Paint your world pretty with decorative coatings
From the arsenic-laden green of Victorian wallpaper and the groovy colours of the swinging sixties, we love to decorate. On a grey gloomy morning there is nothing quite like a splash of colour to lift the spirits. As a result, 60% of the Australian paint market value is due to decorative coatings, of which 40% is retail and 60% trade paint. DIY-ers, homeowners looking to spruce up a living room, new housing initiatives, and housing developers have all contributed to the improving market. Another driving factor in the market is the desire for greener, healthier paint formulations. Because of this, water-based, low VOC paint is becoming more and more prevalent.
In this article we will discuss the many different varieties of decorative coatings, and all the ways they can be used to liven up and protect a wall, door, window, space, building, and more. We will guide you through the process of choosing the best decorative paint for your project based on location, finish, colour and function.
Location: interior & exterior and why low VOC paint matters
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.
Note that you should never use an interior paint outside and vice versa, due to the different need of surfaces and environments.
Interior decorative paints – low VOC paint for healthier homes
For an interior paint, the ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions is less important. What you do need, however, is low VOC paint with 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.
VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds, compounds which are released as paint dries and are the source of that “paint smell”. They usually come from the solvent which evaporates during the curing process. If water is the solvent, this lessens the VOC emissions, and these are commonly labeled as “low VOC paint”. Because of the desire for low VOC paint and low odour formulations, the majority of interior paints are water-based. For more information, visit our page on coating sustainability and coating greener.
Exterior decorative paints
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. Choosing the right exterior paint will protect and beautify your building.
Finish: the best decorative paint finish for your surface
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:
- 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 matte 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.
- Flat and Matte – 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, mouldings, 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.
Colour: decorative coatings & colour 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. 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 colour is well documented, and used in different ways:
- Offices and reception areas – A reception area needs to invite, welcome, and interest a visitor. Avoid natural tones and choose warm, soft colours. An office needs to be a space in which a worker can be productive and happy. A doctor’s office requires soothing colours to calm patients, where cubicle workers need stimulating colours to boost alertness – though not too stimulating, bright reds for example can also increase stress levels.
- 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 colour which promotes calmness and serenity, a symbol of rest.
- Education – Schools and universities aim at providing a pleasant and encouraging learning environment. Overstimulation through too much bright colouring – especially in primary schools – can lead to distraction and inattentiveness. Neutrals with spots of colour strike the right balance.
If you want to know more about color psychology, chek out what the Australian Design Review has to say about interior design and the colours.
Function: architectural coating goes beyond looks
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:
- Antimicrobial coating – Especially useful in healthcare, food production, leisure facilities, and even schools, an antimicrobial coating prevents the growth and spread of microorganisms on surfaces.
- Anti-graffiti coating – This is a either a nano coating or wax-based coating which provides a barrier over a substrate and prevents graffiti from adhering.
- Urine repellent coating – A coating which uses the hydrophobicity of nano coating to repel urine and deter potential vandals.
- Concrete paint – Garages, cellars, factory floors, sheds, all of these could benefit from the protective power of an epoxy concrete paint.
- Fire resistant paint – A safety paint that insulates structures or damps flames when exposed to extreme heat.
- Anti-slip coating – By using an anti slip aggregate such as rubber or a slip-resistant paint formulation, these coatings protect against slippery conditions on all substrates.
Decorative coatings manufacturers and suppliers in Australia
With such a healthy industry, it can be no surprise that Australia is full of hardware stores, such as Bunnings, and decorative coating companies that provide supply to the paint demand. Companies like AkzoNobel, Dulux, Farrow & Ball, PPG and Sherwin Williams (Wattyl) all provide their range of decorative paints for the Australian market.
Let us help you find the right decorative coating
If you have a project and require decorative paint, our experts are here to help. Take advantage of our 100% quote service by clicking on the “Request a Quote” below the article, and let us connect you with a coating solution for your project. We, in collaboration with our coating partners, can help you find the coating you need.