Tough one, this.
Hopefully this will help you narrow the choice. Each of the paint manufacturers specialises in an element (or more than one) of the paint market so to help you choose between the major brands, here are some pointers.
I’m looking at the following specialist brands because I have experience of these and they are all easily available. However, there are small and niche brands that I don’t know well enough to comment on; feel free to investigate and report back!
Albany, Mylands, Dulux, Crown Paints, Farrow and Ball, Little Greene, Fired Earth,Paint & Paper Library,Designers’ Guild,Abigail Ahern, Sanderson, Craig & Rose, Zoffany,Earthborn, Edward Bulmer, Marston & Langinger
This may be an important consideration. Whilst all the above brands will ship to you, to get personal advice you may need to pop into a stockist and not all stockists will be very knowledgeable every brand. To get specialist advice on the boutique brands you should contact the brand helpline or pop into one of their retail outlets.
Albany is a brand introduced long ago by Brewers Decorator Centres, the largest independent decorating store in the land, so they are well-placed and qualified to offer advice on this brand and the many others they stock. Their www.designerpaint.com website sells almost all the brands you’ll have heard of and a few besides. They also sell a box containing a double handful of colour cards to really cover all bases!
Albany, Crown and Deluxe have trade Vinyl Matt paint (amongst other products) in vast buckets for covering large areas of wall and ceiling reliably and inexpensively. This can be useful if you are of the mindset that the best way to approach an aesthetically-challenged new project is to paint everything out in white in the first instance. I have views on that approach which I’ll save for another post…
Brewers have a great reputation and offer many specialist products, and in addition will colour match any RAL, BS or NCS colour. Brewers also stock brushes, sandpaper, sugar soap, drop cloths etc etc so are a convenient one stop shop for obtaining all the wherewithal for your project in a few minutes from stock.
This is a major consideration. Let’s say we are discussing each brand’s main matt emulsion, for interior walls in living spaces.
Five litres of paint from the more exclusive brands cost around
£75 for five litres. This covers let’s say 70 square metres of wall. The mass market brands cost as little as £15 for 5 litres. For every reasonably standard room you are going to need at least two of those 5 litre tins (you’ll need at least two coats of emulsion). Then you’ll need another 5 litre tin and eggshell-type paint for the woodwork (skirting, architraves, window frames and doors). You can see how it mounts up, and that’s without the branded undercoat.
At the time of writing these are the approximate costs of 5 litres matt emulsion from each of the brands above, in price order. `if covering large areas is your major concern some of the more trade-oriented brands sell larger quantities; try Albany, Dulux and Crown especially, and the other brands stocked in Brewers and DIY stores. The mid-market alternative to these are the boutique and heritage sub-brands these manufacturers have brought out, some with more historic references, others with better environmental credentials.
Crown Paints £27
Craig & Rose £60
Fired Earth £67.50
Designers’ Guild £69
Farrow and Ball £75
Edward Bulmer £79.50
Little Greene £81
Paint and Paper Library £82
Marston & Langinger £85
To me the boutique brands tend to produce paints that reflect what might have been used historically, or colours that reflect (or use) natural pigments. The cheaper brands tend to specialise in creating a vast range of colours, so if replicating a particular colour is your thing, the cheaper brands will suit you well. The natural pigments in the more expensive brands reflect natural and artificial light in a more complex way which many interior designers and householders prefer, but this is a matter of personal preference.
Albany – as above, Brewers’ own brand. There are a lot of different products and they are instantly available; in addition they can ‘match’ every colour, though they cannot match the composition, which is in fact a lot of what gives the paint its character, nor can they match the intensity and saturation or density of that colour within the paint.
Mylands is a long-established London brand. They are big on colour, having historically been the go-to brand for the theatre and film industry. High quality paints. A family-owned business, the 120 colours are good enough for Her Majesty the Queen…. The water-based eggshell is only 8% sheen, unusually, and the luminescent, incredibly hardwearing and long-suffering Marble Matt is 3%.
Dulux both their retail and trade ranges are available universally. Personally I find navigating the vast range (400 colours?) a little challenging but sometimes I have in my mind’s eye a specific colour and it can be found here. Quality commensurate with price. VOC levels within regulatory limits. They do not advertise the sheen levels. These chemical paints are not ‘naturally-derived’, for that you need to pay more and head more down the specialist route. The petrochemical-based paints are linked with asthma, eczema, and worse. That’s why if you have the budget and the conscience you should head up the cost scale.
Crown Paints for me, as for Dulux, above. Perhaps there are important differences? For me, they are both mass-market, all-things-to-all-people companies who sell every colour under the sun and several more besides which gives everyone great scope at a reasonable price. These companies dominate the market. If you have a lot of rooms to decorate and restricted funds, no allergy or health problems, fill your boots. They sell paints that will restrict mould growth, resist grease and stains etc. and are at the forefront of chemical advances in technology and application methods to make DIY application easier.
Farrow and Ball is high profile and widely used, though with the high publicity is either loathed or loved. Personally I love many of the the 132 colours, the advice, the customer service and the way the products interact with the light. These are also low odour and low VOC paints, so should not be giving out harmful and unpleasant odours and volatile organic compounds to you and your family for years after the redecoration. VOC levels are regulated in the UK but some brands are actively marketing low or no-VOC paints. 2 % sheen in their Estate Emulsion, 20% in their Estate Eggshell.
Little Greene is excellent quality and contains very high pigment levels for a saturated finish. They are well known for their pink, grey and blue edits of the in excess of 200 colours, and their customer service. Virtually zero VOCs in their water-based paints. 3% sheen in their Absolute Matt, 15% in their Intelligent Eggshell.
Fired Earth it seems to be that Fired earth paints are not so widely known or used as some of the other premium brands. I like that the 120 colours are derived from a real thing: an aconite, basswood, etc. These are also minimal VOC paints . Their Emulsion is 3% sheen and the Eggshell is 20%.
Paint & Paper Library 180 colours of excellent quality, and some of these are separated into series, so Sand I to V, Canvas I to V, Salt I to V, which I love and find useful to create definition and emphasis in schemes. Minimal VOC, 2 to 5% sheen level depending on the product (Architects’ Matt or Pure Flat), yet it is wipeable. Their eggshell is 15%, very matt for an eggshell.
Designers’ Guild is rather like its founder Tricia Guild, a riot of colour. Designers’ Guild features 156 vibrant shades and is definitely a place to head if colour in your home fills your heart with joy. Contemporary, considered and fun. The Perfect Matt is 3% sheen and the Perfect Eggshell 20%.
Abigail Ahern very much the Queen of the Night in the interiors world. If you subscribe to her popular theory that matt and dark is there best way to go for atmosphere, cosiness, coolness and the best background for your artwork and possessions, her small range of 13 swampy paints with will get you the look. I cannot find any information on the sheen levels. AA’s paints are made by Craig & Rose.
Craig & Rose is the UK’s oldest paint manufacturer, though their technical expertise is not rooted in those of 1829. They have about 230 colours within a few ranges so span the requirements of the trade decorator and the home enthusiast. Excitingly, they also manufacture a very cool range of ‘Artisan Decorative Effects’ paints to create specialist finishes : concrete, bronze, patinated copper, metallic, marble, etc. They manufacture for Abigail Ahern and for Liberty, interestingly.
Sanderson features a staggering 1352 colours which reflect their extensive range of fabrics and wallpapers. UK-manufacture and low VOCs. They are really helpful when coordinating colours.
Zoffany produces a more manageable 144 shades but again reflects their exclusive fabric and wallpaper ranges. Like Paint and Paper Library above they have different intensities of the same colour which is very helpful. in creating a scheme where ceilings, walls, floors, dado, cornice, skirting and architrave can form a cohesive space within a colour palette. Instead of I,II,III,IV and V they use the terminology “half silver, silver and double silver’, for example.
Earthborn produce acrylic, oil and vinyl free paints which are odour-free, durable and breathable. There are 72 colours. Their emulsion equivalent Claypaint is ‘ultra-matt’ and their new Emulsion No 17 has, ahem, been few a few formulations! Because the (very natural) ingredients are listed on the tin this is a great paint for an allergy-concerned family. They also do a range of eco-trade paints for conscious developers and a breathable masonry paint.
Edward Bulmer, Like David Oliver of Paint & Paper Library, the Edward Bulmer paints are created by an expert. The eponymous historian, interior designer and colour expert has created the cream of the crop with exemplary environmental and historical credentials, knockout colours and high quality finishes. No compromises. There are 72 colours; the matt is a 4% sheen, the eggshell 25% sheen.
Marston & Langinger obviously this range was a borne out of a need to provide long-lasting, technically advanced, Scandinavian-inspired and beautiful paints for their high quality conservatories inside and out. They are specialist therefore in protecting wood, so if that’s a major feature of your renovation or new project, M&L is well worth consideration. Their Chalky Matt, available in 84 colours, is less than 2% sheen. I don’t think it gets lower than that. The exterior eggshell is 20% sheen and the interior is 10%.