A Glossary of Painting Terminology


A Glossary of Painting Terminology

Gikas Painting in Montclair wrote down this glossary of painting terminology for you to be able to discuss your painting and decorating needs with our Montclair Painters. Here are some common terms and phrases to help you:


Acrylic paints are water-based and water-resistant. Brushes can be cleaned with water.

Design paints have texture as well as color and can include suede effect or other textured options.

Enamel paint is a heavy duty paint, popular for door and window frames as it gives a smooth, hard finish.

Epoxy enamel is for metal surfaces.  It protects against rust and doesn’t require a primer.

Gloss paint comes in varying degrees of shine – mat, low sheen, satin, semi-gloss and high gloss shine of a paint.

High gloss is the shiniest of gloss levels, hard wearing and easy to keep clean.

Semi-gloss is between low sheen and high gloss.

Satin is a gloss level similar to semi-gloss.

Low sheen is a low gloss level, usually used for inside walls.

Matt is a low-level gloss and the least shiny of all paint finishes.

Ceiling white is the term used for white paint designed specifically for ceilings and formulated for overhead work as it doesn’t spatter and is less messy to use.

Primer is the first coat of a paint job. It protects the surface and provides a good bond for further coats.

Adhesion primer is for difficult surfaces such as shiny finishes, laminates and glass, providing a sturdy base for top coats of paint.

Etch primers are for very smooth metal and etch into the surface providing an effective base for top coats.

Exterior paints are specially designed to withstand tough outdoor conditions and in most cases are self-priming.

Primer-sealer is the paint that combines the properties of a primer and a sealer.

Undercoat is the coat of paint applied after a primer but before the top coats.

Topcoats are the final coats of paint.

Whitewash is made from lime and chalk and is commonly used on exterior brick or stone surfaces.

Binder is an oil-based undercoat used to bind powdery or chalky paint.

Touch-ups are small amounts of paint applied to correct defects or damage to a finished paint job.


glossary of painting terminology

Lacquer is a clear, durable finish usually applied to wood.

Stain is a product that changes the color of wood without hiding the grain or texture. It is usually followed with a protective coating such as varnish.

Varnish is a clear finish that dries to a hard, durable finish.

glossary of painting terminology


Tone refers to a variation of a color produced by mixing grey with the original color.

Undertone refers to the subdued color that can be seen through another main color.

Pigment refers to the physical elements added to paint that creates its color.

Tint is the material added to a base paint to achieve the final color. Paint colors are produced using varying quantities of a number of tints.

Neutral colors are not bright or strong but may have undertones of other colors in them. Examples include white, beige and grey.

Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These colors can be mixed together to create all other colors.

Secondary Colors are created by mixing two primary colors. They are purple, green and orange.

Tertiary Colors are colors produced by mixing a secondary color with one of the primary colors used to make it.

Yellowing occurs when a paint or varnish ages over time. This usually occurs with oil-based finishes.


glossary of painting terminology

Bagging refers to a rough sand and cement finish applied to brick or block-work.

Blistering describes the bubbles that form on a finished paint job, caused by moisture or dirt on the pre-painted surface or if paint has been applied before the previous coat is sufficiently dry.

Caulking is waterproofing gaps between building materials using a flexible filler.

Cutting in is achieved by using a brush to paint around the edges of a surface that requires a clearly defined line of paint but is too difficult to achieve with a roller.

Laying off refers to going over freshly applied paint with a brush or roller to ensure it has a uniform appearance.

Marbling is a painting technique designed to look like marble.

Marine finish is a hard-wearing finish that will protect against the effects of water and salt.

Masking is achieved by covering areas, that are not to be painted, with masking tape or paper.

Nap refers to the length of fibers on a paint roller.

Short nap rollers are for gloss finishes.

Medium nap for low sheen and mat paints.

Long nap for rough or textured surfaces.

Opacity refers to the covering power of a paint. A paint with high opacity will need less coats to cover over another darker color.

Over-spray refers to paint that has missed the intended surface and painted something else instead.

Paint pads are alternatives to brushes and rollers and used for smooth surfaces. Available in a range of sizes, some also come with guiding wheels for a smooth line when cutting in.

Re-coat time refers to the time it takes for a coat of paint to harden sufficiently to allow for additional coats.

Runs are the drips appearing in a finished paint job caused by trying to apply paint too thickly.

Sanding using sandpaper, is used before painting, and between coats, to ensure a smooth top coat.

Glossy surfaces can also be sanded to ensure following coats adhere evenly.

glossary of painting terminology


Architraves – Arcs are the wooden or mental moldings around windows and doorways that cover the join between the frame and the wall finish.

Bulkheads are box type structures built to cover wiring, pipes and other fittings or to fill the space between cabinets and the ceiling.

Jambs are the frames of a doorway to which the door is attached.

Cornices are profiled plaster moldings placed around a room where the wall meets the ceiling.

Kick-boards are the recessed panels that sit underneath cupboards and cabinets.

Molding is the profiled feature [made of plaster or wood] used to hide a gap or provide decoration. Skirting, architraves and ceiling roses are examples of moldings.

Render is a smooth sand and cement coating applied to brickwork.

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