Oil-Based Paints – questions and answers

Updated Jan 25, 2023 | Posted May 24, 2021 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 1 comment

I’ve been a professional decorator, and decorating geek for the best part of two decades. In that time, I’ve used an array of different products. I thought I’d take a little bit of time to sit down and talk you though the most commonly asked questions surrounding oil-based paints such as gloss, satinwood and eggshell. I hope you find it useful.


Why does oil-based paint go yellow?


The discolouration of oil-based paints over time is known as “yellowing”. This occurs because the oil used in oil-based paints is an alkyd, and yellowing is an unfortunate property of alkyd oils.

Yellowing never used to be much of an issue, however tighter and tighter EU rules have restricted the amount of chemicals known as VOCs each paint manufacturer can use. It is these VOCs that once prevented oil-based paint from going yellow. Luckily, as oil-based paint has diminished in quality, water-based technology has come a long way.

The discolouring isn’t restricted to white paint. Any oil-based paint will discolour over time, especially when used inside.


Does oil-based undercoat go yellow?


Not really, oil-based undercoat doesn’t contain very much oil compared to the finish products. That said, undercoat should not be left as a finish. After all, it’s designed to act as a base for other products to stick to. If left, you will find it difficult to keep clean.


How do you keep white oil-based paint from turning yellow?


The first thing to do is opt for a trade quality paint and spend a bit of time looking at the various different products available. If you want a gloss finish, have a look through this comparison guide and choose something you think will last. Make sure you use an interior product too. Satinwood and eggshell paint will, (in general terms), not discolour as quickly as gloss. This is because it does not contain as much alkyd oil.

Paint will not yellow as quickly if it is exposed to UV light. You’ll often notice paint in rooms such as hallways will yellow rather quickly and the back of cupboard doors can yellow within weeks!!


Do Exterior Paints Yellow?


Exterior paint is generally exposed to higher levels of UV light which prevents it from yellowing. Tinted colours can be damaged by this same UV light and start to fade, but, exterior paints hold their colour for much longer. If you were to use an exterior oil-based paint inside your home, then you will almost certainly have issues with yellowing.


Is Oil-Based Paint Being Phased Out


Yes, in the same way diesel cars are being phased out and we’re being pushed towards electric. Legislation is getting tighter around oil-based paint, which is pushing manufacturers to develop viable water-based alternatives.

I’m almost 40, so less than halfway through my career as a professional decorator. I believe that before I retire, I will see the last oil-based paint being used in peoples’ homes. There has already been a big shift in the way of water-based.


Does Oil-Based Paint Still Have its Place?


Yes, absolutely. My customers seem to be moving away from oil-based gloss, but I still use oil-based satinwood on a regular basis. I can see why too; it leaves a richer finish than most water-based products.


Is Water-Based Any Good?


You can achieve a lovely finish with some of the water-based satinwood products out there. WRX and Johnstone’s Aqua Guard in particular are very good. The benefit of these products is they will never discolour.

There are a lot of water-based products out there that will give you a nice finish, but they’re not very durable. A good finish is pointless if you can’t give your painted surfaces a wipe down, or they get chipped and scuffed every time they get a knock.

Water-based gloss technology is improving, but to my mind, it has a long way to go. Brush marks, low sheen level and poor opacity are all problems you should expect to experience.


What is a Hybrid?


A hybrid is primarily water-based with an oil carrier. It acts as a compromise between oil and water-based paints. For example, a hybrid will yellow, but nowhere near as quickly as a true oil-based paint would. A hybrid might be more durable than water-based, but not as durable as oil-based. A hybrid might be easier to use than water, but not as easy as an oil…. You get the idea. Teknos Futura 90 is a good example of a great hybrid gloss product.

Oil-Based Paints – Questions and Answers – by Mike Gregory

Updated Jan 25, 2023 | Posted May 24, 2021 | 1 comment

1 Comment

  1. Jack Wardley

    oil based alkyd paints dont have any linssed oil in them that would be linseed paint. alkyd solvent based paints are a synthetic oil which is what a alkyd is dissolved in white spirit. linseed paints are a whole other animal.


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