Retail Paint or Trade Paint – What is the Difference?

Updated May 6, 2024 | Posted Sep 27, 2019 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 5 comments

The difference in retail paint Vs trade paint is quite significant and it’s important to know what you’re buying. Just because a tin of paint has the word “Dulux” or “Crown” on it, do not necessarily jump to the conclusion you’re buying quality.

The way a paint manufacturer designs a product is by first looking at the target audience, working out the cost a tin of paint should be for a retailer to sell a high volume. Then produce the best product they can for that budget.

Retail paint, the type you’ll find in places like B&Q or Homebase, is made for the DIY market. The paint is of a lower quality, made from cheaper materials and sold to people who don’t really know the difference.

Trade paint, the type you find at trade counters, is made for the professional decorator. The paint may cost a lot more; however, it is made from better quality materials and the product will perform to a higher level.

Some of the qualities that lack in retail paint Vs trade paint are opacity, ease of use, discolouration over time and durability. Not just that but trade paint will normally go further and exterior trade paint will last longer.


Dulux Matt Emulsion Vs Dulux Trade Vinyl Matt


I could have chosen any one of a thousand examples, but I chose an obvious one. Let’s talk about Dulux matt emulsion in comparison to its trade counterpart, which is Dulux Trade vinyl matt.


  • Opacity – Not as good, meaning you may need apply an additional coat of paint.
  • Durability – try to wipe a wall finished in Dulux matt and you will remove the paint. Trade paint will stand up to a light clean. This is due to the amount of polymer binders in each product.
  • Ease of use – Dulux matt remains porous, meaning moisture is drawn out of the second coat into the first and causes your brush or roller to drag. This is not only annoying, buy will restrict your capabilities when cutting a straight line.
  • Overall finish – The Dulux retail matt emulsion drags and pulls meaning you get a lot more issues with roller marks and brush marks. The sheen level is slightly lower with the retail, however the overall finish is compromised.
  • Coverage is poor, meaning you will need more paint per coat than if you were using trade.
  • Price – Dulux matt emulsion is about half the price as Dulux trade vinyl matt.

Dulux Weathershield Vs Dulux TRADE Weathershield


I thought I’d give you another little comparison. Dulux Trade Weathershield is probably the brand leader when it comes to exterior paints. However, the Dulux retail exterior paints are also called “Weathershield”. Apart from different images on the tin, the only difference you’ll notice when buying the paint is the word “trade” cannot be found on the retail tin.

Let’s have a look at the masonry paint (again, I could have chosen any product out of the Weathershield range and the results would be similar). Both the Dulux Trade Weathershield and Dulux Weathershield come in a range of colours, can be applied to bare masonry without the need for a separate primer and recoat time is roughly 2 – 4 hours. So, what is the difference between Dulux Trade Weathershield and Dulux Weathershield? The retail version is a lot cheaper, so it’s obvious they stuck to a tighter budget when choosing which materials they use.

The first real difference is opacity!! If you go for Dulux Weathershield retail masonry paint, then expect to have to apply an extra coat. The difference is drastic too, you can tell that Dulux have really cut back on pigment when manufacturing their retail paint.

The other big difference is the longevity of your finished product. Both the retail and trade versions claim “15 years protection”. I have seen properties painted in both Dulux Weathershield and Dulux Trade Weathershield and seen how both paint finishes age over time. The colour starts to fade in the retail paint long before that of the trade. For this reason alone, it’s a no brainer for me. I don’t understand why anyone would still opt to save a few quid on retail, have to apply an extra coat, then have to repaint it again sooner.


Where to Buy Trade Paint


If after reading this you still want to buy retail paint, get yourself down to any bog standard DIY store. Even B&Q or Homebased. Anywhere designed to sell to the homeowner. If you want a proper product to do a proper job, get yourself down to a Trade counter and buy directly from Dulux, Johnstone’s or Crown. All three of the big trade brands manufacture good quality trade products and you will get great advice by going directly to the source. The only downside is, unless you have a trade account with favourable terms, your paint will be very expensive. It is normally a lot cheaper to buy your paint online. The best website I know of for trade paint is The Decorating Centre Online. Not only will you pick up trade quality products at reasonable prices, but their colour matching service is second-to-non, meaning you can have a Farrow and Ball colour mixed into a Johnstone’s product if you wanted. Click here to visit Decorating Centre Online.

As for the best tools, that’s a whole new blog. However, we have put together our own Amazon Page which lists all the products a Professional Decorator would use. All the most popular, high-quality brushes, rollers, and other tools. Click here to visit.



Final Thoughts


OK, we’ve established that trade paint is more expensive than retail, but it is also better quality. You may be trying to weigh up if it’s worth paying the extra, or whether you really need to? Well, all I can say is decorators know the difference between retail Vs trade paint, and we will always opt for trade.

For me, I don’t see the point in trying to save an a few quid if it means you’re left with a sub-standard finish that will not last as long. It doesn’t matter how good your tools are if the material you’re applying lets you down. My advice would be to pay a little bit more for trade paint and use it to achieve a finish to be proud of.




Is it worth paying extra for trade paint?

Put it this way; I’m a Painter and Decorator. If I could switch to retail paint and achieve the same finish, then I would, and I’d make a lot more profit. However, I can’t. You might spend more money by going for trade, but the results will be better, and your work will look good for longer.


What’s the difference between trade and contract paint?

Contract paint is a step up in terms of quality and price from retail paint, but a step down from trade paint. Contract paint is mostly used by builders and multi-trades.


What paint do Decorators use?

Professional Decorators tend to stick with trade paint. We do this because trade paint is good quality, but still competitive on price.


Can the public use Dulux Trade?

Trade Paint can be purchased by anyone. You can go to any trade centre and buy paint. However, unless you’re entitled to a trade discount, it’s normally cheaper to buy online.


What do Other Decorators Think When it comes to Retail Vs Trade Paint?

You’re giving away our trade secrets here!! But that is 100% spot on. Buying retail paint is false economy. The finish is never as good and you’re left with something that just won’t last. I refuse to use anything retail on a job.

Mike Jenkins

Professional Painter and Decorator

The opacity and coverage are much better with trade paint, you’re pretty certain to be able to cover in 2 coats, unfortunately with retail you would be more likely have to apply 3 coats to make it look solid. So it’s false economy to buy retail, even though it’s cheaper.

Talbot Lederer

Retail paint is pretty much contract emulsion but coloured 😂

The only half decent retail paint is Dulux Easycare. Trade paint knocks retail out the water for coverage, opacity and durability. I suppose the paint manufacturers have to cater for all budgets though.

Sam Weaver

Professional Painter and Decorator

I won’t use retail paint on any of my jobs, but it can be difficult trying to convince the client. I insist on supplying materials and even though I’m entitled to quite a substantial trade discount, my material cost is still a lot more than it would be if the customer popped to B&Q and bought retail. Straight away I feel like I’m on the back foot! The client thinks I’m making a profit on materials and I’ve got to go down that rabbit hole of explaining the difference between a tin of Dulux from B&Q compared to the tin I pick up from a trade counter. It is a constant nightmare!!

Honestly, if you’re reading this because you are the client of a decorator who is doing a bit of research, listen to your decorator!! Even if you’re doing the work yourself, there is no advantage to using retail paint. You might spend an extra £80 per room to get something that is trade quality, but it’s worth every penny! You’ll get a better finish in fewer coats and it will last longer.

Andrew webber

Professional Painter and Decorator


Trade paints overall are better quality, there are some retail though that beat some trade brands.

A professional should be able to adapt (within reason) to use any product, blaming a product is becoming far to common.

Ben Byrd

Professional Painter and Decorator

I’ve got to agree with all the comments so far. Retail emulsion is just a contract matt. It drags, picture frames and you can wipe it off the wall with a damp sponge!! I don’t know why any homeowner would want that in their home. Spend the extra money and get trade paint.

Same story for trim paints really. The coverage and opacity aren’t as good in retail which is annoying, but anything oil-based will turn yellow a lot quicker. It just isn’t worth it.

Scott Murphy

Professional Painter and Decorator

Apart from the obvious, trade paint is better and goes further etc. But by building a good relationship with trade managers gets you good deals. Whereas retail don’t care about you. If you are not entitled to a trade discount, then you will find trade paint cheaper online.

Daniel James Wilson

Professional Painter and Decorator

Trade paint is used by professional decorators. Retail paint is for DIYers. We only used Dulux Trade paint.

Pete Clark

Professional Painter and Decorator

Trade paint has better opacity on new surfaces, but not always cheaper though!

Tony Freake

Professional Painter and Decorator

Walls toshed in showery weather.


That wee bit of rain is threatening again

I need just an hour to dry this stain

The walls say shower proof in just an hour

Please please please, don’t send the customer sour

She apologised politely for no cups of tea

Distance and be aware,

As we’re told on TV

The stain she’s given is off B and Q’s shelf

These happy customers try to keep wealth

It’s all well and good to buy the cheapest tin

We all struggle on to get pay checks in.

Ross Red Ratty

Professional Painter and Decorator

Retail says DIY. Therefore, if you take DIY paint into a customer’s house it maybe tells them something about you.

Graham Simms

Professional Painter and Decorator


Well, I’m in deepest darkest Cornwall and at the moment we’ve not had a Dulux delivery for about a month…

So trying to use Johnstone’s more.

Trade every day of the week if I can.

Used some Cuprinol fence deck today, which is a retail paint purchased by the customer. It looked a treat on the cladding but needed 3 coats to look pretty.

Walls done two coats in Sandtex trade Cornish Cream. Trade paint is much better than retail, and the job reflects that.


Retail Paint or Trade Paint - What is the Difference?

Ross Ratty

Professional Painter and Decorator

Trade. Retail can end up needing an extra coat which means the customers not actually saving that extra money.

Stooie Walker

Trade paint every time,

Retail has hardly any pigment so you always need to do more coats when I use it over trade.

Martin Hankin

Professional Painter and Decorator

Trade paint as there’s more durability with it. Retail paint marks so easy & opacity not always the best. Opacity and things like that are different too. I refuse to use retail products.

Lisa Williams

Professional Painter and Decorator

This blog was written by Mike Cupit, a Professional Decorator of over 20 years and owner of Decorators Forum UK.

Updated May 6, 2024 | Posted Sep 27, 2019 | 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. Mike Hames

    The last point you make regarding the price is the first & only consideration many customer care about

  2. Alex W

    I’m amazed trading standards have not picked up on this scam. If retail paint is of such inferior quality and a ‘false economy’, then it shouldn’t be on the shelves. It sounds like the majority of DIYers that buy retail paint are being ripped off, unbeknownst to them.

    If a ‘trade’ product does not require specialist skills, experience, equipment, tools etc to use it, then it’s not a ‘trade’ product. It’s just the product. Everyone should be using it, and stop wasting time, money and natural resources using something that doesn’t last.

    • Mike Cupit


  3. Kevin Lomas

    Apart from coverage, most of this is nonsense, and I have been using paint for over 50 years. Plus most places also sell ‘trade’s paints.

    • Mike Cupit

      Do you mean opacity?


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