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Don't buy a beautiful shade of mediocre paint

When shopping pick your paint first, then match the color you want

Published: January 12, 2015 05:30 PM

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Buying interior paint should be easy but walk into any home center or paint store and you’ll see just how confusing the choices can be. Brand lines keep expanding and as the price jumps $5 to $10 a gallon a superlative is tacked on—ultra, premium plus, premium plus ultra. It doesn’t help that all paint cans look alike, but inside those cans? Here’s a look at the best interior paints from Consumer Reports’ latest tests.

Picking a color is where many people start, but who wants a beautiful shade of mediocre paint? Color-matching systems have improved so that you can get within a percent or two of the color you crave, but keep in mind that sheen varies by brand and affects your perception of color. So choose the color you love then find the best paint for the job.

Our interior paint Ratings tell you how well a paint hides what’s underneath it and how smooth it goes on. You’ll find out how well the paint resists stains, scrubbing, gloss change, sticking, mildew, and fading. Our tests found that a brand line’s flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss performed similarly overall so we’ve combined the scores to make it easier for you to choose. The interior paint Ratings include 23 brand lines, from Walmart’s Color Place at $17 a gallon to Farrow & Ball, an import from England that’s $105 a gallon.

Valspar Signature

Best from our tests

All of our top picks are self-priming and low in volatile organic compounds or lack VOCs, some of the noxious chemicals that can make paint smell, cause headaches and dizziness, and are linked to smog and respiratory problems. 

Behr Marquee Interior, $43 per gallon. This top-rated paint from Home Depot was superb at hiding old paint and impressive at resisting stains, but not as smooth as some. The paint withstands scrubbing, but aggressive cleaning will change the sheen.

Valspar Reserve, $44. Superb at hiding old paint and impressive at resisting stains, but not as smooth as some. This Lowe's paint withstands scrubbing and aggressive cleaning didn't change the sheen.

Behr Premium Plus Ultra, $34. A Home Depot paint, it was excellent at hiding old paint and left a smooth finish, but wasn't great at resisting stains. The paint withstands scrubbing and aggressive cleaning didn't change the sheen much.

Clark+Kensington Enamel, $32. Impressive at hiding old paint, it left a smooth finish but wasn't great at resisting stains. The paint withstands scrubbing but aggressive cleaning changes the sheen. You’ll find it at Ace Hardware.

Benjamin Moore Aura, $54. The most expensive of the top picks, it was excellent at hiding old paint and left a smooth finish, but weren't great at resisting stains. The paint withstands scrubbing but aggressive cleaning causes the paint to lose much of its sheen.

Valspar Signature, $34. Impressive at hiding old paint, but not as smooth as some and not great at resisting stains. The paint withstands scrubbing but aggressive cleaning causes the paint to lose sheen. It’s sold at Lowe’s.

Valspar Ultra, $29. This Lowe’s paint was impressive at hiding old paint, but not as smooth as some and it wasn't great at resisting stains. The paint withstands scrubbing but aggressive cleaning causes the paint to lose much of its sheen.

Behr Premium Plus Enamel, $28. Another Home Depot paint, it was impressive at hiding old paint and left a smooth surface. But wasn’t great at resisting stains. The paint withstands scrubbing and aggressive cleaning didn't change the sheen much.

Our interior paint Ratings tell you the full story and you might be surprised to see what paint is near the bottom.

Kimberly Janeway 

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