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Wall Paint vs Wallpaper

So, the time has come again. Maybe the old wallpaper is way out of fashion. Maybe the paint is peeling, or you never really liked that colour anyway. Perhaps the kids have finally grown out of the jelly-and-chocolate fingerprints stage. But however you got here, it is time to change your walls. 

The ability to easily change the colour, pattern and texture of our walls is something many of us overlook. It used to be a really major investment of time and effort to redecorate. People used to spend enough to buy a small home outright to wallpaper a large room in grand style. Luckily, there have been major technological advances in the way both paint and wallpaper are now manufactured and applied. We might not change the colour of our walls on a whim, but it is rarely a life-changing amount of money either. 

@laffsgaff's tropical wall paper looks beautiful agains their painted kitchen cabinets

You can completely change the look and feel of a room by painting or wallpapering it. Some wallpapers have enough texture to change the acoustic qualities of a room, and many paints offer incredible resistance to staining and other kinds of damage. You can make a cosy room stark and dramatic overnight, or turn a dark den into an airy sitting room in just a few hours. You can make the walls of a bathroom all but moisture-proof, or you can add a little insulation value to a cold external wall. Your options are almost limitless. 

But how do you choose whether to go with paint or wallpaper? Dare you risk painting over wallpaper without removing it? What are the pros and cons of wallpaper, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of paint? We’ll look into all of that here, and with any luck you’ll be able to make a decision you and your family will be happy with. 

What To Consider When Deciding Between Painting vs Wallpaper  

There are a lot of factors to the ongoing wallpaper vs wall paint debate! But today we’ll consider the four most important ones: the location of the wall or walls in question, how much preparation a wall will need before it can be painted or wallpapered well, which will be the more durable option in your unique circumstances, and ‘the bottom line’: expense. 


Some walls really need one or the other! Where a wall or surface to be decorated is located is a prime factor in deciding whether paint or wallpaper is the way to go. First, consider what kind of a room it is in. Is it a small room, like a bathroom, a closet or a cloakroom? Go wild! 

@gareth_at_31 chose to use wallpaper as a feature wall and painted the other walls in his hallway

These are great places to let your creativity run free, and you can safely try out colours and effects there that you wouldn’t dare in a larger or more central room. You can even use it as a kind of test-bed. Try out that extravagant colour, that intriguing texture or that dazzling wallpaper pattern on a small wall in the downstairs loo or even the coat closet! You’ll get a better sense of what it will really look and feel like, and that might give you the courage to put the same – or something similar – on a major feature wall in the living room. Alternatively, if the effect is actually quite ghastly, you can hang the winter coats in front of it and never speak of that particular whim again. 

However, kitchens and bathrooms can be hot, humid places, as durable as wallpaper and wallpaper paste is today, it can still peel after a few years of long, steamy showers. Individual panels can be re-hung, but good luck getting that exact pattern again. Even if you saved a few rolls from when you hung the wallpaper, the older stuff will have faded a little, and the colours might not match. 

From a practical standpoint, then, the pros and cons of wallpaper make it ill-suited to kitchens and bathrooms. From an artistic standpoint, though, it is a space where you can take risks. 

Our soft sheen paints are perfect for kitchens and bathrooms as they are highly resistant to moisture, steam and stains.


Another thing to consider is whether it will take significantly more time or effort to prepare a particular wall for paint or for wallpaper. It isn’t necessarily a good thing that the wallpaper vs paint debate is often decided by simple laziness, but we’re only human. 

If a wall is naked and fresh, this might not be an issue. Whether a wall is painted but simple and uncomplicated or is a freshly-dried render, it will be just as easy to paint on it as it will to wallpaper it. If the wall is already finished or has a lot of complicated angles or features, it is a different story. 

If the wall is currently under wallpaper, it will have to be removed. Painting over wallpaper is a bad idea in both the short and long term. First and foremost, it almost never looks right. You can see the seams between the wallpaper sheets even through several coats of paint. It just won’t ever really look right.  

Over the long term, you (or someone) is going to want to repaint or re-wallpaper someday. If you thought removing one layer of wallpaper sounded daunting, you can’t imagine what a pain it is to remove wallpaper that has been painted over. Wallpaper that has been accumulating layer after layer like the rings in a tree trunk is even worse. While ‘paintable wallpaper’ is a thing, it isn’t all it is cracked up to be. 

If you are set on painting over your wallpaper, here’s a blog to help you out ‘How To Paint Over Wallpaper’.

Another question is whether the wall is damaged at all. If the wall has scratches, imperfect repairs or nail holes, both painting and wallpapering are valid choices. Wallpaper hides many sins if it is applied skilfully and carefully. However, you can fill any gaps with spackle and scrape them dry with an old credit card, and gain a perfectly paintable surface too. 

If the wall is painted a dark colour, you may need to go over it with a light primer whether you are painting or wallpapering, unless you choose another dark colour or pattern. 

Selection and Durability 

No matter what your position on ‘paint or wallpaper’, you’ll have a staggering array of choices to make. Paint is available in a hundred different formulations, in several thousand colours (and millions available by special order). It comes in gloss, matte and other finishes, and with special features ranging from water resistance to easy cleaning. 

Likewise, wallpaper isn’t necessarily even paper. In addition to traditional paper, you can get ‘wallpaper’ made of vinyl, or in really lavish materials like imitation silk. It can be glossy smooth, matte and tactile, or heavily textured. You can get ‘wallpapers’ which barely even qualify for the name anymore, such as imitation brickwork with a 3D texture, or imitation wood panelling with a surprisingly realistic grain you can actually feel. 

The colour selection process doesn’t have to be overwhelming, check out our swatches or book a consultation with one of our colour experts to help you out. 


As we suggested earlier, a major factor in the wallpaper vs wall paint debate is price. There are high-end products and bargain products on both sides, but generally speaking a high-end wallpaper will be more expensive than a similar quality of paint, and a budget paint will be cheaper than a budget wallpaper. Even more so after you factor in wallpaper paste, equipment and your own time (or that of a decorator). 

@zephs_house opts for dark painted walls and accent pops of gold pattern in her bedroom

And the winner is: well… you decide!

So, the arguments for wallpaper, from a quality and selection standpoint:

  • Modern wallpapers tend to be very durable, and some are even ‘scrubbable’. Anything marked as particularly durable should stand up well to the abuses of children and even pets. 
  • You can do things with raised 3D patterns and printed faux-3D patterns on wallpaper that can’t realistically be reproduced with paint.
  • Between spackle and wallpaper, no one needs to know how bad your plaster is until it actually starts coming off in chunks.

And the arguments against wallpaper:

  • Wallpaper still isn’t really suited to bathrooms or kitchens.
  • Wallpaper can be messy to put up, and even messier to remove later.
  • Painting over wallpaper is a disaster, where painting over paint (or even wallpapering over paint) is the norm.
  • Though it is always hard to compare apples and oranges, wallpaper is generally more expensive than paint.

When it comes to paint, here are the arguments ‘for’:

  • Paint can give excellent results in areas that would be a nightmare to wallpaper.
  • Paint can provide a wide range of finishes and durability to particular conditions
  • You can paint exterior surfaces. Let’s see wallpaper do that!
  • Paint is, all else being equal, less expensive than paint.

And the arguments against paint:

  • While paint can do everything wallpaper can do in terms of colour, sheen and light texture, it can’t do patterns (without an arts degree) or 3D textures. 

@moditional_home proves that you can be creative with your paints and patterns 

No matter how you decide to add colour and excitement – or zen and comfort – to your walls, COAT has a paint to fit the bill. Of course it doesn’t have to be either or, you can mix and match, have a wallpaper feature wall or a painted feature wall. Either way, ee would love to supply you with exactly what you need, and we have several more articles like this one that can help you ensure that you are happy with what you decide. Just so long as you buy the paint from us, everything will be perfect!

Why not place your samples side by side? Order your swatches and test them out on your walls.



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