Discover what suits you best – paint or architectural film?

There are tons of materials available for renovation. So how to choose? 

To narrow down the available options, in this article, we will take a closer look at two finishes – paint and architectural film. We will also attempt to compare the cons and pros of using these solutions for renovation.


[Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash]

To start with, let’s imagine a wall, a beautiful white wall near the entrance. You see it every day you come to the office, for example. It has been given a fresh coat of paint a week ago, so it looks radiant. But wait, what is that? Is it a scratch? Don’t worry, it is just small damage no one will ever notice. One more week flies by. Many people open the door making more scuffs with its handle, someone leans against the wall and even puts their foot on it. So what will happen with the wall after three months? And after six?

How to Choose?

When the wall starts to look frayed, and it will at some point, we have to consider how to renovate it. Again. This time we have the following choice – refinish it with the traditional paint or with an architectural film. So what to choose?

There are several important questions you should ask yourself before making your decision on a finishing solution.

  • How much time will it take to refinish a surface? 
  • What are the main steps of surface refinishing?
  • How long will a solution stay on the surface, that is its durability? 
  • What are the main reasons it gets damaged?
  • How surface imperfections are covered?
  • Is there a place for creativity? 
  • This question is important if you would like to implement something unusual.
  • Is it easy to clean and what cleaning solutions to use? 

Let’s get more specific in answering these questions and learn more about paint and architectural film.

# 1 Timing

Firstly, you decide the timing of your project. Whether you have time to wait for surfaces to dry or you need an instant result.


Painting is a time-consuming process because, usually, one layer of paint is not enough. It is recommended to apply at least three coats of paint so you receive a smooth look in the end. Also drying will take from 4-6 to 8 hours for one coat of paint. That depends on the type of paint you choose – is it water-based or oil-based. The water-based or latex paint will dry to the point that you can touch it lightly with your fingers from thirty minutes to one hour. To be able to put another coat of paint, you should wait two more hours. The second option – oil-based or alkyd, or solvent-based paint –  will dry for two to four hours. Although, you’ll be able to apply another coat of paint only after 24 hours of drying.

You should also take into consideration such factors as humidity level, temperature, and application method because they change the drying time tremendously.

How temperature and humidity affect drying

Both high and low temperatures are not recommended for paint drying. High temperatures cause the first layer of paint to dry quicker than the lower ones and form a skin over a surface. Extremely hot temperatures will cause the paint to dry too quickly. This will develop bumps, blisters, cracks, or discoloration on a surface. Conversely, low temperatures affect the process of drying too. It’s extremely important to not paint when the temperature is freezing because this will cause all the moisture contained in the paint to crystalize. Also, note that temperatures should be appropriate not only during painting but also when drying. So recommended temperatures for oil-based paint are 45°F (7°C) for at least 48 hours; some paints are formulated to dry at lower temperatures so pay attention to the instructions.

High humidity also affects paint coverings, whether it is a fresh coat of paint or not. It will cause brown or white discoloration patches on a painted surface. Drying can be affected by high humidity as well because water from the paint coat will evaporate much longer 


On the other hand, applying architectural film could seem long, as well. It will take time to measure the necessary amount of film and cut it, then apply primer on a surface, which dries approximately 15 minutes, and only then stick the film. The installation also takes time and proper movements. However, it is installed only once. You do not have to put three layers of the film. And it is touchable right after the installation is completed. Such factors as humidity or temperature do not affect film installation.


[Photo credit]

# 2 Durability

When it comes to choosing a refinishing product, especially, for the high maintenance areas, we always look for those that will last longer. You never know when someone moves that chair near the wall and leaves a mark on it. And if that’s done consistently? The dark line on the wall will continue to grow. At some point, you will need to cover it.


You can choose to buy the same paint and put a fresh coat on the wall. But even if you do not touch the painted surface at all, it will deface with time. And while water-based paints do not crack, oil-based will crack and peel off with time. This could take from three to six months. But eventually, any paint will need touch-ups from time-to-time and a fresh coat of paint.


Conversely, the film is more durable. As a manufacturer states, it is resistant to stains and scratches. You can scratch it with an effort, obviously, but the damage could be fixed with a small piece of film installed at the top of the existing layer. And, surprisingly, there are no visible marks of the patch. Additionally, when you decide to change the color or pattern, you can install another coat of film without removing the previous one. It is thin and you won’t be able to notice there are two layers of film on a surface.

# 3 Flaws

Any surfaces have scuffs or dents after a certain period of usage. So before applying any type of finish, there is a necessity in preparing a surface. In any case, a surface should be smooth, so the process of painting or film install goes right.


Anyhow, the painting could be done in two ways – either by a paint-brush or by a paint sprayer. The first option will definitely expose all the flaws or dents on a surface. Additionally, brush strokes will be visible after the paint dries, as well as stuck-on brush hair. With a paint sprayer, there would be none of these drawbacks. A professional will cover a surface neatly and beautifully. However, this method is more expensive.

When talking about painting walls, there are more options to hide the imperfections. Among others is choosing the quality paint with good coverage, giving preference to the matt paints, which will hide most flaws.  There is also the possibility to perform something interesting on a wall, like giving it texture. For instance, you could imitate brick or stone, use stippling, sponging, plaster finishing, stencil a design, or drawing a mural. You can create whatever you like to hide damaged parts but that is the topic of # 4 below.


Going back to the architectural film, it covers a surface easily and also hides all imperfections. There will be no brush strokes or anything similar. Its innovative air-channeled adhesive covering allows the film to be applied smoothly. There could appear some air bubbles on the newly installed film. But this is a common occurrence that can be fixed effortlessly. Also, after the proper heating, it can be wrapped around any curves or corners. 

# 4 Creativity

Sometimes it is so important to create the space you like or express your emotions in the interior design. This is when the finishing material choice makes a difference. You should weigh everything and decide what is a key point for you.


There are almost no limits to your creativity when it comes to painting. You can choose a design you like or express yourself in colors and shapes. There are lots of different options for painting – you can paint with your fingers, with a paintbrush, with a roller, with a spray, etc. You can create a monochromatic design or one that involves several colors. With the paint options available you can do whatever you like – mix those tones, create art on the wall, and much more. Your imagination – the limit.


Whereas, with the architectural film you do not have the same space for expression and creativity. You are limited to the number of patterns from the catalog. Of course, 500 patterns are quite an impressive number and there is a place for some combinations, but paint offers more opportunities for creativity. 


[Photo by David Pisnoy on Unsplash]

# 5 Cleaning

Cleaning is inevitable in any space. But would you prefer surfaces to look as they were before they needed cleaning? This is the reason why you should pay attention to the type of paint your walls are painted with because the cleaning process and solutions differ depending on this.

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[Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash]


In this process, paint finishes could be quite tricky. For instance, after interaction with cleaning solutions and disinfectants, some chalk paints lose their glossiness. Water-based paints should be cleaned with a mild detergent, for example, with diluted soap water, and a soft cloth. However, even if you are careful, the paint can come off. In this case, you will need to repaint. And oil-based paints need harder so surfaces painted with this type of paint can be cleaned with harsh chemicals. Additionally, you can clean it with a vinegar and water mixture, and safely use a mild degreaser to remove grease, for instance, on kitchen walls.

There is also a little note – you should let your freshly painted walls dry for at least two weeks before you give them some cleaning. If you do that before, you might damage the covering and will need to repaint. It is also a good idea to clean a surface before you repaint it.

Another point to consider is water stains that were left after cleaning the painted surface. Water stains can be removed with a mix of bleach and water (1 cup to 1 gallon), then dried with a fan. However, if the bleaching solution does not help and the water stain is still there, you will have to repaint a surface.


Unlike painted finishes, the film is relatively easy to clean and sanitize if necessary. Stains from coffee or grease do not stick to a surface and can be wiped with any cleaning solution. Some complicated stains can be removed with spirits mixed with water. You can clean off even marker signs. There will be no discoloration or peeling off after cleaning. So in the case of highly usable areas, an architectural film could be a solution for surface covering to be able to avoid extensive cleaning and eliminate time on that process.

What would you choose?

As you can see from the information mentioned in the article, there is quite a difference between paint and film solutions. Your choice should depend on the type of area you choose to cover, what goals you are trying to achieve, and what look you opt for.

As a final point, the decision on what finish material to choose is always on you. Because only you know what look you want to achieve in your space and what purpose you want it to serve. Sometimes, you have to try several options by yourself to compare in person. Either way, weigh all pros and cons and make your choice.


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