Paint explained: water-based, solvent or chalk
We explain the difference between water-based, solvent and chalk paints
Water-based paints dominate the market for interior paints and they are the most popular choice for DIY and professionals. They can be used on walls, ceilings, interior and exterior wood and metal (such as front doors and skirting boards) and still provide the durability of traditional solvent-based paints. When using water-based paints on furniture projects it is generally recommended to apply a primer before your topcoat to promote adhesion between the surface and the paint. However, unlike chalk paint projects, there is no need to wax or protect your furniture once the topcoat has been applied.
Water-based paints have become so popular for many reasons:
- Many of them are low odour, such as our Biora range of luxury interior paints for walls and celings. This creates a more pleasant painting experience and is far more child friendly.
- They are environmentally friendly due to their low levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds - the toxins that are released in to the atmosphere).
- They typically dry faster than other paint types – our Biora range is touch dry after one hour and re-coatable after two hours.
- Many paints have self levelling properties so it’s easier to achieve a smooth, professional finish, free from brush marks.
- Clean-up is much easier. There is no need for white spirit or other cleaning products - simply rinse brushes and trays in warm clean water.
Fifty years ago, virtually all paint was solvent-based and traditionally, they out-performed water-based paints for durability and gloss levels. For this reason they were always popular for joinery such as skirting boards and doors. During application and drying, the solvents evaporate in to the atmosphere, ideally leaving a solvent-free dry paint film. However, when these solvents evaporate they release VOCs which are toxic to the environment and can be harmful to children.
However, thanks to advances in paint technology, today it is possible to get water-based paints for both interior and exterior woodwork that match the performance of solvent paints. Our Futura Aqua paint range provides the same hardness and durability but without the strong smell and high levels of toxins. Futura Aqua paints boast excellent resistance to weather and UV rays, and they retain their colour and gloss over time. You can even achieve the high gloss ‘downing street door’ look with Futura Aqua 80.
Whilst the majority of benefits traditionally offered by solvent-based paints are now also present in water-based paints, they are still useful for painting in colder climates. Due to their chemical make-up, solvent-based paints can be used in freezing temperatures (unlike water-based paints).
As the name suggests, these paints are made of chalk and other natural minerals. Chalk based paints have become very popular recently, particularly in the world of shabby-chic as they create an aged appearance and can be distressed easily. For this reason they are very popular for up-cycling furniture. They are typically promoted due to their ability to over-coat most surfaces with little preparation required. However, in order to provide resilience to everyday use, a wax generally needs to be applied once completely dry (usually 24 hours later) and then buffed off to achieve your desired sheen. For this reason, there is little difference in the overall time it takes to upcycle furniture using chalk based or water-based paints. Be mindful when using chalk based paints though: once waxed, it can be nearly impossible to re-coat at a later stage with a water-based paint. This is because the wax resists against water-based primers and if you try sanding it down, the wax is worked further in to the surface.
Chalk based paints have a number of benefits:
- They enable you to easily create a distressed finish.
- They require little surface preparation.
- They can be easily thinned to create a ‘wash’ effect.
- Clean-up is easy. There is no need for white spirit or other cleaning products - simply rinse brushes and trays in warm clean water.