Best Contract Matt Emulsion on the Market

Updated Feb 29, 2024 | Posted Aug 27, 2019 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 5 comments

Trade quality contract matt emulsion is something that comes up on the Decorators Forum UK on a regular basis and everyone seems keen to work out which is the best on the market. I regret to say, there are many I have yet to use, but I can take you through the ones I have.

Contract matt is normally used to prime bare plaster as it contains little in the way of polymer binders and allows the plaster to breathe. It is also the perfect base coat for other emulsion type products. You can use it as a finish coat on ceilings which is the big test as a lot of emulsions show blemishes when used on light critical ceilings.

Contract matt is often used as a finish coat on newbuilds for a few reasons. The first being it’s cheap, but it tends to have better opacity than vinyl matt which means fewer coats. Some brands touch up well, which is ideal for snagging and homeowners tend to paint over a “builders finish” anyway.

The massive downside of contract matt is it isn’t very durable. durability isn’t an issue on most ceilings, but you may want to look at a more substantial product as a finish coat on your walls.


Macpherson Eclipse Contract Matt


Eclipse is probably the best value contract matt emulsion on the market in my opinion. The opacity of this stuff is fantastic. You can easily cover bare plaster in two coats. It’s dull as well, meaning you don’t have many issues with flashing and roller marks.

Macpherson touches up reasonably well, meaning you can snag a room after other trades have been in and butchered your work. 8/10 for me! You can buy better contract matt paint products, but not for the same sort of money. Click here to see online prices.


Armstead Contract Matt


Armstead is the cheapest on this list and it is a little bit more durable than the others. Unfortunately, the sheen level used to be an issue with this contract matt, but it’s improved over the years. Now it leaves a good finish with less defects. The opacity is great too. I really like this product. Click here to see online prices.


Johnstone’s Jonmat – Premium Contract Matt


Jonmat is a bit strange! Opacity is absolutely bang on! It’s easy to apply as well and it dries flat. The issue you have with it is the drying time, and no, it doesn’t take too long. In fact, it dries as it leaves the brush. Great for spraying but a bit of a pain via brush and roller. You can’t touch it up at all. Jonmat is quite expensive as well. 6/10 Click here to see online prices


Leyland Leytex


Leytex is very cheap, powdery and heavy. So much so you get a lot of heavy sediment at the bottom of your bucket. Horrible to apply via brush and roller, and flashes like crazy. It’s not very good as a mist coat either as it doesn’t seem to adhere very well, neither do other products when coating over the top of the Leytex. I have seen problems when decorators try to paint over Leyland Laytex with durable matt products. Surprisingly it looks amazing when it is sprayed. Not the best contract matt emulsion on the market, but you get what you pay for and I think Leyland Leytex is designed specifically for the spray painters. To them, this is gold. 6/10 Click here to see online prices.


Leyland Contract Matt


Also available at Johnstone’s Decorating Centres, the Leyland contract matt sits in-between Leyland Leytex and Jonmatt and is more what I’d call a “standard contract matt”. It does everything you need it to do!! Opacity is good, it primes bare plaster and it doesn’t flash too much. The other advantage is its another cheap product. If you shop at Johnstone’s, then this is the one I’d go for. 7/10 Click here to see online prices.


Tikkurila Anti-Reflex


Now the Anti-Reflex, I didn’t know whether to include this or not as it’s close to being a durable matt emulsion, but advertised as a contract matt. It has a soft, luxurious deep finish which looks second to none. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best emulsion paints for a ceiling. Opacity is poor and you can only use it on bare plaster when applying Anti-Reflex as your topcoat. Tikkurila Anti-Reflex is probably the best finish on a light critical ceiling you can get. It is just lovely! I’m still not sure whether its a contract matt though!! 9/10 Click here to see online prices.


Dulux Supermatt


This is by far the best quality contract matt on this list. Opacity is bang on, it dies nice and flat, you can get it tinted into any colour and it looks lovely in white. With quality comes a bigger price tag and Supermatt is also very expensive. 9/10 Click here to see online prices.


Valspar Trade Contract Matt Emulsion


Valspar Trade are going from strength to strength with their new and improved reformulated paint products. Their contract matt can be used on bare plaster without the need to thin the product prior to use.

Valspar Trade is easier to use than most other contract matt paints. It doesn’t seem to drag as much as you’re applying it, and the overall finish is spot on. The opacity on application is poor, but it bleaches out as it dries, so don’t panic. Great finish too! I love this paint, it’s one of the best contract matt emulsion products on the market.

Available from B&Q. Click here for a full review


Best Tools to Apply Contract Matt


Contract matt is high opacity, but because of the lack of polymer binders, it is very porous. This means without the correct tools; your paint will drag. This will not only make life difficult when applying contract matt, but it will also lead to defects such as flashing, particularly on a ceiling.

You should use a long-pile roller. The best roller for contract matt is the Purdy Colossus in my book. You will need to de-lint it before use, but no other roller holds more paint. It makes applying generous coats of contract matt very easy. Click here to see online prices.

As for the brush, you need something with a thick stock and will hold its shape. Again, it needs to hold a good amount of paint, otherwise it will drag. My recommendation is the Purdy Monarch Elite XL, which will make short work of any contract matt. Click here to see current prices.



Is contract Matt the same as emulsion?

Contract matt is a cheap emulsion with very little polymer binder. This makes it less durable than vinyl matt emulsion, and just about any other option to be honest.


Can I use contract Matt as an undercoat?

A lot of Decorators still use cheap contract matt as a primer for bare plaster before applying more expensive paints. This isn’t the best option and can cause issues further down the line. Instead, you should check the data sheet of the product you are using as your topcoat and follow the instructions.


Do you need to water down contract matt paint?

It depends on the contract matt you’re using, but as a rule, yes. Contract matt drags as you’re applying it, which can lead to roller marks and picture framing. A little bit of water will help with flow. Plus, you should always dilute any paint for the first coat on bare plaster.

The Best Contract Matt Emulsion on the Market – by Mike Gregory

Updated Feb 29, 2024 | Posted Aug 27, 2019 | 5 comments


  1. Dermot O Callaghan

    Agree with the Macphersons Eclipse, very good for new work, also agree that the Armstead isn’t a great product, really struggles to cover new plaster. My favourite is Crown Super Covertex, great on new plaster and pretty good going over previously painted ceilings, but not on your reviewed list…

  2. Richard Scott

    Yep totally agree with all of the above

    • Chris

      If using Macpherson Eclipse to do a mist coat, is that then good to be painted over with colour of choice? Basically I want it to be the mist coat for new plaster (plan to dilute it 40%) then plan to finish it with something else – likely a matt ( possibly vinyl) paint.

  3. Richard

    Macpherson Eclipse by a country mile.
    Jonmatt poor roller marks show, and touch up terrible a disaster for new builds other trades .
    Amstead too shiny, good for landlord cheap rental walls maybe as seems a touch more wipeable than rest.

  4. OJ

    Can you paint Dulux ‘Diamond Matt’ or any other durable matt paints OVER existing contract matt?


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