A to Z guide to painting terms

painting terms

Embarking on a painting project? Whether you’re doing it yourself or calling in the pros, you might want to conduct a little research into the most commonly used painting terms.

Here you’ll find our comprehensive, A to Z guide to painting terms. Have a read, so you know exactly what’s what as you kick off your next painting project.

Painting terms: A to D

A to Z guide to painting terms - blister 1

Blisters: these form when paint does not adhere properly, causing paint to bubble and flake.


Acrylic paint is water-based paint that is also water resistant.

Adhesion primer

Use this primer on trick-to-paint surfaces, such as tiles.


A sand and cement mixture that's applied to brick.


An oil-based primer that is used to bind powdery paint.


When bubbles form on dried paint. Blistering is usually caused by moisture or dirt stuck beneath the paint. Avoid by cleaning surfaces thoroughly and allowing them to dry completely before painting.


Paintbrushes are used to apply paint to surfaces. You can purchase brushes in all shapes and sizes, depending on the size material of your surface.

Brush marks

Brush marks refer to the visible lines left by paintbrush bristles in dry paint.


The process of waterproofing gaps between building materials with a filler.

Ceiling white

A white paint created specifically for ceilings

Cut in

A technique that uses the brush to paint around the edges of a surface.

Drop sheet

A fabric or plastic sheet is placed over the floor and/or furniture to stop paint drops or spatter from landing on it.

Painting terms: E to K

A to Z guide to painting terms - roll

Extension poles: used to extend the reach of your roller.


A paint that creates a smooth, hard, often glossy finish. Usually used on trim and woodwork.

Epoxy enamel

A protective and corrosion-resistant paint that's used on metal surfaces that does not need a primer.

Etch primer

A primer for smooth metal.

Extension pole

A pole used to extend the reach of a roller fits for painting ceilings and the tops of walls. 

Exterior paints

Paint specially formulated for outdoor use. These are UV and weather-resistant, and typically do not need a primer.


The loss of colour pigmentation in paint due to sunlight or weathering.


Paint that peels off a surface. Flaking is usually caused by blistering (see above).


How shiny a paint is. Gloss levels are referred to as matt, low sheen, satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss.

High gloss

The shiniest gloss level. This paint is hardwearing and easy to keep clean.


Another term for colour.


Paint applied between the primer and topcoat.

Painting terms: L to O

A to Z guide to painting terms - architectural home luxury living ocean view modern room floor window 953772

Neutral colours: think whites, tans, browns, greys, and stones.


A clear and protective finish that's commonly applied to wood.

Laying off

Running your painting tool over freshly applied paint to give it a uniform appearance.

Lead-based paint

Some older paints contain high levels of lead. These can be health hazards; working with and removing lead paint requires specialist procedures. 


To add more paint to a brush or roller.

Low sheen

Low sheen refers to the gloss level of a paint. Low sheen is not shiny and is generally used of interior walls.


The process of covering areas in tape or paper that are not to be painted.


The lowest level of gloss.


The length of fibres on a paint roller.

Neutral colour

An inoffensive colour that is neither bright or strong, such as white, stone, beige, and grey.

Oil-based paint

Paint constituted of pigments suspended in a drying oil.


How see-through a paint is. The opaquer, the fewer coats required.

Painting terms: P to S

A to Z guide to painting terms - sand

Sandpaper: used to create a smooth surface prior to painting.

Paint pads

An alternate paint applicator.


The material added to paint that gives it its colour.

Primary colours

Red, yellow, and blue. These colours cannot be created by mixing other colours.


The first coat of a paint job that protects the surface and ensures proper adhesion.


A primer that also seals the surface.

Re-coat time

How long it takes for a coat of paint to dry and harden, so that it can be painted over.


A smooth sand and cement coating used on bricks.


A versatile paint applicator available in many widths and materials. 


Using sandpaper, sanding smooths a rough surface before painting commences to ensure a uniform topcoat.


A gloss level similar to semi-gloss (see below).


A substance that is applied to porous surfaces to create a stable base for paint.


A middle-of-the-road gloss level.


The substance used to dissolve paint. The solvent for acrylic paint is water, and for oil-based paints is turpentine.


A product that adds colour to wood but doesn’t hide the texture. Must be followed by a protective coating, such as varnish.


The removal old paint.

Painting terms: T to Z

A to Z guide to painting terms - varnish

Varnish: a hard, shiny, protective finish.


Paint that’s not yet dry, and still feels a little sticky.


A substance that makes paint runnier and easier to apply.


The material added to base paint to create the final colour. Paint colours are formed using varying quantities of tints.


A colour variation achieved by mixing grey with the original colour.


The final coat.


Using small amounts of paint to repair damage or chips to a finished paint job. 


The solvent for oil-based paints. Sometimes referred to as turps.


Paint applied after the primer but before the topcoats.


A clear, hard, and durable finish.


Acrylic paint that can be cleaned and diluted by water.


A paint made from lime and chalk often applied to exterior masonry surfaces.


When a paint turns a yellowish hue over time.

Got all that memorised?

Interior and exterior painting is no easy task. If you’d like to skip the headache and leave the hard work to the pros, we’d love to help. Get in contact for an accurate quote. Call on 07 3829 5735 or fill out the form on this page and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

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About Louise Kraudelt

Meet Louise Kraudelt, a knowledgeable and insightful author in the field of house painting. With a passion for sharing her expertise, Louise provides valuable information and tips on all aspects of commercial and house painting in this blog.

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