With my previous ‘best white emulsion paint’ guide approaching 3 years in age, I’ve decided to write an updated version as my personal preferences when it comes to white emulsion have changed quite a bit.
Paint technology is developing quickly and formulas are always changing. With that in mind, I’ve spent the last couple of years trying as many different white emulsions as possible which has led me to a new personal favourite.
The aim of this guide is to offer you advice on what white emulsion to choose for specific jobs. For example, the emulsion I use on walls is different to the emulsion I use on ceilings (I need my ceiling paint to be flatter otherwise it can show surface imperfections when exposed to critical lighting).
With that in mind, here’s my 2023 guide to the best white emulsion paints currently available in the UK.
Considerations When Buying White Emulsion Paint
As briefly touched upon above, buying white emulsion isn’t as straightforward as choosing any old paint and slapping it on your walls and ceilings. Here are some things to consider before buying your paint:
What surface are you painting?
Walls don’t really get exposed to critical lighting. A durable matt paint will usually suffice and cover any imperfections. Ceilings on the other hand will get exposed to lighting from the sun as well as artificial light and will usually need to be flatter than matt paint in order to avoid showing imperfections.
How durable do you need it to be?
If you have messy children or excited dogs in the home getting their paws all over your paintwork then it would be a good idea to trade aesthetics for durability.
Some white emulsions aren’t as good-looking as others but are way more durable and can withstand up to 10,000 scrubs.
If your walls don’t need frequent cleaning, you can choose something that looks better but it’s quite as durable.
What environment will the paint be applied in?
Some paints are better than others at surviving in challenging environments such as kitchens and bathrooms. My go-to white emulsion is Johnstone’s Covaplus Vinyl Matt but I wouldn’t apply it in bathrooms and kitchens because it’s not as resistant and durable as Zinsser Permawhite when it comes to humid environments.
What colour are you painting over?
I always keep this in mind when choosing the right white emulsion for the job. I find that whilst Albany Supercover isn’t the greatest for application, it has superb opacity and covering power which makes it a good choice when painting over dark blues or reds.
On the other hand, if I’m painting over lighter colours, I would go with Covaplus because it’s a dream to apply.
White Emulsion: Trade or Retail?
In my opinion, trade almost always trumps retail paint and that’s why 5 out of the 6 paints I’ve recommended in this guide are trade standard.
Trade paint covers in fewer coats, has much better opacity and lasts much longer than retail paint.
I’ve tried plenty of retail paints out of curiosity and the consistency is usually so watery that it’s a nightmare to apply with all the splashes. Of course, because it’s so watered down, it can sometimes take 6 coats to cover dark colours.
Buy cheap, buy twice is the motto I stick by when it comes to paint!
Best White Emulsion Paint for Walls and Ceilings
1. Johnstone’s Covaplus Vinyl Matt: Best White Paint for Walls
Johnstone’s Covaplus Vinyl Matt is a trustworthy white emulsion paint for walls that has consistently impressed me with its excellent quality and affordability. It delivers the same high standard as Tikkurila’s vinyl matt, yet comes at half the price. The impressive coverage, with two coats generally sufficing no matter the original shade, makes this a practical choice for any decorating job.
The consistency of Covaplus is ideal, providing an effortless application without the need for thinning. Plus, it offers flexibility when used on plaster, where it can be watered down as a mist-coat before using it straight from the tin for the top coats.
With its high opacity, it bleaches out beautifully when drying, injecting a fresh brightness to the walls which is ideal if you’re painting rooms that get minimal natural light.
My top tip: best results are achieved with proper preparation and the use of a quality roller – I personally recommend the Hamilton microfibre 12-15”.
- Excellent coverage
- High opacity
- Easy application without thinning
- Can be used as mist-coat and top coats
- Durable; still fresh-looking after 8 years
- Suitable for woodwork
- Not suitable for ceilings due to the potential for flashing with natural light (I recommend MacPherson’s Eclipse for ceilings)
Paint specs: coverage: 12 – 14m2/litre, touch dry: 1 hour, re-coatable: 2 – 4 hours, application: roller, brush or spray
2. MacPherson Eclipse: Best for Ceilings
MacPherson Eclipse is a flat emulsion that’s hugely popular with professional decorators with some refusing to use anything but this on ceilings.
I use this myself as my go-to ceiling paint 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 that doesn’t flash when touching up or when exposed to critical lighting.
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.
- Doesn’t flash when touching up
- Is incredibly flat so hides imperfections easily
- It almost covers ceilings in just 1 coat
- It’s cheaper than a bottle of water
- You need to wait a little while before you can see the end result
Paint specs: coverage: 14 – 16m2/litre, touch dry: 2 hours, re-coatable: 4 hours, application: roller, brush or spray
3. Albany Supercover: If you want to cover a dark wall
Albany Supercover is a robust and reliable choice when it comes to painting over dark colours. I often turn to this when I need to transform a space with a fresh white finish. The paint has a creamy texture, which eases the application process, although I do recommend thinning it slightly to prevent tramlines.
Supercover delivers remarkable coverage, capable of completely transforming dark hues with just two coats. I’ve personally used it to cover dark red and blue walls with ‘Swansong,’ an off-white shade, and the results were phenomenal. Opacity is truly top-notch, which contributes to its powerful coverage capabilities.
To really maximise the use of Supercover, you’ll need to add a touch of water to the mix. Its consistency is on the thicker side, so giving the 10-litre tub a good stir and a cup of water works wonders. It leaves a beautiful white and a pretty flat finish.
- Creamy texture and easy application
- Fantastic coverage and opacity
- A slight thinning enhances the finish
- Touches up well with the same batch number
- Durable on regular surfaces
- Not very durable on frequently cleaned surfaces
- Not suitable for new plaster
- Can be temperamental on extra porous surfaces, such as unsealed coving and filler, where flaking can occur. However, a primer can easily remedy this.
Paint specs: coverage: 16m2/litre, touch dry: 2 hours, re-coatable: 4 hours, application: roller, brush or spray
4. Valspar Trade Tough Matt: Best brilliant white paint
Valspar Tough Matt, my preferred pure brilliant white emulsion, is an impressive product with standout qualities. When compared with brands like Dulux, specifically its Pure Brilliant White Emulsion, Valspar Tough Matt outshines in terms of coverage, rendering Dulux’s version quite disappointing.
I frequently use Valspar Tough Matt for various projects, and it’s never failed to deliver a pleasing result. The paint provides great coverage and a pretty flat finish, emitting a lovely white glow that is certain to brighten any room. It’s also worth noting that I’ve never experienced any issues with flaking off, though it’s not the ideal choice for new plaster.
In terms of application, the Valspar Tough Matt flows smoothly, especially when it’s thinned down a bit. This minor adjustment helps to mitigate framing and flashing issues commonly seen with pure brilliant white emulsions. Additionally, a drop of water can further improve the paint’s application. Sometimes, without added water, the paint may drag a little when rolled over the cutting-in.
- Great coverage, generally requiring only two coats
- Lovely white, flat finish
- Doesn’t flake off
- Flows smoothly, especially when thinned down
- Not suitable for new plaster
- Can drag when rolled over the cutting in if not watered down
- Can separate slightly if not mixed well before use
Paint specs: coverage: 17m2/litre, touch dry: 1 hour, re-coatable: 2 – 4 hours, application: roller, brush or spray
5. Zinsser Permawhite: Best for kitchens and bathrooms
Ask any professional decorator worth their salt how good Zinsser paints are and they will tell you that they’re one of the most reliable brands in the industry. With that in mind, Zinsser Permawhite is a no-brainer if you’re looking for a white emulsion that can handle the vigours of kitchen and bathroom environments.
Due to the fact that it’s mould resistant (I believe it contains a fungicide that inhibits the growth of mould), I would personally use this if your kitchen or bathroom struggles to extract moisture. I actually used this paint in my mother’s kitchen as she’s frequently boiling food on the hob and has a terrible extractor fan and it still looks great 3 years on.
Whilst the opacity is good, it’s not the best so you will probably need at least 3 coats, especially if you’re covering a darker colour than white but it’s a price worth paying as you’ll avoid problems further down the line.
- Inhibits the growth of mould which is essential if you have moisture issues in your kitchen or bathroom
- Never fails – it’s one of the most reliable paints on the market
- It sticks to almost any surface so your preparation doesn’t need to be perfect
- Doesn’t have the best opacity
Paint specs: coverage: 10m2/litre, touch dry: 1-2 hours, re-coatable: 2 hours, application: brush, roller or spray
6. Good Home Emulsion: Good budget option
Good Home’s White Emulsion is a reliable choice when it comes to finding a white emulsion on a budget. Its coverage is impressive, providing an ultra-bright white finish that certainly stands out. This emulsion is pretty thick, but watering it down slightly (around two cups in a 10-litre tub) can improve its applicability.
When I used this emulsion, I found that it went quite a bit further than the stated 10 square metres per litre. To my surprise, I had a full tub left over from a job that I calculated would require just under 40 litres. For the price of £30 per 10-litre tub, I can confidently say it delivers great value for money.
However, the Good Home White Emulsion is not without its drawbacks:
I noted that Good Home’s White Emulsion is less flat than its previous version and slightly less opaque. However, it is more durable. While it’s a decent choice for retail gear and rental properties, I wouldn’t recommend it for personal use, particularly when compared to paints such as Johnstone’s Durable Matt.
- Awesome coverage
- Ultra bright white finish
- Good value for money
- Goes further than stated
- Better than comparable brands such as Armstead
- Might not suffice for a two-coat finish
- Has a significant sheen
- Can have an unpleasant odour
- May contain tiny bits that require straining
- Questionable durability
- Filler flashes significantly through it
- Lower opacity compared to some other brands
Paint specs: coverage: 10m2/litre, touch dry: 2 hours, re-coatable: 2-4 hours, application: roller, brush or spray
What’s the Difference Between White and Brilliant White Paint?
As Brilliant White paint lacks any pigment, it tends to reflect more light than standard white which therefore makes it appear brighter.
They also add a touch of blue to the paint which strangely makes it appear whiter.
If you’re worried that this is going to make your surface look shiny, you don’t need to be. Most emulsions come in a flat or matt finish which essentially means you’ll be getting a pure, modern white look without the high sheen.
How to Paint Using Emulsion
As always, the way you paint will depend on which emulsion you have at hand but there are a few tips you can follow to get that perfect, modern finish.
In order to get the best finish possible, it’s important that the surfaces you’re going to be painting on are clean and dry. Sanding down the surface is a good option as this will result in a good key to which your paint will stick to.
Once your surface is ready, you can start painting.
- Cut in by going around the edges with a brush
- Use a medium pile synthetic roller to paint large areas
- Don’t be shy to slap plenty of paint on, just make sure you’re applying it evenly!
- If applying 2 coats, wait for the specified time before putting on the second coat
- Simply repeat the process but take more care with your strokes on the second coat
Fortunately, water-based emulsions are some of the easiest paints to clean off your brushes/rollers. If you act fast, sometimes all it will take is a washdown with clean water. If that doesn’t do the trick, just use warm soapy water instead. Simple.
Finding the best white emulsion paint can help you totally transform your living space and in some cases even increase the value of your property. They offer a timeless, elegant look and are great for making your rooms look bigger as well as lighter.
The paints we’ve included are all great in their own right but if I was personally going to use any of them, I’d probably go for the Johnstone’s Covaplus Vinyl Matt. It’s high quality, incredibly easy to apply and is overall great value for money.