Glossary of Painting Terms


Involves either removal of a painted surface, covering a painted surface with an impermeable surface, or covering the surface with a heavy-duty coating (encapsulant).

A synthetic resin used in high-performance water-based coatings. A coating in which the binder contains acrylic resins.

The ability of dry paint to attach to and remain fixed on a surface without blistering, flaking, cracking, or being removed by tape.

A product that uses compressed gas to spray the coating from its container.

Air Cure
One method by which liquid coatings cure to a dry film. Oxygen from the air enters the film and cross-links the resin molecules. Also called "Air Dry " and " Oxidizing."


Solid ingredients in a coating that hold the pigment particles in suspension and attach them to the substrate. The nature and amount of binder determines many of the paint's performance properties: washability, toughness, adhesion, color retention, etc.

Formation of dome-shaped projections in paints or varnish films resulting from the loss of adhesion and lifting of the film from the underlying surface.

The thickness or viscosity of a fluid.


Substance whose presence increases the rate of a chemical reaction such as drying time.

Formation of a powder on the surface of a paint film caused by disintegration of the binder during weathering. Chalking can be affected by the choice of pigment or binder.

A measurement of color. The degree of saturation of a hue. A color at its full intensity has maximum chroma.

A paint, varnish, lacquer or other finish used to create a protective and/or decorative layer.

A bonding together of a single substance to itself. Internal adhesion.

Concentrated color (dyes or pigments) that can be added to paints to make specific colors.

Non-fading in prolonged exposure to light.

Color Retention
The ability of paint to keep its original color. Major threats to color retention are exposure to ultraviolet radiation and abrasion by weather or repeated cleaning.

Corrosion Inhibitive
A type of metal paint or primer that prevents rust by preventing moisture from reaching the metal. Zinc phosphate, metaborate, and strontium chromate (all pigments) are common ingredients in corrosion-inhibitive coatings. These pigments absorb any moisture that enters the paint film.

Cure, Curing
The process whereby a liquid coating becomes a hard film.


Dead Flat
No gloss or sheen.

A liquid used in coatings to reduce the consistency and make a coating flow more easily. The water in latex coatings is a diluent.

Various compounds added to coatings to speed the drying.

Dry Colors
Powder-type colors to be mixed with water, alcohol or mineral spirits and resin to form a paint or stain.

Drying Oil
An oil that when exposed to air will dry to a solid through chemical reaction with air: linseed oil, tung oil, perilla, fish oil, soybean oil.


Earth Pigments
Those pigments that are obtained from the earth, including chalk and graphite.

Gloss lying between semigloss and flat.

A mixture of solids suspended in a liquid.

Emulsion Paint
Coating in which resins are suspended in water, then flow together with the aid of an emulsifier.

latex paint.

Broad classification of paints that dry to a hard, usually glossy finish.

Extremely tough and durable synthetic resin used in some coatings. Epoxy coatings are extremely tough, durable and highly resistant to chemicals, abrasion, moisture, and alcohol.

Film Build
Amount of thickness produced in an application. Millimeters (mils) of dry film per mils of applied wet film.


Film Thickness
Depth or thickness of the dry coating in millimeters.

Fire Resistance
The ability of a coating to withstand fire or to protect the substrate to which it is applied from fire damage.

Fire Retardant
A coating which will (1) reduce flame spread, (2) resist ignition when exposed to high temperature or (3) insulate the substrate and delay damage to the substrate.

A surface that scatters or absorbs the light falling on it so as to be substantially free from gloss or sheen.


Process in which a thin coating of zinc is applied to iron or steel to prevent rust.

The luster or shininess of paints and coatings. Different types of gloss are frequently arbitrarily differentiated, such as sheen, distinctness-of-image gloss, etc.


Curing agent for epoxies or fiberglass.

HEPA Vacuum
High-efficiency particulate air-filtered vacuum designed to remove lead contaminated dust.


A material that will not react chemically with other ingredients.

In-place Management
A series of steps used as an alternative to lead-based paint removal, improves condition of intact lead-based paint to reduce and or eliminate hazards without total removal.

A mechanism whereby fire-retardant paints protect the substrates to which they are applied.


A fast-drying usually clear coating that is highly flammable and dries by solvent evaporation only.

Latex-based Paint
General term used for water-based emulsion paints made with synthetic binders such as 100% acrylic, vinyl acrylic, terpolymer, or styrene acrylic. A stable emulsion of polymers and pigment in water.

A metal, previously used as a pigment in paints. Banned by the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1978 because of its toxicity.

Linseed Oil
Drying oil made from the flax seed used as a solvent in many oil-based paints. "Boiled" linseed oil can be used to protect wood from water damage. Sometimes used as a furniture polish.

Liquid Driers
Solution of soluble driers in organic solvents.


Mineral Spirits
Paint thinner. Solvent distilled from petroleum.


A petroleum distillate used for cleanup and to thin solvent-based coatings.

Natural Resins
Resins from trees, plants, fish, and insects.

The portion of a coating left after the solvent evaporates; sometimes called the solids content.


Oil Paint
A paint that contains drying oil, oil varnish or oil-modified resin as the film-forming ingredient.

A natural plant product that contains oil and resins. Turpentine is an example.

Chemical reaction upon exposure to oxygen. Some coatings cure by oxidation, when oxygen enters the liquid coating and cross-links the resin molecules.


A coating including resin, a solvent, additives, pigments and, in some products, a diluent. Paints are generally opaque, and commonly represent the portion of the industry known as "architectural coatings."

Paint Remover
A chemical that softens old paint or varnish and permits it to be easily scraped off. Also called "stripper."

Paint Thinner
See Mineral Spirits.

Penetrating Finish
A finish that sinks into the substrate, as opposed to settling on the surface.

Insoluble, finely ground materials that give paint its properties of color.

Polyvinyl Chloride
A synthetic resin used in the binders of coatings. Tends to discolor under exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Commonly called "vinyl."

First complete coat of paint of a painting system applied to a surface. Such paints are designed to provide adequate adhesion to new surfaces or are formulated to meet the special requirements of the surfaces.


Synthetic or natural material used as the binder in coatings. Can be translucent or transparent, solid or semi-solid.

Natural resin obtained from living pine trees or from dead tree stumps and knots.


Semi-gloss Finish
Finish that has a low luster sheen. Semi-gloss paints are formulated to give this result (usually 35-70 degrees on a 60-degress meter).

A coating made from purified lac dissolved in alcohol, often bleached white.

A resin used in the binders of coatings. Also used as an additive to provide specific properties. Paints containing silicone are very slick and resist dirt, graffiti, and bacterial growth, and are stable in high heat.

Any liquid which can dissolve a resin. Generally refers to the liquid portion of paints and coatings that evaporates as the coating dries.

Any surface to which a coating is applied.


Titanium Dioxide
White pigment in virtually all white paints.

Distilled pine oil, used as a cleaner, solvent or thinner for oil-based and alkyd coatings.


An important resin in the coatings industry. A true urethane coating is a two-component product that cures when an isocyanate (the catalyst) prompts a chemical reaction that unites the components.


Portion of a coating that includes all liquids and the binder. The vehicle and the pigment are the two basic components of paint.

See Polyvinyl Chloride.

The property of a fluid whereby it tends to resist relative motion within itself.

See Volatile Organic Compound.

The defining quality of a liquid that evaporates quickly when exposed to air.

Volatile Organic Compound
Organic chemicals and petrochemicals that emit vapors while evaporating. In paints, VOC generally refers to the solvent portion of the paint which, when it evaporates, results in the formation of paint film on the substrate to which it was applied.

Volume Solids
Solid ingredients as a percentage of total ingredients. The volume of pigment plus binder divided by the total volume, expressed as a percent. High-volume solids mean a thicker dry film with improved durability.


Coatings in which the majority of the liquid content is water.