The Dunn-Edwards glossary of paint terms provides a quick reference to terms commonly used in painting applications. To get started, either click on a letter to display all terms beginning with that letter, or enter a search phrase into the field and click search.


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A type of synthetic polymer used as the binder for high-performance water-based paints and caulks. Some acrylic polymers are used in auto finishes, appliance coatings, etc. 

The ability of a dry paint film or caulk to remain attached to the surface. Adhesion is probably the single most important property of a paint or caulk. 

A container (usually a hand-held size) of coating material that is pressurized for spray (atomized) applications. Enamels and varnishes are often sold in aerosol cans. 

Airless spray
Spraying a coating using hydraulic pressure to atomize the coating. 

An alkaline, or “basic,” chemical substance such as lime or lye. Generally present in fresh cement, concrete, or plaster. 

Alkali burn
A condition that occurs when the alkalinity in fresh masonry causes the breakdown of a paint’s binder, resulting in color loss and overall deterioration of the paint film. Most likely to occur with vinyl-acrylic latex and oil-based paints applied to masonry surfaces that are less than a year old.  Learn More

A synthetic resin used in oil-based paints. An alkyd resin is made by reacting a drying oil with a hard, synthetic material. 

A scaly pattern that appears on paint due to the inability of the paint to bond to a glossy coating beneath it. It can also be due to the application of a hard coating over a soft primer, or (with oil-based paint) because the wood was re-coated before the undercoat was dry.  Learn More

Aluminum paint
A paint, usually solvent-based, that contains aluminum particles and provides a metallic appearance. 

Anti-corrosive paint
A paint designed to minimize rust or corrosion when applied directly to metal. 

Anti-fouling paint
Specially formulated paint for surfaces such as boat hulls and piers. It discourages attachment and growth of marine plants and animals. 

Applied hiding
Refers not only to the opacity of the paint film, but also to how it hides, depending on its thickness and how smoothly it flows out. Must take into account how the paint is applied (brush, roller, spray, etc.). 

To divide a liquid (paint) into very small particles. 

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