necessary. However, applying paint over heavily rusted areas may result in a textured finish rather than a smooth surface. Priming can enhance adhesion and improve the overall finish of the paint. Knowing what kind of results you’re going for can help you make decisions on which paint will be right for the job. For outdoor projects, metal paint serves as a protective coating and can help to slow down or prevent oxidation and rust. This protection reduces the likelihood of the metal corroding or rusting over time and may be a worthwhile investment.


For painting masonry surfaces such as concrete or brick, use a masonry paint that is breathable and designed to withstand weathering. One of the best qualities about masonry is that it’s meant to breathe. Making sure that you pick a paint that continues to allow your masonry to breathe is key to your painting results success. Consider using a masonry primer to improve adhesion and coverage and make sure to thoroughly clean and let the surface of your masonry dry before you begin to paint.


Painting tile surfaces requires a special epoxy paint designed for tile and requires you to put in a fair amount of prep work for the best results. It can be a good way to bring life to old tile without having to completely replace your tile. Trusting the help of a qualified professional when painting a tile can make a huge impact, as it’s a trickly place to DIY your own results. If you are taking on the challenge, make sure to clean and prime the tile before painting to ensure proper adhesion, and ensure you are wearing a mask while working with proper ventilation. 

Selecting The Right Paints For Any Surface

While it can be overwhelming to decipher which paint is right for your next painting project, we hope that this guide helps point you in the right direction. There are other surfaces as well as different types of paint to consider for different circumstances. Choosing to consult a professional when in doubt can help alleviate any confusion and help avoid costly mistakes.

Different Types of Paint

When it comes to painting surfaces, know that there are many different kinds of options available. Each type of paint offers unique characteristics and benefits, so it’s essential to choose the right one for your project while keeping the material you’re working on in mind. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common types of paint and their applications.


Priming is a step people tend to overlook but it truly makes a huge impact on the overall results of your project and should never be overlooked. There are many paint options that have primer built into their formulation or are designed to be used without primer if you want a quicker, more time-efficient solution. However, for many paint projects, taking the time to prep your surface and prime will make a great impact and give you clean, professional, lasting results. It’s important to match the type of primer you’re using with the type of paint you’re using. For example, you should not use an oil-based primer with a water-based paint. 

Water-based Paint

Water-based paint, while not as enduring as some alternatives, offers a fantastic option for interior paint projects. Its low-maintenance nature makes it a popular choice, delivering stunning results without the need for extensive upkeep. One of its key advantages is its ease of cleanup. If you have a spill or need to clean your brushes, you only need water and a bit of mild soap to clean. Additionally, water-based paint dries quickly, allowing for faster project completion and reduced downtime. This rapid drying time also means less waiting between coats, making the painting process more efficient. Water-based paint is particularly well-suited for use on unfinished drywall, as it adheres well and provides excellent coverage. This makes it a favored option for new home construction and remodeling projects where a fresh, clean finish is desired.

Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paints, also known as solvent-based paints, offer a durable and reliable finish, making them a popular choice for many projects. Despite their typically reasonable price, they provide resilient results that withstand the test of time without showing signs of wear and tear. One of the advantages of oil-based paints is their ability to serve as a protective final coat, adding extra durability and shine to your wall or cabinets. However, one downside of oil-based paints is their extended drying time compared to other options. Despite this, the durability and quality of the finish often outweigh this drawback, making oil-based paints a popular choice for many painting projects.

Latex-based Paint 

Latex paint, often mistaken for water-based paint, offers an excellent choice for exterior surfaces, thanks to its ability to withstand direct sunlight and harsh weather conditions. Its quick-drying nature makes the painting process more efficient and allows for multiple coats to be applied in a shorter amount of time. One of the key advantages of latex paint is its versatility, as it adheres well to various building materials, including wood, metals, masonry, and concrete. In addition to its durability and ease of use, latex paint is also available in many colors and finishes, allowing for a high level of customization to suit any aesthetic preference. Its low odor and easy to cleanup with soap and water further enhance its appeal for DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Choose the Right Finish For The Best Results

The finish you choose can impact the final look of your paint job. Here are the most common paint finishes and where to use them:


Matte paint tends to show scuff marks more easily and can require more maintenance and touch-ups making it ideal for low-traffic areas such as ceilings and adult bedrooms. 


Offers a soft and velvety finish that’s is a great finish for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Perfect for if you like a matte painted look but wait a bit more ease when it comes to cleanup and touch-ups.


Provides a subtle sheen and is easy to clean. Ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, and kids’ rooms.


Offers a shiny finish and that is durable and easy to clean. Best used for trim, doors, and cabinets.High Gloss

Provides a highly reflective finish and is ideal for doors, cabinets, and trim.

Creating Painted Surfaces That Last

To ensure your painted surfaces last, proper surface preparation is key. Make sure to clean, sand, and prime the surface you’re working on before painting to ensure proper adhesion. Use high-quality paints and finishes for long-lasting results. It’s also important to apply paint in multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat for a smoother finish. Patience is your friend when it comes to applying paint to surfaces. It can be tempting to rush through painting and get the job done quickly, cutting corners in the process, but taking your time will make the results look professional and last longer. 

Interior Vs Exterior Paint 

Interior paint is formulated to withstand scrubbing and resist fading, while exterior paint is designed to withstand weathering and UV exposure. Always use the appropriate paint for each surface to ensure long-lasting results.

Wall Painting: Picking The Right Paint For Each Room

Each room in your house serves a different purpose and likewise, may require a paint with specific properties that withstand the moisture and end use of each room. Keep this in mind while selecting a paint type for your next indoor project.