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Binder (or film former)

The binder is the film-forming component of paint. It is the only component that must be present if the binder material is suitable for application. Many binders<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> are too thick to be applied and must be thinned. The type of thinner varies with the binder. The thinner is also called the vehicle, because it makes it possible to transfer the binder to the surface with a brush, roller or sprayer. Components listed below are included optionally, depending on the desired properties of the cured film.

A clear paint like a varnish contains primarily the binder and the vehicle plus some driers. If you add pigment to provide color and opacity to a varnish you create an enamel. Enamels therefore contain the three primary type of ingredients found in all paints - 1) binder, 2) vehicle, 3) pigment.

The binder imparts properties such as gloss, durability, flexibility, and toughness.

Binders include synthetic or natural resins such as alkyds, acrylics, vinyl-acrylics, vinyl acetate/ethylene (VAE), polyurethanes, polyesters, melamine resins, epoxy, or oils. Binders can be categorized according to the mechanisms for drying or curing. Although drying may refer to evaporation of the solvent or thinner, it usually refers to oxidative cross-linking of the binders and is indistinguishable from curing. Some paints form by solvent evaporation only, but most rely on cross-linking processes.<ref>Berendsen, A. M., & Berendsen, A. M. (1989). Marine painting manual. London: Graham & Trotman. ISBN 1-85333-286-0 p. 113.</ref>

Paints that dry by solvent evaporation and contain the solid binder dissolved in a solvent are known as lacquers. A solid film forms when the solvent evaporates, and because the film can re-dissolve in solvent, lacquers are unsuitable for applications where chemical resistance is important. Classic nitrocellulose lacquers fall into this category, as do non-grain raising stains composed of dyes dissolved in solvent and more modern acrylic-based coatings such as 5-ball Krylon aerosol. Performance varies by formulation, but lacquers generally tend to have better UV resistance and lower corrosion resistance than comparable systems that cure by polymerization or coalescence.

The paint type known as Emulsion in the UK and Latex in the USA is a water-borne dispersion of sub-micrometer polymer particles. These terms in their respective countries cover all paints that use synthetic polymers such as acrylic, vinyl acrylic (PVA), styrene acrylic, etc. as binders.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> The term "latex" in the context of paint in the USA simply means an aqueous dispersion; latex rubber from the rubber tree is not an ingredient. These dispersions are prepared by emulsion polymerization. Such paints cure by a process called coalescence where first the water, and then the trace, or coalescing, solvent, evaporate and draw together and soften the binder particles and fuse them together into irreversibly bound networked structures, so that the paint cannot redissolve in the solvent/water that originally carried it. The residual surfactants in paint, as well as hydrolytic effects with some polymers cause the paint to remain susceptible to softening and, over time, degradation by water. The general term of latex paint is usually used in the USA, while the term emulsion paint is used for the same products in the UK and the term latex paint is not used at all. Paints that cure by oxidative crosslinking are generally single package coatings. When applied, the exposure to oxygen in the air starts a process that crosslinks and polymerizes the binder component. Classic alkyd enamels would fall into this category. Oxidative cure coatings are catalyzed by metal complex driers such as cobalt naphthenate.

Paints that cure by polymerization are generally one or two package coatings that polymerize by way of a chemical reaction, and cure into a crosslinked film. Depending on composition they may need to dry first, by evaporation of solvent. Classic two package epoxies or polyurethanes would fall into this category.<ref name="Ber114">Berendsen, A. M., & Berendsen, A. M. (1989). Marine painting manual. London: Graham & Trotman. ISBN 1-85333-286-0 p. 114.</ref>

There are paints called plastisols/organosols, which are made by blending PVC granules with a plasticiser. These are stoved and the mix coalesces.

Other films are formed by cooling of the binder. For example, encaustic or wax paints are liquid when warm, and harden upon cooling. In many cases, they resoften or liquify if reheated.

Recent environmental requirements restrict the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and alternative means of curing have been developed, particularly for industrial purposes. In UV curing paints, the solvent is evaporated first, and hardening is then initiated by ultraviolet light. In powder coatings there is little or no solvent, and flow and cure are produced by heating of the substrate after electrostatic application of the dry powder.

Dilutent or Solvent

The main purposes of the dilutent are to dissolve the polymer and adjust the viscosity of the paint. It is volatile and does not become part of the paint film. It also controls flow and application properties, and in some cases can affect the stability of the paint while in liquid state. Its main function is as the carrier for the non volatile components. To spread heavier oils (for example, linseed) as in oil-based interior house paint, a thinner oil is required. These volatile substances impart their properties temporarily—once the solvent has evaporated, the remaining paint is fixed to the surface.

This component is optional: some paints have no dilutent.

Water is the main dilutent for water-borne paints, even the co-solvent types.

Solvent-borne, also called oil-based, paints can have various combinations of organic solvents as the dilutent, including aliphatics, aromatics, alcohols, ketones and white spirit. Specific examples are organic solvents such as petroleum distillate, esters, glycol ethers, and the like. Sometimes volatile low-molecular weight synthetic resins also serve as dilutents.

Pigment and Filler


Pigments are granular solids incorporated in the paint to contribute color. Fillers are granular solids incorporate to impart toughness, texture, give the paint special properties, or to reduce the cost of the paint. Alternatively, some paints contain dyes instead of or in combination with pigments.

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.

Hiding pigments, in making paint opaque, also protect the substrate from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. Hiding pigments include titanium dioxide, phthalo blue, red iron oxide, and many others.

Fillers are a special type of pigment that serve to thicken the film, support its structure and increase the volume of the paint. Fillers are usually cheap and inert materials, such as diatomaceous earth, talc, lime, barytes, clay, etc. Floor paints that must resist abrasion may contain fine quartz sand as a filler. Not all paints include fillers. On the other hand, some paints contain large proportions of pigment/filler and binder.

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.


Besides the three main categories of ingredients, paint can have a wide variety of miscellaneous additives, which are usually added in small amounts, yet provide a significant effect on the product. Some examples include additives to modify surface tension, improve flow properties, improve the finished appearance, increase wet edge, improve pigment stability, impart antifreeze properties, control foaming, control skinning, etc. Other types of additives include catalysts, thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers, texturizers, adhesion promoters, UV stabilizers, flatteners (de-glossing agents), biocides to fight bacterial growth, and the like.

Additives normally do not significantly alter the percentages of individual components in a formulation.<ref>, Formulations, Fundamentals, Manipulation, Calculation and Data Management"] p. 61.</ref>

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