Emulsion paints are a combination of two substances that do not mix and instead sit suspended in a cloudy soup. Most paints are a kind of emulsion containing fillers for viscosity (thickness), pigments, some sort of glue, a type of catalyst, materials for stabilization and emulsifiers. Additives to level or flatten the paint are included in the mix.

Additives can also give the paint a textured feel, lower the freezing point, control foaming or skinning and eliminate or slow the growth of bacteria, and mold.

As emulsion paints cure they solidify and harden creating a washable protective coating. The substances in paint emulsions tend not mix with one another and are for the most part man made unstable products.

Most modern emulsion paints are water based. Other based emulsions can tend to last longer than water based ones but water based paints have less smell and easier clean up.


Lets break down what all that means into simpler terms. Emulsion paint like almost all paints are made up of a main base (usually water) + glue + color (pigment) + other substances (oil). When emulsion paints are not agitated they will separate in the can (oil and water don't mix).

Prior to using your paint it needs to be stirred or shaken causing the water type substances to combine (temporarily) with the oil type materials.

Once the emulsion paints are applied to your walls or other surfaces they once again want to separate. As the emulsion separates on the wall the water or base dissipates (evaporates) into the air and the glue along with everything that binds to the glue (color or pigment, leveler, anti-fungicide etc.,) stays on the wall surface.

Of course for paints where the main base is oil then the other substances (eg., glue levelers and colorants) are water soluble. Most painting is now done with a water based emulsion.


The shininess (sheen) of emulsion paints comes in three different main finishes including mat (flat), satin (close to eggshell) and silk (gloss). Mat of course having the lowest shine level with gloss being the highest. A mat finish will show the least amount of imperfections that might be in the wall surface while gloss paints clean and repel humidity better and tend to have more durability. Satin emulsions being in the middle have a medium level of durability along with better hiding properties than a mat finish.


Depending on the type of emulsion paint you use they can be applied almost anywhere as long as the surface being painted is not pealing, stained or have lose dirt. Keep in mind to that some emulsions are not recommended for exterior projects or wood and metal surfaces.

Also un-painted surfaces need to be primed prior to applying and glossy surfaces require de-glossing (sanding) or a primer made to go over any glossy area before your paint can go on.

Stained surfaces should also have a stain blocker applied before painting. Holes and cracks need filling, sanding and priming if necessary. Ask your local paint supplier whether for advice regarding tools, products and material pertaining to the project yo have in mind.


Emulsion paints can be applied in the normal manner including using a paint spraying machine, brush or roller. Fill holes and cracks sand out the filler then apply a primer if needed. Once the primer is dry your first coat of paint can be brushed, rolled or sprayed on. Check for cracks and holes again, fill if needed, sand and spot prime. Be sure to pole sand between coats.

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