Alternatives to Farrow and Ball Paint

Updated Mar 10, 2024 | Posted Oct 13, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 3 comments

Farrow and Ball paint has quite the following in the UK. I think just about everyone has heard of it, and most have used it. However, a lot of people would tell you they like the colours but hate the paint, and I’m often asked for alternatives.

I’m a Professional Decorator, and although I don’t have any great hate for Farrow and Ball paint, I can see why people take the view they do. There are drawbacks with most Farrow and Ball Paint products I have used.

Farrow and Ball Estate Emulsion contains very little polymer binder, which can cause dragging on application, and lead to a defect called ‘flashing’ (patchy, uneven). Even if you do achieve a good finish, Farrow and Ball Estate emulsion isn’t exactly durable. If you look at it wrong, you’ll mark it.

Farrow and Ball Modern Emulsion has a high sheen-level for a “matt emulsion”, which can also lead to defects, as well as highlighting imperfections on walls and ceilings. Besides which, people prefer a low sheen ‘luxurious’ finish now. and it isn’t as durable as some of the other emulsion paints available.

All Farrow and Ball products are expensive, and they often need additional coats to achieve a good finish. In this blog, I’m going to go through some bits you should consider about each product then list viable alternatives to Farrow and Ball Paint. I’ll suggest products I believe to be better quality and I’ll link to a website who can easily match Farrow and Ball’s colours.

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Why Are Farrow and Ball’s Colours so Desirable, and How Closely can they be Matched?

 

Even though I can pick fault with the quality of some of the Farrow and Ball paint products, their colours really are quite impressive. I don’t subscribe to the notion that “it’s just clever marketing and silly names”. The colours are very well thought out by people who are obviously experts.

Ever heard someone talking about Farrow and Ball’s “subtle undertones” or saying, “it looks different in different lights”. This is, in part, down to them choosing metameric colours for their palette. This basically means they choose shades that will naturally look different at different points of the day. Every brand of paint can produce metameric colours.

I will caveat this and add that the pigments in Farrow and Ball products are renowned for being good quality, and they use a lot more titanium dioxide than most other manufacturers. This means that although it’s very easy to get colour matches to other brands, the colour will never be exact.

However, I have been getting Farrow and Ball colour matches for the past 10 years or more, and I’ve never been able to notice a difference. Providing you use a merchant that has a good reputation for understanding colour, you shouldn’t have any issues.

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The Best Alternative to Farrow and Ball Estate Emulsion

 

Estate Emulsion may have its issues, but it’s essentially a very low matt emulsion. This gives a very soft, contemporary look to a room. I quite like low-sheen emulsions, and agree they look good.

If you want a good quality trade alternative that has the same finish as Estate Emulsion, but doesn’t show defects like flashing, covers in less coats, is cheaper, and is more durable, then I’d suggest looking at Johnstone’s Trade Perfect Matt.

This is Johnstone’s most premium emulsion, and it was developed to out-perform designer brands on quality and performance. You’ll find it easy to use and the finish sublime. You won’t see any defects, even in a light critical room. It even has a class 1 scrub rating!

The Best Alternative to Farrow and Ball Modern Emulsion

 

It isn’t difficult to find an alternative to Modern emulsion. Any good quality trade durable matt emulsion would be fine, but I think I’d go with Crown Trade’s Clean Extreme Scrubbable Matt as my first choice, which is a product I have loved for years.

This is a reasonably priced paint, you’ll find it easier to apply than Farrow and Ball Modern emulsion, better opacity, and much more durable! It’s a joy to use too. It just sort of glides on and settles really nicely on itself.

There are durable matt emulsion paints with less sheen, but I chose Crown Clean Extreme for its superior durability and overall finish.

An Alternative to Farrow and Ball Exterior Eggshell

 

I quite like using Farrow and Ball Exterior Eggshell. It always looks good, but the issue I have with it, is it doesn’t seem to last. I’ve used it on everything from front doors to windows and even a garden fence, but I go back to jobs a year or two later and it has already started to fail.

The alternative I recommend is Zinsser Allcoat Water-Based Satin. This is actually a multi-surface paint, so you can use it on basically anything, including wood, plastic, composite and masonry. It’s easy to use, has great adhesion, is self-undercoating, and you can apply multiple coats in a day.

The opacity in any tinted colours is spot on, however white sometimes needs an extra coat. The finish is brilliant, colour matches aren’t an issue, and it ages well. No bleaching or peeling that I’ve ever seen. I can’t recommend this product enough.

An Alternative to Farrow and Ball Interior Eggshell

 

Farrow and Ball have two eggshell paints. Well, Estate Eggshell and a satinwood called “Modern Eggshell”. The main difference between the two is sheen level; Estate being around 20% and Modern being 40%.

I know I’m writing a blog on alternatives to Farrow and Ball Paint, but it seems a bit daft writing one for their interior eggshell products, simply because they’re good paints.

Nether the less, that’s what I’m here to do, and there are trade alternatives available that are either comparable in terms of quality, or better, and certainly cheaper.

Alternative to Estate Eggshell

The alternative I’d like to put forward for Farrow and Ball Estate Eggshell is Crown Fastflow, which is another water-based paint. Well, mostly water-based. This paint is a hybrid, meaning it contains a little bit of alkyd oil to help with flow and durability.

You’ll find it cheaper and performs about the same as Farrow and Ball. You should use an adhesion primer if painting over old oil, but Fastflow Undercoat is good stuff. It’s easy to apply, durable, and always produces great results.

Alternative to Modern Eggshell

Farrow and Ball Modern Eggshell used to be called “floor paint”. It’s actually a satin paint used on interior woodwork such as doors, skirting boards and other trim.

I do have an alternative that happens to be one of the best water-based satinwood products available. Johnstone’s Aqua Guard is a fantastic paint! You will need to use an undercoat, but the finish is gorgeous and it’s VERY durable. This is by far the most popular satinwood paint amongst Professional Decorators!

Final Thoughts

 

I just wanted to reiterate that I don’t have an issue with Farrow and Ball as an entity. I find their interior eggshell paints and  wallpaper really good quality. Their colour and design service also gets glowing reviews (although I haven’t used it myself).

However, as a Decorator, when a client asks me to apply F&B Emulsion or Exterior Eggshell, I do explain its shortcomings and advise on the alternatives to Farrow and Ball Paint.

Alternatives to Farrow and Ball Paint – by Mike Gregory

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What do Other Decorators Think?

The last few jobs that we’ve done were the customer requested Farrow and Ball, we used colour match from Crown Trade.

Laurence Larcombe

Professional Decorator

Dulux Heritage is one of the best alternatives to Farrow and Ball. The only issue is that you can’t colour match. It’s better quality though.

Brown Martyn

Professional Decorator

For me, it’s got to be Johnstone’s Perfect Matt. It’s about as durable as Farrow and Ball Modern Emulsion but has the same chalky finish as Estate Emulsion. I know Perfect Matt is a premium product, but it’s still cheaper than Farrow and Ball and it takes less coats to cover.

Ste Dunes

Professional Decorator

Most definitely Dulux Heritage paint, it’s by far superior finish and more maintainable than Farrow and Ball.

They have a great colour range, plus they can mix most of the standard Dulux colours too.

Gary Marsh

Professional Decorator

Johnstone’s Durable Matt is a good alternative to Farrow and Ball. It’s a good 99% colour match too. Valspar trade only 84% match accuracy apparently.

Tim Blake

I’ve always used Johnstone’s mixed at Brewers Decorating Centre – perfect matching every time, I also know if I did have an issue the staff will sort it out without hesitation. Johnstone’s is the best alternative to Farrow and Ball in my opinion.
David Wilson

Professional Decorator

The best Value for money alternative (as in price) would be Johnstone’s and I’ve never had any issues with the colour match. I also did large Georgian property recently and used Caparol PU Satin as a Farrow and Ball alternative.

Richard Donachie

Professional Decorator

I’ve never had an issue with Johnstone’s Trade Paint. I’ve been using them to colour match for years.

Painter Paul

Decorator

Updated Mar 10, 2024 | Posted Oct 13, 2023 | 3 comments

3 Comments

  1. K

    What is the best alternative to farrow and ball primer/undercoat for preparing a varnished wooden fire surround before painting with F & b eggshell

    Reply
  2. Mark

    Valspar V&Co. Very tough and durable (Class 1 Scrub rating), dead flat matt, life kind formula (allergy UK accreditation), improved formula to prevent flashing, even on dark colours. Can be matched to 2.2 million colours. Never had a single complaint from retail customers or decorators.

    Reply

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