What Is Interior Paint Made Of – Understanding The Basics

pexels blue bird 7217990 What Is Interior Paint Made Of - Understanding The Basics

Everyone loves the look and feel of freshly painted walls but have you ever wondered what’s inside your paint? It’s important to understand what interior paint is really made of since you have to live with it every day inside your home. So, let’s find out.

Interior paint comprises four basic ingredients: pigments, binders, carriers, and additives. The pigments give the paint its hiding ability and color, while binders turn liquid paint into solid when applied to the wall. Carrier acts as the solvent, and additives help boost the paint’s performance.

Each element used in interior paints has a purpose to serve that we will explore in this article. I will also discuss different types of interior paints you can buy from the market and what makes them unique.

What are the ingredients of paint?

All paints have four essential ingredients:

  • Pigments
  • Binders
  • Carrier (solvent)
  • Additives
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Here is a detailed look at what each ingredient entails.


Pigments are finely ground insoluble particles that may be natural or synthetic. They are used in paints to add color, impart bulk, or have physical or chemical properties to the wet or dry film. Pigments comprise two basic variations:

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1. Prime pigments

  • Organic
  • Inorganic

Prime pigments affect both wet and dry hide in paint. The whiteness in paint is achieved through the pigment Titanium dioxide, while colorants create the paint’s actual color.

Colorants can be either organic or inorganic. Organic pigments tend to form clumps or pigment particles, while inorganic pigments spread out evenly in the resin. The former is more or less transparent when we look at opacity, but the latter delivers high opacity results.

Organic variants provide brighter colors, such as phthalo blue and hansa yellow, but they aren’t very durable, which is why they’re used in interior paints. Inorganic colorants are mostly duller and earthy, like red oxide, umber, and yellow ochre. They are more resilient than their counterparts and are used in exterior paint.

2. Extender pigments

  • Functional
  • Special effects

Extender pigments add extra weight or bulk to the paint and contribute only to the paint’s dry hide.

Functional pigments add specific properties to the coating, like the corrosion inhibitor, while special effect pigments are responsible for creating optical effects like hammer and metallic finish.

Clay, talc, silica, diatomaceous silica, zinc oxide, and calcium carbonate are all examples of extender pigments.


The binders used in paints directly relate to its performance, washability, fade resistance, scrub resistance, and gloss retention. Binders are polymers (resins) that bring the pigments together to create the perfect dry coat of paint on a wall.

Alkyd (oil) based binders dry to a hard finish that offers superior adhesion and leveling. The downside is that it will turn yellow in light colors and oxidize on surfaces. Moreover, it contains VOCs that are harmful to human health.

Thanks to modern technology, a newer alternative is alkyd-emulsion paint which gives an oil-like performance but can water and soap solution can clean it up easily. Unfortunately, this, too, can turn yellow and chalk over time.

The following are common binders that are found in paint:

  • Acrylic resins
  • Alkyd resins
  • Latex (PVA)
  • Phenolic resins
  • Urethane resins
  • Epoxy resins
  • Chlorinated rubber

Carrier (solvent)

The carrier is the solvent that allows the paint to be applied from the can to the surfaces. Pigments and binders are considered solids, while the carrier is a liquid. When they are all mixed together, they create the paint you see on the walls.

Carriers can be:

  • Oil-based or alkyd paints that comprise paint thinner or other types of solvent.
  • Water-based or latex that consists primarily of water.

If a paint contains more solids than liquid, it is considered higher in quality. So, if 35-40% of the paint remains on the wall after the solvent has evaporated, the paint will perform better. But that doesn’t mean every paint with high solids content is good. It’s the make-up of the solid elements that make a paint formula better than the others.


Additives add specific properties to the paint and improve its overall performance. The most commonly used are:

  • Defoamers- to break bubbles formed during manufacturing and when applied onto a surface.
  • Thickening agents- to provide additional thickness and viscosity for improved flow and leveling. It also helps reduce the splatter effect when the paint is applied with a roller.
  • Biocides- to prevent bacteria from growing and to eliminate mildew growth.
  • Co-solvents- to increase the liquid content in the paint. This helps the binders form a solid film when applied at low temperatures.
  • Surfactants- to prevent the paint from separating. They also keep the pigments evenly distributed in the liquid resulting in better color accuracy and hiding power.

Characteristics of interior paint

  1. Interior paints are used for decorative and aesthetic purposes. Since it’s used inside the home, its properties include washability, easy maintenance, and dampness prevention.
  2. Interior paint is formulated to withstand abrasion, but it’s not as hard as exterior paint.
  3. The paint is washable, so you can quickly wipe away roller and brush marks, as well as dirt and grime.
  4. Interior paints don’t have fade-resisting properties as they don’t have to face the sun. It also doesn’t require sunlight to cure.
  5. They contain a low amount of VOCs, reducing health risks and maintaining the air quality inside the home.

6 Types of interior paints and finishes

Many homeowners focus on picking the right color palettes for their homes but often don’t know the difference between various finishes. How the paint color looks on your wall greatly depends on the finish you select.

Some paints reflect light, creating a sheen on the walls, while others absorb light and make the walls look flat. A glossy surface usually highlights cracks and imperfections, whereas matte finishes camouflage flaws. The type of paint plays an integral role in its durability, coverage, and lighting within the space.

1. Matte Finish

Flat or matte paints deliver a diffused and mute color with a minimum to a soft sheen. They usually have a higher ratio of solids: liquid which helps them give deeper coverage. Also known as the concealer of paints, they work well to hide any imperfections on the walls, like nail holes, scratches, etc.

This variant is perfect for painting interior spaces like the bedroom. Since the paint is high-coverage, you don’t need multiple coats. The only downside is that matte walls can be harder to clean compared to glossy surfaces.

If you want to buy flat paint for your home, you can try the Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Latex Paint. I love this one because it is available in 28 exciting colors.

2. Textured Finish

If you like to add some character to their walls, textured paints are the right choice for you. These paints make your walls appear rustic and distinct, which is hard to achieve with other paints.

With textured paint, you can add depth and shadows to the walls. Since it doesn’t deliver a flat finish, it effectively masks uneven walls and other imperfections.

3. Satin Finish

Satin is right between matte and shiny; therefore, an all-rounder of wall paint finishes. These satin paints reflect more light than eggshell finishes, but they are not at all glossy. You can compare it to the shine of a pearl- soft and muted.

Satin finish feels soft and velvety to the touch and is ideal for living spaces that don’t receive a lot of sunlight. The only problem is that satin paint brings out application imperfections, unlike matte and textured finishes.

4. Eggshell Finish

As the name suggests, this paint gives a low sheen when applied to walls, just like an eggshell. It’s not entirely lusterless like matte paints and has a pleasing texture and feel. Eggshell paint hides wall imperfections like holes, bumps, etc., and offers a highly durable finish.

The finish is easier to clean than satin, making it ideal for high-traffic living spaces like the dining room, kitchen, living room, and hallways.

5. Semi-Gloss Finish

The semi-gloss is an ideal solution if you like gloss but don’t want ‘high-shine’ walls. Semi-gloss paints are shiny and reflective but not as shiny as high-gloss paints. They are durable, mildew-resistant, and easy to clean, making them perfect for playrooms, dining rooms, etc.

The only drawback is that it highlights the flaws in your walls, like satin finishes. The Montage Signature Interior/ Exterior Eco-Friendly Paint is a good option if you want a low-sheen finish. It comes in two finishes: low-sheen and semi-gloss.

6. High-gloss finish

The high-gloss finish is popular among designers and homeowners because it reflects light to give the highest sheen. Apart from being reflective, this delivers a hard finish that is highly durable. High-gloss surfaces are easy to clean, making them perfect for cabinetry, kitchen work, doors, and other objects prone to dirt and moisture.

The drawback of a high-gloss finish is that it makes any imperfections on the walls more apparent and requires several coats for full coverage.

How to choose the right paint finish for your home’s interior

Before you head out to buy paint for your DIY home paint project, you should decide the finish you want in your space. Consider these factors to help you find the perfect paint for your home.


The first crucial thing to consider is the usual traffic in your living space. If an area is busy all the time, like playrooms and kitchens, you must get a durable paint finish and easy to clean. Semi-gloss, high-gloss, or satin finishes are perfect for such areas.

Spaces that remain relatively calmer can get away with flat and eggshell paints.


When it comes to paint’s sheen, everyone has a different preference. But regardless of what you like, low-light or dark areas can benefit from higher-gloss finishes. If you want to make a room appear brighter and more open, go for a glossy finish. But if your living space receives plenty of daylight, you can go for any finish you like.

Walls condition

Paint helps bring life into your home, but the wrong finish can ruin a freshly-painted look. Suppose your walls have imperfections; in that case, you should choose a paint that hides them instead of highlighting them.

The more reflective a finish, the more surface imperfections will show. So, if your walls have nail holes or bumps, go with matte or satin finishes, as they help make walls appear smooth.


Is all interior paint latex?

Latex-based paints are highly popular for both interior and exterior surfaces. Almost 75% of paint sold is latex, and more homeowners are jumping on the green-paint bandwagon.

Can I use interior paint on the exterior?

Interior paint should not be used on external surfaces as they are not formulated with the required additives. If you use interior paint outside, it will not withstand heat, rain, or any other environmental stressors.

What happens if I accidentally use exterior paint inside?

Exterior paint contains toxic additives, so if you use it inside your home, you will expose your family to long-lasting harmful chemicals. There are several other reasons why you shouldn’t use exterior paint inside.

How long does interior paint last?

A good interior paint job should last 5 to 10 years or even longer, depending on how well you maintain it.


All paints are created using four ingredients: binders, pigments, solvents, and additives. As manufacturers tweak the quantity and quality of these elements, the paint’s formulation and finish change. Knowing the basics about interior paint will help you find the right fit for your home.

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