The 9 Best Paints for Interior Walls in 2020

Painting is easy if you pick the right formula

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Our Top Picks
"A premium acrylic paint that’s stain-resistant and long-lasting."
"Praised for its durability, smoothness, and ability to cover old paint."
"This affordable paint is extra resistant to scratches, spills, and stains."
"It uses a low-odor formula and dries to a beautiful, matte finish."
"It's GREENGUARD Gold Certified so there are less harsh chemicals."
"Smooth, durable, fade-resistant, and provides great coverage."
Runner-Up, Best Splurge:
Farrow & Ball Paint at
"Choose from 132 color options and eight different finishes."
"Praised for its great coverage and it comes at an unbeatable price."
"The splatter-resistant formula leads to less paint on your floor."

Painting your house may seem like a chore. All that time, all that money. But it’s also a way to imbue your house with your own aesthetic, to make it a dream home.

To help you find the best solution for your needs, here, the best paint for interior walls. 

Best Color Selection: The Spruce Best Home by KILZ The Spruce Best Home Interior Paint & Primer in One

Your next paint project is about to get more colorful! We’re thrilled to introduce The Spruce Best Home Interior Paint & Primer in One, a premium acrylic paint that’s perfect for interior walls. After listening to all of your feedback and experimenting with different formulas, we took your most pressing concerns (odor, formula, application, color) and developed a paint product that we absolutely love—and we think you will too!

Produced by KILZ, you can choose from matte, semi-gloss, and eggshell paint. While all three finishes are stain-resistant and long-lasting, our matte formula has the lowest level of sheen (0-4 units at 85°) and is perfect for ceilings, bedrooms, and other rooms that don’t see as much foot traffic. Use the eggshell or semi-gloss paint for a slight sheen (17-22 units at 85°) that’s decorative and easy to clean.

We’ve invested considerable time testing this paint and we’re so impressed with the thick coverage and depth of color. We found that one coat will do when you’d expect to need two. We also know picking a paint color can feel daunting—our 32 shades are curated for versatility and elegance, so you can’t go wrong with any color! Low odor was also important to us, so we developed a product that’s low VOC/low odor. You can apply this paint with a brush (nylon or polyester), roller, or airless paint sprayer. Available exclusively on Amazon.

Best Overall: Behr Marquee Interior Paint

Beloved by DIYers and professional contractors alike, Behr Marquee has been praised for its durability, smoothness, and knack for covering old paint and imperfections. It has thousands of glowing online reviews, with the majority of customers giving it five stars. And it’s no surprise: Behr tied with Sherwin-Williams as the top interior paint brand in J.D. Power’s 2019 Paint Satisfaction Study. 

The paint is low-VOC, easy to clean, and designed with Behr’s most advanced formula. One gallon should cover 400 square feet, and the product is available in a five-gallon option that can help save money on larger projects. You can find Marquee in four finishes—flat/matte, eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss—and more than 1,000 gorgeous colors. 

While Behr says the paint provides one-coat coverage, customer reviews are mixed. Some users were amazed to find a rich, full layer of paint on the very first coat, as advertised, but others say it required multiple coats to meet their satisfaction.  

Another small hitch is the price. One gallon of Behr Marquee won’t break the bank, as many other brands’ top interior paint will, but this item still falls on the more expensive end nonetheless.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Valspar Signature Interior Paint

Valspar Signature has all the features of a high-end paint except for one: it comes at an affordable price. This isn’t the downright cheapest paint on the market, but it will certainly run you less than most products of this quality. On top of that, one gallon covers roughly 400 square feet, and you can also purchase the paint in a five-gallon bucket to save even more money.

Designed with Valspar’s ScuffShield Technology, Signature is extra resistant to household foes like scratches, spills, and stains. The paint is also mildew resistant and fade resistant, offering a rich color for years to come. 

The paint is 100 percent acrylic, self-priming, and low-VOC. You can find it in four finishes—flat, eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss—and get it tinted to match hundreds of Valspar’s color options.

The scant number of negative reviews generally involve the paint leaving an uneven coat or having less coverage than expected, but overall customers are effusive about the product, with the vast majority giving it five stars. 

Best Chalk Paint: Rust-Oleum Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint

With its thick coat and signature matte finish, chalk paint is the ideal way to spruce up your home—especially furniture. You can get a more in-depth breakdown of chalk paint, including its history, uses, and pros and cons, from our chalk paint guide, or simply check out our top pick: Rust-Oleum Ultra Matte Chalked Paint. 

It uses a low-odor formula, dries to touch in thirty minutes, and is available in several colors, including timeless neutrals like Aged Grey, as well as bolder shades like Coastal Blue and Farmhouse Red. 

Chalk paint is typically more expensive than latex paint, and Rust-Oleum is no different. The product is sold in 30-ounce cans, rather than gallons, and is around the same price per ounce as high-end latex paint. On the plus side, it covers a large surface area—150 square feet per bucket—and, since chalk paint is usually used for smaller projects, you probably won’t need to buy much. 

Best Low-VOC: Behr Premium Plus Low Odor Interior Paint

No one likes the stifling odor of paint fumes, especially when working indoors, but luckily there are numerous low-VOC and VOC-free options, like Behr Premium Plus. This paint and primer in one is GREENGUARD Gold Certified, meaning less harsh chemicals for paint that is safer, healthier, and happier.

But Premium Plus is more than just a good low-VOC option; it’s a downright great interior paint that has garnered widespread customer praise. Along with being odorless, customers generally commend the product for providing a rich, even coat. Many even say the job was done with just a single coat. 

The paint is 100 percent acrylic, mildew resistant, and easy to clean with soap and water. One gallon will cover around 400 square feet, and you can find it in five different finishes: flat/matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. 

And all of this comes at an affordable price, even cheaper than other Behr paints like Marquee and Premium Plus Ultra.

Best Splurge: Benjamin Moore Waterborne Interior Paint

Smooth, durable, and providing great coverage, Benjamin Moore Aura has everything you want in an interior paint—well, aside from the price tag. If you are able to open your budget, however, Aura is one of the best paints to invest in. 

Designed with Benjamin Moore’s Color Lock Technology, Aura will resist fading for years to come, even after repeated washing. It’s self-priming, mildew-resistant, and available in four finishes: matte, eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss. This paint also has zero VOC’s, making it a safe choice for any room in the house. 

Like most Benjamin Moore products, you’ll have to go to one of the brand’s location or an independently owned paint or hardware store to pick up a can of Aura in person, but the hassle will be worth it for this long-lasting, premium paint.

Runner-Up, Best Splurge: Farrow & Ball Paint

With 132 gorgeous color options, Farrow & Ball is a splash of luxury and style. This British manufacturer may be known for its high prices and wacky color names—like Savage Ground, Elephant’s Breath, and Arsenic, just to name a few—but they nonetheless produce great paint that can work on anything from walls and ceilings to moldings and furniture. 

A gallon of F&B’s interior paint typically costs over a $100, so this is the ultimate splurge pick, but the company has been committed to excellence for nearly a century. They source the finest ingredients and richest pigments to create artisanal paints capable of transforming any house into your dream home. Their paints are also 100 percent water-based, low-VOC, and available in eight different finishes.

Best Budget: Glidden Essentials White Flat Interior Paint

Transforming your house into your dream home doesn’t have to cost top dollar. Glidden Essentials is a highly reviewed paint, praised for its great coverage and array of stunning colors, and it comes at an unbeatable price.

You can buy Essentials in one of three different finishes—flat/matte, eggshell, and semi-gloss—and then have it tinted to perfectly match over 1,100 of Glidden’s long-lasting colors. The paint is fade-resistant, easy to clean with soap and water, and dries to touch in just thirty minutes. It’s also low-VOC, so harsh paint fumes won't be a problem.

This bargain does come with a few drawbacks, however. Unlike many interior paints, Essentials is not self-priming, so you’ll need to purchase a primer separately. You also might not get the same thickness and coverage as you would from higher-end paints. While some customers say the paint works with just a single coat, others say it takes multiple coats to provide a full, lustrous finish.

Best Ceiling Paint: HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams Ceiling Paint

Painting your ceiling can be a hassle. Arched neck. High-wire ladder acts. Drop cloths all over the floor. But Sherwin-Williams HGTV Home Ceiling Paint makes the task a little bit easier. 

One of its key features is a spatter-resistant formula that leads to less paint on your floor and face and more paint where it’s supposed to go. It’s also designed with Sherwin-Williams high-hiding formula, which helps it cover stains, blemishes, and old paint on your ceiling.

The product can be used on both smooth and textured ceilings, and it comes in a flat finish, which is typically recommended for ceiling use. If you want to read more about the ins and outs of ceiling paint before getting to work, this guide can help.

The price is surprisingly affordable, especially coming from a top brand like Sherwin-Williams, but keep in mind that it took some customers multiple coats to feel satisfied.

Everything You Need to Know About Buying Interior Paint

by Erica Puisis

If you’re eager to put more character into a room, interior paint is the most surefire way to transform the look of your space. Whether you’re starting with white walls that need a transformation or painting over an old color choice, changing the feel of your home is often as simple as painting the walls. That’s not to say that painting is easy—you’ll need to know what type of interior paint to use, which colors work together and complement your space, and what finish you’re hoping to achieve.

You’ve probably seen the gallons and quarts of interior paint lining the shelves of major home improvement stores. These paint cans are the starting point for a myriad of color options—selected from a rainbow of paint chips or created using computer-assisted color matching technology. Once you’ve selected a color, the paint counter inputs a code into a machine filled with dye. The paint from the can goes inside the machine, and out comes interior paint in the shade you’ve chosen.

You might think that the biggest decision you need to make is what color paint to pick, but your decisions don’t stop there. You’ll need to choose between water-based and oil-based paint formulas and select a finish, like matte or glossy. These factors, along with the brand you choose, will have a big impact on the price of interior paint you buy. Typically, interior paint costs anywhere from about $20 to $80 per gallon, but could cost more.

What to Look for in Interior Paint

  • Color: The color you pick is maybe your biggest consideration when selecting interior paint. Even if you think you already know what color interior paint you want, you’ll have a lot of shade choices. Most major paint manufacturers offer an extensive selection of color chips. Use these to narrow down your options, then consider purchasing a pint-sized paint tester to try out the color at home if you’re still torn.
    If you can’t find an exact match among the color cards for the hue you’re imagining, you can typically have a custom color mixed up at your local paint store. Just bring something in the shade you’re imagining to the paint counter—everything from a pillow to a favorite sweater can be scanned and matched to a color code using a machine called a spectrophotometer. You should know that these machines aren’t perfectly accurate—so visually check the color to see if it’s on target with what you were imagining or if it needs further tweaking.
    Another option is to use a small device, like the Color Muse (available at Amazon), to scan a wall, counter, or other object to find the closest color match among top brands of paint. The device reads the RGB values of the color and identifies paint choices that are a close match. If no matching shade is found, the device still provides you the RGB code which you can then use to create a custom paint shade at the store.
    The point is that there is nearly a limitless amount of paint color options. The bigger task is selecting your top choice that works with your space, style, and furnishings.
  • Finish: 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, or glossy finish.
    Flat paint is exactly as it sounds—the resulting finish doesn’t reflect much light. It’s also called a matte finish. 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 looking fresh. We’d only recommend using flat paint if you’re on a tight budget and using it on an out-of-the-way location in your house. On the plus side, the more matte appearance of flat finish paint will hide imperfections better than shinier finishes.
    The next type of finish is low-luster, which only offers a slight reflection of light. Low-luster paints include both eggshell and satin finishes. Of the two, eggshell is slightly more matte. This type of paint is very popular, since it’s versatile and offers increased durability and cleaning ability compared to flat finish paint.
    You’ll likely want to use interior paint with a satin or eggshell finish in the majority of areas within your home—living room and bedroom walls, hallways, bathrooms, and more are all good places to use a low-luster finish.
    Finally, paints with a glossy finish offer a high amount of sheen or light reflection and a harder finish than flat paints. This category also includes semi-gloss paints that are slightly more matte than their glossy counterparts.
    Often glossy paint is used for windowsills or handrails, while semi-gloss paints are popular in higher humidity areas, like kitchens or bathrooms. Glossy paints look beautiful but do magnify any imperfections in the surface they’re painted on, so take this into account when selecting your paint finish.
    The finish you choose will depend on what you’re painting and how resilient you want the finish to be. Aesthetics also play a role; high gloss finishes add drama, while a more matte appearance might play into calmer surroundings.
  • VOC: Volatile Organic Compounds are commonly referred to as VOCs and it’s important to know if they’re present in the paint you purchase. If the thought of a freshly painted room makes your nose wrinkle, it’s because you’ve smelled these VOCs.
    To keep the chemistry lesson brief, VOCs are organic chemicals that turn into a vapor or gas that you can breathe in. Paint is one of the leading household products with VOCs and the National Institute of Health warns that exposure to VOCs can cause headaches, irritation of the respiratory tract, dizziness, and other long-term health complications with prolonged exposure. The EPA sets limits for acceptable levels of VOC in paint products. If you’re looking for additional peace of mind, Green Seal offers certification to paint products that meet even more stringent standards for VOC emission levels.
    Many latex-based paints are considered ‘low VOC’ formulas. These are a better option for interior painting since they will minimize the exposure you have to VOCs—during painting and after. Still, it’s always a safe practice to ventilate the room you’re working in. Oil-based paints have a higher concentration of VOCs, and so do the paint thinners needed to clean the brushes and rollers you use to apply the paint. If you opt for any oil-based paint or any paint that isn’t labeled as ‘low VOC,’ take extra precautions to ventilate the area and protect your eyes, skin, and respiratory system.
  • Additives: 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 you’ll find in interior paint. The addition of enamel to the paint formula reduces the porosity of the paint and results in a harder, more durable finish. This could be important for high traffic areas where dirt might infiltrate the paint or the finish is subjected to lots of touching and bumping.
    Acrylic is often added to oil-based paint to prevent yellowing. This is a common downfall of oil-based interior paint, but by adding acrylic, the paint stays true to its original hue longer. You’ll also see acrylic added to latex paints to improve its durability and finish.

What is the Best Type of Interior Paint for Me?

  • Water-Based: Water-based paints are often referred to as latex paint, but this is a bit of a misnomer since they rarely contain latex. Instead, most water-based paints today use acrylic polymers to provide the adhesion and lasting finish you want in your interior paint.
    Water-based paints have become increasingly popular and now dominate the market as the leading type of interior paint to buy. This is primarily because these paints have low (or sometimes no) VOCs, making them safer for you and better for the environment. Additionally, the water-based formula means that clean-up can be completed with just water—no need for mineral spirits or turpentine. You can rinse brushes and rollers under the tap until clean without worrying about the fumes from paint thinners.
    However, the drawback to water-based paint is a less resilient finish. Though paint manufacturers have come a long way with the addition of acrylic polymers for a stronger surface bond and improved hardness, water-based paints are more subject to wear and tear and chipping than oil-based formulas. They also don’t stand up to scrubbing as well, since the water-based formula is subject to being dissolved with excessive cleaning action. Many of these concerns have been addressed in newer formulas from the leading brands of interior paint, but it’s still something to be aware of. If you’re concerned with durability, look for an enamel water-based paint, which will offer a harder surface and glossy finish.
  • Oil-Based: Oil-based paints were once the default option for interior paint but are now more of an exception, reserved for trim, doors, and specialty applications.
    This type of paint uses natural oils or synthetic oils—known as alkyds—as the base. The result is a paint that goes on smoothly, levels easily, and offers excellent resilience against chipping. However, these benefits come with a list of inconveniences: slow drying times (up to 16 hours in between applying coats, and 30 days to fully cure), strong fumes due to high levels of VOCs, and the need to use mineral spirits or turpentine to clean brushes and rollers. You also need to follow local hazardous waste disposal methods for both the paint and the mineral spirits or turpentine. You should never put these substances down the drain.
    As a result, oil-based paints have lost favor as the go-to interior paint of choice. Instead, most paints sold in stores are water-based enamels. Even so, oil-based paints are still in use for painting areas of the home subject to a lot of wear and tear—like trim and doors. They also offer excellent one-coat coverage, so some people are willing to put up with the long drying times and extra ventilation required.
    It’s important to know that you cannot use oil-based paint over a surface that has been painted with water-based paint without some additional prep work. It pays to know what type of paint you have on your walls, trim, cabinets, or doors before you begin painting. If in doubt, you might be better off using a water-based paint to avoid adhesion issues, since you can use water-based paint over a surface painted with oil-based paint—just be sure to prime the surface first, since water-based paints need a good surface to adhere to.
  • Primer: While not specifically a type of interior paint, primer is something you’ll likely need to know about when planning to paint inside your home. The purpose of primer is to seal the surface you’re planning to paint and reduce its porosity; this is especially true when painting surfaces like drywall or unfinished wood. Depending on the formula, it may also block stains and offer mildew resistance. Primer is typically white, but often can be tinted. This might be a necessary step if you’re planning to make a significant color change.
    There are both oil-based primers and water-based primers. These formulas have many of the same advantages and disadvantages as paint of the same types. The key is to know that you can use a water-based paint over an oil-based primer—in fact, some people find this to be a particularly durable prep option. However, you won’t have as much as success trying to use an oil-based paint over a water-based primer.
    Another option is to purchase a special type of interior paint referred to as ‘self-priming.’ These paint formulas are marketed for their convenience and time savings, since it eliminates the need for a separate primer step before you get down to the business of painting your wall a fresh new color. However, you should know that self-priming paints actually contain no primer. Instead, these are high-build interior paints that go on thicker as a work-around to the boring task of priming your surface before painting. Self-priming paints may be fine when making a gradual color change, but if you have an unfinished surface or want to dramatically change the color of the surface, then you should probably pass on the self-priming paint.

Leading Manufacturers

  • Benjamin Moore: A top tier interior paint, Benjamin Moore is only available at paint stores and occasional hardware stores. The brand has earned a lot of praise for its rich, vibrant colors but is pricier than many other paint formulas. 
  • PPG and Glidden: PPG and Glidden are brands of paint under the same umbrella, but PPG is the more premier product among the two. It’s also pricier and typically only available at specialty paint stores, though some of its lines are now available at Home Depot. Glidden is the brand’s more affordable and accessible choice—it’s available at Walmart and Home Depot—but it doesn’t have a reputation for being the most durable or long-lasting paint on the market.
  • Behr: This paint is exclusively available through Home Depot, where it takes center stage in the paint department. Behr offers an Ultra, Ultra Plus, and Marquee line of paints that offer ‘good, better, and best’ tiers of quality.  
  • Sherwin Williams: Generally considered to be a premium paint brand, Sherwin Williams is typically only available at a Sherwin Williams retail center. The exception to this is HGTV Home Sherwin Williams paint, which is sold at Lowes and includes two lines of paint-and-primer in one. The brand’s budget product line is Dutch Boy paints, which are often sold in major retailers—unlike the flagship Sherwin Williams brand.
  • Valspar: Acquired by Sherwin Williams in recent years, Valspar is the anchor of the paint department at Lowes. Offering 3 lines of paint—Signature, Simplicity, and Ultra—Valspar gives you plenty of bang for your buck and is known for offering a quality product.

Where to Buy Interior Paint

Many brands of paint have exclusive distribution set up through retail channels—or reserve the right to only sell their product through approved specialty stores. So when shopping for interior paint, where you decide to buy will determine the brands that are available to you. Or, if you’re set on a specific brand, this will often dictate where you go to buy your paint.

Some retailers offer additional perks to purchasing your paint through them. For instance, Lowes—though limited on brand selection for interior paints—offers a 30-day return window for paint you purchase. If you take your paint home then have a change of heart, you can bring the can back to the store for a refund or exchange.

Other major home improvement retailers, like Home Depot, have an expansive selection of interior paints and products to choose from. If you want to choose from a number of paint brands, you can do so here. And if you need brushes, rollers, painter’s tape, drop cloths, and more, they’re all available for a true one-stop shop.

Specialty paint stores perhaps offer the highest level of customer service if you have extensive questions about paint selection, application, and products. This is commonly cited as the reason that some brands, like Benjamin Moore, steer clear of major retail channels and primarily sell through paint shop partnerships.

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