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Johnstone’s Aqua Satin and Gloss

Updated Mar 27, 2021 | Posted Apr 25, 2020 | Paints, Product Review | 5 comments

Johnstone’s Aqua water-based Satin and Gloss. For interior and exterior wood and metal

Johnstone’s Aqua Satin and Gloss Review

By Mike Gregory



Johnstone’s Aqua satin and gloss are known as water-based “trim products”, suitable for interior and exterior timber. The recoat time for these products is around 6 hours depending on conditions. You can buy Johnstone’s Aqua in white, or get it tinted into any colour from Johnstone’s vast colour range. It is available in 1, 2.5 or 5 litre tins.


The Review


I quite like Johnstone’s Aqua satin and gloss if I’m honest. It has a good body to it and feels like a true oil-based when applied via brush or roller. You can easily cut straight lines with it and manipulate the paint to do whatever you need it to. Opacity is good, you can lash heavy coats on without worrying about whether it will sag. Plus you can apply two coats in a day which is a bonus. The sheen level of the gloss is brilliant for a water-based paint and the satin leaves a nice luxurious dull finish. I really like the products, but there is a nack to using them, which I’ll explain later in my review. If you follow certain steps, you’ll never have an issue when applying Johnstone’s Aqua.


There is another downside and it is a fairly big issue. Johnstone’s Aqua satin and gloss will start to yellow and discolour over time, especially in low light conditions. More so than other “water-based” products on the market, but a lot less than anything oil-based. I’ll explain why in the next section.



Is Johnstone’s Aqua a Water-Based Paint?


“Aqua” means water, and the tin boasts “water-based technology”, but in fact, the Johnstone’s Aqua satin and gloss are both hybrids. This means, although the paint is primarily water-based, it contains an alkyd (or oil) carrier, so it’s a mix of water and oil!! They do this for a few reasons, water-based paints do solve a lot of problems, but they create some new ones. I’ll give you some examples;

An oil-based paint will yellow over time, clean-up is horrendous, there is a long wait in-between coats and they’re not very good for the environment.

A water-based paint is not as durable, opacity isn’t as good meaning extra coats are needed, it is harder to control when applying and you normally encounter brush marks.

A hybrid is a compromise on just about every issue I have just mentioned. The paint will yellow, but it’ll stay white a lot longer than an oil-based. It is more durable than water-based, but not as durable as oil. It is easier to control than water, but not as easy as oil. The list goes on!!



How to apply Johnstone’s Aqua


A lot of decorators who try Johnstone’s Aqua for the first time do not get on with it. This isn’t down to the paint being poor quality, but more to do with the decorator know knowing how to apply the product correctly.



Use the full system


People are always looking to cut a corner, but you really can’t when using Johnstone’s Aqua. You should always apply a full coat of Aqua undercoat prior to using the Aqua gloss or satin. This is for a few reasons, including adhesion and adding durability to your finished product. Not just that, but the Aqua satin and gloss always sits nicely on top of the undercoat to give a better finish.

Besides which, the Johnstone’s Aqua undercoat is brilliant!! Easy to apply, dries flat and has great opacity. It is one of the best “nearly water-based” undercoats on the market.


The normal procedure would be one coat of undercoat followed by two  top coats, whether going over previously painted or pre-primed. Three coat systems over previously painted surfaces are the norm for most water-based paints. There are a few products out there which only need two.


Get it wet


There is a little trick you can use to make things easier for you to apply the Aqua. Some people make the mistake of diluting the paint. This is pointless and by adding water to the product you speed up the drying process. What you can do is skim over your woodwork with a damp sponge just before you apply the paint. The paint then flies on and is a joy to use!


Brush Care


The amount of times I have heard a decorator labelling Johnstone’s Aqua satin and gloss as a “brush killer” is unreal. Johnstone’s Aqua can start to dry near the ferrule of the brush, causing the fibres to splay. This makes life hard work when applying Johnstone’s Aqua and wrecks your brushes, but there is a very simple solution. You always need to keep your brush wet! All you need to do is keep a small bucket of water handy on a job and give your brush a little swill out every now and again, simple!!


Clean up


Another point is washing your brush after the job. Remember Johnstone’s Aqua satin and gloss products do contain a small amount of oil, so water alone will not be enough to clean out of your paintbrush. Clean Spirit is designed to clean hybrid paints so that is your best option, but virosol will also work. In fact, white spirit will do the job too. Clean what paint you can from the brush using clean or soapy water, then use one of the three products I’ve just mentioned to finish the job off, dead easy!!



Best Place to Buy


There are two viable options for me on where to buy. You can either go directly to the source and buy from one of the Johnstone’s Decorating Centres which are nationwide. All the Johnston’s staff are very well trained and know each product intimately. They also have a great colour matching system. CLICK HERE to find more information on Johnstone’s decorating Centres.




If you want to save some money and you know exactly what you need, you will be better going online to a trade website like The Paintshed. The Paintshed aren’t only cheap, but they’ve got everything you could possibly need for any DIY project. CLICK HERE to visit The Paintshed.




What do Other Decorators Think?

I like the stuff and use both the satin and gloss as my go to. However:

  1. I’m not convinced it stays as white as claimed and it certainly yellows. I was comparing some doors I did 2 years ago with ones I’ve done today in the same house. Definitely yellowed.
  2. The gloss is more like a satin finish after a few months.
Andrew James Caizerques

On the positive side, it’s lovely to use and gives a really nice finish, and works well as a system. It’s probably the best sheen for a water-based gloss, blows certain other products out the water in that respect. HOWEVER, I do worry about it yellowing as it is definitely a hybrid, and therefore also kills your brushes! Aqua Guard, on the other hand, has become my “go-to” w/b satin when the budget doesn’t allow for Scuff-X (but I’d rather use Scuff-X all day long!).

Robin Gofton

The aqua undercoat very good. I would swap the Aqua Satin for their Aqua guard, but both are very good. Don’t rate the Acrylic satin as highly.

Richard David Thomas

I think it’s the best water-based gloss on the market. Their undercoat works for me every time. I’m a convert from oil-base. Find this gives more and it is easy to work with.

Martin Buggy

I use Johnstone’s aqua satin or gloss 90% of the time. Yes of course there is better, but price reflects.

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  1. Will Hambling

    Could anyone tell me any experiences they may have of using this paint outside? I know Johnstones say it is for exterior use, but is the durability of it comparable to the oil based paints?
    I am a professional decorator and am looking at switching to using water based products outside. I already use water based paint only inside, but have been dubious as to the claims made by the paint manufacturers regarding using water based paint outside.
    Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

    • Lee

      We started using this product a couple of years ago. I agree with all the feedback about coverage and feel etc. Durability has been a problem for us on exterior jobs, I have carefully overseen jobs to ensure proper preparation etc and have had customers complaining not even a year later. We have stopped using it on exterior jobs, interior all the way however!

      • Rosemary

        Used this outside last Summer and its just peeling off in places. I noticed when it was raining one day that the paint was blistering in spots some came off and some just stayed put. Very disappointed as it was a lit of picket fence and even some was new or we sanded it back to the bare timber . Far from been a newbie at painting and gave it 3 coats . The thoughts of having to repaint all that again🙈 after 9 months. .

  2. Neil Johnson

    I used Johnsons Aqua on 3 different jobs now, one has been on a million pound property, also my own.
    The coverage is great, finish fantastic, no sign of any decrease in the finish being outside, the Paint seems to harden off very well, as you say acts like an out and out oil based paint.
    A fantastic addition to a already great range of paints etc

  3. Will Hambling

    It is a lovely paint to use and the finish is excellent. But the yellowing it suffers from renders it a pointless product, in my opinion.
    And no matter how much you refresh your brush in water, as the day goes on, the brush does clog up as the hours pass by. Which means you need to have a lot of clean spirit in, to properly clean the brush at the end of every day.


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