Other pros agree with my choice for the best interior paint: get the best you can afford because it lasts longer, looks better, fades much slower, and covers in fewer coats. But there are some good choices these days.
My top pick
The indoor paint that I want all my customers to use is Benjamin Moore and you should know why. I have used it for 30 years and found it to be the best high-quality paint for the money. It holds its color, it’s washable, and it covers unlike almost all the others.
I always tell my customers to let me buy them quality paint like Regal Select Waterborne Interior Paint from Benjamin Moore because it’s best for them and it makes me look good too. Does it cost a bit more? Yes, but you don’t have to paint again for many years.
So, my most highly recommended wall paint is available here.
The second most important tip after choosing the best interior paint is to use a quality roller cover and brush: see my top roller choice. Low quality roller covers will shed lint onto your wall which will cause your wall to feel (and look) like sandpaper.
Pro’s Secret: Eliminate the brushing (almost)
No need for much brushing in an interior paint job. The corners, yes a little and of course around the light switches and wall outlets etc, but not the long sections where walls meet.
See the video below where I demonstrate how to ROLL FIRST to almost eliminate the brushing in interior painting. Everyone wants to know ‘do you roll or cut first?’ and there is the pro’s answer. We save time and money and the result is the same.
We like a long nap roller cover: up to a ¾-inch roller cover, because the more material, the less dipping in the bucket.
Here is the key point about rollers
Get a wool/poly blend. That is 35 years of experience though: maybe go with the ½-inch if you are not sure. (We always use a Wooster roller: the poly gives longevity and the wool holds a lot of paint so you go farther on a single dip).
The Wooster poly-wool blend is only ten bucks or 30 clams for 6 rollers. This will last a homeowner a lifetime. Learn what we consider our best tools here.
What you need to know about interior paint
What makes some paints worth the money and others not? One word answer: Solids. If you want the best quality paint for your money, and if you hate to spend money like me, lean towards MORE expensive, higher quality paints. It sounds illogical, but it’s not. Spock.
Flat or Glossy? Whether you are putting semi-gloss paint on trim, or flat on ceilings or eggshell on walls (this is the usual M.O.), you want the best paint for walls that will not lose its color over the years, will wash well, and that will apply evenly and fully. If you do not have high-quality paint, it won’t do any of this. Buy the best indoor paint and use quality tools.
Here is my top recommendation for the very best but not expensive roller frame, and best cover shown above. My favorite brush is a Purdy for latex paints only: it will last a homeowner a lifetime and it cuts sharp lines on its own. (I have written about how to easily clean brushes and the secret to cleaning rollers).
What about one coat of paint? We have to have our work look great, so we always go with 2 coats of paint (after primer, if a primer was needed). Why? Because each of the two coats can be spread thinner and so you can go quicker. You just make sure to hit all the surfaces: no skips and you’ll see how the 2nd coat covers like magic. With one coat of paint, you must go slow and when you leave a wet area looking good, and come back to look, you will find skips that were not there before! Also, the one-coat paint method may be slower: it depends on your colors and your tool/paint quality.
Are Budget Paints Toxic? Usually yes, much more so than Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. Be careful about zero-VOC paints even from these sellers: the tints added at the paint store may contain high levels of formaldehyde and other cancer-causing agents.
Safety warning: some people would reasonably think that exterior paint is better than the best indoor paint and use it inside: Big mistake. Quality interior paints do not have the toxins in exterior paints and believe me, you don’t want to be breathing that stuff as it cures for months, all day long. Read my post about this.
Tip: Good lighting will help you catch the ‘skips’ in the paint. LEDs go forever and we highly recommend this light that I use.
List of 5 essentials of the best paint
- Quality binders and resins to keep the pigments in place
- Pigments for opacity and color
- Extender for bonding
- Zero or low toxic ingredients (zero or low VOCs)
- Ideal consistency: thick so it does not spit
The paint brands that I recommend have all those essentials points in their interior paint.
The best indoor paint is a high-quality paint that will:
- Cover much bigger area
- Be much easier to paint with for non-professional
- Be easy to clean
- Lead to better results: you will hardly see brushstrokes (although you still need to use a good brush: shown above.)
The chemistry of paint
I’ve written elsewhere about primers, but here we will just focus on some simple logic and some chemistry for what makes an interior paint good. The bottom line is money. Can you say ‘ka-ching’?
Let’s say you need a garden tool. Let’s say it’s a wheelbarrow. You can buy a plastic one made in China that is surprisingly inexpensive and will not take a beating (and will shatter in the winter cold) or you can buy a more expensive metal one built to last.
How long do you expect the inexpensive one to last? How many ones do you have to buy to equal the life of your quality metal one?
Of course, paint is different, but there are other factors: paint can be messy and low-quality paints do not have expensive binders and resins like the better paints. Have you ever tried to paint a ceiling with low-quality paint? Better keep your mouth shut! It did not cover the old paint? Go back, Jack, do it again.
On the other hand, Benjamin Moore Ceiling Paint may cost 10 dollars more per gallon, but it does not spit (if you are not rushing) and covers MUCH better. In fact, one coat after primer or older white paint is fine. You’ll only get this with the more expensive paints and you will be frustrated with the others.
Some other articles on the best interior paints
If you want to know more than you will ever need to know, try some articles about the chemistry of paint and on the Ben Moore website. But to keep this short, I will say that if you want to save money and not have headaches (and not have toxins in your lungs and house), buy high-quality paint from the best paint brands: Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams. They are the best paint brands. Those indoor paint actually cost less in the long run, and they are for sure the best interior paint you can find.
Learn how to go faster while painting:
30 thoughts on “Best Interior Paint and One Awesome Timesaving Tip”
How do you feel about products like Floetrol?
I use it when I want to extend and also slow the drying time. It’s a top-shelf quality product. but don’t use it unless you have a need.
Hi Brad – I hope you are still answering questions. I live in a house in Georgia that was built around 1902. It has plaster walls. The ceiling was already painted white and I put grey latex paint on the walls five years ago. It is starting to bubble-like and peel off in places. Underneath the paint on both the ceiling and walls it looks yellow, but is dry and It feels and looks just like a sheet of sandpaper. Is this the plaster surface? Do I just sand those areas to feather the edges then prime and paint? Ot does it all need skimming? How do I proceed? I took photos for you but couldn’t get them to upload here. Can I email them to an address for you?
Thank you for any assistance. I love reading all of the comments and all the tips and information about supplies and tools you have provided. I have learned so much from you already.
Yes that surface is probably the original plaster. But since I cannot see it I cannot know.
My best advice here is to call an OLD painter. My guess is the bubbles are from moisture under the paint… IN the wall.
You might buy a moisture meter and test many walls, including your friends’ houses to see where you stand.
It could be that a moisture barrier paint would be helpful.
Old houses… eh?
Do you tape the wall 1st? If not how do u keep from getting paint on the part of the wall the roller touches?
Not sure if you mean two walls getting the same color. I don’t tape in such a corner. If two colors I still don’t tape, just come close then brush the line. But for one color I smush, then even out the mess on the other wall, then repeat. You can do it and never brush. For 2 colors though, just be careful not to touch.
I would like to paint ivory over a very dark green in my dining room using BM Aura. Do you think I should use a primer first? If so, which one do you suggest? Thanks for all the great advice
Definitely use a primer. You”ve checked out the bonding issues, right… oil, latex etc? If you are just concerned about color and coverage, a good-quality primer will do the heavy lifting of blocking the dark color. But check to make sure you have no bonding problems. This explains. Good luck.
Does your advice about latex over oil also include acrylic paint (i.e. B.M. Regal Select) over oil based primer (i.e. Zinsser Cover Stain)?
Hi. No, primer will grab whatever. Oil primers and water based, all of them can be painted with pretty much anything. Just read the label and if in doubt do a test section.
I loved the witty writing style.
What do you reccomend for white paint, that stays white? Best product to fill nail holes & a few bigger holes with, that won’t show thru the paint. We are inexperienced painters wanting smooth flawless, durable white walls.
It’s the primer that blocks the visibility of the spackle and so on. If stains, you need stain blocking primer.
Flawless is an ideal, never achieved, but you’ll do fine with quality paint, sandpaper, etc. I only recommend that, never dollar store anything.
My spackle is here
My primer is here
Pick your favorite paint after that.
Hello. Thank you for this info (even though I’m a bit late to the party)
I used to seek out Muralo paints for their durability and coverage. I’m not a professional painter but this was introduced to me by a pro during a restoration a number of years ago.
I believe that paint has been acquired by California Paints. Do you have an opinion on going with a less mainstream brand like this? Muralo was always hard to find but I was happy with the results over Behr, Valspar and other more available brands.
I think it’s fine paint. Behr is a problem, esp the primer and paint in one. That company just does not do the research that SW or BMoore does. But Muralo is respected. Have at it!
What about California paints? Have used a few of their higher priced paints and in my opinion nothing has compared in terms of coverage. It seems to go on with that oil based thick coverage type of thing that is very pleasing after having to use paint that was almost like water in comparison.
I have not used it but if it lasts and the color holds… great. The best paints cost more, that’s it.
Good luck. Let me know if things change in your mind. I’ll share it.
Hey Brad –
Wondering your opinion on Ben Moore Natura versus Aura paint. I would like to go with the lowest VOC, least toxic paint possible and it seems like both Nautra and Auro are claimed to be zero VOC but the Natura is also claims to be zero emissions. Aura also says it is mildew resistant which means it has an added fungicide which I would like to avoid (we live in Denver so probably not needed).
Wondering if you have used either of these products and how they compare from a painters perspective – coverage and quality of results?
Thanks so much!
Aura is the top of the line and Natura is another good line like Ben and Regal. Aura is thicker and will cover in one coat almost always, but I only used it for reds inside or for all exterior… there are int. and ext. Auras. For the zero VOC, any paint that claims to be zero VOC is that before you tint…but what VOCs are in the tints? Sometimes a lot. These days paint stores are getting better about low or zero VOC tints but it’s hard for them to make it…lots of research and money goes into it.
I don’t think the extra expense of Aura is the component of fungicides… Not sure why they do that for some and not others. Maybe they can since the raw materials are so high grade, so they do.
So my advice: go with 2 coats of Natura and ask if you have a paint shop mix it.
There are other BMoore zero vocs to choose from… these days, I think ALL of them in fact… but I cannot remember. Call any BM store for more.
Hey Brad, We had a contractor who painted latex over oil based on doors and trim. Looked great until I bumped up against it with the vacuum. Now it is peeling and chipping everywhere. Is there a decent fix for this?
Uh oh. I have some very bad news for you. You need a lawyer. I am not giving you any legal or painting advice, but I can say this from experience. When you paint with latex over oil and you do not sand or use a de-glosser the latex paint will not adhere. It must be all removed, then the oil must be de-glossed or sanded and repainted.
So very sorry that you have this situation. I am guessing the painter was self-taught or young or both.
Let me know if I can be of any more help. YOu will need to contact another contractor who will be willing to testify in court.
What about BM aura versus regal select ??
That’s a good question… the price difference tells the story. Paint companies charge for raw materials and the more money the more solids end up on your wall or house etc. The prep really is more important, but if you want the best, go with Aura. It goes on very thick, so it might be more of a contractor paint: but just practice a bit with it. Regal is the same great paint, just less solids in the solution.
As a whole, are there ANY interior Sherwin Williams Paint lines you would recommend if you had to stick to that one brand?
I totally agree that Benjamin Moore Regal Select is hands down the best interior paint product on the market but we kind of have our hands tied with the deals that the Sherwin-Williams near me gives us.
Anyways, I’d like your advice on Sherwin’s interior paint lines or if you’ve had success with a particular kind. (Duration vs Superpaint vs A100 or otherwise).
Much Appreciated Brad!
PS: We really appreciate your site and always refer clients over to use it as a reference. Seriously solid advice and well written, informative content – thanks for that.
Hi…nice to chat to a painter still in his prime… I’m past mine! We’ve used tons of SW paints, literally. The ProMar contractor line was in the spec for some large customers (Ball Aerospace in Colorado e.g.), but I always go back to BMoore. I like Aura for changing colors: covers so well, even the reds. I got into zero VOC in the last decade or so, and SW has a line called Harmony I think… like BM’s Natura. Superpaint is really great esp the exterior: try to get it off your fingers. Nope.
Don’t show our site to your customers, or they might think they can do it themselves!! Stay in touch,
Are there eco friendly tints then, that don’t make it high VOC? Or do you have to use them? First time painter here!
Hi. You put your finger right on it..or in it. Yes, some tints, especially the old style, are very high in VOCs and for dark colors especially, a lot goes into one gallon of paint. If you buy pre-mixed colors, and the label says VOC free, they must have used VOC free tint. Another reason to buy paint from the big names as they are always out in front on safety.
Please qive a quick read on this issue to the post of ours just on VOCs. I‘m always hearing more and updating it when I have time. Thanks for that important question. -brad
Have you ever used Pratt & Lambert? If so, how do you think it compares against Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore?
Hi. Yes, we’ve used it and as I recal it was a bit thinner than the standard Ben Moore or SW. I think if you get a good deal, go with it. Read on our site about VOCs and check the paint for this kind of toxin. Remember that tints can make ‘zero-VOC’ paint into a high VOC paint. Good luck!
I’ve been using Ben Moore Paint since the early 90s. It’s hands down the best in my opinion by far. There Regal is Excellent…..S.W. Pro classic and Emerald I was not a fan of it at all. Way to thick in my eyes Im Using Ben Semi Gloss White Alot as well for all my trim. Will Stick to all Ben More Products always have always will.