blue decorative coating applied by roller

Decorative coating makes the world beautiful

We love to beautify our lives, and with decorative coating improving and expanding all the time, it is no wonder that the decorative coatings market is expected to boom; the global decorative coatings market is expected to reach a worth of $114.72 BILLION by 2021, growing by $28 billion from 2016. Decorative coatings are considered “architectural coatings”; they are used in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings, for interiors and exteriors, and are water- or solvent-based.

In this article we will discuss the many different varieties of decorative paint, and all the ways it can be used to liven up and protect a wall, door, window, space, building, and more. We will look at the best decorative coating brands in the US, and where to find products and suppliers across the country.


Tailor-made architectural coatings can be more than decorative

Decorative coating, or decorative paint, comes under the broader category of architectural coatings. Architectural coatings are those which are intended for application to stationary structures such as buildings, homes, decks, sheds, and pavements in interior and exterior settings. They provide decoration, protection, and durability to a substrate. An architectural coating is intended for on-site application to residential, commercial, institutional, or industrial buildings, and differs from industrial coatings because it is defined by its aesthetic, rather than its protective properties. Though an industrial coating may be decorative, it is its protective ability that defines it. However, there are architectural coatings that are also protective:


Decorative coating for interior and exterior use – know the difference!

It may seem like paint is paint, and surely it doesn’t matter whether you use it outside or inside. While this might have been true a couple of decades ago, advances in coating technology mean that today the differences between exterior and interior coatings are far more pronounced. The solvents used for both are either water- or oil-based, and the differences lie in the pigments, resins, and additives that provide these paints with the qualities needed to work their best.

Decorative paints can be applied with brush, a roller or spray

An interior decorative coating has low VOCs and is usually water based.

Interior decorative paint

For an interior paint, the ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions is not that important. What they do need, however, is low VOCs and abrasion resistance. The resins are more rigid than those in exterior paints so the paint is less prone to damage – helpful when it comes to scrubbing and cleaning. There is also less risk of fading from exposure to UV radiation, so more organic pigments can be used. Because of the desire for low VOCs and low odor formulations, the majority of interior paints are water-based.

Exterior decorative paint

An exterior paint is exposed to all the damaging elements the world can throw at it. Rain, temperature variation, and most importantly UV radiation are all conditions the paint will need to withstand. Because of this, exterior paints are formulated to deal with harsh conditions without peeling, fading, chalking, or blistering. They avoid pigments known to fade or contain higher quantities of pigment, have more elastic resins to flex with expanding and shrinking substrates, and many contain anti-mildew additives.

Different decorative paint finishes and how to use them

Flat, satin, eggshell… what exactly a paint will look like and how best to use it are sometimes not clear. Though there are several steps to paint application, decorative coating is all about the finish. Exterior and interior paints both have a range of finishes available, each with different sheens and uses:

  • Flat and Matt: These paints have the lowest levels of glossiness of all the finishes available, at roughly 0-10% sheen. This means they are non-reflective and will hide surface blemishes and inconsistencies, effectively smoothing the surfaces on which they are painted. These are mostly used for walls, and have a smooth and velvety appearance.
  • Semi- and high gloss: The most reflective of the decorative paints, these are traditionally used for skirting boards, doors, moldings, window, and other trim. It is also the toughest finish. Due to their high levels of sheen, gloss finishes show up imperfections, so it is important to prepare the substrate beforehand.
  • Eggshell and satin: These are the “mid-sheen” finishes. They have some reflectivity (satin is slightly glossier than eggshell, which looks like its namesake), and are more durable than the flat and matt finishes. Because of this, they are often used in more demanding spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, and satin is often used for doors and trim.

Decorative coatings market uses color psychology

Everyone has seen decorative coating used poorly. A glum hallway, a foreboding building, too much yellow, all of these can be fixed by a proper understanding of decorative paints and how to use them. In the decorative coatings market it is known that the right coating can promote an atmosphere perfectly suited to the space, from calm to industrious. Industries from education to retail are subtly influencing us with their use of decorative coating. The psychological response to color is well documented, and used in different ways:

Decorative paint comes in many colors

Decorative paint comes in many colors, and the color choice affects how the ‘feel’ of a space.

  1. Education – Schools and universities aim at providing a pleasant and encouraging learning environment. Overstimulation through too much bright coloring – especially in primary schools –  can lead to distraction and inattentiveness. Neutrals with spots of color strike the right balance.
  2. Offices and reception areas – A reception area needs to invite, welcome, and interest a visitor. Avoid natural tones and choose warm, soft colors. An office needs to be a space in which a worker can be productive and happy. A doctor’s office requires soothing colors to calm patients, where cubicle workers need stimulating colors to boost alertness – though not too stimulating, bright reds for example can also increase stress levels.
  3. Healthcare – In the healthcare sector, decorative paint contributes to the mood and possibly even wellbeing of patients. The goal is to make them feel comfortable and at ease. Blue is often used in healthcare settings because it is a color which promotes calmness and serenity, a symbol of rest.

Decorative paint price, brands, and products in the US

With such a healthy industry, it can be no surprise that the US is full of hardware stores and decorative coating companies. Companies like AkzoNobel (Dulux), Crown Paints, Behr, PPG, and Valspar all provide their range of decorative paints for the extensive US market. Below is a very limited collection of paints available, to give an idea of the price range on the market.

Decorative coating productPrice (MSRP)Theoretical coverageSubstrates
Crown Trade Covermatt White$145.30 (2.6 gallons)100 sq. ftuse on new plaster surfaces
Dulux Trade Diamond Matt Pure Brilliant White$248.37 (1.32 gallons)200 sq. ftinternal walls and ceilings
Montage Signature Paint Signature Interior/Exterior Eco-Friendly Paint$64.95 (5 gallons)400 sq. ftInterior and exterior walls, ceilings & more
Prestige Paints 100% acrylic exterior latex paint and primer in one$39.99 (1 gallon)400 sq. ftprepared wood, masonry surfaces, cement board siding, vinyl*, aluminum, and factory primed siding

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