Are Water Based Gloss Paints Any Good?

In recent years water based paints, and glosses in particular, have become more and more popular.

While many decorators still prefer to use oil based gloss, the gap in quality has certainly reduced and in some aspects you could even say water based is better.

Being water based gives gloss an obvious advantage in terms of environmental impact but are they any good? Let’s take a quick look at how water based gloss stacks up compared to oil based.

Do you get a good finish with water based gloss?

You can get a good finish with water based gloss providing you prime the surface first and add at least 2 generous coats of good quality gloss.

Water based gloss has a thinner consistency than oil based so the coverage, especially with cheaper paints, isn’t as good. You’ll also need to take into consideration the speed at which the paint dries. Water based is renowned for being quick drying but this also means you have less margin for error when it comes to things like brush marks.

Overall, oil based glosses will provide you with a better, shinier finish – especially when using coloured paints.

How easy is it to apply?

If you’re using a good quality water based gloss, application should be relatively easy using either a brush, roller or paint sprayer.

As mentioned above, there’s an added risk of the paint drying too quickly with poor quality glosses which could result in you picking up the paint when going over it. Priming and sanding the surface first should deal with this issue however. As always, the key is in the preparation.

How durable is it?

It’s a misconception that water based gloss is much worse than oil based in terms of durability. Due to the protective film layer that water based gloss produces, it has a high degree of flexibility and typically means it’s much less prone to cracking, peeling or blistering.

Yellowing vs Non-Yellowing

In this area, water based gloss is a clear favourite. All oil based glosses have the notorious problem of going yellow over time. Water based gloss is much better when choosing a white gloss that actually stays white.

Is water based gloss easier to clean off?

Yes, water based gloss is much easier to deal with when it comes to the clean up. All you have to do is run your brushes/rollers under some water and job’s a good ‘un. With oil based glosses you’ll need to use a white spirit in order to shift the paint from your tools. Remember – oil and water doesn’t mix so you can’t simply wash the paint off with water.

Safety and Environmental Impact

Water based paints in general give off much lower VOCs than oil based and of course will have a lower environmental impact during their creation. If you’re going to be using a gloss on interior surfaces, it makes a lot of sense to use a water based one.