Compared to other countries, colour has a bigger role when it comes to designing Australian homes. Australians don’t spend as much on stone work or other pricey materials, therefore the colour and paint being used takes a major role in the general decor. You also won’t see wallpaper being used that often for the inside of the homes, so again, the paint and colour combinations are what will be pulling the room together. In this text, we’ll be giving you a short summary on house painting in Australia so you can have a clear idea about the techniques, materials and colours most used between them. We’ll also talk about the different price ranges, whether it’s for a house or a business. But most importantly we’re going to be teaching you the critical points you need to know about the house painting industry and how you can make your business a success!

An Australian house painted façade - Photo by:

An Australian house painted façade – Photo by:

This simple guide is the product of years and years of experience. Our specialists interviewed Sydney-based experts who have been working in this field for many years (names mentioned at the end of the text) to be able to give you the best tips and guidelines. We’ve tried our best to keep it short and informative but for further elaboration, you can visit the links mentioned.

Brick and paint have important role in exterior of Aussie homes – Sydney, Castle Hill - Photo by:

Brick and paint have important role in exterior of Aussie homes – Sydney, Castle Hill – Photo by:

4 classifications of paints

There’s a very wide range of paints that can be used in Australia, the important thing is for the painter to realise which type of paint will work best for each surface. The Australian paint market classifies paints in these general types:

  • A- The base:
    1.  water-based paint
    2.  oil paint
  • B- Washability:
    1. washable paint
    2. unwashable paint
  • C- The polish:
    1. flat (matte)
    2. low sheen
    3. semi-gloss
    4. high gloss
  • D- The layer:
    1. undercoat paint
    2. top coat paint

There are other kinds as well, but these are the main ones you will need to know for painting a home or office.

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Oil or water based? Flat or Shiny?

Now, we’re going to talk a little about the types of colours used for ceilings and walls: Ceilings are most often painted in a flat, shine-less white. The product is normally an un-washable water-based acrylic and a layer of the undercoat is applied before painting the top coat.

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Just like ceilings, a layer of undercoat is used for walls as well. This helps to straighten out any uneven spots and it also helps the top layer of paint better stick to the wall. The paint used is normally a water-based washable paint.

Water based or oil based paint?

For the layer of undercoat, which isn’t apparent in the finished work, we can either use water-based or oil paint. Normally, when the wall has fewer dents and uneven spots, painters go for the water-based undercoat because it’s better in quality and is also much easier to work with. But when the wall is old and has many flaws, an oil-based paint is used because it provides a better coverage and will help the top coat stick to the wall a lot more than the water-based paint.

But what about the topcoat?

Do they normally go for water based or oil based in Australia? This question has many details to it, but the simple version is: they try to go for oil-based when they can! Oil-based paints are known to be toxic and harmful or even trigger cancer cell growth. Although it is always the best choice when it comes to doorframes and window frames (as they’re made of wood and will absorb the water-based paints), we definitely don’t recommend it for walls and ceilings. In general, these rules don’t apply to beach houses because the paint has to suit the weather and humidity levels there.

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Flat or shiny?

The ceilings, whether it’s for commercial painting or residential painting, are normally painted with flat paints (matte).

When painting walls, a low sheen paint is the most popular choice between Australians or at the most a semi-gloss paint. High gloss paints are the right choice when it comes to businesses or shopping centres. The doors and doorframes are also painted using high gloss or semi-gloss paint for a clean, chic polish. Although high gloss is very elegant, it can be harsh to the eyes and become tiring after a while when it’s used in houses. To sum up, flat paints are used for the ceiling and glossy paints (with different ranges of shine) are used for the walls and doors.

Popular brands of paint in Australia

Whether you’re doing the painting or you’re hiring a professional, the outcome is completely dependent on the quality of the brand you decide to use. Definitely discuss the brand and quality of the paint before making a contract with your painter. Now, the question still remains as for which brands are more reliable? But the answer is different for each painter. You can see the result of Canstarblues 2018 research on this issue, below. This was done between seven brands. They were all given a score out of five based on their finish quality, durability, ease of application, ranges of finish and value for money.

Overall satisfaction of paint brands













British Paints


Although it’s still a subjective choice and the paints need to be chosen according to each job (for example washable acrylics, oil-based paints, ceiling paints, paints used on wood, etc.), this chart is good for giving you a general idea of the main brands being used in Australia. It seems as though Dulux is the most popular choice for Australian painters.

Paints used in bathrooms and toilets

There are special paints available for bathroom, toilet and kitchen walls. But they tend to be pricier so they aren’t so popular in Australia.

How to paint exteriors?

Stonework isn’t used very often in Australia. The exterior of the buildings are usually done with cement or bricks, the render and bricks are then painted over. Stonework or metal exteriors are mostly seen in more extravagant buildings and industrial projects.

Exterior paint – Photo by:

In Australia, especially in Sydney where the weather is high in humidity, certain types of paint are used for outer areas such as the railings or wooded places. Paints such as Weathershield are used in these conditions.

White and neutral colors are popular in Australia – Photo by:

Painted bricks – Photo by:

It’s interesting to know that these paints are normally water-based acrylics even though they are still durable in humid weather. The quality of these paints is quite different from the quality of paint used indoors. These paints have an even longer lifespan than oil paints and they can stay flawless for up to ten years.

What colours are popular in Australian designs?

White! White is by far the most popular colour seen in Australian homes. It reflects the simple and homey feel Aussies love.

But the real question is how “white” is defined, as there are a very wide range of whites used for painting homes in Australia. Some have a golden undertone; others lean more towards grey. We will list some of the more common choices below:

  • Crisp White
  • Whisper White
  • Natural White
  • White on white
  • Antique White U.S.A.
  • Hog Bristle quarter
  • Lexicon
  • Lexicon quarter
  • Vivid white
  • White Exchange Half
  • Casper White Quarter
  • Snowy Mountains Half
  • White Dune Half
  • China White
  • Stowe white
  • White Cloak Quarter
  • Seed Pear
  • Berkshire White
  • Chalk U.S.A.
  • Terrace White
  • Highgate

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How many coats of paint should be applied?

3 coats are needed for a normal home painting. It could be more or less depending on the condition of the surface being worked on.

This is the answer any professional painter will give you. One coat of undercoat and two layers of the top coat. This is the general process; although it may vary from surface to surface.Some may need more layers applied and others that are in better conditions may only need the first two. It’s important to discuss this beforehand with your painter.

Patching and sanding

In Australia, patching and sanding are always done together. Before applying the paint or sometimes even before painting the undercoat, painters patch the wall using filler and sand the imperfections and flaws on the surface.

You can buy ready fillers from stores like Bunnings or other paint stores. Although, it’s important to know that different surfaces may need different types of filler. For example, smooth surfaces that only have small imperfections will need 120-grit whereas, with wooden surfaces, 80-grit sandpaper is the better choice.

Sandpapers – Photo by:

In other surfaces, like gyprock, plastered walls, the little dents and spots aren’t visible before the wall is painted. This can make patching very difficult. In these situations, the painter has to apply the undercoat layer of paint first. This will make the imperfections more visible, then they should patch with filler and apply the next layers of paint

Patching and sanding aren’t necessarily hard tasks, but the difference between a skilled expert and an amateur painter is that the first knows exactly which places need filler and what combination of filler or grit of sandpaper is best for each job. An expert’s finished work will look much cleaner and you won’t be able to recognise any of the flaws visible before.

Sandpaper, size = 80 – Wooden surface – Photo by:

Gap filler (no more gap) What is gap filler?

Gap filler is one of the tools used for painting in Australia. This is a very needed and practical technique, it’s sometimes even more important than patching with filler but in some parts of the world, this technique still isn’t being used.

Gap filler (no more gaps) is extremely used in Australian house painting – Photo by:

It’s apparent by its name that it’s for filling gaps and dent in walls, especially linear gaps. Sometimes, filler just isn’t enough to cover deeper dents and other times these gaps are between two surfaces, like where the wall meets the floor. In these places, gap filler, which has a doughy texture at first and then gradually turns hard, is needed for correcting said imperfections.

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Undercoat (Primer)

The first layer, also known as the undercoat, is one of the most important parts of the painting process. Some painters skip this step and only apply the top coat, watch out for these kind of designers and be sure to talk about it beforehand.

Primer (undercoat) is one of the most important parts of the painting process – Photo by:

The top coat doesn’t stick to the surface properly without the undercoat layer. The undercoat basically acts as a glue between the wall and top coat of paint. Without this layer you will most likely face two problems:

1- The paint might start to wear off after a few months.

2- If you ever decide to repaint your walls, The moisture from the paint will soak through the old layer and cause problems.

Overall, for surfaces that are being painted for the first time, or old walls that need proper redecorating the undercoat layer is a must! The only place you can skip this step is when you’re painting over a surface with a good quality finish from before. The painter can recognise the difference. The paint being used as a primer or undercoat can be water based or oil based; water based is usually used for walls and ceilings while oil based is more appropriate for doorframes. A layer of oil based undercoat is also needed for oil painted surfaces in order for the top coat to stick. The general rule is that oil paints will work on either oil or water based paints but water based paints won’t stick on an oil based paint.


Author padmin

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Isla says:

    This post was so helpful! Thank you for sharing these tips, I couldn’t find an article that touched on all the different areas with the detail I needed on others sites. What level of grit should I use for sanding an old plaster wall?

  • Harper says:

    Great post! Came in very handy today.
    I have a question, my room walls are painted in bright red, will primer cover it or will I need to add anything else?

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