All You Need to Know about Distemper Paints and Emulsion Paints

Looking to get your home painted, but don’t know the first thing about choosing the right paint? You might have read a lot about the colour palette, shades on the colour wheel and décor themes, but you are probably lost when it comes to picking the right type of wall paint. In order to make an informed choice, you should know the pros and cons of each type of paint. We’re here to help!

Popular paint choices for interior walls

Emulsion and distemper are the two most popular paint choices for interior walls.

Distemper Paint

There are two types of distemper paints, oil-based and water-based (or dry) distemper. Water-based distemper is not as durable as the oil-based variety, and a lot less durable than emulsion. Distemper is cost-effective and often used for rental properties where a fresh coat of paint has to be done every year.

Emulsion Paint

Emulsion paint gives a silken smooth finish with excellent coverage and is the most popular choice for home interiors. However, it is more expensive than distemper.

Material Comparison: Features

Distemper  Emulsion
Odour Has a distinctive odour Has an odour, but less than that of distemper
Composition Basically composed of chalk, lime and water Made of a variety of chemical
pigments in a solvent, mixed with binders. These particles are suspended in water to form an ‘emulsion’
Coverage Approximately 10 square metres are covered with 1 kg of oil-based distemper, and 14 square metres are covered with 1 kg of water-based distemper Approximately 14 square metres are covered with 1 litre of emulsion paint
Finishes Rustic. Can be made smoother by applying on a smooth surface Silken smooth
Durability Less durable than emulsion. Cannot be wiped clean Durable. Dirt can be wiped clean

Material Comparison: Pros and Cons

Distemper  Emulsion
Cost Cost-effective More expensive than distemper
Water-based distemper is environmentally friendly, but oil-based distemper can let off some fumes which could be harmful VOCs could be released during the drying process. Inhaling these fumes can cause dizziness. Some kinds of emulsion paint continue to leach gases for as long as 6 months after application
Range of colours and colour fastness Limited availability of shades. Colours will fade over time. Wide range available as ready
mixes. Colours will not fade over time.
Ease of application Easy to apply Requires a painter who is a bit more experienced
Surface preparation Can be directly applied on the surface, without any preparation Putty and primer required

Market Availability

Distemper is available in the market upwards of Rs 25 per litre, while the costs of emulsion paints range from Rs 120 to Rs 600 per litre. Some of the leading brands in the market are Asian Paints, Berger, Shalimar, Jenson and Nicholson, Nippon, Nerolac and Dulux. distemper paint

Painting Tips to Incorporate 

  • If you have a budget constraint or are planning to give the house for rent, distemper is a cheaper option. However, do keep in mind that at a later date if you wish to swap the paint for emulsion, the entire surface has to be scrubbed to remove the distemper coat. It is not possible to paint emulsion over distemper as the paint will not ‘stick’.
  • Surface preparation, such as primer and putty, is not required for distemper. The finish will also not be as silken smooth and clean. Distemper paints typically give a more rustic finish as compared to emulsion. However, there are higher grades of washable synthetic distemper that cannot be visually distinguished from emulsion easily.
  • Dry distemper is available as a powder and can be mixed with pigment and water to the hue you desire. The binders may be natural or synthetic.
  • When you are changing the colour of a wall from a dark shade to a lighter one, several coats may be needed to achieve full coverage of the darker shade below. However, when you are painting a darker shade over a lighter one, the number of coats required may be less.
  • When the paint is still wet, you will not be able to see the true finished colour. Wait till it is dry.
  • Before you start to paint, fill in holes and cracks with plaster, allowing it to dry completely. Clean and dry the surface, making sure it is free of any dust.
  • While painting, keep the room well ventilated so that the fumes do not get overpowering.
  • It is best to avoid painting during the monsoon as you will not get the best results.
  • If there is any area that you do not want to paint, cover the boundary with a neat strip of painter’s tape.
  • Always start with the ceiling, before moving on to the walls. Cover light fixtures, curtain pelmets and fans to avoid splashes. Glass panes can be covered with newspaper so that they do not get streaked with paint. Also, ensure that the entire floor is covered with heavy plastic or newspapers.
  • If you want to get a smooth surface finish without any undulations, consider using several coats of putty, allowing each coat to dry completely before sanding it to a smooth finish.

It’s easy to get confused about your paint choices, given the sheer range of products available in the market today. If you still need help narrowing down your selection, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at HomeLane. We’re always happy to help!

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