Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition that, after application to a substrate in a thin layer, converts to a solid film. It is most commonly used to protect, color, or provide texture to objects. Paint can be made or purchased in many colors—and in many different types, such as watercolor or synthetic. Paint is typically stored, sold, and applied as a liquid, but most types dry into a solid. Most paints are either oil-based or water-based and each have distinct characteristics. For one, it is illegal in most municipalities to discard oil based paint down household drains or sewers. Solvents for clean up are also different for water based paint than they are for oil based paint. Watar-based paints and oil-based paints will cure differently based on the outside ambient temperature of the object being painted (such as a house.) Usually the object being painted must be over 50 degrees fahrenheit, although some manufacturers of external paints/primers claim they can be applied when temperatures are as low as 35 degrees fahrenheit.
A still extant example of 17th-century house oil painting is Ham House in Surrey, England, where a primer was used along with several undercoats and an elaborate decorative overcoat; the pigment and oil mixture would have been ground into a paste with a mortar and pestle. The process was done by hand by the painters, which exposed them to lead poisoning, due to the white-lead powder.
Binders can be categorized according to the mechanisms for film formation. Thermoplastic mechanisms include drying and coalescence. Drying refers to simple evaporation of the solvent or thinner to leave a coherent film behind. Coalescence refers to a mechanism that involves drying followed by actual interpenetration and fusion of formerly discrete particles. Thermoplastic film-forming mechanisms are sometimes described as "thermoplastic cure" but that is a misnomer because no chemical curing reactions are required to knit the film. Thermosetting mechanisms, on the other hand, are true curing mechanism that involve chemical reaction(s) among the polymers that make up the binder.
Pigments can be classified as either natural or synthetic. Natural pigments include various clays, calcium carbonate, mica, silicas, and talcs. Synthetics would include engineered molecules, calcined clays, blanc fixe, precipitated calcium carbonate, and synthetic pyrogenic silicas.
Some pigments are toxic, such as the lead pigments that are used in lead paint. Paint manufacturers began replacing white lead pigments with titanium white (titanium dioxide), before lead was banned in paint for residential use in 1978 by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The titanium dioxide used in most paints today is often coated with silica/alumina/zirconium for various reasons, such as better exterior durability, or better hiding performance (opacity) promoted by more optimal spacing within the paint film.
Color-changing paints can also be made by adding halochrome compounds or other organic pigments. One patent cites use of these indicators for wall coating applications for light colored paints. When the paint is wet it is pink in color but upon drying it regains its original white color. As cited in patent, this property of the paint enabled two or more coats to be applied on a wall properly and evenly. The previous coats having dried would be white whereas the new wet coat would be distinctly pink. Ashland Inc. introduced foundry refractory coatings with similar principle in 2005 for use in foundries.
Paint application by spray is the most popular method in industry. In this, paint is aerosolized by the force of compressed air or by the action of high pressure compression of the paint itself, and the paint is turned into small droplets that travel to the article to be painted. Alternate methods are airless spray, hot spray, hot airless spray, and any of these with an electrostatic spray included. There are numerous electrostatic methods available.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint are considered harmful to the environment and especially for people who work with them on a regular basis. Exposure to VOCs has been related to organic solvent syndrome, although this relation has been somewhat controversial. The controversial solvent 2-butoxyethanol is also used in paint production.