The Best Water-Based Gloss

By Mike Gregory


Water-based technology has come a long way in the past few years and products such as water-based gloss has improved dramatically. There are so many advantages of using water-based compared to oil. The main reason people are edging more and more towards water-based is modern oil-based gloss tends to discolour over time, whereas water-based will stay looking pristine for a lifetime.


Water-based products are better for the environment too!! Clean up is a lot quicker and application is a lot easier. But what is the best water-based gloss on the market? I thought I’d go through my favourites and explain the pros and cons of each. I hope this helps clear things up.


Johnstone’s Aqua


Johnstone’s Aqua is the most popular water-based gloss on the British market. That said, it isn’t a true water-based. It is in fact, a hybrid, meaning it still contains a small amount of oil. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A hybrid is what you would class as a compromise between water and oil. Johnstone’s Aqua is durable, easy to apply, has great opacity and feels like an oil-based. It will discolour which is a massive disadvantage, but it takes a lot longer than a true oil-based would.


There are a few things you need to remember if you’re going to use Johnstone’s Aqua. You should always use the aqua undercoat and gloss as a system and never go straight over previously painted surfaces with the gloss. It also helps if you keep a bucket of water handy so you can keep wetting your brush when needed. Running a damp cloth over a surface before painting will also help. Water is your friend.


You can buy Johnstone’s Aqua online, or any Johnstone’s Decorating Centre.


Benjamin Moore Scuff X Semi-Gloss


This is by far the most premium product on my list, and it is the most expensive. As the name suggests, Benjamin Moore semi-gloss has a sheen level which is slightly lower than most true gloss products. This is the only downside.


A lot of decorators, including myself, use this product directly over the top of old oil-based coatings. However, you are advised to use the Benjamin Moore Stix primer by the manufacturer for adhesion. You will find the semi-gloss extremely easy to work with, levels off nicely and leaves a gorgeous finish!! This really is a luxurious product and easily one of the best water-based gloss products on the market.


You can buy this product online


Tikkurila Helmi 80


Tikkurila Helmi 80 is another nice product. The sheen level is as high as most oil-based alternatives and the finish in white is proud and pure. It really does look good when applied correctly and it’s a lot cheaper than Benjamin Moore. You should use Helmi primer on bear timber, or Tikkurila Akva on previously painted surface, before applying Helmi 80.


You should roll flat surfaces with a mini roller when using Helmi, then lay it off with a nice, soft brush. The paint can be a little bit loose to work with, so good brushes are a must. You will find it a joy to work with if you get kitted out properly. Staalmeester paint brushes are perfect.


You can buy this product directly from Tikkurila.



Which Water-Based Gloss Products do Other Decorators Use?

Is that 100% water-based, or hybrid gloss. These are two totally different products & different results.


If you’re looking for 100% water-based, then it’s HMG, which is the best & brightest white on the market. If you’d prefer a hybrid, then look at the Benjamin More Advanced, although does yellow. Then we have enamel (pu gloss) the best is Caparol feels like oil on the brush. Problem is there are too many to choose from & different budgets.

John Kerry

Apparently, Benjamin Moore grand entrance is one of the best, but I didn’t think it was shiny enough.

Tikkurila is also highly rated

But let’s be honest, there no comparison to oil-based gloss

John Swinton

I’m a big fan of Leyland trade water-based gloss, it’s touch dry in half an hour, no smells or odours and stays white. It’s just not as shiny as oil based

Alan Hunter

Robin Gofton

I struggle with most water-based gloss systems to be honest. I’d LOVE them to be better than they are, then I’d move over to 100% water-based for interior work. Rationally I totally understand all the benefits, but have yet to find one that gives a great finish and that I enjoy working with. Satin and eggshell, no problem. But the glosses I find don’t have great opacity, and the “ninja runs” can be a nightmare. The best I’ve found so far (and I’m using it today coincidentally) is Benjamin Moore Advance. But I’d still rather be on the Scuff-X!

Robin Gofton

Johnstone’s Aqua undercoat + aqua gloss is absolutely perfect for me. Flows nicely and leaves a great finish

John Enston

Dulux Quick Dry Gloss, I know a lot of decorators will slate me, but I’ve never had any problems with it. Covers well, nice and shiny, cures nice and hard and it’s pretty cheap compared to most.

John Sweeney

I use Caparol pu gloss. No water-based gloss will be like oil but for me, this is the closest thing as an all-rounder. Isomat’s gloss is pretty good too.

Vicki Nicholson

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