The Different Kinds of Paint and How to Use Them

various colorful paint cans and paint chips

Whether you’re painting a wall or a new craft project, it’s important to know which paint is best for what project and when to use them. Brushing up on your paint expertise will help you have fewer crafts that go to crap and more perfectly painted walls and successfully executed DIYs.

Wall Paints

Interior and exterior wall paints come in a variety of styles, finishes, and, obviously, colors.

colorful painted wooden planks

Flat Paint

This latex-based paint that can be used on walls but is almost always used on ceilings. Flat paint has little to no shine, which is great if you like a matte look — but as a word of caution, it is hard to clean on your walls. Flat paint can sometimes be specially purchased as texture paint for textured wall projects. You can use flat paint on wood-related DIYs because the latex base makes it more water-resistant, but sealing it with a top coat is always a good idea.

Eggshell Paint

This finish has slightly more shine than flat paint. This type of paint is usually used for walls because it is a lot more durable and easy to clean than flat paint. Eggshell finish paint can also be used on wood projects but may need to be sealed as well if your project is going outside. You can buy exterior eggshell paint if you’re looking for a simple sheen on your siding or outdoor DIY.

Satin, Gloss, and Semi-gloss

These are all shinier versions of eggshell paint with gloss having the highest shine. Gloss is highly durable and can even be used on metal-related projects at times. These paints can be purchased in water-based or solvent-based solutions so that you can decide which one best works for your walls or DIY project. If you have questions about which to use, always ask at the paint counter to be safe.

gloved hand painting glossy finish on window sill


Last, but actually first, primer is used to paint walls, ceilings, furniture, or any other sort of DIY. Some paints come with a built-in primer, but if they don’t primer is a great way to give yourself a clean slate to paint with. Primer is generally white and is used to prepare a bare or previously painted surface for new paint.

Craft Paints

Craft paints come in about a million different forms, and it can be hard to know which one is best for your DIY and which ones you’ll need to stock up on to use regularly.

Acrylic Paint

The most basic craft paint, you can purchase it for usually less than two dollars a bottle at any craft store. Acrylics can paint woods, paper, ceramics, plaster, paper mache and many other types of craft projects. Besides its affordability, acrylic is great because it cleans up easily.

watercolor painting set

Chalk Paint

A furniture crafter’s dream. If you want to paint something like a dresser, or even just a basic wood project, and don’t have time to sand or prime, call chalk paint. Chalk paint covers quickly with minimal coats being needed. Trust us when you say you need less than you think. Chalk paint does need to be sealed though, with either a wax or a sealant.

Watercolor Paint

Generally used for watercolor paintings, this but can also be used for adding color and pattern to paper related crafts. Use a heavier paper when painting with watercolor and make sure to let the paper dry all the way before you start your craft. Watercolor gives you total control over you DIY, but it can warp the paper so be careful.

a collection of bright colorful watercolor paints

Fabric Paint

This is a fun way to add personality to fabric projects. Whether you’re creating your own stamp or adding a fun pattern to material, it’s important to use high-quality fabric paint. Good fabric paint can withstand the ups and downs of crafting, as well as a time or two in the washing machine. If you are painting fabric, this is one area of painting you don’t want to skimp on.