If you have ever decided to save yourself some money and paint a room, or your whole house, on your own, you might have noticed that not all paints are just paint.
There are acrylics, flat paint, oil-based paints, primers, base, and many more.
Then, to make matters even more complicated, there are four different kinds of base paint.
So, you have to wonder not only what the base is in the first place, but what do the different numbers mean?
In this article, we will give a detailed explanation to help you understand what base is, what the numbers mean, and how to use it properly.
What is Base Paint?
It might surprise you to learn that base is actually not intended to be painted at all.
As the name implies, the base is meant to be a starting point to work off of, specifically for creating particular tints of paints.
The base is almost always one shade of white or another.
The reason for this is that base is meant to start as white, then have color added until you get the desired tint and shade you were looking for.
By doing this, rather than just trying to produce and sell every color imaginable, manufacturers and distributors save millions on shipping, product allocation, and wasted resources.
All they have to do is produce the base in great quantities, then produce the tint in small quantities, and the buyer gets any color they want with relative ease.
When buying a paint can for repainting your home, you may notice the cans displaying a base number for the paint.
This may be like “Base 2”, “Base 3” or other.
In general, this is a number that provides you with rough information about the ingredients that are present in the paint.
Depending on the ingredients and numbers, the paint can be :
- Clear base paint
- Medium base paint
- Deep base paint
The base number holds it’s important as long as you are planning to mix the paint yourself for getting the right shade.
If you are just buying a finished tint and not mixing, you need not worry about the base numbers.
What are the Base Numbers All About?
There is a complicated answer to this question and a simple one.
We will start with the complicated answer, but then we will simplify it and make it easy for you.
Paint manufacturers use something called titanium dioxide (TiO2) to give the base a white pigment.
TiO2, along with some lesser ingredients like talc, are the reason that white paints are white.
So, the more TiO2 you have in a base, the more white it is.
The base paint that you would buy right off the shelf and use to paint your walls white contains more than thirty percent TiO2.
If you wanted to paint your walls off-white, which is a slightly darker shade, you would choose a base with perhaps twenty percent TiO2.
You get the idea, that less TiO2 means the shade gets darker, while more TiO2 means the shade gets whiter.
Now we give a simple explanation...
The number 1 base has the highest TiO2 percentage and is, therefore, the whitest.
The number 4 base has the least TiO2 and is, therefore, the least white (or the darkest shade).
It’s that simple. Base 1 is whiter, base 2 is slightly less white, and so on.
What is the Difference Between Base 2 and Base 3?
When dealing with different base paint numbers, you may be wondering what is the actual difference between these two specific numbers – Base 2 and Base 3.
Base 2 is only going to be slightly darker than base 1, meaning it has slightly less TiO2 content.
Base 2 is really meant for tints that are just a little too deep or rich for base 1.
By contrast, base 3 is going to be significantly darker.
The intended use for base 3 is going to be very deep and rich colors with a higher accent, although there is still one step darker than that.
Base Paint vs. White Paint: What is the Difference?
The term “base paint” and “white paint” are many times used interchangeably in place of one another.
They may seem to be the same, but they both are different.
While base paints are usually sold for mixing and tinting, white paints are ready to be applied on the surface you desire without the need to tint or mix the colors.
This simply means that base paints allow you to have greater control over the final color you choose.
Whereas white paints are usually the best solution when you want to paint the surfaces with natural white color.
It’s for the sake of differentiating between base paints and white paints, you will many times find the base paints labeled on their can “must be tinted”.
Then there are also pastel base paints that come with a lot of white pigment. What this means is that you cannot add any colored pigments for tinting them.
With that said, white paints are different from pastel bases and can still be tinted but they are usually available with few other pigments that can interfere with the tinting process.
So, it’s completely up to you to change the shade of white to get some warmer hues like cream, or to use them as a pure ultra-white which can be a “dirt magnet” if you have pets or kids in your home.
Overall, What is the Point in Using Different Base Numbers?
Since the intended use for the base is to be tinted to new colors anyway, you might be wondering why they should bother making other shades?
Why make four different shades of something that is going to be shaded differently anyway? Good question.
If you took a can of base 1 paint and tried to turn it into a deep and rich scarlet, you’d have to dilute the paint so much that it would be unusable.
Not to mention you would overflow the can if you didn’t dump out some of the bases first.
Instead, you could buy a can of base 4, and it would not take nearly as many additives to tint it a dark shade, which means you don’t over-dilute it.
Also, a can of base 4 leaves more space in the can for additives, so you won’t have to pour any out or risk an overflow.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.