D. Barrett Decorating - The Blog

It's Getting Emulsional

Right now there is a massive choice for tradesmen and consumers alike in the paint market when it comes to matt emulsions. Seems that what works for one doesn't work for the other. You go into any trade store or diy store and the selection is immense, so picking the right paint for you isn't always easy. I always like to try different brands in search of that holy grail that does everything, so far I haven't found it as I've shown with my water based finishes blogs. With that in mind I will do a quick write up on what I've found so far, these are my own personal opinions and I don't expect many of my trade to agree as I've found on various forums certain brands will be dismissed regardless!

The Big Three, Johnstones, Crown and Dulux

This country the three main brands are Johnstones, Crown and Dulux. As such these are who I have had the most experience with and their budget brands, Leyland, MacPhersons and Armstead respectively. 

Leyland I don't rate. Their contract matt is decent enough but find it sands off too easily once dry and it's hit and miss whether it will bleach out enough to cover. Compare that to MacPhersons Eclipse or Armstead Contract Matt and both of those perform great. Both are the best budget contract matts on the market to me. Leyland Contract Silk is also bad but then I don't think any silk paint is good full stop. Word of advise, steer clear of Leyland's retail range. It is on a par with B&Q colours (worst paint ever) and I refuse to use it again.

Johnstones has a range that is hit and miss. I love their Acrylic Durable Matt and Vinyl Matt, the new Stainaway Matt could potentially be a game changer. Used it on two nicotine ceilings and it covered with no stain block prior! Anyway, Durable Matt great product and they can mix the closest match to Farrow and Ball out there. (Side note: A lot of decorators complain about Farrow and Ball, mainly price and coverage. I love the stuff, have no issues with it over the years and its always covered in the right amount of coats. Think it might be more down to the working techniques of some...). It dries really flat too which does surprise me for a Durable Matt. Johnstones Premium Contract Matt, thats gone down in quality sadly. For a while I swore by it then I had problems with coverage and touching up so no longer use it.

Crown, I don't like their Vinyl Matt yet their Clean Extreme is a very good product and their Contract Matt is possibly the best out there. My main gripe with Crown is pricing. They are the most expensive out there and rarely go out their way to match others. Whereas Johnstones and Dulux happily price match. MacPhersons I avoid like Leyland with the exception of the contract matt.

Armstead I love. For a budget brand I don't think they do a bad product. Durable Matt is fantastic and is cheaper than Dulux Vinyl Matt, their Vinyl Matt is bang on and I regularly use their Contract Matt. So much I have found this year I am pushing my customers to use these paints more than Dulux. Now as I am a Dulux Select Decorator so you would think I will be bias to Dulux, I'm not but at the same time I don't slag them off because its the cool thing to do. Yes they are an expensive brand and in this current market that really needs to be looked at as they no longer can be classed as a premium brand. Many have overtaken them. Same time they still do some fantastic products. Fast Matt is great, so is their Durable Flat Matt. Supermatt I love to use and I really rate their Vinyl Matt despite how many knock it (FYI use a mini roller alongside your brush when cutting in, eliminates picture framing and brush marks). In fact probably used that more than any other the last few years. Diamond Matt is also good but is very expensive and if I'm honest the Armstead is probably a better product.


There are other emulsions out there, Farrow and Ball, Benjamin Moore, Tikkurila, Valspar, Isomat to name a few. Out of these I really only used Farrow and Ball and Tikkurila on a regular basis. Tikkurila I used on a full job this year. I like the Optiva 5 didn't like the Nova, especially in a dark colour. What I've found with Tikkurila its a fantastic product if you spray, it takes an additional coat or two if brush and rolling which is a drain on labour costs. Right now I'm not confident enough to bring spraying into domestic work so until then will probably stay clear of their emulsions. If the Benjamin Moore emulsion range is anything like their woodwork products then they will be exceptional.

If you are reading this as a consumer you've probably got a bit lost with the different types of emulsions, I know plenty just think paint is paint! Right now you can get Vinyl Matt, Durable Matt, Flat Matt, Contract Matt then you move to your Silks, Soft Sheen, Eggshell so the choice is wide. Worth remembering that what one colour looks like in Vinyl Matt will be a shade different when mixed into Durable or Soft Sheen. Also if you pick a colour from a retail store like B&Q then that will be slightly different when mixed into a trade paint. My advice is to use trade paints always, get a trade colour card and to get a tester from a trade store, oh and if you want a light grey make sure you look at the colour card in both sunlight and shade as a few look blue once dry!