Interior vs Exterior Paint: What’s the Difference?

Interior vs Exterior Paint: What’s the Difference?

Painting a house is one of the biggest and most rewarding endeavors you can take on as a homeowner. It changes the entire look of the house and, depending on what color you go with, can make it feel new, fresh, and beautiful!

But between interior and exterior paint, which one is right for you? The right paint job can completely change the look and feel of your home–but it can also be a lot of work and get expensive, fast.

So today, we’re breaking down interior vs exterior paint so you can be sure you’re making the right call. Let’s get started!


Interior and exterior paints have different formulations depending on the surface they are intended for. Interior paints generally have a higher level of pigment as compared to exterior paints. This is because it can provide a more consistent color appearance.

Exterior paints generally contain more binding agents to protect them from the elements such as:

  • weather
  • temperature changes
  • fading due

All of which can be due to sunlight exposure. Interior paints have a much higher resin content than exterior coatings to resist staining, provide durability, and hide the substrate material.

Additionally, exterior paints have a higher concentration of oils and waxes to help protect the surface from moisture. This helps the paint remain more flexible and last longer. 


Exterior paint is generally very durable and is designed to withstand the elements. It is usually resistant to fading, cracking, water absorption, and UV rays. Interior paint is not meant to be used and be exposed the same as exterior paint. It is not as resistant to:

  • fading
  • cracking
  • water absorption

It also does not hold up well against UV rays. It is important to choose the appropriate type of paint for the purpose it is meant to serve. Quality products will last much longer than lower-quality ones. Interior paints do well in areas that do not receive a lot of foot traffic while exterior paints are sturdier and designed to withstand wear and tear in harsher conditions.

Mildew and Mold Resistance

Mold and mildew growth on painted surfaces is a common problem and can be a health risk. Exterior paints are specifically formulated with mildewcides and fungicides to resist mold and mildew growth. They are designed to resist fading and chalking caused by UV exposure from the sun.

Interior paints are not formulated with mildewcides and fungicides so mold and mildew may grow on interior painted surfaces over time unless preventative measures are taken to stop moisture or humidity from accumulating on surfaces.

Interior paints may also require a topcoat finish to provide improved performance in environments with high humidity. Exterior paints should always be used in bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-humidity areas to ensure long-lasting protection against mildew and mold.

Color Fastness

Interior paint is designed to be more colorfast than exterior paint. This is because it is rarely exposed to harsh UV rays and other environmental factors that can have a negative effect on paint color. Interior paint is also typically more forgiving with regards to cleaning and scrubbing. This is because it is rarely exposed to harsh cleaning agents and the like.

For external areas, high-quality exterior paints are usually required to ensure maximal color fastness. This is because they are designed to withstand high UV ray exposure and other weather conditions that can affect paint colors. Of course, certain products may be necessary, such as:

  • stains
  • lacquers
  • other metal protectants

All of these are useful to keep the color fastness for exterior facilities, depending on the climate and conditions they are exposed to.


Depending on its application, interior paint is usually not as flexible and durable as exterior paint. Exterior paint is made for outdoor use to endure weather and climate changes such as:

  • intense sun
  • humidity
  • heat
  • rain

This means that the paint needs to be more flexible and durable to truly last. Generally, exterior paint is more expensive due to the compounds and layers needed to create a highly flexible and resilient surface.

While interior paint can be used on the exterior, it is not recommended because of the flexibility difference. The exterior will need an extra coating of protection to hold up outside, so be sure to choose a paint specifically made for outdoor use.

Sheen Level

Interior paints usually have a much higher sheen level due also to their formulation, which is designed to provide a finish that stands up to scrubbing and daily wear and tear. Exterior paints, on the other hand, are formulated to withstand a harsher environment and, as such, usually have a lower sheen level.

Generally, interior paint sheens range from matte or flat (no sheen) to low, semi-gloss, high gloss, and everything in between. Exterior paints, however, generally range in sheen from flat to semi-gloss.

In selecting a paint sheen, it’s important to consider the sheen level of the surface you’ll be painting. For example, a flat finish works great on exterior walls, while a high gloss finish is often chosen for trim, cabinets, and doors.

Primer Requirements

Primers are available in both oil and latex formulations. Inside the home, a latex primer is generally recommended. This is because they are lower in volatile organic compounds (VOC) and provide better adhesion with latex paints. Exterior paint requires an oil-based primer unless specifically labeled otherwise.

Oil-based primers provide better adhesion and durability against harsh weather conditions. They are also more resistant to water damage. When choosing a primer, make sure it is compatible with the paint you are using. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for the optimal results.

Primers are essential for improving paint adhesion and longevity on both interior and exterior projects. But if you are caught between the two, it’s always best to get help from experts. A good place to start would be to visit sites like or any recommended home painting services near you.

Learn to Decided Between Interior vs Exterior Paint

Interior and exterior paint both serve important functions in protecting your property. Interior paint aids in defining the space and adding character, whereas exterior paint guards against moisture and fading from sunshine and other elements.

There is no one-size-fits-all decision when it comes to choosing between interior vs exterior paint. So consult with professionals for help choosing the right paint for the job.

Should you wish to read more, visit our blog.

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Interior vs Exterior Paint: What’s the Difference?

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