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Best Interior Paint

By: Angela Stringfellow on May 22, 2018

Editor's Note:
For interior painting projects, Behr Premium Plus Enamel offers the best balance of price and performance, while Olympic ONE is a more affordable option that also performs well. If you need to paint ceilings or cabinets, we've added HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams and Glidden Premium to our recommendations.

Behr Premium Plus Enamel Review
Best Reviewed

Best interior paint

A self-priming, low-VOC interior paint, Behr Premium Plus Enamel scores well in professional tests for its durability and ability to hide old paint. It produces a smooth surface that won't lose its sheen over time, and most finishes (other than flat) offer good stain resistance. Reviewers say it dries quickly and completely with no tackiness, and it resists mold and mildew, so it's also a good choice for kitchen and bath projects.

Olympic ONE Review
Also Consider

Budget interior paint

For painting projects on a budget, Olympic ONE holds up to repeated scrubbing and cleaning, keeping its glossy finish. It covers up old paint well and also resists staining, mold and mildew, although its finish isn't as smooth as top-rated paints like Behr Premium Plus Enamel. On the downside, it's not as fade-resistant as some interior paints, so it may not be the best choice for areas that get a lot of sunlight.

HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Review
Best Reviewed

Best ceiling paint

Ceiling paint should be flat, easy to apply and provide even coverage, and no paint fits the bill better than HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams. With its built-in primer, this ceiling paint has a thick consistency that won't drip or splatter, yet it still spreads easily, whether you're using a brush or a roller. It dries quickly and covers completely, even hiding old discolorations from water damage in a single coat.

Glidden Premium Review
Best Reviewed

Best cabinet paint

Glidden Premium works better than most interior paints for painting cabinets, including paints specifically formulated for that purpose. Users say it applies evenly, dries fast and is easy to clean, holding up well even to aggressive scrubbing. Plan for two to three coats, and opt for a semi-gloss or glossy finish if mildew is your top concern; a satin finish for stain resistance or to better hide scratches and imperfections.

The best interior paints

Top-quality paints are worth their higher cost because they'll typically get the job done with fewer coats. Higher-quality paints also go on more smoothly, are less likely to show flaws such as brush marks and usually provide a better finished look. They're also more durable, holding up to bright sun and scrubbing and resisting dings and scratches.

One such interior paint, Behr Premium Plus Enamel (Est. $30 per gallon), is a self-priming, no-VOC formula that lands near the top of the pack in an interior paint test at Consumer Reports, earning excellent scores for hiding and for resistance to aggressive scrubbing, and good scores for surface smoothness and its ability to maintain its sheen over time. Editors say most Behr Premium Plus finishes also have excellent stain resistance, with the exception of the flat finish, which may be more prone to staining from water- and oil-based spills and splatters.

Editors at Good Housekeeping say Behr Premium Plus Enamel holds up to UV exposure from sunlight, which can fade and dull the finish of some paints. Because it also offers good resistance to mold and mildew, it's a good choice for kitchens, bathrooms or other damp areas, and it dries completely, leaving no tackiness behind.  

Behr Premium Plus Enamel earns positive feedback from thousands of users at Home Depot, the primary retailer for Behr. Reviewers who have used this paint on different projects say it's consistent in coverage, adhesion and overall quality and doesn't give off a strong paint odor. Users say it goes on thick and spreads easily, covering most surfaces in a single coat. Among the few detractors are a few reviewers who say the paint was too thick and tacky, making it difficult to spread and requiring several coats to obtain even coverage. Some users suggest using a second coat regardless to ensure full, even coverage, particularly if you're covering a different color.

Behr Premium Plus Ultra (Est. $35 per gallon) is another good option to consider. It earns a recommendation from editors at Consumer Reports, who praise it for its smooth finish and ability to cover old paint. This self-priming, low-VOC paint also resists fading, tackiness and mildew, though its matte finish is not the best at resisting stains. Editors also find that Behr Premium Plus Ultra holds up well to aggressive scrubbing without losing its sheen.

Behr Premium Plus Ultra is also favored by users, earning high overall ratings in hundreds of reviews at Home Depot. Most of those reviewing Behr Premium Plus Ultra concur with the experts, noting that it's thick and covers well, leaving no trace of brush or roller marks behind for an ultra-smooth finish. There are a few who complain that it took several coats of Behr to get the job done for various interior projects or that it fails to cover old layers of paint, particularly when covering colors several shades darker or lighter. Still, these are in the minority.

Behr Marquee (Est. $45 per gallon) is another formulation that earns positive feedback from users and performs well in professional tests. It's the highest-scoring paint in Consumer Reports' testing, earning excellent scores for its ability to hide old paint and withstand abrasive scrubbing, and very good scores for stain resistance and its ability to maintain its sheen over time.

Editors say all of Behr Marquee's finishes resist sticking, mildew and fading. While it still earns a good score for smoothness, the finish is slightly grainy and not quite up to par with other interior paints tested. User feedback is a mixed bag; some say it requires several coats of paint to cover a surface, while others say it's too thick to spread easily or note visible brush or roller marks on the surface. Alongside these complaints, however, are hundreds of rave reviews from users who say it's worth the extra cost, offering smooth, even coverage, often in a single coat and without filling the space with strong paint fumes.

If you're not a fan of Behr paints, Valspar Signature (Est. $35/gallon) is one to consider. In Good Housekeeping's tests, it earns good scores for stain removal and resists fading. A self-priming, low-VOC paint, it does a "decent job" of covering test surfaces, although its coverage isn't as even as that of some of its competitors.   

Valspar Signature lands near the middle of the pack in Consumer Reports' testing, holding up to abrasive scrubbing and maintaining its finish over time. It earns a very good score for stain resistance and a good score for surface smoothness, with the exception of the semi-gloss finish, which doesn't turn out as smoothly as the satin and flat sheens. It also resists mildew, sticking and fading. Thousands of reviewers say it's easy to apply and dries with a beautiful finish, covering previous paint completely and evenly, often in one or two coats. Among detractors, we read some complaints about poor or uneven coverage. A few users say it's difficult to work with, while others say it remained tacky for weeks after it was applied.

The best budget interior paints

Although painting is considered one of the most budget-friendly ways to spruce up your home, if you have a lot of space to cover, the cost can quickly add up. Interior paints span the price spectrum from $20 per gallon (and sometimes a few dollars less) to $70 per gallon or more for premium paints. Overall, however, we found that price isn't necessarily correlated with quality; some of the top-rated interior paints differ in price from the cheapest paints by only about $5 or so per gallon.

Keep in mind that cheaper paints may not cover surfaces as well, requiring more coats and increasing the total cost of your project. That's why coverage should be given as much weight (or more) as cost when choosing an interior paint.

One option if you're on a tight budget is Olympic ONE (Est. $20 per gallon), sold exclusively at Lowe's. It retails for around $22 per gallon, but always-available rebates can reduce that cost to as little as $17 -- you just have to do the work to apply for the rebate.

Olympic ONE earns excellent ratings from editors at Consumer Reports for maintaining its glossy finish and holding up well to aggressive cleaning and scrubbing. It also earns a very good score for covering older paint well and a good score for stain resistance, but a slightly lower score of good for surface smoothness (which editors say is a problem with both flat and semi-gloss finishes). This self-priming formulation also resists mildew, but it isn't a particularly exceptional performer when it comes to fade resistance.

Hundreds of users give Olympic ONE positive ratings at Lowe's. They say it goes on thick and covers old paint well, including dark colors such as brown. Olympic ONE claims low-VOC levels, but some users say the paint has a strong odor when applied. Some consumers say that Olympic ONE may look streaky during the drying process, but looks great once it's completely dried.

Another affordable interior paint worth considering is Glidden Essentials (Est. $20/gallon). While it's not included in any professional tests we consulted, it earns positive feedback from dozens of reviewers at Home Depot. Most reviewers say it's low-odor and offers good coverage, and many say it applies easily, even hiding old paint colors uniformly in as little as one coat. Others, however, complain that its consistency is too thin, requiring several coats to cover old paint -- even in similar colors.

The best ceiling paints

If you're painting a ceiling, experts suggest choosing a flat sheen. Flat and low-luster paints contain minerals that actually create a rougher surface compared to semi-gloss and glossy finishes, which results in an even coat that hides imperfections, aided by the fact that flat-finish paints don't reflect light like satin and semi-gloss paints do. Flat paints don't hold up to repeated scrubbing as well as other finishes, but ceilings are less prone to stains than walls and cabinets. Paints formulated specifically for ceilings are often extra-flat for a subtle finish free of distracting shiny spots that can detract from your décor or make a space feel smaller.

One solid choice among ceiling paints is HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams (Est. $30 per gallon). Reviewers say it's easy to apply, using either a roller or a brush, with few drips and splatters. It also dries quickly, users say, with a smooth finish and full, even coverage in as little as one coat, even covering discolorations from water damage with ease.

While ceiling paints aren't included in tests, several other formulations of HGTV-HOME by Sherwin-Williams are included in Consumer Reports' latest round of interior paint testing. Overall, these interior paints earn either excellent or very good scores for their ability to maintain their sheen over time and withstand repeated scrubbing, and all earn either a very good or good score for their ability to hide old paint. Results are mixed among HGTV Home's various formulations for stain resistance and smoothness, however.

If you're looking for a more affordable ceiling paint, Zinsser Ceiling Flat Latex Enamel (Est. $25/gallon) is another self-priming option that earns positive feedback from users. It goes on pink but turns white as it dries, making it easy to see where you've already painted for more even coverage. Zinsser Ceiling Flat Latex Enamel is a low-odor, high-hide formula designed to cover stains and hide old paint in one coat.

Reviewers say it holds up to these claims, with a thick consistency that covers surprisingly well in just a single coat. Users say it dries quickly with few drips and splatters during application. On the downside, its thicker consistency means it may require a special tip if you're using a paint sprayer.  

The best cabinet paints

Cabinet paints should hold up to moisture and resist mold and mildew, particularly if you're painting cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom. The finish will depend upon your priorities. If you live in humid climate and are painting bathroom cabinets, semi-gloss and glossy finishes are best at resisting mildew (they're also easy to wipe clean). Otherwise, a satin finish is best, as it won't show imperfections and scratches as easily as glossier finishes, and has a subtle glow. You should also use at least two coats, sometimes three, for the best results.

Experts say the best type of paint for cabinets is an alkyd paint, which works particularly well in high-moisture areas and holds up well to repeated, abrasive scrubbing. Some professionals say that standard interior alkyd paints work just as well -- or better -- for these projects compared to specially formulated cabinet paints, and they also tend to get better feedback from users.

One such cabinet-friendly option is Glidden Premium (Est. $22 per gallon), sold at Home Depot. Editors at Good Housekeeping say it's "mold- and mildew-resistant, making it a smart pick for high-moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms." It dried fast in tests and "seemed unlikely to fade," and it's also easy to clean and offers good stain resistance, editors say.

Glidden Premium doesn't fare as well in Consumer Reports' testing. It earns an excellent score for holding up to aggressive scrubbing, but only a fair score for stain resistance. Editors note problems with mildew formation with the flat and satin finishes, and stains with both the flat and semi-gloss finishes. On the other hand, hundreds of reviewers say this low-VOC, low-odor interior paint provides smooth, even coverage, and many say it covered previous paint colors in just a few coats. However, there are also some who say that the coverage is poor compared to other paints they've used, and a few report problems with streaking.

If you'd rather use a paint specifically formulated for cabinets, reviewers say Insl-X Cabinet Paint (Est. $55 per gallon) is a good choice. It's not included in any professional tests we consulted, but hundreds of reviewers say it goes on smoothly and evenly, producing full, even coverage in two to three coats. Several users say that proper preparation, including sanding and priming, is necessary for the best results, but those that follow these steps are pleased with its performance, noting the self-leveling formulation leaves an ultra-smooth finish that looks like it came from the factory.

Benjamin Moore Advance (Est. $50/gallon) is another standard interior paint that's especially suitable for cabinets. It's a waterborne alkyd paint that's both low-odor and low-VOC, even after tinting, in all finishes.

Editors at Kitchn, who put Benjamin Moore Advance to the test on a set of kitchen cabinets, say it "goes on like an oil paint (smooth and leveling), and cleans up like a latex paint (with just soap and water — or even just water — instead of paint thinner or mineral spirits)." Editors say it levels out well, leaving a smooth, ripple-free finish and can even cover dark wood in two to three coats. Because it's sold primarily at specialty paint retailers, user reviews aren't readily available for Benjamin Moore Advance. However, there's ample praise to be found for the Benjamin Moore line of interior paints at various home improvement and contractor forums. In fact, we read several comments from do-it-yourselfers and professional painting contractors who say they won't use any other brand.

If you don't mind spending a bit more for excellent coverage, Benjamin Moore Aura (Est. $70 per gallon), which claims zero VOCs and is self-priming, is a favorite among contractors on discussion forums at Contractor Talk, and it does well in professional tests. In one head-to-head interior paint roundup, for instance, Benjamin Moore Aura lands fifth overall, with excellent scores for hiding stains and holding up to scrubbing, as well as good scores for staining and surface smoothness. Editors say it resists mildew, sticking and fading, and once dry, roller and brush marks aren't detectable. On the downside, they do point out that satin and semi-gloss finishes may lose some of their sheen with aggressive cleaning, and the matte finish doesn't perform quite as well as the glossier finishes in resisting stains.

Editors at Wirecutter say that Benjamin Moore Aura is highly regarded and note that professional contractors they spoke to say it offers the best coverage they've seen, and editors at Good Housekeeping say it's easy to apply, noting that testers were impressed with its appearance. Benjamin Moore Aura is suitable for high-moisture areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, making it a solid choice for cabinets -- particularly in the glossier, more stain-resistant finishes.

Shopping tips for interior paint

The best interior paints should go on smoothly, without sticking or streaking as you roll or brush them on a surface, or having visible brush or roller marks when fully dried. Top-rated interior paints resist fading and staining and don't lose their color, texture or sheen when scrubbed or cleaned. The best interior paints are able to cover old paint -- even dark hues -- completely in one or two coats.

Choose low-VOC or no-VOC paint

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the potentially harmful chemicals in paint fumes that create strong paint odors and have been linked to a number of health concerns. VOC levels in wall paint are regulated by the federal government and are currently set at 250 grams per liter for flat paints and 380 grams per liter for other finishes, with stricter limits in California. All of our top-rated paints claim low- or zero-VOCs.

Determine the proper sheen

High-luster finishes, such as satin or semi-gloss, are best for high-traffic, high-moisture areas like kitchens or bathrooms because they're easier to clean, but you should also look for paints that offer good mold and mildew resistance for these areas. Low-luster finishes, such as flat and matte, are ideal for low-traffic rooms and ceilings, and many recommend eggshell for medium-traffic rooms like a living room.

How to buy enough paint

Multiply the length of the walls all around the room by their height to get square footage. Add the square footage of the ceiling (if you're painting the ceiling). Subtract out the square footage of the ceiling (if you're not painting the ceiling). Subtract out the square footage of the doors and windows, then add 25 percent to that figure. Manufacturers provide information about the coverage you can expect under normal circumstances on the paint can, but a gallon of top-quality paint should cover 350 to 450 square feet. Be sure to buy enough paint, because you'll want extra for touch-ups later. Remember that lighter colors over darker ones will usually require more coats than the other way around.

This report covers interior paints. Once you're done with the inside of your home, don't forget to spruce up the outside as well. Our report on exterior paint will help guide in you in making the best selection for that job.

Expert & User Review Sources

We found several professional reviews of interior paints, including from Consumer Reports (ratings available to subscribers only) and Wirecutter. We also consulted reviews from Good Housekeeping, Jack Pauhl and This Old House, as well as a review from Kitchn which focuses on cabinet paint. J.D. Power and Associates surveys were helpful in narrowing down the top brands. User reviews from sites like Home Depot, Lowe's, Sherwin-Williams and Amazon, and discussions on sites like Paint Talk, Contractor Talk, Angie's List and Houzz offer insight on how well these paints all work in actual homes.

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