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What Is Base Paint? (Is It The Same As Undercoat?)

Paint roller in base paint

Most indoor painting projects start with a base paint. The base paint is a paint to which colorants are added to produce the color you want to paint with, most commonly on the walls of a home. Within base paints, there are several differences of paints, such as base 1, base 2, base 3, and base 4.

A base paint is not the same as a primer because a primer is a product you use to get your paint to stick well and adhere to the walls, whereas the base paint is like a blank canvas to accept the color you want to use.

What Is Base Paint Made Of?

The most commonly used paint for homeowners and painters on walls inside of a home is latex paint. Latex base paint is made of water, resins, pigments, and additives.

The makeup of this paint is about half water in your paint can.

The paint is made up of liquids and solids and this also varies with the type of latex paint you are using.

For one gallon of a flat latex paint, there will be 57% solids, but for a semi-gloss latex paint with a sheen to it, there will be 51% solids in the paint can.

This is why you notice that flat or matte paints have a sort of chalky texture because they contain more solids.

The liquid in a latex-based paint is water, but in oil-based paints, the liquid portion of the paint is some sort of oil, such as mineral turpentine.

The resins in your latex base paint are binders to bind all the products in it together and this also helps the paint to dry on your walls. Many times, in latex paints, they are an acrylic emulsion polymer.

The pigments in your paint are the colorations that are added to the paint to get the color you desire.

Many times they are in a powder form and for white, it is titanium dioxide, black paints use carbon black for tinting, and yellows and oranges use metallic salts for the pigmentation.

Additives in your paint improve its physical properties to smooth out your brush strokes, keep mold from growing on your painted projects, and to promote much faster drying times.

Paint additives can also help the paint to resist sagging. You can actually add extra additives to your paint to smooth out brush strokes like a professional painter by using Penetrol or Floetrol.

Is Base Paint The Same As Undercoat?

Painting the undercoat paint with a roller

This can be a bit confusing, but primer, undercoat, and base paint are all different items used for different purposes.

An undercoat gives you a smooth and uniform surface that is even on the surface, so that your topcoats of color will be smoother.

It gives the topcoat a more substantial appearance after it dries and it can cover or hide imperfections on the surface that you are painting.

A primer is meant as the first coat of paint on walls or other surfaces that have never been painted before.

It makes a good base layer to accept your topcoats of paint and make sure they adhere properly. Primers can be latex, alkyd, or lacquer-based.

Undercoat paint is used on a surface first before applying the topcoats, but it is only used on surfaces that have already been painted in the past. So an undercoat can be a primer, but a primer is never an undercoat.

Base paint is a paint that you tint most times before using as the first coat on a surface that has never been painted before. So, it’s not the same as an undercoat.

Base paints are used to mix your colorants into and achieve the final color that you desire.

What Is Base Paint Mainly Used For?

Base paint is used when you are painting walls or trim work in your home that has never had paint applied to them before.

It is usually tinted to a color that you will achieve when you use the base coat and then the topcoats are applied.

The trim in a home generally has some sheen to it and the walls may have a sheen or they can be matte or flat. Ceilings are generally painted in a matte topcoat.

The Different Types Of Paint Bases Explained

There are four different types of paint bases to consider for your projects as the foundation for your coloring or tinting.

Base 1

has the highest amount of white pigmentation and it is used for your topcoats, which are lighter and softer tones as well as whites.

Base 1 paint will not give you intense and dark colors because of the white pigmentation that is already in it.

Base 2

This has quite a bit of the same white pigmentation achieved by the level of titanium dioxide, but it’s not as much as Base 1.

Base 2 can be used for slightly darker hues than Base 1, but still, they are lighter shades in the full spectrum of color.

Base 3

Is used for average tones of paint because it has less white pigmentation than Base 1 and Base 2.

It will give you solid colors that can be intense in darker tones and shades. It gives your finished product deep and rich colors.

Base 4

This has the least amount of white pigmentation in it and so it is used to produce the darkest and richest tones of colors. When a tint or colorant is added to Base 4, it results in very intense and solid shades of colors.

It is often called the dark horse by professionals for its ability to produce rich and dark shades.

Different tins of base paint

How Do You Use Base Paint?

First, you need to choose between the four types of bases for the base paint that will work best with your topcoats of paint.

If you are still a bit confused, your local paint store or home improvement store can provide you with a knowledgeable person in the paint department to point you in the right direction.

You can then choose the color of premixed top coat paint and have your base paint tinted to the right shade. It’s quite simple.

The person in the paint department puts a can of base paint on a machine and presses in a code for the paint color you want.

The machine then turns and squirts the tint or colors into the can to make the appropriate color. Then the lid is placed back on the can and a machine will shake the can to mix the tint into the paint.

First Coat

You use base paint as the first coat of paint on surfaces that are raw and have never been painted before, such as wood or drywall in your home. You can apply it with a paint sprayer, a brush, or a roller–it’s entirely up to you.

Using a roller or a sprayer is quite a bit faster for your project and if you haven’t painted a lot with a brush, you may be able to see your strokes pretty vividly after your work is dried.

The best idea is to use a roller for the flat areas on a wall and a paintbrush to get into the corners.

Mix your paint thoroughly with either a handheld paint stirrer or by hand with stir sticks until it is all completely mixed together and one solid color.

Where To Start

You can start by painting the trim in the crevices where walls meet with your paintbrush to cut the paint in toward the center flat areas and then finish painting with the roller.

Only use as much base paint as you need to cover the wall and don’t load up your roller with too much paint. If your paint roller has too much paint on it, it will cause drips in your painted wall and on your floors.

After your base coat dries completely, you are ready to start painting your topcoats of paint for the color you chose.

Apply each topcoat in the same manner as you did with the base coat, allowing each coat to dry completely from 2 to 4 hours before applying the next coat.

You will get much better results for a longer job if you apply a sealer on top of your last topcoat of paint.

This type of product prevents smudges, dents, and dings and makes your paint job last much longer while remaining the color you chose.

Is Base Paint The Same As White Paint?

White paint can with a brush

Base paint isn’t the same as white paint, although all four of the base paints look white in the cans before the colorant is added to it. Technically, white paint will be a bit thicker than any base paint and white paint will cover much better as well.

Is Base Paint The Same As Primer?

Base paint and primer are alike in that they are the first coats painted on the walls of your home, but they are not the same product. Base paint is used on drywall and wood that is raw–meaning it has never had paint on it before.

Primer is used on a wall or other object that has paint on it already. Primer’s main purpose is to help your subsequent topcoats of paint to adhere to the surface easily.

Can You Use Base Paint Without Tinting?

You actually can use Base 1 paint without tinting in a few different scenarios where it will come out okay. Without adding tinting or colorants to your Base 1 paint, it won’t have the same coverage as if you tinted it.

If you are touching up a wall that is white already, it may look okay when you use base paint without tints, but if the wall is any other color than white, the color underneath will most likely bleed through the base paint and not look so good.

It’s the best practice to always have your base paint tinted so that it gives you the coverage you need and the final color will be what you are expecting as well.

The tint mixes with the liquids in the paint to color it and they are needed for a professional-looking paint job on walls and trim work in your home.

Final Thoughts

So now you should be armed with all the knowledge you need to properly paint an inside wall or room in your home using the correct types of paint and the right processes for a great looking job.

About Lisa Bohrer

Lisa is a native Texan who says she wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, animal lover, fisherwoman, gardener, and college student. Lisa is a sophomore at Liberty University where she is taking classes to earn her Associates Degree in Creative Writing. She and her husband of 35 years fill their days with life on the farm raising goats and chickens, and then most evenings she can be found at the computer writing, or researching a topic that has piqued her interest.

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