What’s in Your Paint?

It’s no secret that I love color! On the floor, furniture, and walls, I love working with my clients to get just the right balance that reflects who they are and makes them feel at home! Paint is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to change the mood of your home or office. Aside from picking a stunning new color, there are many other factors to consider before breaking out the rollers. The finish, brand of paint, product line, environmental impact, and the health and safety of your family should all be considerations. Not all paint is created equal. So what’s the difference? Paint is paint right? Why pay more for the same color?

Good quality paint comes at a price. Let’s dive into what really goes into a can of paint to make it worth it. There are four main components in a gallon of paint: pigments, liquids, additives, and binders.

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Pigments are the finely ground particles that impact hide and color. There are two types of pigments that go into a can of paint. The first and most important are the prime pigments, they provide color and hide. The second are extender pigments, they add bulk to the paint, but do not really affect the color. Higher quality paints have more prime pigments providing an easier application, increased durability, and better color retention.


The liquid is the carrier that helps get the paint from the can onto the wall. The liquid itself does not affect the quality of the paint, but rather the ratio of liquid to pigments and binders is what makes a top quality paint. The greater the ratio of solids to liquids, the higher quality the paint.


Additives are the extra ingredients that give a paint it’s specific performance characteristics differentiating from one paint to the next. Common additives in higher-quality paints include: Increased leveling agents to make the application process easier, microbicidal and anti microbial technology, preservatives to prevent spoilage, oder eliminating technology, and many more.


Binders provide adhesion and resistance to cracking, blistering and peeling. Latex paints use 100% acrylic, styrene-acrylic, or vinyl acrylic as a binder, while oil based based typically contain modified oils called alkyds like linseed oil and soya oil. The type, quality and quantity of binder affect everything including stain resistance, gloss, adhesion and crack resistance. Higher quality binders adhere to surfaces better and provide longer lasting performance.




VOC’s and Paint

You probably know your breathing in chemicals when you smell a freshly painted room, but how bad can they be? What your smelling is VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), carbon-containing compounds that vaporize into the air. Once they enter the air, they react with other elements to create ozone, which causes air pollution and health problems. You may experience breathing problems, burning or itchy eyes, headaches and nausea. VOC’s are a even linked to certain cancers. VOC’s are found in many building materials, including paint.

The specific VOC’s in each paint vary by each manufacturer. It’s hard to know if your product contains VOC’s, as the manufacturer is not required to reveal all ingredients in their product. Most colorants will add VOC’s to the finished product, even paints that are formulated to be zero VOC don’t always maintain that level when it comes time for application. Federal VOC limits are currently set at 250 grams per liter (g/l) for flat paints and 380 g/l for others, but this can vary state to state. Low-VOC is usually 50 g/l or less and no-VOC is usually 5 g/l or less.

There numbers are for the base coating, adding colorant adds VOC’s to the base, and the person mixing the paint is not going to be able to tell you how much more was added. Typically the darker the color, the higher the VOC’s. Fortunately, there are innovative color technologies available now that won’t add any VOC content when adding pigment.

Benjamin Moore

Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams have both created Zero VOC paint formulas that don’t add any VOC’s to the paint even after adding colorant. Benjamin Moore’s no VOC technology is called Gennex.

“When we launched Gennex, we were the first company in the U.S. to introduce a zero-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) waterborne tinting system. The innovation of Gennex enables our zero-VOC paints to remain zero-VOC even after being tinted with Gennex colorants, an impossibility with generic, all-purpose colorant.

Gennex is a testament to Benjamin Moore’s dedication to meet or exceed the most stringent environmental standards. With over 3,500 colors, you can pick the exact color you need, and know you’ve been environmentally responsible with each and every one of them.” (BenjaminMoore.com)

Need More Help?

Not all paint is the same. Make a conscious effort for your families health by choosing a high quality paint and doing your research on it’s environmental impact.

Need help selecting paint colors, finishes, or environmentally friendly products? Schedule a consultation today! No project too big or small, I love helping my clients specify the perfect color for their foyer, living room, or office!

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