I thought I’d sit down and write a quick blog on the best eggshell paint for woodwork.
Eggshell as a finish for woodwork seems to have made a bit of a comeback in recent years. Maybe it’s simply part of the movement away from gloss, or maybe it’s in part linked to the influence of certain historically-based dramas on TV (e.g. Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders, etc). These may have helped to drive the return to fashion of features such as wood panelling, rich dark blue and green colours etc.
And hats off to Dulux, by the way, for picking up on this trend and launching their “Heritage” range with just matt for walls, and eggshell for wood. Whatever the reason, I certainly find myself using more eggshell on woodwork now than I did ten years ago, and there is plenty of choice of eggshell paint to choose from, including some old favourites and a few exciting new talents coming through!
What is eggshell paint, and why is it popular for woodwork?
Eggshell is the name given to paint with a 20% sheen level, making it slightly shinier than matt, which has a sheen level of under 10%, but less shiny than satinwood, which has a sheen level of around 40%.
Eggshell paint can suit different settings. The low-sheen finish is far more contemporary than a somewhat dated high gloss. But eggshell also suits period properties and hand painted kitchens.
You can buy eggshell that is designed to be used as an emulsion for walls and ceilings. However, this blog is dedicated to eggshell paints used on woodwork.
The Best Oil-Based Eggshell Paint for Woodwork
Dulux Trade Eggshell
I’m pretty sure that this was the first eggshell paint I ever used on woodwork, and I still love it, even though I mostly use water-based products these days. Yes, if you’re using it in white it will gradually discolour over time, but nothing like as quickly as an oil-based gloss or satin would.
And it has a lot going for it; it’s self-undercoating on previously painted surfaces, and is easy to work with and to achieve a great finish with….eventually! What I mean by that is, you have to leave a day between coats, and even when the second coat is touch-dry, it won’t be fully cured for at least a week;
during that time, the paint will gradually reach its optimum strength, and also gradually “dull down” – when first applied, Dulux Trade Eggshell is a bit too shiny, but don’t be alarmed, it does end up being a great eggshell finish in the end!
This paint is easy to work with, and you’re left with a brilliant finish every time. As far as oil-based eggshell paints go, this is the best in my opinion.
The Best Water-Based Eggshell Paint for Woodwork
Bedec Aqua Advanced Eggshell
I find this paint really easy to use, it has a great consistency and flows really nicely for a water-based eggshell, without the drips and runs that you can get with some of them. The finish is good, perhaps not quite a silky smooth as some others, but the white is crisp bright white (and unlike oil-based products, it stays that way).
I have heard some decorators comment that they don’t find it very durable, but I have to say, I’ve never had a problem with it. I use this eggshell to paint front doors and windows regularly, and never have an issue. It’s a fantastic trade quality product.
Benjamin Moore Scuff-X Eggshell
Again, I find this paint an absolute joy to use, and it gives a fantastic finish. There are some decorators who hate it because it isn’t cheap, but most love it, I’m in the latter camp.
It’s only available through limited distribution, and only in 3.75L tins, so if you’re only planning to paint the skirting in one room, you’re having to buy a lot of expensive paint, most of which you will be left with.
This is what I’d call a “high-end paint”. It probably is the best eggshell paint for woodwork, but you do pay for it. However, if you have the budget, then it really is worthwhile. Easy to use, good opacity, and a lovely finish.
Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell
OK, here’s something you don’t see every day, a decorator liking Farrow & Ball! But it’s true, for certain situations, I do really quite like their Modern Eggshell. Not the Estate Eggshell, I don’t find it very hard-wearing. The Modern Eggshell though, I think it’s actually quite decent and an ideal product for little projects like upcycling furniture.
On the downside, for my taste it’s a little bit too shiny for an eggshell, more of a satinwood really.
It doesn’t level out as nicely as some of the others, so brush marks can be an issue. But the range of colours is amazing, and you can buy it in little 750ml tins so no need for a second mortgage (quite!). Plus, this eggshell does seem to stand up fairly well to everyday wear and tear.
I think as with all Farrow and Ball paint products, the quality is in the pigments in the paint is what makes it. The colour does seem to have a depth to it sometimes. This is a great eggshell for use in tinted colours, and it’s fantastic on kitchen cabinets.
Crown Trade Fast Flow Quick-Drying Eggshell
This is a great little paint. It can be used inside or out, you can apply with a brush, roller or spray, and it dries really quickly (although Crown still recommend a 4 hour recoat time). Even with a brush or mini-roller, you can still achieve a really super-smooth finish with it. It is more towards the “matt end” of eggshell, but if that’s your taste this is a nice, affordable solution.
The only thing I’m unsure of is what colours it’s available in; when it was first launched, I know it was only available in white and a limited range of pale colours. But that may have changed now –
pop into your local Crown Decorating Centre and ask the question! Or easier still, use the link below and buy from Decorating Centre Online, as they seem to be better with mixing colour than anyone else.
Dulux Heritage Eggshell
Dulux describe this eggshell as the “finest low sheen finish for interior wood and metal”. It is a two-part system (undercoar and eggshell), but this is where I get confused. The advertising and website say that the eggshell is self-undercoating, but there’s an undercoat, so when do you use that? I had a long conversation with my local Dulux Decorator Centre about this, and the upshot of it was:
- On bare wood or metal, use an appropriate primer first, then two coats the eggshell, but you could put on a coat of the undercoat after the primer to help build up the colour if you felt it was necessary.
- If you’re painting over oil-based gloss, you’re probably best using an adhesion primer followed by two coats the eggshell, but again you could put on a coat of the undercoat after the primer to help build up the colour if you felt it was necessary.
- If you’re painting over existing water-based finishes, the eggshell is self-undercoating, and you don’t need the undercoat.
At least, I think that was the conclusion. It does seem a bit confusing, but whatever the process, the Dulux Heritage eggshell does give a super-smooth low sheen finish and is really nice to use. The biggest downside with this product is the recoat time – it’s 4-5 hours for the undercoat, and six hours for the Eggshell, so there’s no way you can get the undercoat and two top coats done in a day.
Also, although the undercoat is available in white, the eggshell isn’t. Well, not “off the shelf” anyway, you need to get it mixed. They do have some very nice “off white” shades, which are probably more in keeping with the heritage theme, but it surprised me that white isn’t one of the standard colours.
But those gripes aside, this is really nice to use and covers very well to leave a lovely smooth low-mid-sheen finish. This is an awesome eggshell and like Farrow and Ball, it gives you a fabulous depth. Honestly, if you go for this paint, you’ll fall in love with it.
Scandinavian paint manufacturer Tikkurila produce some great products for woodwork under their “Helmi” range. They’re quick drying, give a nice smooth finish and are not overly expensive. My only question is which to recommend as an eggshell; Helmi 10 is too matt to be eggshell, but for my taste Helmi 30 is more like a satin – they need a Helmi 20 in the middle! And no, I haven’t tried mixing half a tin of each together to see what it looks like – anyone else tried it? Anyway, regardless of whether you can call it an eggshell or not, this paint is a good all-rounder. Not quite as durable as some of the others, but easy to apply by brush, and sprays beautifully.
Tips for Applying Eggshell to Woodwork
I thought I’d run through a few tips to help when applying eggshell to woodwork. Using one of the products I have mentioned on this guide will make achieving a good finish a lot easier, but tools and technique are also important.
Preparation is Key
I know it’s obvious, but the prep is a very important part of the job. Bare wood should be primed, filled, sanded, and caulked (in that order) before you apply your eggshell paint.
Previously painted surfaces should always be abraded with aluminium oxide (sandpaper), even if its already smooth. This is to create a “key” on the surface, which helps with the adhesion of your eggshell.
Know When to Use an Undercoat
A lot of eggshell paints are described as “self-undercoating”, which means you don’t always need an additional undercoat before you use it. However, there are some occasions when you do.
Colour changes are the perfect example, especially when painting over a dark colour with a lighter one. Regardless of which eggshell paint you go for, undercoat will always have better opacity.
So, building up the colour with undercoat will save on the number of coats of eggshell you need to apply.
Also, when painting over glossy surfaces with a water-based paint, you often need an adhesion primer. I recommend Zinsser BIN Aqua, which is a fully water-based adhesion primer with brilliant opacity. It also blocks stains and odour, which is another bonus.
Don’t be Afraid to Dilute your Paint
The products mentioned on this guide are genuinely some of the best eggshell paints available for woodwork, so opacity and coverage are good on all of them. This means you can dilute the paint slightly to help with flow and to avoid brush marks. Just don’t dilute it too much or you may need to apply an additional coat. However, a little splash to loosen your eggshell will not make a noticeable difference to the opacity.
Oil-based eggshell can be diluted with white spirit. Water-based eggshell paint can be diluted with clean water. There are paint conditioners available which are also worth a look.
Don’t Rush the Recoat Times
A very quick one; Just because your eggshell is dry to the touch, it doesn’t mean it is ready to take another coat. Eggshell takes a while to cure, and if you apply additional coats too soon, you can cause too much surface tension, and your paint might fail.
Best Tools to Apply Eggshell Paint to Woodwork
Regardless of whether you use oil-based or water-based eggshell, the brush I recommend is the Purdy Monarch Elite XL. I know this brush isn’t cheap, but it will hold its shape well, and the thick stock means it holds a good amount of eggshell. It is fantastic when striking a sharp line on your woodwork. It’s also soft enough to “lay off” any paint applied with a roller.
A mini roller will help when applying eggshell to large flat surfaces like interior doors. The roller I use is Two Fussy Blokes, simply because it holds loads of paint, distributes it evenly, avoids orange peel and doesn’t shed. Besides which, they’re readily available on Amazon at a reasonable price.
So, there you go, that’s my take on some of the best eggshell paints for woodwork. Obviously, these are just my personal opinions based on my experience of using these products, but I’d say that if you’re looking for an eggshell finish on your interior woodwork, you won’t go far wrong with any of the above.