Perhaps the biggest issue when selecting paints for interior walls is that there are simply so many choices. "Ask yourself what type of space it's for—residential, commercial, rentals, high-end, etc.—and what type of use the space will endure," says Louis DeCrosta, owner of L.A. Painting.
With expert tips from DeCrosta in mind, we researched and tested a range of paint brands, including options with various finishes, dry times, and cleaning requirements.
Frequently, you can find our selections at manufacturer retail outlets or at big-box stores. Many brands, however, are available only from one store.
Sherwin-Williams Cashmere Interior Acrylic Latex Paint
Hides existing colors
Dries perfectly even
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The best paint for interior walls depends on your goals and preferences, but we believe Sherwin-Williams Cashmere is an all-around winner. This paint-primer combo boasts buttery-smooth application, automatically leveling out to a perfectly even layer. Which means you shouldn't have to worry about permanent brush strokes or roller marks.
This paint is available in five sheens and endless hues, as well as custom colors. It effortlessly hides existing colors and imperfections. Cashmere also dries to the touch in an hour. When it sets, you're left with an ultra-rich finish that looks great from every angle. It's super easy to scrub clean, too.
This wall paint can only be purchased directly from Sherwin-Williams, and at upwards of $50 per gallon, the price is slightly steep. Still, we think the stunning, durable results are well worth it.
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, doors | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 1 hour
Glidden Essentials Interior Paint
Easy to clean
May need more than 1 coat
On a budget? At less than $20 per gallon, Glidden Essentials interior paint gets the job done without breaking the bank. Whether you're refreshing your living room, entryway, kitchen, or bathroom, you can count on excellent coverage, with a brush, roller, or sprayer, and an easy-to-clean finish with soap and water.
This wall paint is available in flat-matte, as well as eggshell and semi-gloss textures, and can be tinted into upwards of 1,000 colors. We also appreciate that this is a low-volatile organic compound (VOC) latex formula, with minimal odors.
We recommend this paint although we note that its budget price may come with some less-than-spectacular results, based on the surface or other factors. However, the manufacturer backs it with a 15-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $18
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, doors, bathroom | Coverage Area: 350 square feet | Dry Time: 2–4 hours
Backdrop Standard Finish Interior Paint
Curated color selection
Self-priming and quick-drying
Two coats needed
"If we are aiming for a high-end look, we may want to look into . . . a design-forward paint brand with great color choices and strong pigments," says DeCrosta. Backdrop was a hit with our home tester, who liked the curated, on-trend color options and accurate adhesive samples you can stick to your wall.
"For the convenience of the curated color choices, self-adhesive sample, and the option to shop for paint supplies on the site, I loved the Backdrop experience," she said in her full product review. "However," she continued, "I paid about $20 per can more than I normally would and didn’t notice a huge difference in paint quality."
About $70 a can is undoubtedly expensive, but the premium, water-based formula is conveniently self-priming. Based on where you purchase it, you can select from 74 colors with whimsical names such as "Night on Earth" (a bold olive green) and "Stromboli Chess Club" (a cornflower blue). It's also low-VOC, and thanks to the acrylic resin component, easy to apply and quick-drying, with minimal odors. But you need to wait 3 or 4 hours to apply a second coat, which you almost assuredly need.
Price at time of publish: $75
Intended Surface: Walls, trim | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 1 hour
Benjamin Moore Regal Select Premium Interior Paint and Primer
Excellent color/finish selection
May require two coats
Anyone who has painted knows how much of a hassle it can be to apply primer before the main coat. We like Benjamin Moore Regal Select, which combines primer and paint. We especially appreciate that you can purchase it flat, matte, eggshell, pearlescent, or semi-gloss finishes and nearly 4,000 hues. The manufacturer notes that this paint adheres well to most surfaces, including wallboard, plaster, wood, and metal. It should apply well whether you use a brush, roller, or sprayer.
The self-priming formula hides existing wall paint colors and imperfections, but bear in mind you likely need two coats. We also like that it has a mildew-resistant coating, plus stain-release technology that makes it incredibly easy to clean. The manufacturer notes this paint is VOC compliant in all areas but may not be available everywhere because of state VOC regulations.
Price at time of publish: $83
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, doors, wood | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 2 hours
Best for High-Traffic Areas
Sherwin-Williams Duration Home Interior Acrylic Latex Paint
We recommend Sherwin-Williams Duration as the best interior paint for busy households and high-traffic areas. The combination paint and primer is available in all Sherwin-Williams colors, as well as textures that include flat, matte, satin and semi-gloss. ("If you are in a space that will have very high traffic and/or high humidity/moisture, I recommend a semi-gloss to a high-gloss," says DeCrosta. "The sheen provides a barrier.")
The manufacturer says its antimicrobial agents promise to inhibit mold and mildew, while stain-blocking technology hides old marks and helps new ones wipe clean. We have noted that it's possible to apply two coats (needed) in one regular day; expect 2 hours or so for a coat to dry enough for a second coat.
Though $80 is a lot for a gallon of paint, it's backed by a lifetime warranty.
Price at time of publish: $81
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, doors, bathrooms | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 2 hours
BEHR Ultra Scuff Defense Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer
Available only at one retailer
For a surface benefiting from a flat finish, such as a dining room or bedroom, BEHR Ultra Scuff Defense is a great option. It's so durable, it's virtually un-scuffable, making it a perfect choice for high-traffic areas and homes with kids and pets. Not only that, but it conceals existing imperfections and offers ongoing resistance to stains and mildew growth. While the manufacturer positions this paint as a combination paint and primer, we note that some surfaces may need priming first.
This is not a paint to use for a quick job. Generally, glossy surfaces need scuffing and sanding before applying a flat paint. The manufacturer specifies 2 hours drying time before applying a second coat, which we've found to be slightly longer than average. Dark colors may need more time. And this paint requires 30 days to fully cure. You also need 30 days for any new plaster to cure before painting. Also, this is sold exclusively at The Home Depot, but you can find a store in most communities of any size.
The price is comparable to many paints we've evaluated. The manufacturer also offers a lifetime warranty.
Price at time of publish: $43
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, doors, bathrooms | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 2 hours
Best for Dark Walls
Valspar Signature Acrylic Interior Paint + Primer
Hides everything underneath
Two coats needed
If you need to cover a darker existing wall color or stubborn stains, the best indoor paint is Valspar Signature. The 100 percent acrylic formula delivers rich color that goes on smooth and hides everything underneath. You can use it on many platforms, including drywall, plaster, wood, fiberglass, and metal. It's a combined paint and primer, and can be used as a primer before applying the main coat. However, the manufacturer recommends that you apply a primer for best results, and then paint two coats on "properly prepared" walls or ceilings.
You can purchase this paint in eggshell, flat, satin, or semi-gloss finishes. Its dry time, at 77 degrees Fahrenheit is 30 to 60 minutes to the touch, and 2 hours for a second coat. Backed by a lifetime warranty, it's also resistant to mildew, stains, scuffs, and fading. Once dry, this durable paint can be cleaned as needed with soap and water.
While you can order this paint online from the manufacturer, it's available for pickup only at Lowe's stores.
Price at time of publish: $40
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, doors, wood, concrete | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 2 hours
HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams Infinity Advanced Performance Paint + Primer
Repels stains, scratches, and mildew
Costs more than other alternatives
No time for two coats? This one-and-done, self-priming wall paint promises ultra-smooth perfection in a single layer and can be tinted to pretty much any color imaginable. You can use it effectively on many surfaces besides drywall, including concrete and masonry, and wood. We like that unlike many self-priming paints, this paint is effective to be used on basement walls and doors, according to the manufacturer.
The high-performance acrylic formula repels stains, scuffs, scratches, and mildew, with a lifetime warranty to back up its durability. It's also a breeze to wash off with soap and water.
While we note that many users agree that one coat is enough to cover white or light-colored walls, darker surfaces may require additional coats. The manufacturer doesn't specify the dry time for additional coats, but we recommend at least 2 hours. This paint, with a limited lifetime warranty, is available only at Lowe's stores.
Price at time of publish: $66
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, bathroom, wood | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 30–60 minutes
BEHR Dynasty Advanced Stain Repellency Interior Enamel Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer
Non-tacky within hours
Repels stains and mildew
Darker colors dry slower
BEHR Dynasty is dry to the touch in an hour and not tacky whatsoever after 4 hours. For that reason, you can use it on doors and drawers. You can purchase this paint in matte, eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss finishes. it is available only at The Home Depot stores.
The manufacturer positions this brand as its most durable one-coat paint, resisting scuff marks such as shoe heels. If you're repainting existing light-colored surfaces, you can likely get away with a single coat. But the manufacturer agrees that darker colors might take a little longer to cure.
We appreciate that this paint has an antimicrobial finish that repels stains and wipes clean with minimal elbow grease. The manufacturer also offers a lifetime limited warranty.
Price at time of publish: $60
Intended Surface: Walls, trim, doors, wood, concrete | Coverage Area: 400 square feet | Dry Time: 1 hour
Rust-Oleum Chalked Ultra Matte Paint
Suitable for various applications
Dries in 30 minutes
Prone to scuffs/stains
Chalk paint, which has been around since 1990, is good for quick jobs, or for leaving a matte, perhaps intentionally distressed appearance. You can use it right out of the can with no priming. Besides painting your walls, you can use it to transform wood furniture, metal fixtures, and ceramic items. (Note this type of paint should not be confused with chalkboard paint, which creates a chalkboard-like surface when applied.)
While the original chalk paint was created by the Annie Sloan brand, there are many versions now. But we recommend Rust-Oleum Chalked as the best chalk paint. The ultra-matte formula creates a semi-distressed look, ideal for rustic and vintage-inspired interior design schemes. This low-odor latex paint is easy to apply, effortlessly adhering to most surfaces, and is dry to the touch within 30 minutes.
The manufacturer claims that one coat is enough for most surfaces, but applying a topcoat 8 hours after the first coat has dried adds extra protection. Just bear in mind the flat finish is more prone to scuffs and stains than glossier sheens.
While many paint brands are available only through manufacturer retail stores or selected big-box stores, you can buy Rust-Oleum at many places. We also note that this brand costs considerably less than other types of paint. But the look is not for everyone.
Price at time of publish: $32
Intended Surface: Walls, furniture, fixtures | Coverage Area: 150 square feet (1 quart)| Dry Time: 30 minutes
Overall, for most uses, we like Sherwin-Williams Cashmere Interior Acrylic Latex. This interior paint boasts buttery-smooth application, effortlessly hiding existing wall colors and drying perfectly even. If you're on a budget, consider Glidden Essentials Interior Paint. And if you're looking for a single-coat, high-coverage formula, HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams Infinity Advanced Performance Paint + Primer is your best bet.
What to Look For in Paint for Interior Walls
When buying interior paint, first consider whether you plan to use it on drywall only or the trim and doors as well. Louis DeCrosta, owner of L.A. Painting, recommends thinking about your overall goal and what type of use the space will endure. "For example, if the paint is for a rental, we would want something low- maintenance (easy touch-ups and durable)," he says. "If it's a space that will endure humidity or moisture, we want to use a paint that is rated for these areas."
The color you pick is likely your second biggest consideration when selecting interior paint. Even if you already know which color interior paint you want, there are many shade choices. Most major paint manufacturers offer an extensive selection of color chips. Use them to narrow down your options, then consider purchasing a pint-sized paint tester to try out the color at home. Note that colors appear differently depending on the room light. So make sure to examine the color under the most prevalent lighting conditions.
If you can’t find an exact match in the color swatches, typically, you can have a custom color mixed at your local paint store. Bring in a sample of the shade you’re imagining—it can be anything, even a pillow or a favorite sweater—and a color code machine called a spectrophotometer scans and deciphers the color. The machines aren’t perfect, so visually check the color to see if it’s on target with what you were imagining. The paint mixer should be able to tweak it further, if necessary.
Another option is a small device, the Color Muse (view on Amazon), which can scan a wall, counter, or other object and find you the closest color match among top paint brands. The device reads the RGB (red, green, blue) values of the color and identifies paint choices that match. If no matching shade is found, the device provides you with the RGB code to create a custom paint shade. Paint color options are limitless. The bigger task is selecting your top choice for your space, style, and furnishings.
The finish you choose depends on where you are painting and how resilient you want the surface to appear. You have three basic finish categories to choose from, and sometimes paint is categorized by these finish types. Select from a flat finish, low-luster (which can include "eggshell" and "satin"), or glossy finish. High gloss finishes add drama, while flatter finishes might play into calmer surroundings.
Flat paint, also called a matte finish, is exactly as it sounds—the resulting finish doesn’t reflect much light. This type of interior paint is good for surfaces that won’t see much action, like ceilings. It’s usually the least expensive type of interior paint, but it can be difficult to keep clean and look fresh. Only use flat paint if you’re on a tight budget and using it on an out-of-the-way location. On the plus side, matte paint hides imperfections better than shinier finishes.
The next type of finish is low-luster, which reflects light only slightly. Low-luster paints include eggshell and satin finishes. Of the two, eggshell is slightly flatter. But compared to a true flat finish this one is versatile, and offers increased durability and ability to keep clean. Satin or eggshell finish is appropriate for most walls of your home, including the living room, bedroom, hallways, bathrooms, and more.
Finally, paints with glossy finishes offer a high amount of sheen or light reflection and a harder finish than flat paints. This category includes semi-gloss paints that are slightly flatter than their glossy counterparts. Glossy paint is best used on windowsills or handrails, while semi-gloss paints are popular in higher-humidity areas such as kitchens or bathrooms. Glossy paints look beautiful but magnify any imperfections in their surfaces.
If you've ever experienced a headache, nausea, or nasal irritation during or after painting a small, enclosed space, it's likely the result of inhaling volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines VOCs as "any compound of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions." These gases are emitted in some quantity by paint along with many household liquids. In sufficient quantities and prolonged exposure, they can be harmful to health.
The EPA has established a limit of 2.1 pounds of VOC per gallon. You should examine the paint can label and ask your seller about how much VOC is contained in each gallon.
As a general rule, when painting indoors, allow yourself the best ventilation possible.
Some interior paints have additives to enhance the application or finish of the paint. Consider what you’re trying to achieve with your painting project to determine which—if any—additives are necessary for your purposes.
Enamel is one of the most common additives found in interior paint. The addition of enamel to the paint formula results in a harder, more durable finish. This could be important for high-traffic areas where dirt might infiltrate the paint, or if the finish is subjected to lots of touching and bumping.
Coverage and Dry Time
Interior wall paints are often dry to the touch and ready for a second coat within 1 to 2 hours. However, some paints take up to 4 hours to dry, and others take several days or more to fully cure—meaning the finish is no longer tacky. Darker colors may take longer to set than lighter colors. Also, if you need to apply more than one coat, you may have to wait longer before the first coat is dry enough. This can take 8 hours or longer.
Durability and Maintenance
Ideally, wall paint should resist stain and be easy to clean, especially when applied to high-traffic areas and homes with pets or kids. According to DeCrosta, something with at least a semi-gloss finish is easiest to clean. "People [often] ask for an eggshell finish because it isn't too shiny, and you can wipe fingerprints and dirt off the wall easily," he says.
Do all paints need priming?
No. But it's highly recommended if you're changing a color from dark to something lighter. The primer adds a solid coat for the new paint application to adhere to and may result in needing fewer coats than painting over a surface without priming it first.
Some products we've looked at in this roundup purport to be a combination primer and paint. But even their manufacturers recommend a primer coat in some instances. If you're changing colors from dark to light, we strongly recommend that you apply an actual coat of real primer.
Which interior paint lasts the longest?
Generally speaking, the longest-lasting interior paints resist scuffs, scratches, stains, and moisture damage. Many also have antimicrobial finishes, meaning they repel mold and mildew. You can usually expect to pay a higher price per gallon for more durable formulas, but they're often backed by lifetime warranties.
What paint is the easiest to wipe clean?
"Traditionally, the easiest wall paints to wipe clean have been those with a sheen," says DeCrosta. In other words, something with an eggshell or semi-gloss finish is easier to wash off and scrub than a flat or matte finish.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Theresa Holland is a seasoned commerce writer and product tester specializing in home improvement and decor. For this story, she interviewed Louis DeCrosta, owner of L.A. Painting, who provided insight into the varying finishes and maintenance requirements of interior wall paints. After considering dozens of options and notes from our home testers, she narrowed it down to the most user-friendly, easy-to-clean, high-performance formulas with stunning finishes.