Old School Vs Modern Decorators

Updated May 18, 2024 | Posted Jul 10, 2022 | Life of a Decorator, Miscellaneous | 5 comments

I often see the same arguments over and over on the Forum. It doesn’t take a genius to work out there are two main camps when it comes to professional decs. It’s always the old school Vs modern decorators who can’t see eye to eye. Not many, if any, sit between the two camps. The question is, who’s right?


The Differing Opinions Between Old-School and Modern Decorators


I’ve been in the trade around 20 years. Does that technically make me an old school decorator? I do keep up with modern techniques and I think I know which camp I’m in, so this blog may sound biased. Anyway, I figured I’d take you through some of the arguments we see and the opinions given by the two sides. You can make your own mind up.


Paint Brands


Old School

Johnos has gone sh1t, I’ve gone back to Dulux and Crown.


Modern Decorators

I keep playing around with different ceiling paints. The Tikkurila Anti-Reflex is my favourite, followed by Teknos Teknoceiling. Ahh, I love the flatter durable matt emulsions that are around now!! The Johnstone’s Perfect Matt, Teknos Pro5, WRX wall paint and Tikkurila Optiva 3 are all fantastic. Then Benjamin Moore Scuff X when it comes to trim!!


Water-Based Paints


Old School Decorators

Nothing gives you a better finish in fewer coats than oil-based. There’s no need to faff around. A good dog’s cock and a steady hand is all you need.


Modern Decorators

You’ll get a better finish with water-based paints than you ever could with oil. You just need to change the way you apply it. It’s quicker to apply, more environmentally friendly, sprays beautifully, never yellows and you can apply multiple coats in a day.


Taping Windows to Paint Them


Old School Decorators

There’s no skill left in the trade!! People can’t cut in anymore, yet they’re running around calling themselves professional decorators!! I was never even allowed to use tape on carpets because I needed to learn how to cut in!


Modern Decorators

Anyone can cut a window in, we’re not stupid. It takes more skill to tape a window than it does to cut in. You’ll also get sharper lines, particularly with water-based paints. Plus, it’s much quicker for multiple coats.




Old School

Spraying isn’t even part of the decorating trade, it’s a separate thing. By the time you’ve faffed around taping, I’d have had everything painted. Overspray will wreck cars. I’ve lasted in this trade for 130 years without a sprayer, I’m not going to start now. You can’t touch up with a sprayer. You get a better finish with a brush!


Modern Decorator

You can’t spray every job, but it does have its place. I know there are a lot of myths about spraying, but it’s generally quicker and you’ll always get a better finish. Plus, you’ll make much more money!!


What Makes a Good Decorator?


There is a massive difference between old-school Vs modern decorators, but for me, that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. That’s regardless of whether they use oil-based or water-based paint, or they use a sprayer instead of a roller.

Being a good Decorator is all about attention to detail and a good attitude. If a Decorator is clean, tidy, and genuinely cares about his or her work, then you can almost guarantee the work they carry out is top notch.

It does take a certain amount of experience. Being able to navigate the thousands of products that are available nowadays, or overcome an issue, comes with time in the trade.

You will get a fair idea of how good a Decorator is after their first day on the job. If everything is clean and tidy, and you can tell they’re getting stuck into preparation work, then the signs are good.


Final Thoughts


I’ve had a bit of banter in this blog, and there have been a few sweeping generalisations. My point still stands though. Although isn’t as black and white as I’ve made out. There are loads of Decorators out there who are somewhere in-between the two camps.

Updated May 18, 2024 | Posted Jul 10, 2022 | 5 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.


  1. Phil

    So I guess that makes me one of those decorators that falls into the in between camp! The job I’m on right now? I sprayed the trim and brushed and rolled walls and ceilings, so actually best of both worlds I’d say! I think generally it’s horses for courses out there. Some clients prefer the traditional methods to achieve their desired finish and some clients prefer sprayed with modern, cutting edge coatings. I’m flexible and more than happy to do whatever.

    • Mike Cupit

      great comment

  2. Andy Smith

    I couldn’t care less what other decorators do, old and modern. My background before decorating, was as a business analyst and that’s the approach I take to decorating. It’s about problem solving, taking on a project and doing it the most efficient way without compromising on quality. It’s about never accepting that you have found the best trim paint because thare are always new products coming onto the market and it’s logical to try them instead of dimissing them because you can’t be bothered. And it’s about never thinking you have a perfect technique – we should never stop learing and never stop trying new things. Perfection doesn’t exist because we should always be looking for something better.

    • Andy Smith's Dad


  3. Mark Williams

    An interesting question you pose “Old School vs Modern Decorators” with equally interesting comments.

    I will begin my assessment of your question with I firmly after 45 years in the trade place myself in the “old school” but with an added caveat?. I have as part of my trade been conditioned in certain respects to adhere to those skills I was taught as an apprentice, ie oil-based paints are better for certain jobs, taping up should not be necessary as your trade skills should include the skills to cut-in accurately without the use of tape except when absolutely necessary i.e spraying, or intricate paintwork. Other aspects have also become a conditioned response such as using and adapting materials and paints in the most economical and efficient way which involves paint mixing and selecting the correct paint systems for the appropriate substrates but not being confined, and I quote a famous advertising slogan used by Ronseal “It does what it says on the tin” Also an intrinsic part of our craft is working in sequential order of priority when planning work so has to bring a job together in and efficient and economical manner. There are numerous other aspects to our trade that are solely reliant on experience and the ability to adapt that collectively is what makes us professional craftsman/women.

    However all that said I do agree with some of the comments such as problem solving, efficient project management that increases efficiency without compromising on quality and an attitude that accepts continued professional development (CPD) as a necessary and productive progression. These things of course are part of both era`s and the truly enlightened craftsman/women will bridge both era`s easily while benefitting from both.

    M.W.\Painting Services


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