Home DIY Basics My Favorite Go-To Painting Products For DIYers (Updated 2023)

My Favorite Go-To Painting Products For DIYers (Updated 2023)

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I just finished painting my studio floor (and I shared the finished floor yesterday), and today, I plan to paint the vanity in the studio bathroom. Last night, I got to thinking about how even now, after I’ve been DIYing for 30+ years, I’m still learning about and trying new products (like the amazing floor paint I used on my studio floor), and how other products are my “tried and true” that I’ve been using for a decade or more. So I thought it was time to revise my three-year-old post from 2020 to add some of my new favorite go-to painting products that I recommend for DIYers.

Of course, if you were to interview ten different long-time DIYers and ask their favorite painting products, they would probably all have different answers. That’s to be expected. But I definitely have my own favorites that I’ve found to be very reliable and consistent. And I’m excited to add some of these new favorites to my list. These are products that I use to paint everything from furniture, cabinets, trim, house exteriors, floors, and just about everything you might want to paint.

Over my 13 years of blogging about decorating and DIY, the questions I get asked the most are about painting. Most homeowners know that paint is the cheapest way to update a home, but for so many who are new to DIY, knowing exactly what to buy can be a bit intimidating at first, especially if you’re painting something big like kitchen cabinets.

So here are my favorite go-to products that I use for all of my painting projects, whether I’m painting brand new drywall, kitchen cabinets, or the exterior of my house.

Favorite General Use Paint — Behr Premium Plus

my favorite go to paint products - behr premium plus

This is my general go-to paint for almost everything. I’ll use it for furniture, walls, trim, and cabinets. You’ll notice that it is the mid-range paint from Behr, and not the top range, most expensive paint that Behr makes.

I’ve tried those other paints that are supposedly higher quality, and I’ve always come back to this one. I’ve personally never found a tremendous difference that justifies the increased price. I just really like and prefer this one.

For painting walls, I almost always use an eggshell finish, and for painting trim (baseboards, crown molding), I use a satin finish. That’s not standard, as most people use a semi-gloss for trim, but I’m not a fan of super shiny paint finishes. I prefer a satin finish for my trim. Don’t be afraid to step outside of the “rules” for your own home. If you’re like me, and you don’t like shiny trim (or shiny anything else as a general rule), don’t think you have to follow some rule about using semi-gloss or glossy paint for your trim.

When I use this product to paint cabinets or furniture or bookcases/bookshelves, I always use my favorite topcoat at least on the tops and shelves of the furniture pieces that will get used and where I might place items on the with my favorite clear coat, which you’ll find below. So, for example, all of the surfaces in our music room are painted with Behr Premium Plus — the trim, wainscoting, upper walls, ceiling, doors, and bookcases. But on the actual bookshelves where I wanted to place decorative items, I used a clear topcoat for added protection.

Favorite Ceiling Paint — Behr Interior Ceiling Flat

my favorite go to paint products - behr interior ceiling flat

It’s rare for me to paint a ceiling a color other than white. I really like how a white ceiling keeps the room looking open and bright, so I only use color on a ceiling in very rare situations.

I remember the first time I painted the ceiling in the living room of our current house, and I thought it would be a great idea to carry the trim color (Behr Polar Bear) right from the crown molding onto the ceiling. It was awful. For some reason, the Polar Bear on the ceiling had very noticeable red undertones that were never noticeable on the trim. So at a certain time every single day, it looked like I had painted the ceiling pink. I love pink, but not on my ceilings! Polar Bear has been my go-to trim color since our condo days (so over a decade), and I’ve never noticed any red undertones in it. But it sure turned pink on my living room ceiling.

So ever since then, I just use pure white super flat Behr ceiling paint right out of the can, and I love that super flat finish on the ceiling that can hide imperfections unlike a higher sheen paint.

Favorite Paint For Dark Color Flat Walls — Benjamin Moore Aura Matte Finish

my favorite go to paint products - benjamin moore aura matte finish

For most of my life, I avoided matte finish paints just because they’re so finicky, especially in darker colors. I mean, you just brush your hand across them, and it’ll leave light streaks that are then virtually impossible to remove.

But then I discovered Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint, and it’s amazing. When I want a matte finish on a wall (generally to hide imperfections that will show with a higher sheen paint), Aura is my go-to for a beautiful, cleanable matte finish wall. It’s not cheap, but when I absolutely want a matte finish, it’s the only one I’ll use. This is the paint I used for the flat finish dark teal wall in our entryway.


Favorite Kitchen Cabinet Paint — Benjamin Moore Advance

my favorite go to paint products - benjamin moore advance satin finish

Benjamin Moore Advance paint is a phenomenal paint for kitchen cabinets. It goes on beautifully, dries to a durable finish, and is easy to clean.

My one complain about this paint is that the lowest sheen available is satin, and to my eye (at least when used in darker colors) it looks more like a semi-gloss. And with only rare exceptions, I do not like glossy paint finishes. So for me personally, Benjamin Moore Advance is a paint that I would choose only if I were painting cabinets in a light color. If you’re painting your cabinets white, this is an amazing paint for that. If you’re painting your cabinets in a darker, richer color, it’s still an amazing choice as long as you like a finish that’s somewhere between satin and semi-gloss.

Favorite Front Door Paint — Benjamin Moore Aura Grand Entrance

my favorite go to paint products - benjamin moore grand entrance

This is my go-to paint for exterior doors. All of my exterior doors are metal, and I’ve always had a hard time getting a really pretty streak-free paint finish on metal doors until I found Grand Entrance.

This paint is so easy to brush on, and it leaves a gorgeous finish. I’ve found that it’s also very easy to clean, which is important for exterior doors. It’s not cheap, but I find that the cost is worth the ease-of-use, the durability, and the cleanability.

Favorite House Exterior Paint — Sherwin Williams Duration

my favorite go to paint products - sherwin williams duration

When it comes to painting things, I have the least amount of experience with painting house exteriors. But after doing some research on the exterior paints that are available, I went with Duration from Sherwin Williams for our house, and I’ve been very pleased with it. I would choose it again without any hesitation. I used it on the pre-primed Hardiplank siding, the railings, trim, and columns on the front porch, and the shutters. Our house was painted in January 2018, and it has held up beautifully through the hot Texas summers, and still looks great almost 5.5 years later.

What has impressed me the most is how well it’s held up on my PVC shutters. I was warned by many people that I can’t paint PVC boards in a dark color, especially not with our hot summers, and with some of the shutters being in direct sunlight during much of the day. But they’ve held up perfectly. I was noticing just the other day how the color hasn’t faded, chipped, or peeled one single bit on those PVC shutters. It still looks great!

navy blue DIY board and batten shutters with black hinges pulls and shutters dogs

Favorite Water-Based Clear Topcoat — General Finishes High Performance Topcoat

my favorite go to paint products - general finishes high performance topcoat flat

This is the magic right here, y’all. This is it. This is my absolute favorite, always-have-on-hand, water-based topcoat. I’ve used this on furniture, cabinets, doors, frames and other small DIY projects. I would coat everything in my life in this if I could. I buy it right here on Amazon.

I simply cannot overstate how much I love this product. I tried other water-based polyurethanes for years, and finally gave up on them. No matter how I tried applying the finish — spray, brush, roller — I was never satisfied. I wound up with streaks or bubbles or cloudy areas.

Then someone (and sadly, I can’t remember who) told me about General Finishes High Performance Topcoat, and I’ve never looked back. I would simply never consider using another clear topcoat. If I’m out of this product, and my choices are to wait a few days for an Amazon order of General Finishes, or go to Home Depot and pick up whatever they have on hand, I’ll wait the few days. And that’s saying a lot for someone like me who almost always chooses immediate gratification.

When I painted the bathroom door in the studio bathroom black, every time I touched it, it would leave marks behind just from my hands. So I topcoated it with the GF topcoat, and that stopped happening. It completely changes the feel of the paint, and makes it so easy to clean.

I painted my kitchen cabinets teal (they were previously green) in 2017, and still, the finish is nearly perfect on them. I am very rough on surfaces, but after six years, these cabinets only have two tiny chips in the paint, and one of them is on the cabinet door that is opened and closed several times a day (the one under the sink). I’ve never touched up the paint on these cabinets, and other than those two tiny chips (about the size of a grain of rice), the finish is still beautiful.

kitchen 4

This topcoat is so amazingly durable that I feel completely comfortable painting kitchen cabinets with Behr Premium Plus, and then topcoating them with General Finishes, and knowing that the finish is going to last. If I were to choose one paint/finish product that I couldn’t live without, this would be it.

Favorite Primer For Furniture And Bare Wood — Zinsser Oil-Based Cover Stain Primer

my favorite go to paint products - zinsser oil based cover stain

This is my go-to primer for everything except unprimed drywall. As the name suggests, it covers stains amazingly well, and it’s a must for me when painting raw wood. I almost always brush it on, let it dry for a few hours (or overnight, depending on the weather and how fast it dries), and then it sands beautifully with 220-grit sandpaper. It’s just so perfect for getting a great surface for a beautiful painted finish.

It’s oil-based, so it does stink. I try to use it outside, or if that’s not possible, I’ll use it inside with a fan on and the window open. But it’s the main go-to primer that I use, unless I’m needing to prime new drywall or I need a specialty primer for a specific use.

Favorite Primer For New Drywall — Zinsser Bullseye 123

my favorite go to paint products - zinsser bullseye 123

And speaking of new, unpainted drywall, this is what I use to get it ready for its first coat of paint. New, unpainted drywall is literally the only thing I ever use water-based primer on. For everything else (except floors and other very specific uses), I use oil-based Zinsser Cover Stain.

But let me stress that I only use this on new, unpainted drywall. If I had a situation where I had a previously painted wall that had something on it that might be difficult to cover (like my music room walls that have a design drawn with black Sharpie markers), I would use the oil-based Zinsser Cover Stain to cover it. This water-based product wouldn’t stand up to Sharpie marker. So again, this water-based primer is one that I’ll only use with brand new, unpainted drywall.

Favorite Primer For Floors — Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer

This is a new addition to my list for 2023. I first used this primer to seal the knots in the front porch ceiling before repainting it earlier this year. It took a bit for me to get used to the product. It’s so much thinner in consistency than the oil-based primer I was used to using. But after getting used to it, I really liked it, and it covered those knots (that had previously bled through the painted ceiling) very well. I haven’t seen any of those knots reappear through the new paint.

So while I was pleased with how it worked on those knots on the porch ceiling, what really sold me on this primer was how well it worked on my studio floor. After sanding the original finish to give it some “tooth”, I primed the floor with this primer before painting it. This stuff is so incredibly durable that it even stood up to my very hyper 100-pound dog who always has long claws because he won’t let me (or anyone else) touch his feet. When I saw that, I was sold! I don’t paint wood floors often, but any time I do from now on, I won’t use any primer but this one.

Favorite Floor Paint — Behr Low-Lustre Porch & Patio Floor Paint

This is another addition to my list for 2023. I did so much research on various paints and products for painting floors before I started on my studio floor, and let me tell you, the more research I did, the more confused and frustrated I became. So finally, based on customer reviews, I decided to give this Behr Porch & Patio Floor Paint a go. I was really concerned because I had decided not to use a topcoat on the floor since I wanted touchups to be very simple. So I would just have the painted finish with no clear protective coating.

I know it’s only been a short while since I painted the first half of the room, but I have been so unbelievably impressed with this paint. It’s not expensive, so to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Well, it’s amazing paint! At least, that’s been my experience.

Two days after I finished painting the first half of the room, my dog was in the studio, and he was in his normal hyper form. He was running and twirling and jumping on that floor, and I was very nervous that he was going to scratch or chip or peel the paint with his claws. He didn’t! When I finally wrangled him out of the room, the paint was still perfect! I couldn’t believe it. Most paint takes 30 days to fully cure, and this was just two days after I finished painting. That impressed the heck out of me.

I love how fast this paint dries, too. I had to use painters tape to tape off the design, and I could only do half of the design at a time, paint it, let it dry, and then paint off the other half of the design. I didn’t even wait 24 hours between those. When I was painting the back entry, I taped the second half of the design the same day, and the painters tape didn’t peel up any of the paint at all. It’s amazing stuff!!

So those are my main go-to products, but I’m sure I’m leaving something out. If you have any particular questions about painting (walls, furniture, cabinets…anything), I’d love to help you out! Over my 30+ years of DIYing, I’ve tried painting just about anything that will stand still, so I’ve learned quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t work.

And if I’ve left anything off of this “go-to products” list, I’ll add them as they come to mind, or as your questions bring things to mind.

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