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Get the scoop on finding the best paint for your money

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 (Houzz/Becky Harris)

Picking a new paint is kind of like picking a new toothpaste -- they all look the same but can massively differ in price. How do you know which one is right for your house? Although the cheapest option may seem attractive, more expensive paints are higher quality and come in more brilliant colors.

We talked with three paint professionals to get the scoop on which is the better value.

What makes some paints better than others?

All paint has the following ingredients, says Karl Schmitt, vice president of marketing research and design at Sherwin-Williams:

  • Pigment: The more pigment a paint has, the more it will retain its true color.
  • Binders: These hold the paint together and help it stick to various surfaces. Binders also help paint resist cracking, blistering and peeling.
  • Liquids: High-quality paints have a higher ratio of solids (pigments and binders) to liquids. "The more liquid a paint has, the more it will evaporate during the drying process, ultimately creating the need for additional coats," says Schmitt.
  • Additives: Various ingredients that give the paint special properties, such as extra durability or mildew resistance.

The ingredients of a paint affect color as well as quality. "Higher-priced paints can sometimes offer more exceptional colors," says Philip Storey of Redhill Painting. Some lines offer colors that can't be found in other brands' palettes or duplicated without high-quality materials.

What makes a high-quality paint?

For those who have used both high-quality and less expensive paints, the difference between the two is clear. "Some cheaper paints look chalky or more plastic-like," says Storey. "Also, how the paint feels, or the 'hand' of the paint, can make a big difference aesthetically." More expensive paints can be easier to apply, hide imperfections better, last longer, have more vibrant colors and make washing easier -- all due to the higher-quality ingredients in each batch.

If you're looking for a single type of paint that's "the best," it depends on what you're looking for. The Paint Quality Institute evaluates paint on different qualities according to brand. Some brands are better at hiding flaws, some on flow and leveling, and others on adhesion. Each brand has its own unique balance of characteristics. If you want to play it safe, choose the top-quality item from the brand you're interested in.

Still hesitant about spending the extra cash? Buy samples of several different types of paint and see if you can tell the difference. "While a gallon of Fine Paints of Europe paint might cost you $40 per gallon, the coverage will be superior, and you may be able to cover the surface in fewer coats and stretch the time between costly future repaints," says Storey.

Buying a good paint won't solve all your problems, though. "A good paint job is only as good as the preparation," says painter Alex Davison. "That tends to be approximately 60 percent of the work. A quick prep with the best paint won't last."

Do low-VOC ingredients make a difference in price?

Today, Environmental Protection Agency regulations ensure that paint companies produce most of their product with low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) content. Low-VOC paints used to cost more, but that's not necessarily true today. Low VOC "is one of many elements in the formulation of a paint product, and it is the overall quality of ingredients and formulation of those ingredients that impact the price of the product," says Schmitt.

Related:

Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish -- online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals around the world. Vanessa Brunner is a contributor to Houzz.

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