tips and tricks4 min read

Jargon busting: What do these common paint terms actually mean?

WordsMaha Elley


About to kick off your next paint project and feeling a touch confused with the overwhelming amount of decorating jargon? We hear you. The world of paint and design does contain many a confusing term. We’ve created this mini jargon-busting guide to decipher and explain some of the most common painting terms out there. So you can focus on getting on with the actual decor work. 


A special type of paint that’s applied as a base coat, primer helps your paint grip the surface you’re covering more firmly, covering up any stains and giving it a more hard-wearing finish. It’s essential for metal and wood surfaces and highly recommended for bare plaster walls. 

Paint sheen

Sheen is the term used to describe the gloss level of the paint. The higher the sheen, the shinier your paint finish will be. Choose from different types of sheens including eggshell, gloss and matte. More on those below. 


What is eggshell paint? Eggshell is an eggshell paint finish that, quite literally, looks like the surface of an eggshell. It’s relatively low sheen when compared to satin or silk, but not quite as matt as durable matt. If you’re after a classic look for your walls and ceilings, it’s pretty much your go-to choice, and it's the best paint for a bathroom ceiling.

(Tip: Our low sheen semi-gloss eggshell emulsion has been specially formulated for interior use on woodwork and plaster, and if priming first - on metalwork and other surfaces too. A water-based solution that leaves an easy-to-clean and smooth finish - this paint is long lasting, durable and ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. Think of it as the tough-but-sensitive hero of the paint world. Want to find out more? Check out our eggshell paint overview and more on what eggshell paint is)

Durable matt 

Durable matt paint has a wonderful velvety texture and is ideal for covering up any stains and imperfections. It doesn’t reflect light so expect a completely different finish to glossy paint. Durable matt works well for any room where you’d prefer a more traditional look and feel.  

(Tip: Though specially designed for interior use on plaster walls and ceilings, our highly durable flat matt emulsion paint can also be used on wood, masonry, primed metal and on radiators too. Yes - you can paint radiators! Better yet; our matt is quick drying, it's easy to apply, and leaves you with a wipe-clean surface finish - ready for anything that everyday life might be throwing at it.)


Gloss paints are highly reflective, durable and usually oil-based. They come in two levels of gloss: semi-gloss and high-gloss. Their mirror-like finish works well with wooden surfaces and suits lighter colours. Top tip: gloss paint can provide an interesting contrast to nearby matt surfaces. Mix and match if you dare. 


Emulsion is the term for water-based paint, with acrylic resins for extra durability. Choose from varying levels of sheen in the finish - and keep in mind, the shinier the finish, the more hard-wearing the paint. You can get durable matt, eggshell, gloss, silk and satin emulsion paint. Oh, and emulsion is the best choice for interior walls and ceilings. Which is why we’re big fans at Lick. 


Refers to paints that contain enough resin to stick firmly onto surfaces without any need for a primer. Kinda like our entire paint range at Lick.

Cutting in 

Cutting in refers to painting those nooks and crannies that paint rollers can’t wiggle their way into. Brush paint into the edges of walls or around switches and sockets and you’re officially ‘cutting in’. It’s usually the first step in paint application. 

Filling in 

Refers to the process of adding filler into any holes, cracks or gaps into a surface before painting. Filling in is an essential prep step to smoothen up a ‘gappy’ surface before reaching for that brush.

Masonry paint 

Masonry paint is acrylic-based paint that is used on most exterior surfaces. It’s weather-resistant and formulated to stick to even the coarsest of surfaces. 


VOC stands for 'Volatile Organic Compounds', which can be found in several household products (including paint). Water-based paints tend to have a much smaller amount of VOCs, which also means they don’t let off that typical pungent paint odour. Not to toot our own horn too much; but all Lick paints are water-based and low-VOC.


The undercoat is essentially the base coat of paint. Paint an undercoat under your top layer to achieve that professional and vivid finish you’re after.

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