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Why choose ‘designer’ paint?

Orange armchair, cream stool, plants and a sideboard in a modern sitting room

I recently made a tongue-in-cheek reel on my Instagram @crocusinteriordesign about the fact that I’m constantly being asked (or told!) that “all paints are the same.” 

Firstly I want to start by saying the term ‘designer’ paint is a misnomer.

What people really mean when they say “all paints are the same” is that cheaper costing paint is the same as more expensive paint and therefore there’s no point paying more than you have to.

I cannot tell you how many times a trades person has said to a client I am working with that they’ll “just go and get the same stuff mixed up at their supplier for half the price, it’ll be just as good!” or I’ve witnessed an eye roll when the F (&B) word is mentioned. There are a certain amount of assumptions that are made when people think about interior designers; one of which is that we all only specify expensive paint (and paper etc) as “it’s fancy.”

Well, I’m sorry to burst that bubble. That just isn’t true.


Many of us have been working in the field of interiors for quite a while and understand the difference between a poor QUALITY paint and good. This isn’t always about price – although admittedly most of the good quality paints do cost more than a tin of DIY stores own brand. But that is because they contain more bang for their buck as it were.

Let’s break it down once and for all

Paint is made up of:

Solvent (water or alkyd)

Pigment (the colour)

Binder (what holds the colour together)

Good quality paint has:

Better pigmentation

More additives

More binders

Lesser quality paint has:

Extender pigment (this is really more like a filler and not actual colour)

More liquid – water!

Less additives

Less binders

Bottom half two people, one wearing shorts, one wearing jeans. Both covered in paint

This is how it works

When paint dries, the liquid (solvent) dissipates and the binder works to hold together the pigment – this is known as the solid. The more ‘solid’ a paint, the better it is at covering lumps and bumps and the better it is at protecting a surface. And, the better coverage it has. 

A typical solids content for most paints is around 30-45% although some do have above 50%. I’m not a chemist but it’s easy enough to check a produce data sheet and find out what the solids content is and decide for yourself.

Cheaper paints tend to be thinner in consistency which means you have to apply more coats.

So whilst you may have paid half as much for it, you’ll end up using twice as much paint.

You do the maths (or look at my little sum up below). That’s without adding on the cost of your time to do twice as much work – or the time it takes your decorator to do it!

Paint drip? The bain of every decorators life. Usually is a result of poor quality (thin) paint. 

Paint splatters from using a roller – so annoying. Again, this is due to poor quality paint.

Cheaper paints do not cover as evenly

This is because of the lack of binders and additives – for once additives are a good thing! 

A good quality paint will go on nice and evenly and will be thicker in consistency. The results will speak for themselves. 

If you put two different quality paints in a paint tray and just get a paint brush in them you’ll see the difference for yourself – it’s the difference between milk and cream in consistency! Cream being what you want. In fact, I’m going to do just this and share it on my socials.

Low quality paints do not look as good

If you want your room to look good for longer you will struggle if you choose a low quality paint. The pigment  – which is what provides the colour and opacity – will not be as effective and will fade quickly. It will also not stand up to the knocks of daily life and isn’t particularly wipeable. Believe me, I’ve found this out myself when I let painters use their ‘own’ ‘trade paint’ in my house. I literally could wipe the paint off the wall after just a few weeks. Not ideal as it was surround a sink! A waste of time and money and so frustrating.

Good quality paints are low VOC

VOC means Volatile Organic Compound and these contribute to pollution when they evaporate as you paint. The lower VOC the better. Generally water-based paints are lower VOC.

If you suffer from asthma you really ought to only use a zero VOC paint or as near to as you can.

According to the Coat paints website “last year 9.8 billion gallons of paint was made globally – and only 30% was water-based and Low VOC. That means the vast majority of paint produced is still heavily using solvents and harmful chemicals.”

This is simply not good enough. So do your bit and choose your paint wisely, check the packaging for Low or zero VOC.

Overhead image of pale pink tin of paint

Let me do the maths for you

Whether you choose to buy more expensive paint or not is of course, entirely up to you but bear in mind this set of figures:

Let’s base it on a 2m x 2m room and most agree that 2.5litre is enough to do one coat of paint on this type of area.

An average tin of economy paint at a well-known DIY store is currently is around £24 for 2.5l (£9.60 per litre). You will need at leat 3 coats so 7.5 litres. Plus some extra for wastage, say 10%.  

So you will buy around 8.2 litres of paint which is going to mean a 1 x 5 litre tin, 1 x 2.5 litre 1 x 1 litre (f you can get 1 litre of course, not all cheaper brands offer this option). Total cost = approx £84.

An average tin of 2.5l more expensive paint (I’m using Coat Paint as a comparison as I know it covers well and have clients that have used it and loved it). It costs £46 (£25 per litre). You will need 2 coats, plus extra for wastage. So will need around 52m2 with extra for wastage.  

So you will buy around 5.5 litres of paint which is going to mean a 1 x 5 litre and 1 x 1 litre tin. Total cost = approx £109.


Just in case you didn’t want to do the maths.

Then you need to factor in the time it takes. You will have to wait longer between the three coats of paint you have for the cheaper paint. So let’s say an extra days work. Are you paying someone to do the work for you? Are you taking the time off work yourself?

Either way, time is money…

So for £25 less you will spend more time and probably have to re-paint sooner and the result won’t look as good.

I totally understand that, especially in today’s climate every penny counts and respect that for many people £37 is a lot of money. My advice is if you want to use a deep or strong colour – especially if painting over a paler colour, use the best quality paint you can afford.

So next time someone suggests you go for the cheaper option, just check out what you are buying first. Check the VOC, check the thinners, check the coverage. You might be surprised.

For more decorating and interior design tips, head over to my instagram page where I share lots of lovely content every day. If you like what you’ve read, please do get in touch.

If you’d like to find out more about the interior design services I offer, head over to my Design Services page.

Two paint brushes in a pot of pink paint on a pink background