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Benjamin Moore Paint Grades, Explained

Looking for an explanation on Benjamin Moore paint grades? I’ve used most of them, both interior and exterior, and here’s an overview of the key differences, and when to use the various Benjamin Moore paint quality levels.

In our laundry room, I used Benjamin Moore Regal Select paint on the walls, and Benjamin Moore Advance on the cabinets. The color for both is Smoke.

Benjamin Moore is one of the most popular paint brands on the market, with cult-favorite colors, high-quality paint, and fairly affordable pricing.

When searching for the perfect paint for your project, you have likely found out that there are many Benjamin Moore paint levels, like Aura, Regal, Ben, and Advance, as well as a variety of specialty paints. If you’re wondering what the difference is, keep reading. I’ve tried a range of Benjamin Moore paint grades, as well as a few of the specialty paints, and I’m giving an overview, and the pros and cons of each, below.

Benjamin Moore paint grades – interior

The island and range hood in our Vermont home are painted with Benjamin Moore Aura paint, in Hale Navy.

Benjamin Moore offers a range of different paint quality levels, with each one offering slightly different applications, and pros and cons.

Benjamin Moore offers three quality levels of general purpose wall paint. They are:

  • Aura – Benjamin Moore’s highest-end paint
  • Regal – Benjamin Moore’s mid-range paint (my personal favorite)
  • Ben – Benjamin Moore’s lower-end paint, which is still great

The key differences between these paints comes down to the coverage level, color quality, durability, wipe-ability, and finish, which I will explain more about in a minute.

Aside from the standard wall paint offerings, Benjamin Moore also sells a few specialty interior paints, including:

  • Aura Bath & Spa – Benjamin Moore’s specially designed paint for bathrooms and high-moisture areas
  • Advance – Benjamin Moore’s interior cabinet, door and trim paint

Each of these paint types comes in a range of finishes, and they all come with primer built in, which is a big plus. Regardless of which paint level you choose, you can still select any Benjamin Moore paint color, like the best Benjamin Moore gray paint colors, or two of my favorites, Simply White and Smoke.

You’ll also be happy to know that all of the above Benjamin Moore products are labeled as low-VOC interior paint, meaning that they don’t release solvents into the air during drying. Also, this emits minimal odors, making your painting experience more pleasant. 

Still have questions about the paint line? Here’s a closer look at each Benjamin Moore paint level.

Aura

Aura is Benjamin Moore’s premium paint offering. It’s considered the best Benjamin Moore paint and is the most expensive option of the bunch. But, you can tell that it’s a high-quality product as soon as you open the can. The paint is thick.

If you’ve only ever used mid-grade paint, i.e. Behr paint from Home Depot, it’s almost strange how thick it is when you open the can. The first time I used it, I actually wondered if something had happened to the paint. But that’s just how it is, and the viscosity means the paint offers excellent coverage and doesn’t splatter or drip easily.

This paint comes with many other advantages, too, Among them: It’s a paint and primer in one, and it’s made using Genex colors, making the paint resistant to fading. The special technology implements extra UV protection, preventing sunlight from fading the pigment.

Benjamin Moore Aura is also known for its high coverage. You will need to apply fewer coats to achieve the desired coverage, which is important if you’re painting a large area, or painting a light color over a darker one. It’s available in different finishes such as Eggshell, Matte, Satin, and Semi-gloss. Finally, it’s low-VOC.

Regal Select 

A glamour shot of a well-loved can of Regal Select (in Finnie Gray) from my family room

As far as Benjamin Moore paint grades go, this acrylic paint is Benjamin Moore’s mid-range offering. With primer and paint in one, it’s also an efficient, easy-to-use paint.

Regal Select is available in various finishes such as flat, matte, eggshell, pearl, and semi-gloss. The paint comes with stain release technology, which makes cleaning more manageable. Thus, it’s ideal for kitchens or other high-traffic areas that need frequent cleaning. The semi-gloss finish is also mildew resistant, making it a good fit for humid areas.

This is my go-to Benjamin Moore paint. In fact, the only reason I’ve actually tried the Benjamin Moore Aura paint is because a contractor bought it for our home by accident, so I got to experience it doing some touch-up work. Even though the coverage with Regal Select is not quite as good as the Aura paint, it’s still super-thick and covers perfectly well with two coats. To be honest, I also haven’t noticed any difference between Aura and Regal Select once the paint is dry.

However, the one time I would choose Aura is if you were making a dramatic color change, say painting a black accent wall back to white.

Ben

The Ben line is Benjamin Moore’s entry-level paint. It is affordable and easy to use while still providing great results. However, you’ll need at least two coats of this paint to get your project done, and more if you’re going for a big color change.

It is splatter resistant so that you won’t have a huge mess after your painting job, but it’s noticeably thinner than the Aura product. With a fast drying time, you can complete two coats within one day. It’s a paint and primer combo making the process more convenient. The paint is available in Flat, Eggshell, and Semi-gloss finishes. 

Aura Bath and Spa

The Aura Bath and Spa is a special type of paint designed specifically for humid and steamy environments. Therefore, it’s mildew resistant.

Being low VOC, the paint is ideal for compact spaces like a bathroom. It is only available in a matte finish and manages to achieve perfect coverage with fewer coats and conceals wall imperfections. With easy cleaning and no fading, it will keep its rich tone for longer. Like the regular Aura paint, this one combines paint and primer to cut down the extra steps. 

ADVANCE Interior/ Exterior

Using Benjamin Moore Advance to paint our laundry room cabinets

ADVANCE is Benjamin Moore’s paint line that’s designed for doors, trim, and cabinetry, and is an interior/exterior paint. I used this line when I painted the cabinets in our laundry room (see above), as well as for the exterior of our front door, and it was super easy to use, the results were great, and it’s held up nicely.

ADVANCE is available in matte, satin, semi-gloss, and high gloss finishes. The stain resistance is higher as the sheen goes up. However, for painting trim, doors or cabinets, I personally wouldn’t go for the matte paint, since it’s not wipeable, and if you’re using it on cabinets, doors, or trim, there’s a good chance you’ll be wiping it or washing it from time to time.

can of benjamin moore paint
Another shot of the paint I used on the laundry room cabinets

I chose the satin finish for our laundry room cabinets because I didn’t want a high luster but still needed a washable option, and, again, I love the result. To me, satin is the perfect paint finish for cabinets.

My front door, painted with Benjamin Moore ADVANCE exterior paint in High Gloss Black

I used the high-gloss Advance paint on our front door, which looks great. BUT! Note that the high gloss version was trickier to use than the satin, something I learned while I was painting. If you choose high gloss, I’d suggest a paint sprayer to get the most even finish, because most of my trouble was caused by overbrushing/rolling the paint, since the brush marks show, and it takes away some of the glossy finish.

A couple other things to note about the Advance paint. The first is that Benjamin Moore Advance is water based. Typically, water-based paints aren’t as durable as oil-based paints, but oil-based paints release more VOCs, can leave lingering smells, and are harder to clean if you spill or dip. Benjamin Moore did an excellent job merging the low VOC content of a water-based paint with the quality of an oil-based one, creating a waterborne alkyd paint with Advance

Aaaand one final thing to keep in mind on this one: Advance isn’t a paint and primer combo like other products in the Benjamin Moore collection, so you’ll need a primer. I used Zinsser 1-2-3 for my laundry room cabinets and it worked well, but you can choose whatever primer will work best for your job. I tend to find Zinsser 1-2-3 or Kilz work best. Don’t skip the primer step! Applying a primer coat is a crucial type in the process, as it provides durability and adhesion, and makes sure the color doesn’t change. 

Benjamin Moore Exterior Paint Grades & Specialty Paints

In addition to the interior paint, Benjamin Moore also offers a range of exterior and specialty paints, including:

  • Aura Exterior Paint
  • Regal Select Exterior Paint
  • Regal Select High Build Exterior Paint
  • Element Guard Exterior Paint
  • Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio Paint

Like the interior paint, Aura is the highest-quality exterior paint, followed by Regal Select.

Regal Select High Build Exterior Paint is designed to be buildable in order to fill in cracks and gaps, and Element Guard is specifically for areas that are especially wet or humid.

Personally, the only exterior-grade paint I’ve used, aside from the Advance, is the Floor & Patio Paint, so I’ve included more on that, below.

Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio Paint

can of paint on the floor
Another well-loved can of Floor & Patio paint in my bathroom.

Benjamin Moore also has specialty paints, including its Floor & Patio paint. I recently used this to paint over tile.

It has some noticeable differences to Benjamin Moore’s other paint lines, the most prominent being that it’s a lot thinner than Benjamin Moore’s wall paints. This actually makes it easy to spread the paint on the floor – I actually just poured the paint directly onto the floor and pushed it around with a roller to distribute it. It also means, if you choose a light color for your floor, you’ll probably need three coats, so you may want to buy more paint than you think you’ll need.

It also only comes in two finishes: low-sheen and high-gloss. The one you choose will depend on your project. For bathrooms and “wet” areas, you’ll want to go for low-sheen to prevent slips.

Which Benjamin Moore Paint Grade is Best?

laundry room with pale blue walls
My laundry room, painted in Benjamin Moore Smoke, using Regal Select paint.

Benjamin Moore Ben vs. Regal Select

Both paints have similarities. They are splatter resistant and come with a fast drying time, making them easy to work with. Ben and Regal Select are made with Gennex Color Technology, giving your paint a vibrant hue and a durable finish. They are available in a wide range of color choices, which is impressive. Also, Regal Select and Ben are one of the paint and primer combos, eliminating the need to apply a primer coat and cutting down the steps. 

Regardless, they come with differences too. Regal Select has a higher volume of solids, meaning that it is thicker, and you will need fewer coats. Also, this paint has a quicker drying time and can be dry to the touch within an hour. Regal Select offers Pearl and Matte as additional finishes. In addition, it comes with stain-release properties, making cleaning easier. Ben tends to be cheaper than Regal Select when it comes to pricing. However, the price depends on the finish you buy and the store. 

Benjamin Moore Regal Select vs. Aura

Aura and Regal Select are premium paints made with Gennex Color Technology that intensifies the color. Also, these lines are a paint and primer combo, which shortens the painting time. The fast-drying also contributes to an efficient painting process. With low VOCs, they won’t release chemicals into the air or produce strong smells. Furthermore, they are available in Benjamin Moore’s vast array of colors. When we mean wide, we refer to a couple of thousands of colors. Aura is a brand new line made with Color Lock technology to preserve the hues.

There is a difference in the range of finished offered for these products, important to know if you prefer a specific paint finish. The Regal Select line lacks the Flat finish. However, it does offer Pearl, which has a moderate luster. On the other hand, Aura offers the Satin finish that Regal Select lacks. Aura has a thicker consistency and provides more coverage. Regal Select is thinner paint but can be easily spread onto large surfaces.

As I mentioned earlier, my personal favorite is the Regal Select, since it sits at the sweet spot of affordability and high quality. I’ve always been happy with how it turns out.

Benjamin Moore Base Types Explained

kitchen with white and navy cabinets
Simply White walls, which is a Base 1 paint. Image via Studio McGee

If you’ve ever been to a paint store, you might have noticed that, in addition to different paint grades, the paint cans also have different base types listed on them. Benjamin Moore offers Base 1, Base 2, Base 3, and Base 4.

The good news is, you don’t really need to worry about it. Let me explain.

The different Benjamin Moore base types correspond to the color you’re tinting the paint. A Base 1 paint is used for very light paint colors, i.e. Simply White and White Dove, while a Base 4 paint is used for the darkest paint colors.

When an employee at a Benjamin Moore store types a color into the computer, the computer automatically specifies what base type is required. So when you go up to the paint counter and ask for a certain color, the employee will know what Base type to use.

If you’re ordering paint online, you should only be able to order the color with the correct base type. I.e., if you order Benjamin Moore Simply White, it’ll automatically come with Base 1 paint. If the website doesn’t specify which base type you’re getting, know that whoever is mixing the paint will know which one to use.

If you’re confused because you’re on a website like ACE Hardware, and you see options to buy Benjamin Moore paint in different base types, again, don’t worry.

Once you select a color for your paint, the system automatically changes your order to the right base type. Or, to make things even simpler, start by choosing a color first. When you click the color to go to the product page, the correct base will show up in the color name on the product description, i.e. above.

6 Comments

  1. Benjamin Moore Ben also comes in a Matte finish, which is what I have been using. Curious how the Ultra Spec 500 compares to Ben. I have used both and both seem the same quality.

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