House Painting Dictionary

House Painting Terms

A substance used for the wearing away of a surface by rubbing.  Examples of abrasives are:  sand paper, garnet paper, steel wool. 

Acrylic Resins
Synthetic resins of excellent color and clarity used in both emulsion and solvent-based paints.  Today, used primarily as the binder in the higher grade/more expensive water-based paints and caulks.

The ability of a dry paint film or caulk to remain attached to a surface. Adhesion and stretch coefficient are probably the most important property of a paint or caulk.

A container (usually a hand-held size) of coating material that is pressurized for spray (atomized) applications. Enamels, some primers and varnishes are often sold in aerosol cans. 

Airless spray machine
Used to spray a coating using hydraulic pressure from a spray machine through a hose and into a airless spray gun to apply the atomized coating.  Painting with an airless sprayer is much faster than painting with a brush and roller but takes skill and experience to do it right.  Clean up is complicated and the hose and gun must be cleaned every day. 

Caustic or basic substance.  Lye is the most common alkali.  An alkaline, or “basic,” chemical substance such as lime or lye. Generally present in fresh cement, concrete, or plaster.  Too much alkali in the surface being painted will cause loss of paint adhesion and failure.

 Alkali burn
A condition that occurs when the alkalinity in fresh masonry causes the breakdown of a paint’s binder, resulting in color loss and overall deterioration of the paint film. Most likely to occur with vinyl-acrylic latex and oil-based paints applied to masonry surfaces that are less than a year old. 

When people say oil based paint, alkyd is the technical term for what is now oil based paint.  It is a synthetic resin used in oil-based paints. An alkyd resin is made by reacting a drying oil with a hard, synthetic material.  All alkyds yellow over time. The yellowing is especially pronounced in dark, shaded areas of interiors.  Noticeable yellowing can start as soon as five weeks after the surface has been painted.  Direct sun light can reverse some of the yellowing on light or white oil based (alkyd) paints.

Condition of paint film in which surface is cracked and develops an appearance somewhat similar to skin on the back of an alligator.  A scaly pattern that appears on paint due to the inability of the paint to bond to a glossy coating beneath it. It can also be due to the application of a hard coating over a soft primer, or (with oil-based paint) because the wood was re-coated before the undercoat was dry.

Anti-corrosive paint
A paint designed to minimize rust or corrosion when applied directly to metal.  Usually a rust inhibitive primer or a direct to metal paint, or a finish paint with rust inhibitive properties.   

Applied hiding
Refers not only to the opacity of the paint film, but also to how it hides, depending on its thickness and how smoothly it flows out. Must take into account how the paint is applied (brush, roller, spray, etc.).  Hiding is improved by additional coats of paint.   

To divide a liquid (paint) into very small particles.  Often referred to when painting with an airless sprayer.   

An paint application technique where a painted surface is re-rolled with a roller while the paint is still wet. In this technique, a coat of paint is applied by airless spray and followed immediately by re-rolling the wet sprayed area. 

The angle that is trimmed at the end of the paint roller cover to ensure neat application without paint build-up along the edges.

1. A component of paint that “binds” the pigment particles into a uniform, continuous paint film, and makes the paint adhere to the surface. The nature and amount of binder helps determine most of the paint’s performance properties - washability, toughness, adhesion, color retention, and durability. 2. In caulk, a component that “binds” the pigment particles into a homogeneous compound and makes the caulk adhere to the surface. The main performance properties of caulk: durability, adhesion, and flexibility at low temperatures, are determined by the binder. 

A biologically active paint and caulk additive designed to keep bacteria from spoiling the paint or caulk during storage.  Also used to keep mildew from growing on the applied paint.  Most manufacturers use them in their products.  Some "green" natural paints or products do not contain them.  Check with each manufacturer to find out if a specific product contains biocides.

Loss of color in paint, usually caused by exposure to sunlight.  Appears quicker and more pronounced with blues and greens on exteriors, but will happen to all colors eventually.  Interior paint colors near windows with a direct source of sunlight also tend to bleach also.   

Mixing one color of paint or stain with another so the colors mix or merge gradually. 

Formation of bubbles on the surface of paint or varnish film, generally caused by moisture behind the film.   

Block filler
A thick, paint-like material used to smooth out very rough masonry surfaces like cinder block. It is generally brush-applied, then painted. 

Two painted surfaces sticking together when pressed against each other, such as a door sticking to the jamb or window sticking to the sill.  Tends to happen much more with water based latex paints.  Also happens when a leather or plastic item is placed on a shelf recently painted with a latex paint before it has thoroughly cured.  Look for special anti-blocking paint if blocking is a problem.   

A film defect where the coating will appear milky. Typically occurs when spraying lacquer in high humidity or cold.  Also known as cloudiness or milkiness.  

A factory process applied to galvanized metal that removes the micro-thin layer of fabrication grease that adheres to the surface of factory produced galvanized metal.  Bonderized sheet metal is said to be ready for primer and paint without having to wash off the processing grease.  This is done with a white vinegar (yes, the same vinegar you use in your salad) wash.  Painting over bonderized sheet metal rain gutters and down spouts without a vinegar wash may resulted in paint peeling.     

The mixing together of different cans of like paint to be used on a job, to ensure uniformity, especially of color.  When you purchase the same color but from two different stores or at very different times, the color won't match exactly from can to can.  By mixing the paints together and stirring them, one makes a large batch of equally mixed paint.  This is called "boxing" the paint. 

To allow the passage of moisture vapor from the substrate through the paint film.  A breathable paint does not contain acrylics or any other chemical compound that prevent moisture from leaving the surface of a wall.  

Brush marks
Marks or lines left in the paint film by a brush. Build (or Film build)
The thickness that a paint tends to be applied in, when using a normal application technique for that paint. 

The formation of shiny or white areas on a painted surface, as a result of rubbing, scrubbing, washing or having an object brush up against it.  Happens often on dark colored flat paints.  

A term for a product that comes in tubes which is used to fill cracks, gaps, seams and joints. 

Deterioration of the surface of an exterior paint from weathering into a faded, powdery substance. Chalking occurs when the paint’s binder is degraded by harsh environmental conditions. Chalk should be removed prior to repainting. 

Patterns of short, narrow breaks in the top layer of paint. Checking occurs when the paint loses its elasticity. 

Chemical resistance
The ability of a coating to resist damage by chemicals. 

The lip around the opening of a paint can into which the lid is placed. 

On paint brushes, an exceptional synthetic filament that more closely resembles natural China bristle in appearance and characteristics than other synthetic filaments. Known for excellent paint release and quick, easy cleanup with acrylics and all paints.

The pointed edge of a paintbrush. This type of brush enhances super sharp cutting-in and retains the majority of the soft flagg tips for superior paint pick-up and application.

A mineral used as an inexpensive extender - mostly in interior paints. 

An organic solvent used in latex paints that acts as a temporary plasticizer, to aid in film formation. It helps the binder form a continuous film when applied, particularly at the low end of the application temperature range recommended for the coating. 

A paint, stain, varnish, lacquer, or other finish that provides a protective and/or decorative layer over a substrate. 

Color retention
The ability of a paint to keep its original color and resist fading. This term is generally applied to exterior paints. 

Color wheel
A circular chart with wedge-shaped segments of different specific colors. Used in color selection and decorating. 

A concentrated liquid or dry color that is added to liquid paint to obtain a chosen color.  Adding too much colorant to a paint will cause the paint to lose some oadhesive and cleaning properties.  Paint comes in different bases; light, medium and dark.  Light bases can only hold so much colorant or tint.  Dark bases can hold the most and still maintain their paint properties.   

The ability to maintain color and not fade excessively under normal conditions. 

Refers to any liquid with a flash point at or above 100 degrees F (37.5 degrees C). 

Paint pigments are compatible when they are capable of being used together without harmful chemical reactions.  Ability to mix with or adhere properly to other components or substances. 

Complementary colors
Two colors directly opposite one another on the color wheel. 

The fluidity or viscosity of a liquid.  The thickness or brushability of a paint. 

Contrasting colors
Colors separated by at least three others on the color wheel. 

The interior fiberboard cylinder of a paint roller on which the fabric application material is attached.

Decay, oxidation, deterioration due to the interaction with the environment.  Deterioration of metal by oxidation and rusting. 

Corrosion inhibitor
Any material used to prevent the oxidation (rusting) of metals. May be a paint undercoat, an additive, a pigment, or a coating applied to the surface. 

Ability of a substance to resist deterioration due to a chemical reaction with its environment. Coatings that do this usually contain a corrosion inhibitor. 

A process whereby nails are pounded or screws are tightened so that they sink just below the surface. 

The spread rate of a paint or coating, usually expressed in sq. ft./gal. or m 2 /l (sq. meter/liter). With pigmented coatings, it can refer to applied hiding power. 

The splitting of a dry paint or varnish film, usually a result of aging or movement of the substrate. Different forms are hair-line cracking, checking, crazing, grain cracking, or alligatoring. 

The formation of bowl shaped depressions in a paint or varnish. Also refered to as fish-eye. 

Long horizontal runs in a coating film that occur on vertical surface when a coating is applied too heavily. 

Custom color
Special colors that are made by adding colorant to paint or by intermixing paints of different colors.  

Cutting in
To carefully paint a clean edge, usually a straight line, which is parallel to an adjacent surface. For example, painting the frame of a window but not the glass. 

Dead flat
Describes a sheen of paint.  Having no sheen or gloss. 

A liquid preparation used to remove the gloss of a painted surface, to slightly roughen or give “tooth” to the substrate. This lends improved adhesion to the coating being applied. Often used on oil based paints in preparation for waterbased paints.  Was used in the past and not so much today as people try to minimize the use of solvents on their jobs.   

Solvent or compounded material used for removing oils, fats, or grease from a substrate.  Most people now use safe dishwashing liquid for this. 

Dew point
The temperature at which water vapor in the air begins to condense.  Important to know when painting exteriors.  

Dried Film Thickness generally expressed in mils.  Important to know especially when painting with elastomeric paints.  Some paint manufacturer product warranties are based on the dry film thickness of paints.    

Dirt pick-up
Accumulation of dirt, dust and/or other debris on the paint film. Dirt pick-up may resemble mildew.  Dead flats tend to have the most and quickest accumulation of dirt pick-up.   

Resistance on bristle encountered when paints are being applied. Excessive drag of a coating can cause the paint finish to appear ropy and uneven. 

Dry to re-coat
Drying stage of a coating at which another coat of paint can be applied without damaging the previous coat.  Check manufacturer's paint label on each can of paint for the dry to re-coat time.   

Dry to sand
Drying stage of a sandable coating at which it can be sanded without the excess sticking to or clogging the sandpaper.  Check manufacturer's paint label on each can of paint for the dry to re-coat time.

Dry to touch
Drying stage of a coating at which it has hardened enough that it may be touched lightly without any of it adhering to the finger.  Check manufacturer's paint label on each can of paint for the dry to recoat time.  

Dry-fall coating
An extremely fast-drying paint commonly used to paint ventilation ducts, trusses, pipes and acoustical ceilings in commercial buildings, such as warehouses, retail stores and restaurants. Dry fall coatings are applied by airless spray. Dry fall means the paint completely dries before it reaches the floor. 

Drying time
The interval between the application of a coating and when it is ready for service. 

Drywall compound
A highly extended paste used to make a continuous seam between pieces of drywall (sheetrock); also used to repair cracks, holes and other defects. It is sanded smooth before painting.  There are  several types of drywall compound corresponding to different job needs.  Ask your retailer which type is correct for your job.  

The degree to which a coating or caulk can withstand the destructive effects of the environment to which it is exposed. The term also refers to interior applications, including the ability to withstand scrubbing, abrasion, etc.  Inexpensive paints are not durable.  Expensive paints tend to be more durable. 

Ease of application
Characteristics of a paint or caulk that facilitate its application, e.g., spatter resistance, lapping properties, and open time (how long you can still work with the product before it hardens up). 

Whitish powder (salt and mineral deposits) that sometimes appears on masonry surfaces; it is carried to the surface by moisture.  Most often seen on stucco site walls with dirt behind them.  

An interior paint that has a low lustre, satin-like appearance. Its gloss level is between flat and semigloss.  It is currently one of the most popular choices for interior walls due to it's low gloss level and good cleaning capacity.   

The ability of paint or caulk to expand and contract with the substrate without suffering damage or changes in its appearance. Expansion and contraction are usually caused by temperature and humidity fluctuations. 

Elastomeric coating
A thick, flexible paint that bridges hairline cracks up to 1/8th of an inch. It can be stretched repeatedly, and it immediately returns to approximately its original length. It is commonly used on stucco house surfaces; not on masonry walls with dirt behind them.  It must be applied skillfully and by an experienced applicator.  If there are any entry points for water and water gets behind the elastomeric paint, it will bubble and fail.  Skilled applicators like All Los Angeles Painting Company, Inc. have the knowledge and experience to know if an elastomeric coating will work or fail before it is applied.      

A mixture (usually milky-white) in which one liquid is dispersed (but not dissolved) in another. A latex paint or caulk binder is often referred to as an emulsion, even though it is a dispersion of solid polymer particles in a liquid (water). In Europe, latex paints are often referred to as “emulsion paints.” 

Generally, the term is used for high quality, dirt-resistant paints (usually for interior use) that have a sheen level from satin to glossy. A word for a type of glossy paint. Enamel coatings (the semi-gloss variety) are traditionally applied to kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, doors, windows, baseboards, crown molding and other wood trim, etc. 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
An agency of the federal government that manufactures regulations for the painting industry.  

Extender pigment
A low-hiding, inexpensive pigment that fills out and extends the high-hiding and colored pigments’ capabilities, provides bulk to the paint, and can positively or negatively have an impact on many properties. Some common extenders are clay, calcium carbonate, and silica. 

Material used in synthetic paint roller covers.  Roller covers are made of fabric from varying types of materials and denier (fiber thickness). Some of the fabrics, such as polyester and acrylics, are all synthetic, while others are blends of mohair (goat hair), lamb's wool, etc.

Lightening of the paint’s color, usually caused by exposure to light, heat or the weather.  Happens to all exterior paints over time in direct sunlight.     

A process used to touch up and  blend a small painted area into its surroundings after either spot-priming, applying a filler, or scraping off an area of old paint or just paint over paint.  Works somewhat well with flat paints, but the feathered area can often be seen or noticed when working with enamels.  

A metal that contains iron; most ferrous metals are subject to rusting.  Traditional wrought iron railings and gates are made from ferrous material.  In the past this type of metal was primed with a red-oxide primer.  Today there are various ways to prime ferrous metal.  Check with your paint manufacturer to know which system they recommend.     

Fiber cement siding
Siding composed of cement, sand and cellulose fiber that has been cured under pressure to increase its strength and stability. The fiber is added to reinforce the concrete and prevent cracking.  Holds paint finish well as it is less flexible than wood.  

On brushes, a common name for synthetic bristles. Filaments are available solid or hollow core, tapered or level in profile, and round or "X" shaped. The most durable are solid, round, and tapered. Properly formulated and processed tapered filaments provide superior release and resilience for easier, smoother paint application. 

Film formation
The formation of a continuous dry film by a binder, either pigmented or not. In a latex paint this process is the result of the water evaporating and the subsequent fusion of the binder particles. 

On brushes, the split, feather-like tip of the bristle or filament. Flaggs are natural in China bristle. The fine tips of the flagg help disperse and apply the paint evenly and with virtually no surface scratches or marks on the paint film.

The detachment of pieces of paint from the substrate, caused by a loss of adhesion and/or elasticity. 

Uneven gloss or color resulting from an unsealed substrate (lack of primer) or excessively high or low temperatures during drying. 

Flat paint
A paint with little or no sheen. Used mostly on interior walls and ceilings, and exterior wall areas.  Is the least washable of all the paints.   

Degree to which a coating or sealant, after drying, is able to conform to the movement of its substrate without damage.   

The ability of a coating to level or even out upon application, so that brush and roller marks are not visible.  A paint with good flow leaves a smooth finish.   

Formation of bubbles (foaming) and resulting small, round concave depressions (cratering) when bubbles break in a paint film, during paint application and drying.  This doesn't happen very much with high quality interior coatings.  It may be more common with lower quality paint coatings.   

Frosting appears as a white, salt-like substance on the paint surface. Although frosting can appear on any color, it is most visible on darker colors. When it occurs on masonry it is sometimes mistaken for efflorescence. 

An ingredient added to some coatings and sealants to help keep mildew and other fungi from growing on the surface.  The fungicide is added after purchase of the paint by the painting contractor.  It is rarely used and generally only if the customer requests it.  

A ferrous metal that is covered with zinc to protect it from rusting.  The galvanic oils must be washed off prior to priming and painting.  Paint can not adhere to the galvanized metal while the micro-thin layer of processing oil remains on the glavanized metal. 

Glazing compound
A caulk, sealant, or putty that is used to seal a glass pane into its frame.  For traditional wood windows the dap putty laid into a properly prepared sash bed is the best choice.  For metal windows one must use the metal glazing. This is a different colored glazing but it has a much larger stretch coefficient.  Wood glazing can only properly be used on wood windows and metal glazing can only be properly used on metal windows.  

The shininess or reflectivity of a coating. Flat paints have no gloss; high gloss paints have very noticeable gloss.  The gloss levels of paint range from flat to satin, to eggshell, to semi-gloss to high-gloss.  Each paint manufacturer has slightly different names for their glosses.  Make sure to review what the manufacturer calles their gloss levels before you order paint.   

Gloss retention
The ability of a coating to maintain its gloss - pertains especially to semi-gloss and gloss exterior coatings.  The sun can beat down and dull the gloss of a paint and make it appear much more flat than it really is.  

Gold leaf
Thin leaf made of gold used in decorative painting finishes.  Is purchased in books of gold leaf.  Can also be made by mixing gold powder into varnish.    

The direction, size, arrangement or appearance of the fibers in wood or veneer.  Very important to know when sanding in preparation for staining or varnishing wood.   

Grain cracking
Also known as checking. Cracking of a coating, parallel to the grain of the wood substance.  On exterior wood, once it has checks or cracks, it will expand and contract at a different rate of the fill material and paint on top of it.  This results in a quick paint failure and peeling.  There is no way to control a crack in wood.  If one fills it, the fill will eventually fall out.    

Grain raising
The swelling and standing up of short, broken fibers of wood caused by absorption of a liquid. Water is often the cause this.  Wait until the wood dries out before painting it.   Gypsum
Natural crystalline calcium sulfate used as an extender pigment in paint, and in the manufacture of gypsum wallboard and plaster of Paris. 

Trees that have broad leaves (in contrast to conifer or softwoods). The term has no reference to the actual hardness of the wood. Examples are: oak, maple, ash, beech, walnut, and hickory. Hiding power
The ability of paint or stain to obscure the surface on which it has been applied. Hiding power is provided by the paint’s pigment, and is affected by how thickly the paint tends to apply, and how well brush marks flow out. Holdout
The ability of a paint film to dry to a normal finish on an absorptive surface. Holiday
Skipped or missed areas left uncoated with paint. A painter's term of art which means someone forgot to paint somewhere or something.  Hue
The basis of a color, for example, whether it is a red or green. Lighter or darker variations are still the same hue. Thus, a light red and a deep red are of the same hue. An important term when dealing with color selection.  Most colors on a fan deck are of the same hue, just lighter or deeper versions of it. 

Matter other than that of animal or vegetable origin. For example, minerals and simple salts are inorganic materials. Insoluble
The inability to be dissolved.  Certain tints or colorants must be compatible with the solution they are put into or they won't be able to dissolved into the paint.   Intercoat
A layer of paint that is “sandwiched” between two others. Also refers to something occurring between coats, as in “inter-coat adhesion.”  

Today the gap between two pieces of drywall. Also, the gap or space created when two building materials come together, such as where two pieces of molding join or where the bathtub and bathroom wall meet. Joint compound
A paste-like filler used for filling and finishing joints between boards of drywall.  

Finishing material that dries by the evaporation of the thinner of solvent.  There are many different types of lacquers, the most important being that based on cellulose nitrate.  Besides the celluosic compound, lacquers contain resins, plasticizers, solvents and diluents. Laitance
Milky white deposit on new concrete: efflorescence. An accumulation of fine particles loosely bound to the surface of fresh concrete. It is caused by the upward movement of water. Must be removed from the surface to avoid loss of adhesion of a coating system. Lap
Area where a coat of paint or other coating extends over an adjacent fresh coat. The painter’s objective is to apply product at this juncture without visible lap marks. Lapping
Color and sheen differences that occur when wet and dry layers overlap during spray, brush or roller application. Also known as "lap marks." Latex
There are natural and synthetic latexes.  A common binder for waterbased paints.  It is milky white.  Also used to describe water-thinned paints, the principal vehicle of which is latex. Latex paint
Water-based paint made with a synthetic binder (latex), such as acrylic, vinyl acrylic, or styrene acrylic latex. Lay-off
A process where a brush is used to smooth out paint that has been applied to a surface.  Another word for good brush work.  The ability to paint well with a brush.  A skill that a good painter has.    Lead
A soft, malleable heavy metal. In the past, compounds of lead were used as a white pigment, and were used in primers to prevent tannin bleed-through. Use of lead in paints was outlawed in 1978.  See EPA regulations pertaining to lead paint certified renovations which went into effect April 2010. Leveling (or flow and leveling)
The ability of a coating to form a smooth film without brush marks.  Oil based enamels level out better than water based enamels.  Water based enamels have come a long way and currently level well.  Light fastness
The ability of a color or paint film to withstand exposure to sunlight without fading. Paint fading is an issue with certain exterior colors like blue and green.  Light Reflectance Value (LRV)
The amount of light reflected from a painted surface.  This has to do with different gloss levels and how much light they reflect.  High gloss paint has a higher LRV than flat paint.   Linseed oil
An oil obtained by crushing seed of the flax plant.  It is darker and slower drying than most other drying oils. Once widely used in coatings, it now has limited use in oil-based house paint and oil wood finishes.  Some people still use it to finish wood, but if you use too much of it, it will not dry and turn sticky and attract dirt. Liquid sander, liquid sandpaper
Liquid chemical used to de-gloss a painted surface in order to improve adhesion of an applied coating.  Not really used any more.   Low sheen finish
It has some ability to be cleaned, but not much.  A paint that has a low luster appearance. Its gloss level is between eggshell and flat. 

A decorative finishing process used to make the surface being treated look like marble.  Marine finishes
Paints and varnishes specifically designed to withstand long immersion in saltwater and exposure to marine atmosphere. Masonry
Mineral-based building material such as cement, mortar, stone, brick, and stucco. Metamerism
In color selection, the phenomenon where two color samples appear to match under one light source, and differ under another. Two such samples are called a metameric pair.Mil
A unit of thickness.  1/1000 inch.  Measurement used to measure paint finish thichness. Mildew
A White, black, gray, spotted or brown parasitic fungus that can grow on the surface of a paint or caulk. It forms most often on areas that tend to be damp and receive little or no sunlight. Mildewcide
A chemical agent, often included in exterior paints and caulks, that resists or prevents mildew growth on the paint surface. 

Mill scale
Oxide layer formed on steel by hot rolling.

Mineral spirits
Petroleum product which has about the same evaporation rate as gum turpentine.   Moisture resistance
The ability of a coating to resist swelling, blistering or other damage caused by moisture. MSDS
Material Safety Data Sheet. An informational document provided by the manufacturer regarding the safety and handling procedures and precautions for materials used in the workplace. Mud-cracking
A paint failure that looks like cracked mud. It occurs when a coating is applied too thickly, such as with heavy application in corners.Multi-color spraying
Spraying a surface with two or more different colors at one time from one gun.  The multiple colors exist separately within the material and when sprayed, create an interlacing color network with each color retaining its individuality. 

Muriatic acid
A dilute form of hydrochloric acid.  Often used to etch concrete floors prior to painting and to remove algae from brick.  

Nail head rusting

The rusting of the exposed heads of iron nails. The nail heads must be primed prior to applying any filler material over them.  The rust can show through and discolor the coating covering it. Can occur if bright nails, rather than galvanized, are used outdoors. 

A product obtained between gasoline and benzine in refining petroleum. It is used mainly by professional painters to thin oil-based coatings and to clean up. 

Neutral colors
White, off-white, light beige and gray - colors that generally go well with all other colors. 

Non-grain-raising stain (NGR stain) 
Wood stain that does not raise the grain of the wood.  Made by dissolving dyes such as used in making water stains in special solvent instead of water. 

Not poisonous.

The solid portion of a coating that consists of pigment and binder. The portion of a product that does not evaporate at ordinary temperature.  It is the portion of the coating left on the surface after it is dry. 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
An agency of the federal government that sets workplace health and safety standards for U.S. employees.

Earth pigment which is yellow in color.  

Oil-based paint
Paints made with a drying oil, such as linseed, soya or tung oil, as the vehicle and binder, and mineral spirits or paint thinner as the thinning agent. They generally dry very hard, but take longer to dry than latex paints and require more time to re-coat. 

Hiding power of paint or stain. The ability to keep light from passing through. A paint with a high opacity will hide the substrate well. 

Opaque stain
Exterior stain that obscures the natural color and grain of wood, but still allows the texture to show through. Generally, one coat is applied to bare wood.  Today it is mostly applied in the water based form. 

Open-grain woods
Woods of loose, open formation with minute openings between the fibers.  Woods such as oak, and walnut are called open-grain woods.

Orange peel
Spray painting flaw in which the paint does not level down to a smooth surface but remains rough like the peel of an orange.  Also used to describe the texture left on a wall after the wall has been rolled out many times.  Also a description of a drywall texture applied to walls.   Organic
Refers to a substance produced by plants and animals.  It's molecular structure contains carbon. Overspray
Sprayed paint which did not hit its target and got on something else, not the intended surface for that paint.Oxidation
To unite with oxygen.  A chemical reaction with oxygen. For example, the rusting of iron or steel or the drying of oils in oil-based paint.  

An opaque adhesive coating which is applied as a thin film to various surfaces for decoration, protection, safety, sanitation, fire-retarding and other purposes. Applied in liquid form, it dries to form a continuous film that protects and improves the appearance of the substrate. 

Paint incompatibility
Loss or lack of adhesion when a water-based topcoat is applied over many old coats of oil-based paint. 

Paste wood filler
A compound supplied in the form of a stiff paste for filling the open-grain of hardwoods, such as oak, walnut and mahogany.  

The detachment of paint from the surface in ribbons or sheets. Paint applied to a damp, or greasy surface usually peels.  Sometimes it is due to moisture behind the painted surface.  Like flaking, it is the result of loss of adhesion and film integrity. Peeling can be between coats or down to the substrate. 

Penetrating stain
A stain that is absorbed into the substrate, rather than forming a film on its surface.  It is made by dissolving oil-soluable dyes in oil.   

Capable of allowing something (such as water vapor) to pass through without harm. Petroleum distillate
Liquid hydrocarbon solvents (such as mineral spirits) that are isolated or made from petroleum. 

Phenolic Resin
A resin used to improve solvent resistance in paint roller cover fiberboard cores. The cores are impregnated in this resin then slow-cured till hard.  This prevents roller covers from disintegrating from being in paint for too long.  

Picture framing
A non-uniform color effect that can appear when the corners are first cut in with a brush, and then the walls are rolled. The brushed areas generally appear darker, resembling the “frame” of a picture. Also, sprayed areas may be darker than adjacent sections that are brushed or rolled.  

Material in the form of fine powders insoluble in oils, varnishes, lacquers, thinners, etc.  Used to impart color, opacity, certain consistency characteristics and other effects.  A powdery substance that is one of the basic components of a paint or caulk. It provides whiteness or color, hiding power, and bulk.

Plaster of Paris
A white powdery substance formed by heating gypsum.  When mixed with water, it forms a paste which sets quickly.  Originally imported from a suburb of Paris. 

Polychrome finish
A finish achieved by blending together a number of colors.   

A plastic-like material produced from chemical “monomers” which in turn have been produced from alcohols and petrochemicals. Certain polymers are used as latex paint and caulk binders. The binder’s polymer particles are small and carried in water. The binder polymer particles and water mixture is known as an emulsion or as “latex.” 

Polyurethane varnish
A clear coating that is based on a modified alkyd resin. 

Polyvinyl acetate
A binder most widely used in interior latex wall paints.

Pot life
Generally, the time interval after mixing a two component epoxy during which the liquid material is useable with no difficulty.

Powder stains
Stains in powder form which are mixed with solvents to produce wood stains.    

A substance used to prevent the growth of microorganisms in or on an organic base. An example is an ingredient in latex paint used to prevent spoilage. 

Primary colors
A color which cannot be obtained by mixing other colors. They are: red, yellow, and blue. 

The paint applied directly to the surface to be top coated.  The first complete coat of paint applied in a painting system. Many primers are designed to provide adequate adhesion between the surface and subsequent topcoats. Most primers contain some pigment, some lend uniformity to the topcoat, some inhibit corrosion of the substrate, and some stop the discoloration of the topcoat.  One must use the appropriate primer for each surface being painted. 

A priming system that minimizes or prevents the penetration of the topcoat into the substrate. 

Print resistance
Paint coating that is sufficiently dry so that no imprint is left when an object is pressed against it.  For example, a lamp placed on a freshly painted night stand will leave an impression if placed on the night stand before the paint has had a time to cure.

Polyvinyl acetate. A binder used in water-based paints. Same as vinyl acrylic. 

Re-coat time
Interval required between the application of successive coats of paint. This time period should be listed on the paint can label. 
Related colors
Two colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. 

Removers:  Compositions designed to soften old varnish or paint coats so that they may be easily removed by scraping or washing.  There is a new water based stripper on the market called "Safe Strip."

Normally transparent or translucent semi-solid or solid substances of either vegetable or synthetic origin which when heated are soluble in drying oils and solvents.  Once dissolved they remain in solution. 

Also known as sags.  Irregularities in a wet or dry paint surface due to uneven application. 

Rusting of metal is generally explained as an oxidizing process where oxygen from air combines with iron to form a metallic oxide.  Water combines with oxide to form rust.  

Sand finish
Rough finish for interior or exterior plaster wall, or a paint that has been texturized with sand.  

Sanding sealer
A lacquer used as a seal coat.  Generally given some filling action by adding inert substances.  

Finish condition in which pieces of the dried finishing material come off, exposing the surface below.  

The ability of a coating to resist wearing away or changing its original appearance when rubbed with a brush, sponge, or cloth and an abrasive soap.  

Often used as a synonym for “caulk.” The word “sealant” usually means a compound that has greater performance than a caulk, i.e.; it can accommodate movement in a joint or crack.  

A liquid coating often transparent, but may also contain pigment for sealing porous surfaces, such as plaster.  It is often needed before the application of finish coats.   

Secondary colors
Colors formed by mixing equal parts of two primary colors. The secondary colors are orange (red + yellow), green (blue + yellow), and purple (blue + red).  

Term used to describe paint in which the rate of chalking is controlled so dirt on the surface will be washed away with the accumulated chalk.  

Semi-gloss finish
A paint with a gloss level which is half way between high gloss and a dead flat finish.  

Semi-transparent stain
Stain that alters the natural color of the wood yet allows the grain and texture to show through. The term is generally applied to exterior products, but technically applies also to interior wiping stains used for trim, furniture and floors.  

The sinking of pigments or other solid matter in a paint on standing in a container, with the subsequent accumulation on the bottom of the container.  

A shade is created when black is added to a color or hue. It is a darker variant of a color. 

Sharp Luster
A very high gloss enamel finish.Sheen
Another word for shine or gloss level used in paints.   

Alcohol-soluble, clear to orange-colored resin derived from lac. (Lac is a substance secreted by insects on tree branches, mainly in India.) Used as a sealer and clear finish for floors, for sealing knots, and in “alcohol-based” primers. 

A pigment obtained from the earth, which is brownish yellow when raw; orange red or reddish brown when burnt.  Silica
An inert pigment made from quartz rock, which is highly resistant to acids, alkalis, heat and light.  A reinforcing filler for paints; it imparts burnish resistance, sheen uniformity and good flatting.  Silicone
Compound used in the manufacture of binders that is characterized by outstanding heat, water and chemical resistance.  A key ingredient in some caulks and sealants, and in the formulation of many effective defoamers for latex paints.  Siliconized acrylic sealant
Similar to an acrylic sealant, except it has a small amount of silane (hence, its name) added to it, which enhances adhesion to glass and aluminum under wet conditions. 

Silver leaf
Thin leaf made of silver, used mostly for decorative finishes. Single color scheme
Also called monochromatic.  Utilization of different values of a single color in a decorating scheme.  

A liquid composition such as resin, glue or starch that prevents excessive absorption of paint or wallpaper adhesive into plaster, wallboard, or a similar porous interior surface.  Before applying wallpaper to an unsealed wall, one should apply sizing.  

The touch layer or skin formed on the surface of a paint or varnish in the container.  It is caused by exposure to the air.  

Uncoated spots on finished surfaces. 

The group of trees (fir, pine, spruce, hemlock) characterized by its needles and being (for the most part) evergreen. The term does not refer to the hardness of the wood.  

Non-volatile matter in the composition of a coating or a caulk, i.e. the ingredients in a coating that, after drying, constitute the dry film. Solids are composed mostly of pigment and binder.  

The ability of a material to be dissolved in a liquid. For example, sugar is soluble in water.  

A liquid capable of dissolving a material is said to be a solvent for the material.  

Spackling compound
A ready mixed plaster compound which is used to fill cracks and small voids in walls. 

Spar varnish
A very durable varnish designed for severe conditions on exterior surfaces. This varnish is engineered to be resistant to rain, sunlight and heat.  Named from its suitability for the spars of ships.  

Spatter (splatter)
Droplets of paint that spin or mist off the roller as paint is being applied.  

Sponge painting (sponging)
Interior painting technique popular in the 1980's.  Natural sea sponges are used to apply or partially remove a “glaze coat” over a colored or white base coat of paint.  

To apply a primer only to those areas where paint has been removed or stripped to the original surface.  

Method of paint application in which the paint is broken up into a fine mist and directed to the surface under pressure. Specific types of spray equipment are: aerosol, airless, airless with air-assist, and high volume low pressure.  

A partly transparent coating that can color wood without obscuring the grain and/or the texture. Also refers to materials that soil the surface of a coating.  

Stain resistance
The ability of a coating to resist soiling.  

Placing a design on a wall or other surface by applying the finish through a template cut out of thin, flat paper or velum.  

Removing old paint, varnish, etc., by using paint remover, sandpaper, heat gun, or scraping tools. Also, the removal of wallpaper.  There are non-toxic water based strippers now available on the market.  

A painter's term of art used to describe a place that was skipped when applying paint to a surface.  

Surfactant leaching
Also called water-spotting and weeping. It is often a tan-colored, glossy residue that can form on the surface when exterior latex paint is applied under conditions that are cool and damp, that result in slow dry of the paint. May not readily wash off, but generally will weather off within a month’s time. 

Tack cloth
A cloth impregnated with a tacky substance that is used to remove dust from a surface after sanding or rubbing down, and prior to further painting. It should be stored in an airtight container to preserve its tackiness.  

Stickiness.  When a painting material dries out, gels or sets up, it looses its tackiness. The stage in the paint’s drying process at which the film is sticky when lightly touched.  

Helps make paint smooth. Magnesium silicate; a white extender pigment used in paint. The base for talcum powder.  

On paint brushes, the taper is the profile of fine China bristles and top quality synthetic filaments. The taper profile provides proper resilience and paint flow, with an ultra light touch at the tip for smooth application.

Tensile strength
Resistance to elongation;  A term used in reference to elastomeric paint or types of caulks and sealants.  The ability to stretch without breaking.  

Tertiary colors
Tertiary colors are created by combining a primary color and a secondary color. For example, the primary color yellow added to the secondary color, green, make yellow-green. Tertiary colors are yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, red-purple, red-orange, and yellow-orange.  Thinner
A liquid that, along with the binder, forms the paint’s vehicle. The thinner evaporates after the paint is applied. Water is the thinner used in latex paint, while turpentine, mineral spirits and denatured alcohol are thinners associated with different solvent-based coatings; the liquid used to thin the coating.  Tint
Mostly understood as a colorant added to a liquid paint.  Secondarily used to define the term tint is when white is added to any color.    

Titanium dioxide
An expensive, high opacity, White pigment used extensively in paint making.  Comes in two forms, rutile and anatase.  It is chemically inactive and is not affected by dilute acids, heat or light.  It is used as a prime pigment in paints, both latex- and solvent-based.  Toluene, toluol
Lacquer diluent made normally by coal tar distillation.  It is also used as a “reducer,” particularly in lacquers.  Tone
A gradation of color, either a hue, a tint or a shade and is created when gray is added to a color.  Tooth
Roughened or absorbent quality of a surface which affects adhesion and application of a coating.  If a surface is ready to be painted, a painter can feel it with his hand and determine if the surface has tooth.  That means the paint will stick properly.  Topcoat
The coating intended to be the last coat applied in a coating system. Usually applied over a primer, undercoater, or surfacer. Also called finish coat.  Touch-up
Spot repair painting usually conducted at the end of a new painting job.  It paints any spots that were missed originally by the painters (work done for free) or applied to areas damaged by others (paid for by homeowners or other trades who damaged the paint).  It is done in order to restore the paint to its original condition.  Toxic
Harmful or poisonous.  Triadic color scheme
Harmony obtained by using colors from three equidistant points of the color wheel.  Red, yellow, and blue make up a triad.   Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
A cleaning compound based on an alkaline material. Because it contains phosphate, its use may be controlled in certain geographical areas.  Be careful when using it over bricks.  Make sure not to get it on bricks.  It goes into the pores of bricks and continues to foam each time it gets wet.    

Tung oil
A fast-drying oil obtained from the nut of the tung tree; also known as chinawood oil. Generally used in fine wood finishing and in spar varnishes.  Turpentine
A colorless, volatile oil distilled from pine. Obtained by distillation of the oleoresinous secretions found in living and dead pine trees.  Used as a thinner and cleaning solvent in the past, it has since been replaced by mineral spirits or white spirits.

A pigment obtained from the earth, which when raw is brown in color; when burnt it has a reddish hue.  U.S. Gallon
Typical measurement of paint.  Most paints come in gallon containers.  Paints also come in quart containers, two gallon containers, and five gallon containers.   

Ultraviolet absorber
A substance used in some exterior coating that absorbs UV radiation, and reduces or delays damaging UV effects from sunshine to the coating or substrate.  

Ultraviolet radiation (UV)
The portion of the radiant energy of the sun’s spectrum that causes damage to coatings and sealants and to the surface of unprotected wood.  

Ultraviolet resistance
The ability of a coating or sealant to remain undamaged when subjected to UV radiation from direct sunlight.  

Undercoat, undercoating
Second coat in three-coat work.  The first coat in repainting. 

A color covered up by other colors.  A subtle or subdued color of limited intensity that shows through the other colors modifying the effect.  It lends character to the dominant color of a coating.  

A type of binder used in coatings. Characterized by excellent flexibility and chemical resistance.  

Urethane-modified alkyd
An alkyd that has been chemically modified for improved flexibility and chemical resistance. 

A painter's term to note a missed spot.  Also known as skips or holidays.  

Term used to distinguish dark colors from light ones.  Dark values are known as shades; light values are known as tints.   

Van Dyke Brown
A brown pigment which consists of decomposed vegetable matter that has almost approached the coal state.  It has weak hiding power compared to umber and sienna. 

Refers to a clear oil or water based finish applied to wood.  

Varnish stain
A varnish that has a transparent color added. It usually has less penetrating power than a true stain.  

Vegetable oils
Oils obtained from the seeds or nuts of vegetable growth.  Includes linseed, soybean, perilla, tung, castor, etc. 

The liquid portion of paint, in which the pigment is dispersed. The vehicle is composed of thinner and binder.  

A clear, synthetic resin used in some water-based paints, particularly interior flats, and some caulks.  

The fluid thickness of a coating.  VOC
Volatile Organic Compound. Any carbon compound that evaporates under standard test conditions. Essentially, all paint and caulk solvents except water are classified as VOCs. Some government agencies are limiting the amount of volatile organic compounds permitted in paint because of concerns about environmental and health effects.  

The easily evaporated components of any coating or caulk composition. 

Term refers to drywall, pressed board, plaster board, and plywood.  It is used instead of plaster for walls and ceilings.  

Ease with which washing will remove dirt from the surface of the paint without causing damage.  

Water blasting
Blast cleaning using high velocity water usually from a specialized machine.  Sometimes a garden hose with a high pressure nozzle is used.     

Water based paints
Paint made with acrylic, vinyl or other latex resin types, and thinned with water. It dries more quickly than oil-based paint, has relatively low odor, some water vapor permeability, and cleans up easily. The liquid component is predominantly water.  

Water spotting
Spotty changes in the color or gloss of a paint film.  May be caused by various factors such as moisture, fog or mist hitting the freshly painted surface before it can fully dry.  

Weather resistance
The ability of a coating or caulk to withstand the effects of wind, rain, sun and temperature fluctuation, and retain its appearance and integrity.  

Wet adhesion
The ability of dry paint or caulk to adhere to the surface in spite of wet conditions. This is of particular importance for exterior paints and caulks.  Many urethane sealants and paints can do this.    

Wet edge time
The length of time before a "stretch" of paint sets up without showing lap marks when the painter applies the next "stretch."

Wet film thickness
Measured by a wet film gauge.  The thickness of a liquid film immediately after application, before it begins to dry.  

Wiping stain
A pigmented oil stain.  A stain applied to bare wood, and the excess is wiped off before it dries. Mainly for interior use: trim, furniture, floors.  

Cleaning a surface with a wire brush, or wire power brush.  

Wood filler
Heavily pigmented product used to fill the grain of wood before undercoats or finishes are applied. Used on open-grain hardwoods such as oak, ash, walnut and chestnut. Used for furniture and trim.  

Wrinkle finish
A varnish or enamel film which exhibits fine wrinkles or ridges.  Used extensively as a novelty or special finish.  

A yellowish cast to aging paint.  Yellowing over time is normal for oil-based paints.  It happens often where there is lack of direct sunlight.  The yellowing process in oil based paints can be reversed when an item gets sunlight.   

Yellow ochre
Provides a nice cream tint and varies from semi-opaque to semi-transparent. 

A metal ore used extensively as a paint pigment.