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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

DIY Dictionary - 35 Handy Painting Terms

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Baffled by some of the lingo used by painters and decorators? Don't stress here's a handy cheat sheet.

*Contains some affiliate links


How well the paint sticks to a surface. Often improved by keying the surface or applying a primer.

All surface paint

Paint with a primer included that you can apply to a variety of surfaces ie wood, metal, uPVC. Handy for using on difficult surfaces for DIY jobs like painting a garage or painting a uPVC door.

Angled brush

A paintbrush where the end of the fibres are cut at an angle. These make cutting in and painting neat straight lines much easier.

Chalk Paint

A matte finish 'chalky' flat paint which is often applied to furniture and can result in a shabby chic/rustic or distressed finish.


Where the top layer(s) of paint detach from the base surface after being knocked or bumped.


A single layer of paint/sealant/ primer


A service where paint can be mixed to very closely match a shade or hue from a designer brand or in fact any colour you find around the home or in nature etc.

Colour blocking

A paint technique where blocks of colour are applied to a room often in geometric shapes.

Colour drenching

Where the same colour paint is applied to a large area covering all the fixtures and fittings. For example you could paint a whole wall including the skirting boards, coving, door and doorframe.

Cutting in

The process where you use a paintbrush to go around the edges of the area you need to paint to cover any areas not easily reached with a roller. This creates a frame of paint for you to fill in with a roller.


A type of surface sheen that is noticeable once the paint has dried. Eggshell paint is somewhere between matt (no shine, very flat) and satin (more of a shine than matt but less than semi-gloss or high gloss). Eggshell paint is ideal for woodwork as it’s hardwearing and easy to clean. I love this one from Dulux for doors and architrave.


Water-based paint commonly used for walls and ceilings.

Paintbrush applying peach coloured paint to a white wall


Very shiny, light reflecting paint finish. Historically favoured for woodwork but less fashionable these days.

Keying the surface /Creating a key /Abrading

This is usually done by lightly sanding/rubbing down a surface to create a texture for the paint to adhere to.

Laying off

The process to smooth the wet paint surface with a brush using gentle, sweeping motions and reducing pressure to softly feather out any lines and ensure no brush strokes remain.

Make good

The repair process to take a surface back to good condition, that is often completed prior to painting. eg filling holes and sanding.

Masking tape

Usually white or off-white tape with a low adhesion that can be used for some paint jobs (usually not on a painted surface as can pull the paint off).


Very low sheen paint finish. Non-reflective, flat surface.

Oil-based paint

These used to be relied upon for a more professional finish but there are some brilliant water-based paints available now. Oil-based paints are harder to clean up, can be very smelly (high VOC), and can take an incredibly long time to dry. Oil-based paints used to be preferred for wood as they are more durable and resistant to chipping and denting, but they also have the drawback of going yellow which water-based whites do not.

Painters tape

A lower-tack tape than masking tape that is more widely used to protect areas from paint spreading and to create neat lines. Here's an example.


A base coat that you apply to a surface to prepare it for painting by improving the adhesion of the paint. You can buy surface-specific primers ie MDF primer (this is my go-to MDF primer) or uPVC primer as well as all surface primers. You should always prime new/fresh surfaces eg bare wood as it absorbs paint at different speeds. Primers are usually white.

Roller tray

The container that holds the paint for you to load your roller up with.

Roller frame

The handheld section of the roller that the roller head fits onto.

Roller pile (nap)

The thickness of the texture of the synthetic roller heads (similar to pile in carpet).


Drips of paint down the surface you are painting from overloading the brush.


Refers to the sheen of the paint finish. Shinier than matte or eggshell but less than semi-gloss or gloss.

Sugar soap

An abrasive cleaning agent that removes grease and dirt from surfaces as part of your preparation routine for painting. Top Tip: Use a spray bottle to administer the sugar soap and be sure to rinse fully before painting.


Lower sheen paint finish that gloss, but more reflective than eggshell, satin, or matte


Refers to the ability to clean the surface after the paint has fully cured.

Stain blocker

Paint that can be applied to an area previously affected by damp ( as long as the source of the damp has been rectified) or used to cover other stains such as nicotine, graffiti or other marks to walls or ceilings.

Tester Pot

A small sample pot of paint to test a colour in your home. Top Tip: You should assess the colour under different lights - natural light and artificial & at different times of the day before choosing as there can be quite a variance.


When a small area or areas are repainted due to poor coverage or damage to previous paint.


Applied over a primed or already painted surface an undercoat smooths and evens the surface providing a base for the topcoat. You should always use an undercoat when going from a dark to a light colour. Undercoats often have a pigment.


Volatile Organic Compounds found in varying quantities in paint, less so in water-based. Paint tins display the volume of VOCs usually on categories like ‘low, medium, high, very high'. Exposure to high levels of VOCs is harmful to the environment and can be bad for your health. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Water-based paint

Due to its quick drying time it's not as forgiving as oil-based which is easier to correct if you get runs or visible brush strokes. Much easier to clean from brushes and rollers and less smelly and fumey.


Less durable than a scrubbable finish, but possible to wipe the painted surface down to clean it, when the paint has fully dried.

I hope this was helpful.

Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling, and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page). Why not check out some of my other posts... DIY How to skim an Artex ceiling for £50 DIY kitchen revamp DIY fridge surround 3 handy drill hacks DIY Hacks - Plasterboard repair tips DIY Hacks - Painting IKEA Hack - Billy is my hero 5 tips for a successful IKEA hack IKEA Hack - you HAVSTA try this one! IKEA hack - BRUSALI cabinets to bespoke looking alcove built-ins for under £150 Bargain DIY stair runner - step-by-step tutorial Interior decorating and styling This part of my site is concerned with all things aesthetic and building a connection with your home through your decor and styling decisions. If you are looking for bedroom decor inspiration then you need to read Styling tips for a beautiful bedroom. or Budget bedroom makeover to beat the lockdown blues where I show you how I completed the ultimate budget bedroom upgrade using tester pots to paint an ombre mountain mural. If money-saving decor tips is what you are after then you need to read Upcycled pantry shelves of joy and Money-saving home decor hacks. This year I've been busy revamping my kitchen DIY Kitchen Makeover - part 1 shows the before and the ideas and DIY kitchen revamp has the results.

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