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Buying Guide: Village Idiots go for the cheap paint

The paint aisle is designed to make you feel insecure about your ability to make a seemingly simple decision: which paint to buy?

It starts with those paint chips. You've already collected several hundred of them, taped them to your wall and mused about whether or not there really is a noticeable difference between "Red Wine" and "Cabernet."

The fact that they're essentially the same fucking thing with but a subtle differentiation is why you spent half your Saturday holding each up to the light, convincing yourself that that marginal distinction will matter in 6 months.

It won't.

What will matter is the QUALITY of the paint base to which you add that seductively named tint too.

This part matters. Ironiclaly it's usually where most of us lack any real education about why there are so many different varieties of paint at such a massive price range.

The short story is: when it comes to paint you get what you pay for.

If you don't want to pay, you are going to work a lot harder and you will ultimately spend as much or more than if you had just done it right the first time.

Welcome to my personal hell.

This is the AirBnB side of the Babe Cave and for some ungodly reason the former owners painted it a deep shade of Fungus Green.

They call this paint color "Nightmare to Hide Green"

I was not about to welcome guests from all over the country into FernGully. I decided a light shade of yellow would be both cheerful and airy - the opposite experience of meeting their host.

You can buy paint at Lowes, Home Depot or your local paint store but I'm in a committed relationship with our Sherwin-Williams. For one, they consistently push out sizeable coupons if you are on their email list HERE. On big sales events, the 40% off deal has saved me hundreds of dollars.

I also like that it's small and very well staffed, which means that while my paint is mixing, there's at least three unsuspecting young men at the counter who are a forced captive audience to my ranting about about contractors. God bless them.

They also have a paint-matching machine called ColorSnap that has mind boggling accuracy. Take a scrap of paint from an existing surface and it will decode its color elements to give you a perfect or near-perfect match. Hugely helpful when you don't know the name of the paint the last people bought.

Every store has their own brands and pedigrees of paint. I'm going to use Sherwin-Williams line up to illustrate the differences. These various levels of pigmentation and quality exist in almost all brands you just have to translate the marketing terms they use.



I bought a $17.99 primer + paint in "Honey Bee" yellow and evenly rolled it out over the perfectly painter's taped walls of that AirBnB room.

The "before." Before I spent a fortune on cheap paint and BEFORE I thought it would take only two coats.

I was so proud of myself. I was saving so much money. Who were these losers paying $65 a can when I had done it for a fraction of the cost? Losers.

It all glistened "Honey Bee" until it dried and then that Fungus Green bled right through.

First coat of cheap paint down and I clearly was going to have a long night.

No big deal. I had anticipated more than one coat. Begin, Round 2.

Again it dried and again it bled.

THREE? I had to paint the room THREE times? This was taking an inordinate amount of time and I was running back and forth to the Sherwin-Williams store buying more and more paint.

Almost $200 later on cheap paint I'm finally seeing less bleed through

In the end, I painted that room FIVE TIMES and it STILL didn't look good. I called in a painter and that was after I had spent two weeks and a boatload of money buying a boatload of cheap paint.

Cheap paint is cheap paint for a reason. It lacks the degree of pigment and resin (what binds a paint to a surface) that separates the "one coat" promise cans from whatever the hell I bought.

I had started with their ProMar 200 paint and while there is nothing inherently "wrong" with ProMar there's a reason contractors love it: it's cheap and provides a decent finish.


But I sure as hell hope you are not trying to cover intense colors and stains or expect it to live up to a lot of wear-and-tear.

For $17.99 I got a steal until I had to buy 6 gallons of it for one room plus a painter. You do the math.

On the opposite end of the price spectrum, coming in at $65 per gallon is SuperPaint and Duration. This is the best $65 you will ever spend and it does the job right the FIRST time because you need far less of it to coat and it lasts.

Sherwin Williams Duration paint is perfect for bathrooms
Behold! Good Paint! Sherwin Williams Super Paint

Look at the Babe Cave's Master Bedroom. This time I was covering "Circus Blue" with a light "Ellie Grey."

After applying all the plaster it was time to cover up Bozo the Clown Blue

With one gallon (that I now have plenty of leftovers for future projects) and in ONE coat it erased the "Bozo the Clown Blue."

By brush or by roller, using high pigment paint makes everything easier the FIRST time

I put on two coats just because I had already suffered enough painting trauma but it wasn't necessary.

BOOM! Beautiful Babe Cave master bedroom


For high traffic areas or anyone with kids or pets, upgrade to SuperPaint. It will endure.

Duration brand has chemistry that inhibits mold and bacteria growth which is why I use it in the Babe Cave bathrooms, due to the presence of moisture.

Your ceiling is pretty safe and most people get away with a mid-grade flat white.

Interior paints are typically acrylic latex, meant to be scrubbed. Avoid oil-based paints inside because they're hard to clean and they have a strong smell.

Exterior paint is designed to sustain temperature changes and the elements which is why it's typically oil-based and clearly labeled "EXTERIOR."

Pro tip: You can paint latex over latex but try painting latex over oil-based and watch it come right off. This is all chemistry and without an understanding of what you're using you will not win that war. If you're not sure what's on the existing surface take a rag dipped in acetone and rub. If the paint starts to come off it's latex. If it doesn't you will need an oil-based paint remover and several Xanax.


Flat paint is used on ceilings and walls. It is easy to touch-up but a real bitch to wash.

Satin finishes (or "eggshell") are washable with a little water and light soap.

Gloss and semi-gloss are heavy hitters. I feel like I could run a Zamboni down my wainscotting and the Duration semi-gloss would stand strong. It's also great for baseboards and anywhere else you anticipate abuse and a need for cleaning.


In all cases make sure the wall is wiped down and dry so you're not painting over dust. I know some people sand their walls to give the new paint something to grip onto. I don't, but it would be wise if you were trying to paint over Gloss finishes since by design they are easy wipe off.

Painting sucks. It's a messy job that takes concentration and commitment. At the very least make it easier for yourself.

Not skimping on quality will allow you to cut back on hard labor and after the first hour of diligently painting around your window trim and yet still getting drips on your will thank me.

What brands have you used that have held true to their "one coat" promise? Comment below!

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