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The Best Water-Based Gloss

Updated Nov 9, 2022 | Posted Aug 2, 2021 | Product Advice, Professional insight | 10 comments

Water-based technology has come a long way in the past few years and products such as water-based gloss has improved dramatically. There are so many advantages of using water-based compared to oil.

The main reason people are edging more and more towards water-based, is modern oil-based gloss tends to discolour over time, whereas water-based will stay looking pristine for a lifetime.

Water-based products are better for the environment too!! Clean up is a lot quicker and application is a lot easier. But what is the best water-based gloss on the market? I thought I’d go through my favourites and explain the pros and cons of each. I hope this helps clear things up.


Johnstone’s Aqua


Johnstone’s Aqua is the most popular water-based gloss on the British market. That said, it isn’t a true water-based. It is in fact, a hybrid, meaning it still contains a small amount of oil. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A hybrid is what you would class as a compromise between water and oil. Johnstone’s Aqua is durable, easy to apply, has great opacity and feels like an oil-based. It will discolour which is a massive disadvantage, but it takes a lot longer than a true oil-based would.

There are a few things you need to remember if you’re going to use Johnstone’s Aqua. You should always use the aqua undercoat and gloss as a system and never go straight over previously painted surfaces without it.

It also helps if you keep a bucket of water handy so you can keep wetting your brush when needed. Running a damp cloth over a surface before painting will also help. Water is your friend with any water-based gloss, but especially with Johnstone’s Aqua. This paint can drag slightly on application, and it will wreck your brushes.

You can buy Johnstone’s Aqua online, or any Johnstone’s Decorating Centre. Full review here!


Teknos Futura Aqua 90


Teknos Futura Aqua 90 could be the best water-based gloss on the market, particularly in white. Available online in almost any colour, this is another hybrid product.

As with most products of this type, you must use the specified primer to go with the topcoat. In this case, Teknos Futura primer. The primer has awesome adhesion to old oil-based coatings and great opacity. Leave plenty of time in-between coats and apply enough coats of the primer (usually 2), to make a solid base, as the Futura Aqua 90 gloss doesn’t have the same opacity.

That said, the finish is lovely! Teknos Futura Aqua 90 leaves a pure, bright, “in your face” finish which is easily a match for oil. I love this product and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better.

full review here


Benjamin Moore Scuff X Semi-Gloss


This is by far the most premium product on my list, and it is the most expensive. As the name suggests, Benjamin Moore semi-gloss has a sheen level which is slightly lower than most true gloss products. This is the only downside.

A lot of decorators, including myself, use this product directly over the top of old oil-based coatings. However, you are advised to use the Benjamin Moore Stix primer by the manufacturer for adhesion. You will find the semi-gloss extremely easy to work with, levels off nicely and leaves a gorgeous finish!! This really is a luxurious product and easily one of the best water-based gloss products on the market. Although it isn’t quite as good as their satinwood.

You can buy this product online. 


Tips for Applying Water-Based Gloss


OK, we’ve talked about the best water-based gloss products on the market. I Just wanted to talk briefly about how to apply them. You may find these paints quite stringy if you try to apply them by the same methods as you would normal gloss.

There are a couple of things you can do to make the process a lot easier. The first is to keep your brush wet. Try dipping it in water then spinning it before you start painting. Then even as you use it, occasionally dipping your paintbrush in water will stop the gloss from drying near the ferrule and causing your bristles to splay.

Another tip for applying water-based gloss is to wipe a surface with a damp sponge just before you paint it. That little bit of extra water will help with flow, but don’t over-soak it.

One last tip; when applying the gloss to large flat surfaces, try applying it with a foam roller, then laying it off with a brush. You’ll find the finish much better.


Which Water-Based Gloss Products do Other Decorators Use?

Is that 100% water-based, or hybrid gloss? These are two totally different products & different results.

If you’re looking for 100% water-based, then it’s HMG, which is the best & brightest white on the market. If you’d prefer a hybrid, then look at the Benjamin More Advanced, although does yellow. Then we have enamel (pu gloss) the best is Caparol feels like oil on the brush. Problem is there are too many to choose from & different budgets.

John Kerry


For me, the best water-based gloss is Teknos Futura 90. It may be a hybrid, but it has a fantastic sheen level, it’s durable and you can get a good finish via brush and roller. You don’t need to faff around trying to get rid of brush marks, or battle to make the finish look even.

I always use two coats of primer and 2 topcoats, which I know sounds excessive. Reason being, I like to dilute the product to help with flow.

Mark Smith

According to a lot of other decorators, Benjamin Moore grand entrance is one of the best, but I didn’t think it was shiny enough.

Tikkurila Helmi 80 is also highly rated, but let’s be honest, there no comparison to oil-based gloss

John Swinton

I’m a big fan of Leyland trade water-based gloss, it’s touch dry in half an hour, no smells or odours and stays white. It’s just not as shiny as oil based

Alan Hunter

I struggle with most water-based gloss systems to be honest. I’d LOVE them to be better than they are, then I’d move over to 100% water-based for interior work. Rationally I totally understand all the benefits, but have yet to find one that gives a great finish and that I enjoy working with. Satin and eggshell, no problem.

But the glosses I find don’t have great opacity, and the “ninja runs” can be a nightmare.

The best I’ve found so far (and I’m using it today coincidentally) is Benjamin Moore Advance. But I’d still rather be on the Scuff-X!

Robin Gofton


Johnstone’s Aqua undercoat + aqua gloss is absolutely perfect for me. Flows nicely and leaves a great finish

John Enston

Dulux Quick Dry Gloss, I know a lot of decorators will slate me, but I’ve never had any problems with it. Covers well, nice and shiny, cures nice and hard and it’s pretty cheap compared to most.

John Sweeney

I use Caparol pu gloss. No water-based gloss will be like oil but for me, this is the closest thing as an all-rounder. Isomat’s gloss is pretty good too.

Vicki Nicholson

Updated Nov 9, 2022 | Posted Aug 2, 2021 | 10 comments

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  1. P.S.Gill

    It took me 2 coats of water based undercoat and 3 of gloss to get a decent finish. This was around 6 month’s ago. More difficult to blend paint strokes than with oil based gloss. The finish was around 70% compared to gloss. So far it’s held, no chips, flakes, crack’s. Easy to clean. Good for the environment, I’ll take a 70% and use products which are not going to be harmful. Paint used was Armstead satin White.

    • Mike Cupit

      You’ve just summed water-based gloss up beautifully there.

  2. Trevor Maltby

    I agree with John Sweeney Dulux quick dry gloss or Dulux Once Gloss has had great results

  3. Thomas Robb

    Just tried some water based gloss to be more environmentally friendly. I got a brilliant finish on the skirting boards after I dumped the water based keek in the bin and got some proper paint. Waste of money

  4. Phillip Monk

    I am wondering if anybody has an opinion on Sandtex paint – I’m looking to paint the exterior of my home located near the sea. Does Sandtex paint help protect against sea spray and water?

    This is where i have found the paint –

    • David

      Sadolin supadec is the best for us, NE cost Scotland, 75 yards from sea. Outlasted sandtex easily.

      • Des cass

        We used Superdec on a seaside house in Padstow after a Farrow & Ball system failed dramatically 18 months on still solid , 3 coats. We use Dulux inside

  5. Gilles Pierre

    I can’t see a mention of Benjamin Moore ‘Advance’ on any posts. I spoke to Benjamin Moore this morning regarding a pure brilliant white gloss for my hallway woodwork and they recommended ‘Advance’ (High Gloss) over Scuff-X because it has a much higher sheen level. The most important aspect for me is that it stays white and doesn’t yellow over time. They assured me this wouldn’t happen. Has anyone experience of ‘Advance’ high gloss?

  6. Joshua Gough

    I have tried several, as more and more customers want it now, but the key is to get to know the paint and how it works before just giving up on it, and Acrylics and hybrids are also very different to work with too, but you have to really find the right brush that suits the paint too (usually nylon or nylon/polyester blend) and also know that most really need thinning first and you need to learn what the correct consistency is through trial and error to have the best experience with them.

    Hybrids definately have decent flow and act closer to oil-based than acrylics do, but as mentioned they do contain some level of oil and the finish is an alkyd-resin which is typically found in oil-based glosses, but if you dont thin these down, you are really going to find it hard work spreading them as they are thick and dont want to move, then when you come back later you will find runs starting over all the surfaces you have just painted…
    Problem is, they start skinning quickly, so if you go back to them to pull out the runs, it will leave you with a finish what looks like porridge on your newly painted surface, so seriously learn to thin them properly first.
    Difference companies will have different levels of oil content though, like Johnstones Aqua is very oily and if you dont clean them with Brush Cleaner it will ruin them!
    I think of the ones I have tried, Colour Trend was my personal favorite.

    Acrylics however I have found need to be applied liberally, load your brush up and get the stuff on there.
    Clean up is definately much easier compared to hybrids, you can keep going for days and wrap them in plastic and they will still wash just fine the next day, where as hybirds, you need to clean out regularly even in the middle of painting with them which can be a pain.
    One of the biggest issues I have found with most acryilc products on the market is that their whites are often really bad and you will need 2 or 3 under coats on bare wood, then 2-3 top coats of gloss because they are almost transluscent looking (kind of like using white silk, almost looks like its mixed with PVA), but on the other hand their coloured glosses are fantastic and an absolute pleasure to use.
    Take Valspar for example, I really cant stand their white primer, it applies so slowly, its hard work to use and feels thick but dries looking like its been massively over-thinned, and their gloss is just super translucent, which is a stark contrast to their coloured glosses that I couldnt praise highly enough.
    Armstead Acrylic Eggshell… awful, needs several coats, finish looks ok, but marks so bad even just from looking at it.
    Dulux Acrylic Diamond gloss was a bit better than Armstead for finish but needed thinning and getting the balance was a bit of a pain.
    Isomat’s acrylic gloss actually is nice to work with and leaves a great finish, but the trick is just to not be shy and put plenty on.

    There are so many products out there and they all behave differently, even with Oil-based you get this.
    Macphearson works like a dream out of the tin.
    Crown full gloss is super thick, but actually very easy to thin it and get the consistency right without much messing about.
    Dulux on the other hand is a nightmare getting its consistence right.
    I just used Johnstones Satin OB recently on a job just after Id been using Crowns full gloss on another and I hated it, constently back and forth thinning it and thickening it up trying to get it to flow right and not leave runs everywhere.
    Macphearsons Satin… perfect straight out of the tin!

    There are good and bad products in both worlds, but like I say, get to know the product, use the right brushes and techniques and you will get the best out of the product.
    Unless is consumer stuff bought off the DIY stores shelf or from B&M like Johnstones quich dry….
    Oh man that stuff is worse than garbage, good look trying to get a good finish with that rubbish haha

  7. Melody Loring

    These comments are SO helpful because after reading the start, I had to Realise that I Must change my ways and ‘move with the times’ as most of my attitudes were listed in “Old School thinking” !!

    So much to learn after returning to decorating after a 30 year break, never even heard of “Tikkurila OR Teknos Teknoceiling” !!!!


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