Difference between paint and distemper – Types, Application


Here I have described the difference between paint and distemper in detail. So, be patient and read step by step without skipping any content to get full knowledge. Let us firstly start with paints.

What is Paints ?

Paints are the protective thin layer of synthetic pigmented chemicals that are applied over the building and its component or any structure. Paints form a thin layer of the plastic coating after drying. Paints in terms of chemistry may be defined as “The dispersion of pigments in drying oils or any solvent as a carrier along with the addition of the filler and binding materials”.

Difference between paint and distemper
Difference between paint and distemper

Paints are initially mixed with the volatile solvents called thinner so that they can easily spread over the surface. And after spreading or coating, the volatile solvents evaporate and a thin layer of plastic (polymer) layers are formed. Paints can be applied to all metallic surfaces, wooden structures, concrete, and cement components of buildings.

Major components of paints and their function


These are the color-producing chemical substances, which give the desired color to the paint. They are generally, oxides of different metals. And each oxide produces distinctive color and addition of different oxides in proportion form varieties of color shades.

For example, Iron oxide produces red pigment, white pigments are produced by Titanium oxide and Zinc oxide. Their main function is to give color to paint so that opacity of the paint increases. The amount of energy from sun rays to absorb or reflect generally depends upon color caused to pigments.

Vehicle / Medium / Carrier

The vehicle is the liquid content in paint in which the pigmenting and additional compounds of paint are able to get finely dispersed. They contain binder material like synthetic or natural resins like acrylics, vinyl acetate, epoxy resin & drying oils like castor oil, linseed oil, Tung oil, and the solvents which can be both volatile and non-volatile.

The main function of vehicles is to hold pigments and film-forming compounds with homogeneously well-dispersed condition so-called carrier as well. Moreover, in some paints on drying they form polymers from an unsaturated constituent of oil and resin by evaporation, oxidation, and polymerization, so also called drying oils. The vehicles are mainly responsible for adhesion over surfaces.

After the formation of the tough thin layers of polymers, they give waterproofing, glossy, flexibility, and durability. The polymers are also called resin solid.


They are the highly volatile solvents, which reduces the viscosity of the paint, so that the workability during paint job increases. They do not affect the paint after drying as they evaporate from them. Instead, some help in the polymerization of the compounds and oils present in the paint.

The mostly used paint thinners are turpentine, kerosene, esters, glycols ether, ketones, and petroleum spirit. They are also capable of dissolving oils of vehicle causing the more homogeneous solution.


Sometimes the paint needs to be quickly set or dry. Thus, these are accelerating catalyst, which helps in the drying of oil film by oxidation, polymerization, and condensation. Some examples of it are, Nepthentales, cobalt, manganese,


Fillers are inert material used in paint to increase the volume of paint to decrease its cost. The drying oil and vehicle alone could be uneconomical, thus with the optimization purpose, the filler proportion in paints is designed.

Moreover, the filler is an inert material, so even enhances property like increase density of pain, fill voids, reduces the cracks. Some examples of it are asbestos, china clay, calcium carbonate, talc. The filler is very useful for distemper and is the main reason for the cheaper distemper.


They are chemical compounds added to increase the elasticity of the film and prevent cracking of it. Some plasticizers used are, triglyceral phosphate ,triphenyl phosphate.

Anti-sinking agent

They are chemical compounds added in order for preventing shrinkage crack and sinking of paints. Polyhydroxy phenols, guaiac, etc are some anti-sinking agents. Anti-sinking agents, plasticizers, and fillers are included in the additives added to paint.

Types of paints

On basis of film forming mechanism, paints are majorly divided into two types.

Thermosetting paints

There is a two-film formation method of drying of the film after it’s been sprayed. And in this type of paint, the paint film is formed by polymerization of the constitute of paint. The polymers formed after drying are generally epoxy, silicone, and polyurethane.

These paints are generally oil-based and synthetic resin paints. The oil contains long unsaturated fatty acid chains. And due to atmospheric oxidation and polymerization of such unsaturated compounds occurs on the surface, which forms a film of the plastic layer. They generally contain nonvolatile solvents.

  • Thermoplastic paints

The finer constitutes the polymer of paints that are well dissolved or remain dispersed in the highly volatile or nonvolatile evaporating solvents.  And then the paint is spread over the surfaces, these polymers attach with each other as slowly the volatile solvent evaporates and thus then a film of coatings. Thus on the basis of the presence of the solvent and state of polymer in the paint, they are  further categorized into two types:

  1. Lacquers
  2. Emulsion paints


Lacquers are dispersion of film-forming material like nitrocellulose, resin, and plasticizers in highly volatile solvents like containing butyl acetate, xylene, and toluene. They instantly form a film of the plastic layer as volatile solvents dry off. Enamels are pigmented lacquers. And they are abundantly used, as its economical, durable, and protective for woods and iron or metal surfaces.

Enamel painted surfaces are hard and durable and are not affected by acids, alkalis, fumes of gases, hot and cold water. To improve appearance, coverage, and workability it is desired to apply a coat of primers like titanium white, zinc oxide primer before application of enamel.

Emulsion paints

These are such types of paint in which the film-forming polymers usually resins and latex are finely dispersed over the water as an emulsion. An emulsion is the heterogeneous mixture of organic fatty compounds with the water. The milk is an excellent example of a natural emulsion.

Synthetic polymers such as acrylic and vinyl acrylic are also used as binders. The main advantage of emulsion paint is it uses water as a solvent and thus easily workable with such paints. They do not dissolve in water after once they are dried. The water dries off after application over the surface leaving only the polymer film of the paint.

The emulsion paint has excellent property of forming a layer over coverage due to which there is the formation of a waterproof layer and the dust over it can be easily washed over. And, moreover, due to the use of the water, they are easy to be brushed on the wall or ceiling.

Nowadays there is the availability of the paints that use the combined method for the forming film. They are called catalyzed lacquers and cross-linked latex.

If you want to read the difference between paint and distemper without more content on paints, then you can skip some special types of paints below. Otherwise lets read it.


Fire resistant paint

These paints are excellent to resist heat and fire. They contain chemical compounds like PVC, rubber, urea-formaldehyde, carbonate pigments, and these substance gives the inflammable gases like carbon dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen bromide on their breakdown in fire and prevents the fire from propagation. Very useful in kitchens, restaurants, factories, go down.

Luminous paint

These paints have the property of illuminating the light in dark. The paint contains luminophore pigments that are able to absorb light in available and radiate it during the darkness.

The paints content phosphorescent materials like CdS, ZnS, are responsible for the luminophore pigment. And some metal salts are also added to alter there color. They are very useful on advertising boards, road markings. traffic signals, paint at poles watch, etc.

Chemical resistant paint/ Anticorrosive paint

These are specially designed paints for concrete walls and floor, wood, metals for protective coating from acids, harmful gases, sulfate attack, acid rains. They prevent from rusting and corrosion. Moreover, they have very good for abrasion and impacts too.

Bituminous paint

The paints include dissolved asphalt or bitumen, mineral pitches, tar along with petroleum oil. The paint presents black layers. They are generally used in painting irons underwater. Sometimes also used as damp proof course surface layer in the ground.

Cellulose paint

These paints are prepared by nitrocotton, celluloid, etc. These paints are hardened by evaporation without involving oxidation. Thus harden quickly and doesn’t impart color before drying and after drying. These paints are not affected by moisture, an extreme degree of the temperature of hot and cold .they are relatively costlier.

Inodorous paint

In such paints, there is no use of turpentine and instead, white lead or zinc white is mixed with methylated spirit. The shellac with some quantity of linseed oil and castor oil is also dissolved in methylated spirit. They are not durable but dries very quickly leaving shellac behind.

Silicate paints

The paint includes a mix of calcined and finely ground silica with the resinous matter as additives. These paints can extreme heat and adhere to brick as well. It is durable as no alkalis affect it, and no chemical reaction occurs even when applying to metal surfaces. Special silicate driers are used in it. however, the paint should be carried out in hot weather.

Aluminum paint

The fine powder of the aluminum dust is added in the paint vehicle, which remains suspended in oil or spirit of paint. When thinner is evaporated, the aluminum dust becomes the part of polymerization. And the bright adhering film is obtained on the painted surfaces.

They are for decorative purpose as it imparts attractive texture on the surface. It has good heat resistance and protection for corrosion too.

Application procedure of paint

The paint is generally applied with the help of a brush and the rollers. But in the modern era, the paints are also applied with spraying by highly diffusing nozzles along with pressure. The process of painting depends on the nature of the surface to be painted and the types of paint. Some procedures to apply paint on different surfaces are explained below,

  • On new wood work

Woodwork is sufficiently seasoned and should not contain more than 15% moisture at the time of painting. The surface is thoroughly cleaned with sandpapers along with proper punching of the head of nails below a depth of 3mm. the surfaces are then knotted. The prime coat is applied on the surface and the process of stopping is carried. And the other coat of paints is again applied after once it is dried. 

The term stop means to rub-down the surface after the first coat is applied. This is done by means of pumice stone or glass paper both. The hard stopping is the application of wall putty of admixing one-third lead and two-third of ordinary putty in holes and cracks.

 Repainting old wood works

The cracks of paint and blister develop in old paints are first removed with sanding it. the grease and dust are properly cleaned. The old paint also can be removed by the use of paint remover. After the removal of old paint the paint as applied similar to new woodwork.

  • On New iron and steel work

The surface of irons and steel are freed from dust, grease, and rust with help of the brushes scrappers. Water with caustic soda lime is also used to remove grease. The clean surface is provided with phosphoric acid so does it protects from rust and provide proper adhesion of paint.

Then the coats are applied with proper selection of paint. The finish coat should be smooth, and should not show any brush marks.

Repainting old iron and steel work

The old paints are either removed or washed depending on the situation of paint. If the paint is in too much vulnerable condition then they might need to be completely removed by burning and scraping off too. And after this painting procedure as in new steel and paint is carried out.

  • Plastered surface or masonry surface

The moisture in-wall or concrete surface must be properly dried off before the application of paint with proper ventilation. If needed artificial heating also can be provided. The cement generally produces an alkaline substance even after a long time. Thus alkali-resistant primers are initially coated.

It is better to use paints not containing any oil for initial or direct use on the cemented plaster surface. The rough surface and cracks seen must be removed. The spots showing efflorescence after the first coat should be brushed off. And the surface should be watching off for a few days.

Whether such a surface appears or not the remaining paintwork is carried on basis of it. then thus second and finishing coats of paints are easily applied with help of brush and rollers.

Repainting in plastered walls of masonry can be directly applied over the previously coated surfaces if it doesn’t contain any dust, grease, and defects.

For painting on types of cement and concrete, generally, cement paints, distempers, emulsion paints, oil paints, and silicate paints are preferred. And enamels are also preferred for skirting and floor areas.

We have explained the pains, but to know the difference between paint and distemper more deeply, let’s start reading about distemper.

What is Distemper?

Difference between paint and distemper
Difference between paint and distemper

Distempers are types of paints in which water is a dispersing medium. They generally lack polymer-forming compounds that form a glossy and plastic layer, however modern technology, distemper with the addition of polymers are also found.

They contain adhesive agents like gums as a binder. They are very economical affordable due to the presence of a large number of fillers like chalk powder, calcium carbonate, china clay, etc.

These paints are also known as cement paints as they are directly applied over the plaster area, walls ceiling. Previously they are found in powder form in which people use to add the adhesive vehicle like glue, lime, water in it.

They are very useful for painting interior parts of the building as it can be washed away by water. Their durability lies within 3 to 4 years. And so frequent repainting is required as their color fades giving dullish appearance.

Sometimes they are used as an early form of whitewash so that better quality paints like emulsion and artistic artworks have easy coverage over them.

Different colors can be mixed to distemper with help of mechanical mixtures and the pigments. The white unpigmented distemper with the proper proportion of vehicle, binder, fillers, are initially manufactured by factories and then distributed in markets.

Retailers mix the different pigments to achieve their desire color of the person with the help of a color code formula. The color pigment and white distemper are mixed well with help of the mechanical shaker.

Advantages of distemper

  • It is water-based paint so easy to use
  • These paints are cheap and easily affordable
  • They are useful to coat walls and ceilings as they have high coverage and made with fillers
  • They are easy to apply
  • Forms protective layer to plastic
  • Illuminates brightness and aesthetic appearance of the room

Disadvantages of distemper

  • They do not resist moisture and not water-proof. And, may fade or wash away due to water.
  • They are less durable than other paints
  • They are not useful for the exterior part of the buildings.
  • They don’t have a glossy and shiny appearance

Types of distemper

In market generally four types of distemper is popularly found. They are;

  1. Powder distemper:  These distempers are only used in past days and very old traditional techniques of painting walls. The powder is mix with lime, glue, water, and additives to form paint and then is sprayed over walls.
  2. Acrylic distemper: These distempers are the paste distemper with the addition of an acrylic polymer binder. They are the highest quality distemper which gives smooth and pleasant texture.
  3. Synthetic distemper: This distemper is improvised version distemper, which is able to form a uniform film, that can be wiped with water. They give a glossy texture.
  4. UNO acrylic distemper: They are also types of acrylic distemper with varying shades. They give a smooth matte finish. Their durability is higher among distemper. The stains and dust on walls can be cleaned over such paints after drying.

Procedure to apply distemper

Difference between paint and distemper
Before Distemper

The distemper, these days available are generally, paste form. This distemper brought from the market is highly viscous so, it is initially mixed with the water (hot water is preferred for better performance).

Then the surface that needs to be distempered is thoroughly rubbed and cleaned. The loose paints, fungus, algae, dust, grease should be completely removed. The cracks if present on the wall or ceiling must be filled with wall putty. The surface of it should be well dry before the application of distemper.

Mostly the distemper is applied with two coats. The initial coat must be thinner than the final coat. The initial coat of distemper should be within the limit of coverage,  180- 200 sq. ft per kg. and the final coat should be within the limit of 80-110 sq. ft per kg. The distemper can easily be applied with the help of brush and rollers having absorbing clothes.

Difference between paint and distemper
After Distemper

Difference between paint and distemper

Distemper is one of kind of paint where the binding material is adhesive gum and water with the addition of filler like chalk, CaC03  in huge amount, whereas paint is self is the one of the construction material having a chemical composition of pigment, vehicle (solvent + binder+ polymers), and different admixture.

The vehicle of the paints differentiates the type of paint and its use like whether to use it in metal, wood, concrete, or any specific purpose. But distempers are cheap coats especially design just for interior walls only.

The main difference between paint and distemper is Most of the paint like enamels, lacquers, the emulsion has a very glossy and shiny appearance, but distemper does not have unless they are mixed with other admixtures and polymers forming compound.

Thus the paint except distemper has very high durability and can prevent moisture transfer, unlike distemper.  Distemper doesn’t give protection against external exposer and environment either, so they are only used in internal compartments for aesthetic appearance.

But paints can be used everywhere with the purpose of aesthetic appearance as well as protection from corrosion and deterioration of surfaces to be cover

Except for emulsion, all other paints are organic or inorganic solvent-based products. Distemper easily dissolves over water. Also, they can be washed or removed by waters.

Also, the difference between paint and distemper is, All other paints are available in the market in units of liters but distempers are brought per kilograms as it contains lots of filler materials.

Distemper are cheap in cost and easily applicable compare to all other paints.

The pigment in distemper is added at last where as in all other paints it is mixed at the time of manufacture.

The price difference between paint and distemper

The price of the paints normally depends upon its type, quality, and pigments used in them. The coloring pigment can cause fluctuation in price within the same quality and type of paints. The general market price of some paints are (Based on the 2020 market price)


Aluminum paint –  Rs. 320- 900 per Liter

Heat resistant aluminum paint – RS. 1200- 1400 per Liter


Normal distemper –Rs. 100-120 per Kg

UNO acrylic distemper –Rs. 140- 180 per Kg

Synthetic distemper – Rs. 800 – 900 per Kg

Enamels – Rs. 900- 1400 per Liter

Emulsion paint – Rs. 500- 800 per liter

Luminous paint – Rs. 5000- 6000 per liter

The above rates of pains and distemper are on the basis of the market price of 2020 A.D. It may be different according to time and place. It has only given to provide you some general knowledge of price difference.

I hope this article on “Difference between paint and distemper” remains helpful for you.

Happy Learning – Civil Concept

Contributed by,

Civil Engineer – Rajan Shrestha

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