If you’re someone who has uneven surfaces or surface imperfections and can’t afford to get a plasterer in to skim your walls and ceilings, flat emulsions might be the best choice for you.
The aim of this article is to inform you about what flat emulsions are and give you some suggestions on which ones to purchase as advised by our community of professional decorators.
With that being said, let’s jump right in.
What Are Flat Emulsions?
Flat emulsions have the lowest sheen level of any emulsions. This means they reflect less light than other emulsion types. The benefit of using flat emulsions is that they’re incredibly adept at hiding surface imperfections.
What Are the Negatives of Flat Emulsions?
Whilst they’re fantastic for hiding surface imperfections, this low sheen level makes flat emulsions much less durable than eggshell or even matt emulsions.
So if you have a household of messy kids or mischievous pets then you’re probably best off avoiding flat emulsions as the paint finish will be more likely to scratch and scuff.
Furthermore, due to the lack of pigment, your colour choice may not always come out the way you anticipated.
Why Use Flat Emulsions?
As mentioned above, you would use flat emulsions to hide surface imperfections. This is especially useful for those who can’t afford to have bumpy walls and ceilings levelled off and hides any shadowing effects that come along with uneven walls.
They’re also great for use in bedrooms which would typically be a room where you’d want to create a tranquil environment and could do without having your walls bouncing light off the surface!
Best Flat Emulsions As Voted for By Professionals
So what are the best flat emulsions currently available in the UK? Instead of just listing our personal favourites, we decided to reach out to a community of professional decorators to get their input. The following advice comes from a diverse range of professional decorators.
Johnstone’s Perfect Matt
First up on our list is Johnstone’s Perfect Matt. This trade paint has been formulated to ensure visible application marks are minimised as much as possible but does it actually come out this way?
When reaching out to professional decorators, plenty chose Johnstone’s Perfect Matt as their favourite flat emulsion but with a caveat. When using Johnstone’s Perfect Matt in lighter colours, the application can be difficult, with some describing the consistency as being like chewing gum. There’s also an issue with some lighter shades (such as white) turning grey once fully dried.
Darker colours? The complete opposite! Darker colours are a dream to work with and leaves no picture framing or flashing when exposed to critical lighting.
Overall, a great choice if you’re painting walls a dark colour but probably best avoided if you want a lighter shade.
Dulux Trade Durable Flat Matt
Next up, and voted for extensively by professional decorators as their favourite flat emulsion is Dulux Trade Durable Flat Matt. This durable emulsion is somewhere in the 2 – 5% sheen range which makes it ideal for hiding surface imperfections and disguising uneven walls.
One particularly impressive aspect of this flat matt emulsion is its opacity. Dark colours will cover lighter shades with ease with the majority of jobs taking just 2 coats to fully cover.
Overall, a solid flat emulsion that goes on a treat especially if using a pink Hamilton sleeve to apply.
Leyland Smart Matt
Whilst Leyland isn’t exactly favoured by professional decorators in the UK, their Smart Matt is an exception. Many put this flat matt emulsion ahead of the likes of Dulux and Johnstone’s due to how well it self-levels. The self-levelling properties basically mean that any roller or brush marks level off, leaving you with a perfectly flat surface.
Furthermore, this emulsion can be touched up without any issues. Not only that, you can still touch up the surface for up to a few months after initial application which is especially handy if you notice defects further down the line.
In terms of colour, Leyland’s Smart Matt is probably the closest you’ll get to what you think you’re ordering. For example, unlike many flat matts (Johnstone’s to name one), the white stays white after it has dried.
MacPherson Eclipse Emulsion
MacPherson’s Eclipse is another flat emulsion that’s hugely popular with decorators with some refusing to use anything but this on ceilings.
I’ve used this myself a few times and can vouch for its quality at hiding imperfections. Oddly enough, after a couple of coats, it looks as if it hasn’t covered well. But you just need a little bit of patience. As it dries and hardens, the topcoat becomes fuller and more opaque to leave you with a lovely solid finish.
It’s not the most durable paint on the market so really I would only recommend using it on ceilings but if that’s what you want it for, it’s well worth the money.
Here’s what some other decorator reviews for MacPherson’s Eclipse:
Two coats are usually brilliant. It does go on funny then sets itself up. One trick I’ve learned using this stuff is to avoid a second coat for at least half a day.
Probably the best flat matt white about for ceilings although l wouldn’t use it on walls as it’s not very durable. Dries nice and flat, plus doesn’t flash when touching up.
Tikkurila Anti-Reflex 2
Tikkurila Anti-Reflex 2 (or AR2) is another flat matt that is designed for use on ceilings although it does have decent durability (it according to data sheets it actually has a similar scrub rating to Optiva 5) assuming you wanted to use it on walls.
The sheen level for this paint is 0 – 5% which gives you a good idea as to how great it is for ceilings with critical lighting.
Remarkably, the opacity is so good that even after 1 coat you might think that the job is done. But don’t make the mistake of leaving it at 1 – the finish will look even better with 2 coats.
Tikkurila Optiva 3
Finishing up our list is Tikkurila Optiva 3 which, in my opinion, might be the best flat matt for walls. Optiva 3 is a ceramic paint which gives it added durability and along with the flat matt finish, is perfectly suited to the current trend of using darker shades of blues and greens on walls.
The only downside is that the coverage for lighter colours isn’t fantastic so you might find yourself racking up a hefty bill if you have large rooms to paint.
Now you’ve seen the recommendations from our professional decorators, we wanted to just give our own final thoughts on what the best flat emulsion is.
For ceilings, we only use Tikkurila’s Anti Reflex 2. It’s got great opacity, solid coverage and of course, is dead flat so hides any imperfections with ease.
For walls, I would actually recommend checking out Elle Decoration (made by Crown) who have plenty of choices for flat emulsions. Having used it myself a couple of times recently, I can vouch for how great the finish looks. In terms of durability, I couldn’t say with any degree of certainty to be completely honest but I’ve not encountered any issues yet (3 months ago was the first time I used it).