Decorators Review Johnstone’s Aqua system

Updated Feb 4, 2023 | Posted Apr 23, 2020 | Product Review, Paints | 3 comments

Johnstone’s Aqua was recently voted the best water-based gloss and satin on the market by professionals from the Decorators Forum UK (research carried out in 2020). With this in mind, we decided to ask a number of decorators what they thought about the system.

First, let’s look at the paint. The important thing to remember when using the Johnstones’ Aqua SYSTEM, is you need to use it as a SYSTEM. That means you need to use the Johnstone’s Aqua undercoat before the gloss or satin. This if for both adhesion and opacity reasons. For more information on the Aqua range click here.

You can use Johnstone’s Aqua internally or externally. Recoat time is 4 – 6 hours for each product and you’re normally looking at 3 coats over previously painted or pre-primed surfaces. This is the perfect paint for woodwork such as doors, windows, skirting boards and basically anything else. Oh, and it can be tinted into any colour from Johnstone’s vast range. Quick tip – keep your brush wet (bucket of water handy) and you’ll find the Aqua a lot easier to work with.

You can buy this paint from any Johnstone’s Decorating Centre where you’ll get expert advice. However, it’s almost certainly cheaper to buy this paint online unless you qualify for a trade discount with favourable rates. Click here to see online prices.


NB – These comments were collected just before Johnstone’s launched their Aqua Guard, which is a fully water-based satinwood, but different to Johnstone’s Aqua Satinwood. Aqua Guard may be missing from the comments, but you can see a full review by clicking here.

Johnstone’s Aqua gloss is a great product. It’s a hybrid rather than a true water-based, but that doesn’t bother me too much. The undercoat adheres to old alkyd coatings without issue. It has great opacity too, which gives you the perfect base to work.

The gloss wrecks your brushes if you’re not careful. Just swill them out in a bucket of water every now and again and you’ll be laughing. It gives you a good finish though, better than any other water-based gloss I’ve tried.

Pete Marks

I have been working back on a job I did in sept 2016 today. Only to paint ceilings and walls after water damage, I can confirm the woodwork looks just as good today as it did when I finished in 2016 using the aqua undercoat and water based gloss, so we won’t be repainting it.

I have been using Johnstone’s Aqua for years because my old boss knew one day, all paint would be water-based.

At first, I hated it with a passion like with most things new. I couldn’t get it to cover, brush marks everywhere, tacking off to quick. Killing brushes.

Now it’s all I use when applying by brush and roller. And I feel I achieve brilliant results, like with most products if you stick with them and learn, you will make it work for you!

I haven’t managed to spray the water-based gloss successfully yet after 2 awful attempts, but the acrylic satin is perfect through the airless.

They both get a 👍 from me.

FineLine Decorating Northampton - best water-based gloss


I’m currently using the Johnstone’s Aqua Satin and undercoat. I found the consistency quite sticky, my brushes kept clogging up and coverage not great on new timber. However, it does smell lovely. 🤣

Carla Ross - Decorators Review Johnstone's Aqua

I’m a fan of satin, 2 coats on top of aqua undercoat and it looks brilliant every time. Aqua gloss is probably the best water-based version on the market. It is a brush killer though.

Michael Spearman

The satin is great. The Aqua water-based undercoat must be used, no cutting corners!! But it’s a great system. It is hard to clean your brushes out after you’ve finished with them though. I get most of the paint out with water, then use clean spirit to get the rest out.

Simon Young - best water-based gloss

Great stuff, just make sure you use the undercoat prior to the gloss and you’re onto a winner. The sheen level is close to oil-based, which is what you need.

Simon Sparrow

The Johnstone’s Aqua undercoat is superb gear which I use it all the time. Not too keen on the satin as it needs extra coats to be solid. Don’t use gloss so can’t comment on that.

Steven Markey


I use it a lot, I love it. Johnstone’s Aqua is easy to use and looks great.

Kirstin Williams

Pretty much all I ever use, great stuff. I even use it on my own home.

Gareth Williams - Decorators Review Johnstone's Aqua

I’ve used the gloss on a couple of jobs and it’s been decent. Not great on brushes but does say on tin to wash out in clean spirit. You do need to use the Aqua undercoat underneath otherwise your topcoat will not sit right.

Frank Mongan

100% good stuff. I use it every day at work. It goes on nicely and looks good.

Keith Gailey

It should be labeled correctly. As it’s a hybrid and not a true water-based, thus why it destroys brushes.

Dean Wilkes - Decorators Review Johnstone's Aqua

Very good, I have been using it for a couple years now. Does kill the brushes but even with that it’s good. 99% of the time even the white is a 2-coat system on top of previously painted wood.

Andrew Wood

My go to Satinwood every time! Not used the gloss yet, but I know a lot of other decorators rate it.

Nick Dixon

I use nothing else love it. Does trash your brushes though so I just buy cheaper brushes now like Axus or ProGold.

Richard Senior


Johnstone’s Aqua is a great paint with fantastic opacity and amazing finish. I get people mentioning wrecked brushes, but as long as you look after them, there’s no issue at all.

James Nuttall

The Aqua gloss is pretty decent but as already said, it can be a brush killer. Keep everything wet as you work.

Pete Mcnab

The Aqua undercoat and satin are great. They do knacker your brushes though.

Steve Saus Jones

Used the water-based Aqua gloss loads of times. Great shine to it so it’s a yes from me. One of the better water-based products around.

Jimmy Dykes

I absolutely love the undercoat and satin, not used gloss yet but I’ve heard great things about it.

Lisa Hurbz

I found my brushes died while using the Aqua gloss in the sunshine, they kept going hard. I worked out after a while that if you keep a small bucket of water handy and keep swilling your brush every now and again, they’ll last a lot longer and the product is easier to apply.

Joe Marsh

I Used the Aqua undercoat and aqua gloss on a quick tidy up for an insurance job this week. I could not fault the product or the results. My only moan is my brush took a bashing, more than any water-based paint previously used…. but happy to use again.

Peter Kirkham

The best “off the shelf” water-based gloss and satin I’ve used. Goes lovely with the Aqua undercoat. Use a cheap brush.

Paul Sharpe

I think it’s decent. I have been using Johnstone’s Aqua since it first came out and get a great finish from it. The only thing I’ll say is you need to keep your brushes wet or the Aqua will wreck them in no time at all.

Barry Spencer Taylor

Aqua undercoat is excellent, I also like the gloss as it’s a decent quick-dry option. I know it will eventually discolour but nowhere near as quick as oil based. Not a fan of the satin though.

Scott Connelly - Decorators Review Johnstone's Aqua

The only two thing I don’t like about Johnstone’s Aqua are; it wrecks your brushes and it’s a hybrid. Other than that it’s a great paint lol. Covers well, the opacity is good and it feels like an oil-based. I do use it from time to time.

Mike Gregory

Updated Feb 4, 2023 | Posted Apr 23, 2020 | 3 comments


  1. Mark Smith

    Best gloss & satin on the market, I use two sets of brushes with just the tips only in a drop of water in spare tub, once the brush starts starts to drag put the tips in the water & carry on with the other brush & keep alternating, come to think of it it’s what I do with all w/b trim paint they all drag eventually 🙄 You can Keep goIng all day like this!

    After use I always store them bristles covered in water In a GO PAINT CLEAN & Go pot with the mesh in the bottom so the paint drops out into the recess in the bottom Of the can.

    I clean them every 6/8 weeks in water followed by white spirt then a soak in Viro-sol & they’re as good as new.
    I haven’t lost any brushes since I’ve been doing this I found constantly cleaning them after each use destroyed them.

    I hear the new jonnos satin is very good but thanks to lock down not had chance to use it yet

    • Nigel Phillips

      Best brush to use with hybrid paint

  2. Richard

    The Satin does yellow at a quick rate, has the appearance of oil based but I find it a bit draggy, the armstead quick dry satin beats hands down.
    The Aqua gloss is superb paint, knocks spots off dulux, crown water based versions,
    If you use another undercoat it does not work as well.
    Don’t use Johnsones joncryl acyrlic undercoat primer as it’s porous and sucks the life out of Aqua gloss. Deffo 2nd coat gloss if case…
    Mistake l once tried.


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