Is more expensive paint worth the investment?

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The building blocks of paint

There are three reasons that some brands cost more than others, and it isn’t about market niche – it’s about pigment levels, natural versus chemical pigments and the use of black and white.

Paint is made up of three things – pigment, solvent and resin. Pigment is the colour element, the particles of colour which are held in suspension by the solvent. The solvent enables the paint to be transferred evenly in your wall and evaporates. Resins are also held in the solvent and they are what bind the pigments, getting a finish which stays where it should and looks how it should (so gloss paint has more resin, matt paint has less).

Less expensive paint has fewer, bigger particles, more solvent and often low grade resin.

More expensive paint has many, many, many more particles of pigment, a higher grade of resin (to hold all those many particles) and less solvent. It’s all those particles that give you a rich depth of finish – millions of them layered on top and around and to the side, all those little bits of different colours which bounce light in hundreds of different angles all melting together to give your eye an impression of one colour.

These millions of particles of natural pigment are more expensive than chemical pigment and more difficult to work with – resulting in a higher final product price.

Finally, premium paint companies mix shades in a traditional way using colours. Simply adding black or white to make a difference results in a flat finish. Think about traditional painters. They would never have used black to reach a dark colour. They would have added browns, greens and blues… layering them on until the sense of a subject was well and truly soaked into the canvas.

A complication of high pigment paints is that they’re more responsive to light because of the layering of pigment particles, so your walls will appear to change colour during the day as the light coming in to the room changes. Depending on the aspect of the room and the time of day, the light coming in will be more white / yellow or more red and bounce off those plentiful particles giving different effect.

To work out how a high pigment paint would change in your room, simply paint a few large white sheets of paper with your preferred colour and attach them to different walls in the room you are going to paint. This will enable you to ‘see’ the true colour for you throughout the day.

So are these more expensive paints worth the investment?

The answer is a definite yes! High pigment paints are durable and offer you a depth of finish incomparable to low pigment paint (think velvet vs cotton). They give off lower Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions and are an artisan craft.

If you do decide against the investment, please don’t go for a colour match of a high pigment paint.

The machines used to colour match can only work with the data they hold for the range of the brand you are asking to mix you a match, and that data bank is very limited. I’ve seen colour matches that are really far off. It’s not the machines’ fault, they are programmed to give you an mix from the information they have, which isn’t the same as that of the original paint company you were looking at.

If you are going with a low pigment paint, just choose a colour from their range. It is much more likely that paint will reflect your original choice from their colour swatch and it keeps the manufacturers accountable for their colour. Do still paint up your large paper sheets though – it’s much less work than repainting a whole room if you make a mistake!

Finally, don’t forget that many high pigment brands have an economy range too, which is midway between the two bands both in price and in quality, so if budget is the decider this may work for you.

Happy painting – do share your final choices!

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