Best Emulsion for walls and Ceilings

Updated Jul 3, 2024 | Posted Sep 4, 2019 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 25 comments

In this blog I’m going to take you through the choices I think you should consider when deciding on the best emulsion for walls and ceilings. I’ll explain the different finishes available, and then offer up the best products for each.

The first thing to bear in mind, as any Decorator will tell you, is to buy trade paint. It may be a little more expensive, but it’s far superior to retail. Just because a tin of paint has the word “Dulux” on it, don’t think that automatically makes it a good choice.

Unless you’re entitled to a trade discount, it’s generally cheaper to buy trade paint online. If you’re looking for an online paint supplier, then you won’t go far wrong with The Decorating Centre Online, who offer great prices and can generally match colours across different brands. So, you could get a Farrow and Ball colour in, say, a Johnstone’s Trade product.


The Different Paint Finishes Available and Where You Should Use Them


There are different types of emulsion and each one suits different rooms. I’ll take you through them briefly.

  • Vinyl Matt – This is your standard emulsion that can be used in most rooms in your home. The finish is low sheen, but it isn’t very durable. So, you wouldn’t use it in a kitchen, bathroom, or high traffic areas.
  • Durable Matt Emulsion – As the name suggests, durable matt has a similar finish to vinyl matt, but is more durable. This is the best emulsion to use in a kitchen, high traffic areas, or if you have pets or small children.
  • Acrylic Eggshell – This is a step up in durability again and is better suited for bathrooms and areas of your home that suffer from condensation. The sheen level of eggshell is higher than matt, which leads to a less desirable finish.

The Best Vinyl Matt Emulsion for Walls and Ceilings

Armstead Vinyl Matt

Armstead is the value brand owned by AkzoNobel, who also manufacture Dulux. I wasn’t going to include any of the value paints; however, Armstead is quite an interesting one. Sold side by side with Dulux in Dulux Decorator Centres, Armstead is by far the cheaper product.

It also has a lower sheen level, meaning you experiance less problems with picture framing and roller marks. The only downside is the opacity isn’t great in the pale colours, meaning you sometimes need to apply a third coat to cover a very strong colour.

That said, I do still love this paint. It’s a proper trade quality emulsion that leaves you with a great finish and is reasonably priced.

Johnstone’s Covaplus

Covaplus from Johnstone’s is everything you need from a vinyl matt. Price wise it sits in the middle of the other options on this page. Opacity and ease of use are good, and you can expect a true flat matt finish. Johnstone’s Decorating Centre are very good at matching colours from other brands.

Covaplus is up there as one of the best standard vinyl matt emulsion paints available, and it is the industry leader amongst Professional Decorators. There are better products available, but you will need to pay a premium to use them.

The Best Premium Matt Emulsion For Walls and Ceilings


The products I have talked about so far on this blog are the best of the standard trade paints, and are probably the most popular. However, there are premium paints available that are even better. I tend to stay away from designer brands, simply because they often come at an inflated price which doesn’t reflect the quality.

If you don’t mind paying a little bit more, and you genuinely want the best emulsion for walls and ceilings, then either of the two products I’m about to talk about are perfect.


Johnstone’s Perfect Matt

Johnstone’s Perfect Matt is a high-end product designed to out perform luxury designer brands such as Neptune or Little Greene. It does just that too.

Perfect matt has a very flat finish which is lovely and rich. You can touch this paint up without issue, there is never any flashing, and it is even fairly durable. Ease of use and opacity are bang on as well.

Paint manufacturers normally design paint backwards. They work out what a product needs to cost to fit a certain place in the market, then produce the best product they can for that budget.

Johnstone’s perfect matt is different. They made the best emulsion they possibly could and worried about the price afterwards! It is expensive though. In fact, it’s double the price of Covaplus. If price isn’t an issue, then this genuinely one of the best options on the market.


Dulux Heritage Velvet Matt

This is another high-end paint for walls and ceilings. Dulux Heritage Velvet Matt is absolutely stunning in every way! Flow and opacity are spot on, and it feels silky when you apply it. The finish is so deep and rich that you will notice the quality every time you walk into the room.

It is expensive, but the price tag is justified. The only real downside is the limited choice of colours. Don’t get me wrong, the colours Dulux have picked out are all stunning, much more desirable than the Farrow and Ball colours in my opinion. However, there are only a few dozen pre-mixed offerings. All the rest of the paint products on this list can be matched into any colour.

Dulux Heritage Velvet Matt

The Best Durable Matt Emulsion for Walls and Ceilings


 Dulux Diamond Matt

If you need something a little bit more durable, then Dulux Diamond Matt is probably the best in my opinion. It isn’t quite as durable as some of the other options like Crown Clean Extreme (which is also a good product), but the finish is unreal.

A lot of durable matt emulsion paints show defects like flashing and picture framing. Dulux Diamond Matt leaves a rich deep finish with no defects. Roller and brush marks blend into each other nicely, which results in a flawless finish.

Opacity is fantastic, except in white, which sometimes needs an additional coat. That is my only real gripe through. The quality of finish makes this the best emulsion for light critical kitchens and hallways. I love this paint!

The Best Acrylic Eggshell Emulsion


As explained earlier in the blog, acrylic eggshell has a higher sheen level than matt. This is less desirable on walls and ceilings. However, if you’re painting in a room with a lot of condensation, a bathroom, a busy kitchen, or a commercial setting, then the durability of eggshell makes it the best option.


Crown Clean Extreme Durable Acrylic Eggshell

Any eggshell emulsion is generally easy to use and flows well, particularly when applying the second coat.

The reason I chose Crown Clean Extreme is its overall appearance. Eggshell can, on occasion, look cheap and plasticky once applied.

Clean Extreme is different. The opacity is good, it’s easy to avoid defects, and the finish is spot on. It’s also very durable, and is available as an anti-mould paint, which helps in troublesome rooms.

The Best White Emulsion for Ceilings


There once was a time when it didn’t really matter which emulsion you used on a ceiling. Your ceiling would look great regardless. However, for whatever reason, we started experiencing more and more problems with roller marks.

Apparently paint formulations changed to adjust to changes in modern plaster products. Plus, more people now have large open plan rooms with lots of natural light. Suddenly, a ceiling can be a big feature of a room, so it needs to be flawless. A good ceiling paint needs to be low reflective. Avoid “brilliant white” and go for something softer.


Tikkurila Anti-Reflex

This was the first specialist ceiling paint to pop up on the UK market, and it soon became very popular amongst Decorators. It is still regarded as the best emulsion to use on a ceiling.

You can buy Anti-Reflex in white or pale colours. It’s easy to apply and leaves a great finish. It is genuinely the very best in terms of overall appearance. My only little gripe is the opacity, which isn’t very good, so apply generous coats using a long-pile roller.

It’s well worth it though. If you want the best finish possible on your ceilings, then this is the paint you should buy.

Teknos Teknoceiling

As you might guess from the name, Teknoceiling is another specialist ceiling paint. It is very similar to Tikkurila Anti-Reflex, in that it is a very low sheen emulsion. The finish isn’t quite as good as Anti-Reflex, but the opacity is far better. You will achieve a good finish in fewer coats.


Is vinyl matt emulsion better than matt?

If a paint is ladled “matt”, then is normally a retail paint that is comparable to contract matt. This type of paint does not contain very much polymer binder, which can lead to issues with dragging on application. Contract matt is not very durable either.

Vinyl matt emulsion is a similar product, but with more binders. This makes it a far better paint for walls and ceilings.


How many coats of emulsion should a wall have?

If you choose a good-quality emulsion, two coats are normally all you need on a wall or ceiling. Bare plaster occasionally takes a primer, followed by two full coats of emulsion. You should follow the instructions that come with your chosen paint.


Is matt or silk emulsion best for walls?

Silk is horrible! It looks dated and shows a lot of defects, including brush and roller marks. It also causes problems when you come to paint over it. Matt is much better than silk. Click here for more details.


What do Other Decorators Think is the Best Emulsion?

Tikkurila vinyl matt is the best paint for internal walls, without a doubt in my mind! It’s class 2 wet rub rating, amazing opacity and it goes so far! You can also touch it up without flashing.

Ian Crampsie

Professional Painter and Decorator

Haven’t tried all the fancy gear like Tikkurila, but I can recommend Johnstone’s Covaplus Vinyl matt. Damn! I’ve been using it for years and it hasn’t changed (maybe even improved). Any colour over any colour and it always looks great in two coats. Not too thin not too thick. It is readily available and always in stock, and hey… the price. The price is sooo right. I just love it. Easily my favourite paint for interior walls and ceilings.

George De Best

Professional Painter and Decorator

I think Albany is the best emulsion for walls. It is brilliant emulsion.

Robin Nathan

Professional Painter and Decorator

Valspar Trade tough matt is brilliant paint, goes a miles and the coverage is awesome.

Gavin Baker

Professional Painter and Decorator

Teknos Pro5 has been my “go-to”, this year and is easily one of the best paints for walls and ceilings. Opacity is superb, colour matches from Topdec have been spot on, dries to a superb flat matt which helps hide any surface imperfections and when dry, the finish has the flat chalky appearance, associated with much more expensive paints.

Add into the mix that, once cured, it has a class 1 scrub rating, is over-coatable in 1hr and it’s hard to overlook in favour of other paints.

Scott Dowie

Professional Painter and Decorator

Tikkurila is the best emulsion for walls and ceilings. Add a wee bit water and it goes for miles, doesn’t flash and touches up well.

George Armour

Professional Painter and Decorator

Tikkurila vinyl Matt feels like an old-school matt emulsion.

Adam Featherstone

Professional Painter and Decorator

Tikkurila, Johnsons, crown, MacPherson; I use them on a daily basis…all great paint products… (opacity, viscosity, coverage).

John Donnelly

Professional Painter and Decorator

MacPherson Eclipse is the best paint for a ceiling- cheap as chips and covers over everything, including silk, with no problem.

Nino Termine

Professional Painter and Decorator

Valspar trade is very good, covers well, finishes flat and goes on nicely with just a drop of water added.

Martin Gater

Professional Painter and Decorator

The best emulsion for walls and ceilings is one that doesn’t flash if brushed.

One that doesn’t come off with a damp sponge when wallpapering.

One that is durable for family life.

Tikkurila Optiva5 then.

Phil Beckwith

Professional Painter and Decorator

Not 👑 crown Trade Vinyl Matt lol. Johnstone’s Durable Matt, or Valspar Trade Durable Matt are the best for me.

Lee Richard

Professional Painter and Decorator

Blog written by Mike Gregory– Professional Painter, Decorator and Blogger

Updated Jul 3, 2024 | Posted Sep 4, 2019 | 25 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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  1. James

    I have been using dulux trade vinyl Matt emulsion for 21 years and never had a problem with it. Does have a higher sheen level I agree. Prob use a flat Matt for ceilings but For walls VM is absolutely fine.

    • Chrissy

      Just put some on my ceiling and wish I hadn’t started. It looked bright white before painting the dulux looks as though it’s dirty not brilliant white at all .. looks darker than the previous white and has a greyish tinge. Trying to lighten the room snd it’s having opposite effect. Dulux more expensive than previous paint used and half the product 🤦‍♀️

    • John Scott

      Sorry James but I totally agree with the author. Dulux Trade vinyl matt brilliant white is no-where near the standard it once was.
      It now flashes terribly and working on your own there’s no way you can blend in the cutting in with the roller. Hence “picture framing”.

      I’ve been a P&D since I began a 4 Yr apprenticeship in 1976 and Dulux is frankly overpriced for what it is.

      In the 70s Valspar was a go to paint for the trade then lost out to Dulux, Crown, Johnstons and Macphersons. However I’ve now started using Valspar again on walls.

      The reason we’re all on this site is obvious. We are not happy with the standard of finish from modern day B/W for ceilings.

      Dulux and Johnstons are obviously well aware of the problems hence their “flawless” matt finish appearing on the market. But goodness me! How do you justify £120 for a 10 litre tub of emulsion 😳

      Thank you Mike for the reviews. I took your advice on the Tikkurila. Two coats over a smoke stained artex ceiling may not have produced a brilliant white ceiling but the client was impressed none-the-less. Dried perfectly even.

      Oh well, only 3 and half years to retirement at 66 and by then Ill be too knackered to care 😴

  2. Paul Gruber

    I find Albany supercover a fantastic paint,good coverage and flat matt

  3. Michael

    Allways used Dulux vinyl Matt on walls, on celings well take your pick on high matt finish

  4. Alex

    I agree, although the Dulux range does seem to cover well I find that on some walls and ceilings that have a lot of natural light coming through you get shadowing affect which can make if look patchy, I’ve tried using finer roller heads and still get complaints, I find using the Armstead on ceilings has helped, and I tend to use Johnstone’s cove plus on the walls although on some colours I have had to apply 3 coats to get a decent covering, Johnstone’s have recently bought out a new product called perfect matt which I have yet to try but other decorators that have used it seem to swear by it, I guess it’s each to there own at the end of the day, but I find Johnstone’s and Armstead are the products that work for me at the moment.

  5. jan gorsuch

    Please could you tell me what is best for woodwork, especially in the hall. I would like a matt durable, washable product? Dulux oil based eggshell has been recommended, any good?

    • Mike Cupit

      Dulux oil-based eggshell would be perfect

      • John Scott

        I’m sure Mike would agree, don’t use white or B/W oil based Dulux eggshell. The white especially will look more like a cream than a white within a few months.

        I love Dulux oil-based eggshell which I use in my own home. The finish, in my opinion, is unmatched after applying two coats to prepared woodwork.

        However go for a very pale off white and it will tone in with most colour schemes. Any future marks can be removed with a well known kitchen cleaner.

  6. tim surmeli

    builders told me to get farrow and ball…thoughts on this before i go out and spend a fortune!

    • John Scott

      If you have a country estate home tim go for it.

      Otherwise don’t! In a busy home you will live to regret its use. Lovely finish no argument but you will need to re-paint the entire room or wall if it gets scuffed.

      You can’t sponge it and you can’t touch it up as it will flash.

      For the record I’ve actually worked in country estate houses so know what I’m talking about. Now heading to retirement after 46 yrs in the trade.

  7. Hilary

    It has been really enlightening for me to be brought up to speed this morning, looking for a good FLAT MATT emulsion. I was brought up in our family`s small decorating business, employing at one time 12 decorators but going down to 4, (from the the back of the shop) which started 100 years ago this year. I eventually took over the business (aged 40) when my Dad retired, giving in to his earlier opinion when I left school that “girls don`t do that”. I have retired from the decorating business but am still involved in the refurbishment side of building, gravitating and recommending Armstead to anyone who asks my opinion but after reading this most interesting article I shall definitely be going for Johnstone`s when quality is marginally more important than cost. Thank you for writing it.

    • Mike Cupit

      What a nice comment. Thank you Hilary

      • Lisa

        Hi Mike
        Please can you tell me what is the best white Matt paint to use to touch up the walls in a new build? Also I have some skirting boards and windowsills to paint that just have the primer on. What is the best paint to use as I don’t want gloss or a high sheen finish? Thank you

  8. Maria Malone

    I have a whole house to decorate from plaster and I am going to use a paint sprayer can you recommend a paint please? I need to do the first wash what would you suggest and then for the main coats thereafter? If you need to know the sprayer it is a Wagner Airless ControlPro 250 M Paint Sprayer. Thanks

  9. John B

    Hi All …,What ever paint you choose, just try and ditch that roller for a bit of ‘laying off’. We’ve come a long way from Artex so why spoil it with Orange Peel. ?

    • John Scott

      Nice memory John. You obviously haven’t brushed a ceiling with an eight inch brush! It was damned hard work keeping your edge going I can tell you.

      Most ceilings today are too “hot” to lay off as you roll it.
      Surely it creats scuff marks and flashes? Either that or you’re faster than a greyhound with a banger up its bum!

      A good quality Sheepskin roller (worn in) will leave a smooth finish if you gently roll over the area you’ve painted before reloading with more paint. It’s worked for me over 40 yrs 😉

  10. Steve

    Great advice which we listened to, bought Johnstone’s John Matt as a base coat then two coats of Johstone’s Covaplus. Best decision ever made. Much less mess than when previously covering fresh plaster and an excellent matt finish. Very pleased with the result

  11. Murray Hutchison

    Bought Dulux (water based )eggshell to cover existing eggshell on wooden doors. Big big mistake. 3 coats later and am giving up and going to recycle what is left ie£20 worth. It’s dreadfully thin and hard to paint flat even with the recommended synthetic brush. Such a poor product. Off to get Johnstone’s eggshell to save me hours of recoating time.

  12. James Walker

    My painter used Macpherson Trade Vinyl Matt on freshly plastered walls and ceilings. Just a mist coat on the walls which seem fine but a mist followed by a regular coating for the ceilings.

    The walls are fine. The ceiling paint comes off with the frog tape.

    Is this normal? Painter is saying that it is.

    • John Scott

      Hi Mike. As a painter I can assure you the paint is not the problem. It’s 100% the new plaster. Even with a mist coat as a primer the emulsion can’t adhere to the plaster as its very likely got a powdery surface.

      As I’ve said a few times on here (with apologies to Mike) I’ve been decorating since 1976. The building trade has changed very much since then. H&S has improved immensely but standard of workmanship can be really poor. We now have young kids joining building sites with level 3 qualifications after only two years in a college.

      I mentored a young lady to level 3 in P&D and ironically this was in a college! After 2 years she was better qualified than I was. My job description was Estates Painter. She was then listed as Estates Painter & Decorator. Yet she couldn’t climb a set of steps to cut in despite my constant encouragement.

      Having both been made redundant she no longer paints!

      Sorry for the tale but it’s to prove my point.

      Back to the emulsion problem James!

      Plasterers, when I began my trade polished the surface of plaster. I mean polished to a mirror finish. Today they will flatten but with time constraints will not polish. Time is money. Get it done quick, make loadsa money. You thought Harry Enfield was joking. Oh no he wasn’t!

      The harder the surface of new plaster the better the the emulsion will adhere to it.

      How many reading this have papered over your nice painted newly plastered walls a few years later? Yep, and when you pull off your paper to redecorate? Layers of emulsion stuck to the back of the paper. Then the nightmare of removing the rest of the loose emulsion and skimming over the scars with filler.

      So don’t blame your painter or the paint. It’s a society that wants things done quickly with poor preparation and quick as you can application of paints and decorative products. After all, it’s only a lick of paint, not rocket science! It’s sad that when I began work I was proud to be a decorator and tradesman. Now, well if you can get the lid off your plastic tub of paint, you’ve cracked it.

      1994+ Painting & Decorating Association decorators of the year? Two office workers took early retirement and started a P&D business.

      Good luck to them both but I quickly dumped my expensive membership!

      Happy painting everyone.

  13. Steven

    Hi Mike about to decorate a whole house and looking for a washable / scrubbable trade Matt so it’s suitable for a household with young children and pets.

    I noted on your Covaplus review you say “If you finish decorating a room, then scuff a wall whilst you’re moving furniture back, or putting a certain rail up, then I’m afraid you’re painting that wall again”. What product would you recommend in this instance?

    • Mike Cupit

      If you’ve got the budget, go for Johnstone’s perfect matt. If that’s a bit pricey, do for either Crown Clean Extreme or Johnstone’s durable matt

  14. Bryan Streek

    What do you think of Little Greene? Would value a professional opinion.

  15. Noradavis

    owned by AkzoNobel, who also manufacture Dulux. I wasn’t going to include any of the value paints; however, Armstead is quite an interesting one. Sold side by side with Dulux in Dulux Decorating Centres, Armstead is by far the cheaper product.
    It also has a lower sheen level, meaning you get less problems with picture framing and roller marks. The only downside is the opacity isn’t great in the pale colours, meaning you sometimes need to apply a third coat. Other than that, I think it is a far superior product to its Dulux counterpart and great vaule for money.


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