What is paint, really? This might seem like a silly question to ask, but the truth is, we need some knowledge of what paint is made of in order to know a high-quality paint from a lesser one.
Paint is made of up several components, including:
Binders are what attaches a pigment to a surface. Binders are both synthethic and natural resins that start in liquid form, as is paint as we know it, but dries to become a solid film. It is the binder that determines properties like the sheen, adhesion, stain resistance, and durability of a paint. The binder in waterborne paint usually consists of vinyl or acrylic substances, while binders in oil-based paints are usually an alkyd, or a drying oil.
The liquid, or diluent is evaporated after applying the paint to leave a solid film behind. As you likely guessed, the diluent in waterborne paint is water. There are also oil-based paints, which are less convenient and require additional expertise and care. With heightening concern over VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and an emphasis on environmentally friendly products, oil-based paints are less prominently used in today’s painting projects.
Premium quality paints have a lower concentration of diluents and a higher concentration of binders and pigments. Cheaper paints are more “watered down.” However, for inexperienced painters, thicker paints may be more difficult to work with and their applications are best left to professionals.
Pigments are the particles that add color and hiding/coverage to paint. They are either natural or synthetic. Some pigments, such as lead, are toxic. Lead was banned from paint in 1978, and today, most paints are made with titanium dioxide instead. Titanium dioxide is the primary ingredient that provides coverage, especially in light colors of paint.
Additives can provide additional benefits to a paint product, and as such, they are more commonly seen in higher-quality products. Examples of paint additives include mildewcides and preservatives. Additives can also improve flow, drying, and viscosity.
Why does it matter?
Ultimately, when it comes to paint, the adage that “you get what you pay for” usually holds true. Higher-end paints tend to have better quality binders and pigments, less diluent, and more enhancing additives. Benefits of higher-end paint include a smoother application, better coverage, greater stain resistance, greater ability to be cleaned, and richer color, to name a few.