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Q&A: Matt Paint

Matt paint is one of the most popular paints on the market, especially for interiors.

It’s perfect for absorbing light thus making it, along with a flat finish, one of the best finishes you can have to hide imperfections and bumps on your walls and ceilings.

Matt paint has traditionally been one of the weakest paints when it comes to durability but as the big paint manufacturers flex their spending muscles, research and development has yielded paints so strong that they can even withstand occasional scrubbing.

So what else can you learn about matt paint? Perhaps you want to know which brands offer it? Which jobs is it great for? Or perhaps you’re simply having some issues with your own paint and you’re in need of answers. If that sounds like you it might be a good idea to read on!

We’ve put together a handy guide to all things matt paint by including frequently asked questions as well as questions sent to us by you, the readers. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into the subject.

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2 The Specifics

The Basics

What sheen level is matt paint?

Matt paint unsurprisingly dries to a matte finish which typically has a low sheen level. It doesn’t reflect much light which means imperfections are easily covered.

How durable is matt paint?

Traditionally speaking, matt has never been a go-to paint if you need something that is durable. Whilst it looks modern and attractive, you wouldn’t want to use it in high traffic areas. With that being said, manufacturers have and are still making fantastic progression in terms of durability for matt paints.

What should you use matt paint on?

Currently, we’d only really recommend you use a matt paint on walls and ceilings which are low-touch surfaces. There are some great paints now which can be used in specific rooms too. For example, you can achieve a great matt finish in your bathroom or kitchen by choosing the suitable paint.

The Specifics

Looking for a flat matt stain for some old jaded beams. Tried using Sadolin’s Jacobean Walnut but it has a lot of sheen. Any suggestions?

Sadolin classic claims to be matt but it has some sheen over previously coated timber so I can see your issue! It dulls down slightly but not to a matt so I would recommend going with something different. Perhaps Johnstone’s woodwork matt finish?

Would Johnstone’s Matt (dark green) be enough to cover a silver eggshell in one coat?

You could probably do it with a brush but in any case I would recommend two coats. If you go with one coat over an eggshell your new layer of paint is going to scratch off pretty easily.

Can you paint over silk with Dulux’s Easycare Matt Washable Paint?

Painting over silk is usually more of an issue if the silk paint has been done within the last six months. Fresh silk is far worse as it’s more flexible. If it’s been there a fair while then a quick sand over should do it. You could also apply an acrylic primer before the emulsion but I’ve never had a problem over silk as long as it’s not fresh.

Can you paint on new plaster with contract matt?

I’d advise against it unless you want to see all of your hard work fall off the walls. Applying a mist coat before matt is always a good idea and will give the matt paint something to key to (and avoid the whole paint literally falling off the wall thing).

What’s the Heritage Velvet matt paint like?

I used this not so long ago on a job and found that it flowed nicely, had good coverage, gave a nice flat finish and overall was nicer to actually work with than the durable flat matt. It also has a velvet finish to the paint too which is a bonus.

The only thing I would say is that the durability is questionable. A friend of mine has used it on a job and the customer tried to wipe it a week later and it just smudged and marked. Needless to say, he’s not so keen to use it again.

Using Zinsser Perma white matt for the first time this week. On the tin it states no primer is needed but it’s going on bare plaster. Can this be thinned as a mist?

I wouldn’t thin it because you’re going to have to do too many coats to get a good finish. Crown’s Covermatt or super mist and 3 coats of the Perma is what I’d recommend. I’ve done that exact thing in my own bathroom because it’s got no extractor fan and I can honestly say after a year it’s still looking good and staying strong.

I applied matt emulsion over a dry, previously painted matt wall in a hallway. Immediately dozens of blisters appeared in random places. Any ideas what happened?

Here’s what might be happening: As paint dries it coalesces, i.e shrinks. If the substrate is poorly bonded or chalked, small bubbles (or blisters) will often appear. Most of the time they will shrink back. Ones that don’t will have to be scraped, spot primed (oil), repaired, sanded, spot primed again and painted.

I painted my ensuite walls with Johnstone’s durable matt and am having problems with water marks showing. How do I fix this?

Whilst Johnstone’s durable matt is marketed as being able to handle a bathroom environment, I’ve frequently seen that it’s not exactly true. It’s either that or you must’ve used the shower before the paint had time to fully cure.

Your fix will have to be a new paint job. This time you should opt for a bathroom specific emulsion or if you don’t think you have sufficient steam extraction in place, go for an acrylic eggshell which is a touch more durable than matt.

I need to mist coat my new extension so went into Johnstone’s to ask what they’d recommend to use. They said to use their contract matt and that it doesn’t need diluting on new plaster. Is this approach OK?

I would try it on a small section of plasterboard first just to check. Personally, I would always mist coat plaster because you don’t want to take the risk of having your paint peeling off because it hasn’t keyed properly. I’ve actually used Johnstone’s durable matt recently on new plasterboard. I thinned it to a 60/40 ratio then a full coat. It worked perfectly so if in doubt, try that method.

Just priced a job for a lady. She wants everything white vinyl matt but with added glitter. Is it as easy as buying vinyl matt and adding glitter and giving it a stir?

Basically, yes. Mix the glitter in with the paint and away you go. I usually wait until the final coat and add all the glitter into that but it depends how glittery they want it to how much you add but depending on what brand you buy (V1rtus is decent) it’s very subtle anyway. I would definitely recommend giving it a dry wipe with a pan scrub when it’s dry as that tends to brings the glitter out.

Thoughts on Armstead Contract Matt?

I was doing a rental a few days ago and the landlord had half a tub of Johnstone’s durable matt white and half a tub of Armstead so I thought I’d test both out. The difference was night and day. I’ve heard good things from some of my pals about the Armstead but I was more impressed with the Johnstone’s if I’m honest. I’d say the Armstead is more of a budget matt with good opacity but it does flash.

I mist coated a newly plastered kitchen a couple of weeks ago. 1 coat of durable matt watered down yesterday and a coat slightly watered down today. It’s flaking on a load of edges? All I can think of is it’s still dampish! But was plastered about 8 or 9 weeks ago. Any ideas?

Unfortunately contract matt is not recommended for a mist coat for durable finishes these days. It creates a chalky finish that acrylic matts won’t bond to. That’s probably your issue!

I painted my kitchen with kitchen paint (matt white) and it’s started to crack so bad that you can see the plaster. The previous paint was a magnolia silk. Any tips on what I can do?

Sand it back as far as you can and flush it off with filler then 2 coats of guards. Then follow that up with 2 top coats of acrylic durable matt or acrylic eggshell. Make sure you leave the paint to fully cure and that will fix your problem (and leave you with a great looking kitchen!)

I used Leyland’s matt on my ceiling but it was so absorbent, the matt was drying as soon as I was applying it which left noticeable roller marks. Can you recommend a better paint for this particular job?

Johnstone’s actually own Leyland so you could just go with the Leyland Trade Smart Matt or Johnstone’s Perfect Matt. My thoughts are that the Smart Matt is just a cheaper version of Johnstone’s Perfect Matt.

I’ve used both and the Johnstone’s is superior but this is reflected in the prices. Smart Matt is good stuff whereas Perfect Matt is superb. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with either as they’re both an obvious upgrade to Leyland’s basic matt.