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Trade Paint: The Biggest Paint Secret Hiding in Plain Sight

Anyone who has ever had the chance to stand beside and run their hand along an F1 car might be surprised at how smooth it feels. Obviously, the car has been waxed to within an inch of its life to let air flow happen as easily as possible, but there’s something unique about paint on F1 cars compared to what you might have parked up outside your front door. While normal cars are covered in litres of paint (you’re talking anywhere from 20-40 depending on size), an F1 car is sprayed, logos and all, in just around 1 litre of paint.

Why is this something to take notice of? Any professional working with paint is always striving to do two things on the job; work as quickly as possible and use as little paint as possible. They make this happen thanks to the secretive world of trade paint. Well, it isn’t really so secretive when you can go and buy a can yourself from a local DIY store, but it is still shrouded in mystery… until now!

I want to let you know everything there is to know about trade paint, why it is so good, how it works, and why any upcoming painting you need to do around the house should involve trade paint. Let’s dip a brush in and see what trade paint is all about.

So, what exactly is trading paint?

Let’s get the million-pound question out of the way to start with. Trade paint is simply a variety of paint that was typically used by painters and tradespeople. I say was because the paint was typically purchased at a decorators merchants, as opposed to a big name store. For example, I’m in the UK, where it wasn’t until the late 1980s/ early 90s that the likes of B&Q and Homebase only became established stores as retail parks grew.

Up until then, if a decorator wanted to get paint, they would be going directly to a merchant they would typically be a member of for discount, hence trade paint. Nowadays, it has become a common term for paint which is seen as reliable and hard-working.

Is it all a gimmick then?

Well, yes and no. Trade paint is ideally suited to those who would use a lot of paint and frequently. For example, imagine two people in the paint aisle of a DIY store. One is a professional painter about to paint the whole interior of a house. The other is someone who is looking to redecorate a living room. The painter will want something that looks good and doesn’t cause problems, while the other person might want a designer paint that stands out if it is only going on a wall or two.

It comes down to a matter of taste and function.

Are certain brands known for trade paint?

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Pretty much all the major paint brands will have a dedicated trade range, with the likes of Crown Trade, Dulux Trade & Johnstone’s Trade all well-known names. I liken it to when you see different supermarket brands selling the same type of thing in their own way. You’ll know that Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s Corn Flakes will do the job, but there’s no beating the real-deal for your breakfast (although I’m more of a Crunchy Nut person).

That same logic goes with trade paint, especially amongst tradespeople who have their favourite. For example, I am a big fan of using Armstead Trade paint (which you can check out here) as you will always get paint which is a bit stubborn. What do I mean by that? Well, if you want to paint somewhere that is prone to marks and stains, you don’t want paint that will leave circles when you wash or scrub away. Armstead doesn’t have the clout of the big names, but the formulation in their matts and eggshells more than makes up for it.

There’s also the question of bang for your buck

Remember what I said about trade paint originally being something tradespeople would buy as a member of a merchant? Trade paints have always been desirable because painters want to spend as little as possible on paint. You might go through a tin or two every few years, but they are professionals who go through buckets like there’s no tomorrow.

That’s why I always tell people to have a good look at the back of any paint they’re comparing to see how much coverage it promises. A luxury off-white eggshell might give you 10m2 per litre, while a similar trade paint from the same brand could be double that. If you’re happy to pay a premium, by all means, opt for the fancier paint. If you don’t care at all (and who could honestly name every brand of paint used in their home) opt for a trade product.

That isn’t to say it is lower quality

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Trade paint is just as good on any wall as designer paint. It is simply that this variety provides more benefits for professionals. One common benefit would be from what a painter gets per coat. For example, when a painter brings a large tub of white emulsion to use inside a house, you would expect them to use some paint thinner before application. Trade paint tends to be thicker, and using paint thinner allows for quicker application and drying time. When you’re paying someone by the hour, you wouldn’t want them sitting around waiting for paint to dry.

So what should I do when I want to buy trade paint?

Follow these rules, and you won’t go wrong:

  • Check that the “trade” brand version of a product doesn’t have a higher water concentration
  • Compare trade paints between brands to see which offers the best value
  • Look for trade paints which promise a good degree of opacity
  • If the trade paint is too cheap to believe, avoid
  • Try to avoid self-priming trade paints, especially if you plan to apply two or more coats – just get a separate primer instead

Now you’re ready to paint!

Thanks for reading. I hope this has helped you understand even just a little about trade paint. For anyone in the midst of redecorating around the house, check out the latest home & garden posts on-site, including this fantastic article on how to restore faded composite decking.

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