What is “PREMIUM” paint?

Do we really get what we pay for when purchasing premium paint? What we discovered at Jack Pauhl about a $20 paint may change everything you thought you knew about premium paints in the same way two paint brushes under $10 changed how we look at the true value of paint brushes.

Taking our curiosity further, we discovered a roller cover half the cost of another proved far more beneficial to the quality of coverage, speed of application, spread rate, energy reserved, and overall quality of finish.

Let’s not forget how we also discovered how a $20 paint-and-primer product outperformed the sealing properties of 31 drywall primers. The drywall primers weren't even in the same league for comparison.

Like any paint or primer, we have no clue what we’re paying for and premium paints rarely turn out to be beneficial when compared to less expensive paints, or equally priced paints. We witnessed similar results when comparing a $9 paint brush with a $26 brush, or comparing two $20 premium paint brushes.

Premium paints always sound good on paper, and “Premium” and “Professional” look great in print.

But, looks aren't everything. What good is the beautiful finish in the cover photo if we can pick it right off? So, how exactly do premium paints perform when compared to their lesser counterparts?

While more expensive by the gallon, premium paint is said to be made with better ingredients in a similar way premium gasoline is sold by the gallon. Basically, its a mystery to consumers and we take their word for it at price value.

Are we blindly buying premium paint the same way?

Just because premium paints have more solids (pigment and resin) or fewer solvents, or more titanium dioxide — it doesn’t always translate to better, stronger, or longer lasting paint finishes. If that were true, we wouldn't be able to peel-off some premium paints so easily, or witness a premium exterior paint fade drastically in 2 years.

Partial product comparison performed January 2015

When we performed 26 comparison tests between a $20 paint and several top-on-the-line products, we were shocked at what we discovered.

Look, I love a great movie, book, article, or review, but someone else’s testimonial ignorance will not be the deciding factor for our product choices.


There is rarely a time competent painters are unable to produce a quality appearance with cheaper paints or expensive paints, but appearance isn’t everything by any measure. We need to carefully remove application deficiencies when analyzing products for their true value despite various levels of competency.

“Besides durability and coverage, you get more square footage out of the product because better paint is thicker.”

Wait. What? Quoting another painter above. That’s not true at all. One of the “key indicators” of a quality paint is exceptional coverage from a thin paint.

Better quality or premium paints are not identified by their “thickness.” Thicker paints are no measure for better “hide” or “coverage” or “more square feet” per gallon, far from it. If that were true, our thin $20 paint would not have produced a solid uniform finish at a unheard rate of 1,050 square feet per gallon.

Less-visible cutlines are not always indicative of quality paint either. If that were true, our $20 paint would not have produced solid “one coat” cutlines. Some painters believe premium paints produce fewer “holidays.” If that were true, our $20 paint would not have produced solid “one coat” coverage. By the way, “Holidays” are application or applicator related.

Other painters believe premium paints have better “scrubability” when compared to lesser priced paints. If that were true, our black dry erase marker test performed on a $20 paint would not have wiped right off. In case you missed it, the $65 premium paint failed that test.

I think you probably have a good idea where I am going with all this. And while I can easily write another 3,000 words on this subject listing out many more examples, its simply not necessary to prove a point.

Can I recommend buying premium paints? Absolutely not. I have not been able to identify what a premium paint is by looking at a label, PDF, TDS, or a price tag.

Marketing departments will need to do better at convincing people premium paints are worth the extra money. I’ve been in the painting business for 30 years, I have yet to see that happen. Not a single product we use today is marketed for the reasons we buy them.

Never take my word for it, I encourage painters to perform their own side-by-side comparison tests. Also keep up with endless painting tips, product comparisons, efficiency, and other valuable insights on the Jack Pauhl Facebook Fanpage.

Join us on Jack Pauhl Pro Boards to talk paint. See you there.

Additional Reading: Drywall Primers: Do They Work? The “B” Test