The Best Interior Paint Money Can Buy- A Review of Benjamin Moore’s Aura Eggshell

What is the best interior paint? Is it even possible to make such a statement without conducting tests for durability, adhesion and hiding qualities? What about the look and the sheen? Interior decorating is all about the look afterall. Some people prefer the smoothness of a matte finish and others the silkiness of eggshell. Even after ticking all the required boxes, does the paint represent good value to the user? What about availability to consumers and the contractors?

As professionals painting interiors every day for years, we have our favourite products. If money was not an object, what paint would we recommend to our best customers?  We think the best interior paint money can buy is Benjamin Moore’s Aura Eggshell. This is clearly a subjective point of view, albeit based on solid empirical experience.

What Makes Aura Eggshell the Best Paint?

While most people agree that quality paint is better, not everyone sees the higher cost as justified. Is it true that expensive paints, like Aura, represent better value for the money? We think so, because of the following reasons:

  • Zero Volatile organic Compounds, low odour. There was low and zero VOC paint way before Benjamin Moore introduced their proprietory Gennex colorant system. The problem was that the colourants we used for tinting paint were the universal colourants of the past. The stronger the colour, the higher was the VOC content. With the Gennex tinting system available now, you can have low VOC at any colour, yes, even red and orange tones.
  • It has better hiding characteristics. By using fewer coats (layers) to hide the previous colour, you save time and use less product. This is especially helpful when using darker and brighter colours. Aura uses better raw materials and claims an incredible 46.3% Volume Solids. Before Aura was introduced, it was common to expcect 5-6 coats of red to achieve 100% hiding. In the following picture our painters look amazed that they two coats of red was sufficient. This was not just any red but Benjamin Moore’s Caliente AF-290. Caliente is a strong, radiant colour and the colour of the year for 2018.
painters are impressed with the paint
  • Better ingredients. Quality paints have better ingredients that cost more money but make better paint that is supposed to last longer. Paint includes pigments binders and additives. According to the Rohm & Haas’ Paint Quality Institute, quality means better binders. The type and amount of binders affect things like adhesion, flexibility, and stain resistance. Better paints contain good qualty and more expensive pigments that help with hiding. One of the most important (prime) pigments is titanium dioxide also called titanium white. Cheaper coatings use “fillers”, also called extender pigments that provide bulk but not much else.  
    Benjamin Moore manufactures and their own binders, pigments and colourants. They have eight research and development labs staffed with more than 100 chemists, engineers and support personel. Their research facility is in Flanders, New Jersey.

Benjamin Moore’s Proprietary Colour Lock™ Technology

Washable paints have been around for a while. Top quality Acrylic Eggshel has always been the coating of choice for common areas. It combined durability with a low, non glaring sheen. The problem was, that after frequent washing of the walls, the sheen was rubbed off and the colour started fading. To solve this problem, Benjamin Moore developed the ground breaking technogy they call Colour Lock®. Initially available to Aura finishes, it trickled down to some of their less expensive lines. It works by encapsulating colour pigments with proprietory resins into the film of the paint. The result is a truly durable paint that resists colour fading and rubbing off. Our own experience over the years validates this claim. Even after many washes the colour looks good, it resists scuffing and the film is mildew resistant. Perfect for a home with young children and active pets! Another benefit that may or may not be a result of this technology is how easy touch ups are, even days later.

Eggshell walls with Satin trim paint

Is Aura Really Self Priming?

When the “Primer and Paint in One” products first came out, painters dismissed it as a gimmick for DIYers. It was afterall promoted at the big box stores, along with all their brands. In reality, professionals don’t always use primer unless necessary. During basic interior repaints, spot-priming and two coats is the norm. The big box stores brought the primer issue in the forefront and all of a sudden everything needed a primer. All of a sudden the paints with primer in them were supposed to be superior. We used to just call it the “first coat” no matter what the brand of paint was. Early conclusions were that this was mostly a sales gimmick. Professionals never bought into it. New drywall still needed PVA primer, new wood needed some alkyd or hybrid. Glossy surfaces should get a bonding primer and stained surfaces a specialty primer or shellac. So what priming exactly were these wonder coatings meant for?

When Aura claimed to be self priming, some of us took notice. In the past Benjamin Moore stayed away from gimmicky claims so what was that about? From their website: “Aura® Eggshell Finish is self priming on most surfaces. Aura® will act as its own primer, providing the optimal foundation for the subsequent finish coat. On bare substrates two coats are required; previously painted surfaces can be finished with 1 or 2 coats”

We tried using Aura straight on new drywall with just one finish. Surprisingly, the holdout was good and the finish looked really good. I am not sure it’s wise to prime new contruction with such expensive paint but you can get away without priming or spot-priming once in a while. One thing is for sure, you don’t need a primer for drastic colour changes.

painter using Aura eggshell in orange colour

Aura is Expensive Paint

At over $60 retail per gallon, this is one very expensive paint. At least until you get to experience all the value that it brings to the user. To the painting contractor, the cost of materials is the minor part of the expenses. The major expense of a painting project is the cost labour. When we come across a paint that will save us some of that labour time, we are going to use it. Along with labour savings, when you need fewer coats you buy less, which helps with the initial cost of purchase. Many manufacturers make similar claims about their top offerings but Benjamin Moore marketed Aura hard to homeowners and designers alike. When the contractor mentions Aura to the homeowner, it becomes an easier sell.

Conclusion – Why Aura Eggshell is the Best

Aura is also available in Matte, Bath & Spa, Satin and Semi-gloss. All theses finishes have their use and offer outstanding performance. What makes the eggshel more versatile is that it can be used for walls without much glare, dries hard on trim and doors and we had success with it in bathrooms and kitchens. In commercial applications there is no better paint to use in hallways and high traffic areas. It feels rich and thick when applying it and looks luxurious when it dries. It offers outstanding durability and you can wash it repeatedly without being afraid the colour will rub-off.

For us the painters, it hides well, very well. Benjamin Moore’s Caliente AF-290 in two coats guaranteed! Bring it on!

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