Sherwin Williams Emerald Interior Satin Review

Actually, you can technically call it a comeback

Sherwin Williams has been sitting on the sidelines of the paint technology race for over 10 years, quietly riding out Duration, watching the competition ratchet up product capabilities and features to never before seen levels. And now that every one of its competitors has released next generation products, SW finally laid its cards on the table with Emerald. Another styrene acrylic like Duration.

Granted, Emerald’s features appear to be ho-hum these days, but its record-breaking adhesion for the company has positioned Emerald as a solid solution when adhesion over questionable substrates is an absolute must-have. However, still a gamble.

Emerald has faster adhesion than many paints. Benjamin Moore Advance has good adhesion too, but requires much longer cure time to achieve it. Emerald’s adhesion is same day to overnight in comparison to a month or more with Advance. PPG Break-through has exceptional adhesion in less than 24 hours.

Our simple fingernail tests over satin produced easy markability, burnishing and little to no resistance to marring. We don’t mind so much because the satin sheen was almost flat in appearance and would not likely be used on trim, doors or kitchen cabinets. The satin would work fine like most other similar products in sheen for low traffic areas. As far as hide goes, SW simply brought hide up to where BEHR Premium Plus was years ago so we were excited to see improvements there.

Just for kicks we compared Emerald Satin against BEHR Premium Plus which is half the cost of Emerald. BEHR beat it in nearly every benchmark. The only exception was adhesion where Premium Plus couldn’t match when comparing both as self-priming products without help-along primers. If you apply a primer under BEHR Premium Plus, then Emerald does not appear to have any advantage over BEHR. As a bonus, Emerald’s stock white satin had exceptional hide as stated, but barely better than Premium Plus. It was hardly noticeable with white over dark blue, BEHR Cracked Pepper.

Adhesion is great, we all agreed on that, but the fact it costs twice the price of Premium Plus makes the buying decision for Emerald bitter sweet when extra adhesion is needed.

Adhesion is the most important thing when I review paint. It supercedes everything else.

It’s not like we have a great deal of choices when it comes to adhesion today. There is now only one other water-base product I know of that gives Emerald a run for the money on adhesion and it too recently came out. What the world doesn’t need more of is another cosmetic paint that simply looks pretty when applied. We’re glad SW chose not to follow in those footsteps with Emerald.


Emerald is fairly fluid, almost perfect. Although you can see in the photo below, there is a trace of accumulation on pass-through. A reduction of only 8 oz of water gets the product dialed-in a bit better for faster spread rates. Reduction also assists with leveling a bit, however stock product is used for our performance testing. I prefer my paints more like 3900, but that is my preference.

Sherwin Williams Emerald

Coverage and Leveling

Emerald’s coverage is as good as it gets. Have a look at stock Extra White below over dark blue ‘BEHR Cracked Pepper’. However, we did not see anything great with leveling. All our samples had minimal brush marks with stock product. I did however only give Emerald 3 stars (okay) for leveling. There are other acrylics on the market with far better leveling. Also in the photo below you can see noticeable marring from running my fingernail over the surface. BEHR Premium Plus Flat was used in comparison to Emerald Satin to match the sheen. It would not be fair to use a glossier product such as BEHR Premium Plus satin.

Sherwin Williams Emerald

Sherwin Williams Emerald

Sherwin Williams Emerald

Sherwin Williams Emerald

Sherwin Williams Emerald


Sherwin Williams suggests 2 coats over bare wood or one coat of Sherwin Williams Premium Wall and Wood primer, and two coats of finish. As you can see below, one coat was not anywhere sufficient to establish a solid base coat. It took 3 coats of finish to produce something acceptable. Emerald lost too much of its film to the depths of the porousness of the wood whereas BEHR handled that situation like a true primer would. Wood samples were cut from the same stock. I took one piece of wood and chopped it in half.

The sanded portion (dull area) of the BEHR sample below is solid and ready to be finished off beautifully in two coats.

Sherwin Williams Emerald

BEHR Premium Plus Flat

Sag resistance

10 mil is pushing it. We made this sample in a controlled environment and it had some give. Had the draw-down remained intact at 10 mil, the window reflection seen above would look like a mirror reflection, clear and sharp. The PDS calls for 4 mils wet, but who does that—right? Painters need to know where the boundaries are on millage. Double PDS spec and you’re good! Candy coat it.

Sherwin Williams Emerald


As part of our standard testing we like to apply paints over surfaces someone would likely apply paint, but might not necessarily be a surface for the products intended use. Things like ketchup, mustard, syrup come to mind. In this case, we applied 2 coats of Emerald over copper piping mounted to a basement wall. Emerald contains agents which inhibit the growth of microbes on the surface of this coating film. Also seen below is a piece of PVC and an unsanded kitchen cabinet drawer front. Surprisingly, Emerald adhered great after scuff sanding the surface with 240 Abranet. I spent no more than 2 minutes scuffing the surface.

Sherwin Williams Emerald

Cleaning Emerald

In this next simple test I produced a drawdown sample of Emerald Satin and Behr Premium Plus Satin. On the samples I made a mark with a black dry erase marker (shown). Next I wiped the black marker off with a damp rag because I did not have a dry eraser. The black mark came off easily on the Behr sample (2nd photo) largely in part to “film tightness,” the optimized pigment spacing (film tightness) between the polymer and pigments (e.g., Titanium Dioxide). The tightness of film plays a role in how easily paints can be cleaned. At the time of this update: February 26, 2015 the cost of Behr Premium Plus Satin is around $23 with a ProRewards discount. Perhaps Emerald’s next sheen up from Satin will clean easier.

Emerald vs. Behr

Emerald vs. Behr

Satin Sheen

0-20 units @ 85° That looks flat for a Satin. The similar sheen of BEHR Premium Plus is flat. BEHR’s sheen levels are Flat, Matte, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss (in that order).

Exterior Paint

Sherwin Williams Emerald is also available for exterior and must be a separate paint review. We will be reviewing Emerald with a series of performance tests with Benjamin Moore Aura and the new BEHR Marquee. We actually had to modify our testing for Marquee because Marquee adds a new performance test indicator.


  • Excellent coverage/hide
  • Excellent fast adhesion
  • Fast cure
  • Acceptable open time
  • Durable but can mar easily on lower sheens
  • Low viscosity
  • Good sag resistance
  • Excellent block resistance
  • Fairly easy application
  • Anti-microbial coating


  • Higher price range
  • Unable to produce clean glass-like brushed finishes
  • Adhesion can be hit-or-miss depending on substrate
  • Self-priming use for bare wood seems counterproductive
  • The plastic lids on the cans are terrible for sealing the paint. I would be willing to bet on a national level, those lids are costing the company money. Not efficient for employees at the store.


Our performance testing includes 24 criteria. It’s unfortunate Emerald did not excel in other areas. Perhaps if it had, there would be more to talk about. We had a good idea of what to expect before we popped the lid based on paint contractor feedback online. It was disappointing not to be able to produce our classic fine hand brushed finish with Emerald as seen with Sherwin Williams Solo. Emerald squeaks in as a good buy despite its high price because that level of adhesion is hard to come by these days, even though situational as to where it sticks best.

I would definitely like to see improvements in how products are tested. Current testing methods are consistently producing results below expectations for “top dollar” paints. I can’t help but think about the tremendous amount of time and money spent on state of the art testing. All it takes is an afternoon with a gallon of paint in the hands of someone capable enough to uncover where a product could be improved. It’s a good place to start. Knowing key areas a “top dollar”, self-priming paint should excel is half the battle.

I want my chocolate cake with peanut butter fudge toppings, and eat it too, plus seconds!

What’s Emerald good for?

No question Emerald has great adhesion and you don’t have to wait  7, 14, 21 or 30 day cure times to get it. You get great adhesion now, and fast print and block resistance. We had good adhesion with a light scuff sanding on all our tests over surfaces you would typically apply a primer—skipping the middleman altogether. That could be used to your advantage in the right scenarios.

What are my options?

In our area, my options are Benjamin Moore Advance, BEHR Premium Plus (approx. $23), BEHR Premium Ultra, BEHR 3900 Waterborne-alkyd (approx. $26), and PPG Break-through.

Need more?

This concludes the short-version of the Emerald Review, but there is much more. I try to consolidate paint reviews to 5 of the 24 performance criteria otherwise you would be reading about Emerald all day. I hope the review provides some general insight as to how I shop for paint products and compare options to qualify for use on a customer’s home. Feel free to ask questions.

Be sure to add Jack Pauhl in your Google+ circle if you would like to keep up with what’s new in paints and products. I post tons of stuff during the testing and review process. Learn about products the moment I do. More photos on Google+ 26 photos

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27 Responses
  • Andy Crichton Reply

    Interesting and logical as ever. Manufacturers have nowhere to hide once a paint is on site and in the hands of a professional who knows what to look for. Good work.

    • Karen Reply

      I tried and believed the Sherwin Williams rep to be accurate and to have used the Emerald paint He even said go to the store have them open a can and show you. Well as you might imagine he has a deer in the headlights look on his face. And no he did demo the paint for me. So I spent the big bucks for it and gave it a try.

      First off the material from the company about the paint suggests a roller to which I thought no reall?! But I tried it, seriously do not use a roller.
      We were also told that it could be thinned with water. Yes it can be, but in the end you cannot get a smooth finish. No matter the brush no matter how thin. Oh I tried. I so wanted this to work to muse up for all the other quote professionals that I have hired for this kitchen remodel.

      It isn’t possible no matter what the company says to have a sloth glossy finish without spraying it. I wrote to the consumer relations person and got a ticket number however it has now been two weeks and still no response. Sad but true.

  • Charles Budd Reply

    Great review – I wish someone in the UK with similar knowledge would do similar reviews on trade paint.

  • Nick Dunse Reply

    We used both interior and exterior several times, not a big fan of either. We brushed, rolled, and sprayed both again nothing to write home about. It’s way over priced and sits on the shelf along with BM Aura because most consumers here will not pay 60-65 dollars a gallon for paint.

  • Mr. Slowhand Reply


    Nice review. I look forward to trying this product. I am curious to know why you only seem to rate BM and SW paints. Porter makes a paint called Advantage 900 that brushes and sprays beautifully.

    • Brian Havanas Reply

      No other reason than what is available local. Porter is not in our area. Typically we hunt product down if it has a certain level of buzz surrounding it. I recently did that with PPG Breakthrough.

      Thanks for letting me know about 900

  • carol Reply

    Jack/Brian – I am considering the Emerald line as the finish paint for my “newly sanded, 2 coats of primer over knotty pine paneling” room. It is a small second bedroom in a cape with one window and the room is little used. I am worried about “brush” marks as there are tons of “grooved” ridges every 4-6″ of the paneling ( kinda a cross between shiplap and bead board) that roller can’t effectively “squish into” ( even a long nap)
    After reading the reviews it seems that the coverage and adhesion might be great but I am worried about brush marks. I am thinking of using Satin finish to keep the surfaces somewhat reflective since there is only the 1 windows. What are your thoughts on Duration?

    • Brian Havanas Reply

      Carol, 1st question I have is which primer was used because the primer will determine how the brushed finish will level—not how much it was sanded. Also the brush used will substantially affect leveling. I would not expect a glass-like finish If you bought a brush from SW. None of their brushes are fine finish brushes.

      This is an area many painters would spray without hesitation but I understand you’re trying to do this work yourself.

      Duration will not get you any better “brushed” results.

      If it were me in your shoes and not able to spray, I would take 1 gal paint and add 12 oz of water to the gallon and mix well and apply to no more than 2 boards at a time, top to bottom, or left to right. Try one board until you get comfortable.

      You can use a combination of rolling and laying-off with a brush, again stay with a couple boards at a time or one with a 4″ or 6″ mini roller. Roll it then immediately lay it off with a brush. If the boards are 8′ tall then roll 3′ to 4′ down at a time.

      Your best results will be laying-off immediately and (quickly) after you roll a section.

      Hope that helps. If you want a glass-like smooth surface I would hire someone local and make sure you state the type of finish you want because that will be how a painter will price it. Fine finishing is not the same as painting something.

      • carol Reply

        Thanks! That is great advice – as for brushes I haven’t bought new ones for the finish job -yet so will take your advice into account. As for primer I used what the hubby brought home which was 1-2-3 product – didn’t love it- but it did the job and I was too lazy to go to the store myself (h.depot)
        As for the finish coat – I don’t expect the walls to have a perfect finish as they are 50 years old and showing some wear and tear already. But I do want to avoid Major brush strokes. I completely brushed everything ( lot of work) on the first primer coat just based on the fact of needing to get in all the grooves. for the second coat I experimented and found that with a reg roller and a mini roller I could get pretty even coverage on the panel widths and the grooves and than I had brush in hand for any “drips” or trails (not very technical terms) – I worked in sections and and think I will do that again.
        final big question:
        Cut all first with mini roller, roll second with big roller or do both things in small sections working around room?
        thanks again

        • Brian Havanas Reply

          Carol, 1-2-3 is a good primer but not for producing nice finishes with a brush. Not to worry, the previous suggestions will help with that. You will experience some “drag” with Emerald but 1-2-3 does retain gloss which will help but not as good as other primers. Satin is fairly flat so I suspect your 1st coat will look finished over 1-2-3.

          I would do this knowing you have 1-2-3

          1) cut-in everything you know a roller will not get into. Allow the cut to dry fully. You could cut all groves too and make sure the flat areas to the left and right of the groove is feathered smooth.

          2) use the 4 or 6″ roller (whichever fits your board width best) and roll short sections and quickly level it off with a few passes with the brush. Make all your passes with the brush go in one direction. From the ceiling, roll down 3 or 4 feet then lay off going back up toward the ceiling.

          I’d stick to a mini roller. That will isolate you to maintain smaller workable sections.

          SW has a blue/purple roller cover called Velvet. Its very short napped and would work great. Also the Purdy 3/8″ White Dove or Ultra Finish mini covers will do a good job.

          Depending on how deep grooves are, the blue/purple cover might not work as well because its very short nap.

          • carol

            Brian – thanks for the excellent, clear advice- I am going to start today!!

      • John Lower Reply

        Based on sales hype and the low VOC components, we purchased five gallons on sale to repaint walls in our eight year old home. Coverage was over SW contractor flat paint. Satin finish was selected, and although the lack of odor was very pleasing, on a large wall with reflecting light, roller marks were very difficult to hide. The paint doesn’t blend will with even the previous pass, seeming to start drying on contact, leaving dull, dry looking areas adjacent to thicker, brighter surfaces. The roller must be loaded to prevent this, but you don’t see that until you’ve spent several hours trying to get all the dull spots re-coated. Face on the color and coverage look OK, but looking from the side, even after three coats, there are still dull spots and roller lines that never level. I find this quite disappointing considering the cost and hype, but as you said, it is one of the few water based products. So, it seems that good results can be obtained only if you consistently keep the roller or brush loaded and do small areas. This uses up LOTS of paint, so be prepared to increase the budget. We do, however, like the extremely low odor. If you like that, try to buy it on sale, SW just had a 40 off deal lucky for us.

  • carol Reply

    I just read the duration review – yikes and no thanks! Especially for an amateur DIY like myself!

  • Rene Rogers Reply

    Any comments on the new Behr Marquee paint for exterior? Still less expensive than the SW Emerald but not sure regarding the real facts behind the glossy advertising. Thanks!

    -A DIY who’d rather pay more to paint less.

  • Eddie Reply

    I am in the process of painting my house with behr marquee. My painter of 20+ years sprayed the body a bravado color and he loved the paint. It adheres well, dries quick, covers good and touches up good. For the trim we did a off white cream color. That base of paint is the viscosity of water, a little thicker but not much. It doesn’t matter how much you load the brush, it runs down on vertical surfaces. I called Behr customer service and the checked the viscosity as compared to the dark base paint and said the white base paint is definitely thinner. Their solution was to give me my money back. Not a good solution, need to change paints or put 15+ super thin coats on the trim. The homedepot paint guys said the have never seen a paint this thin ever. Will probably be going with Behr ultra premium plus as it is thicker. Thx Eddie

  • Harold S Reply

    Brian – I moved into a new development in Ft Meyers. Builder grade Alabaster SW matte paint over lightly textured walls was our only option. I hired a painter for 2 coats of Pro-Mar 200. matte. Different colors for foyer, Living Room, Bedrooms, etc.. I am not happy with the coverage now that the job is done. The paint just looks thin and splotchy. Was thinking of going to the Emerald for greater coverage and hopefully some washability. We have specific SW colors we want, so I guess we need to stay in the SW family. Any suggestions? thx.

  • Mary Elizabeth Reply

    I would appreciate any comments or advice for our situation. We are about 1/3 of the way through a whole house renovation with ALOT of painted trim. So far we have been using Muralo WB Satin sprayed with an HVLP. (Thin it with about 2 oz of water + 2 oz of XIM per gallon.) We are using STIX as our primer (also sprayed).
    I am wondering if we should do a test with PPG Breakthrough to see if it is a tougher finish than the Muralo. (We are using a BM color, and I’m assuming it would not be a problem to match. Both paints list their satin sheen level at 25 – 30.)
    The only cabinets we have done so far are bathroom vanities, but I think we need something more for the kitchen and other built-ins in the family room.
    Also, any tips on spraying Breakthrough with an HVLP?

  • Diana G Reply

    We just had professionals complete our interior using Sherwin Williams – never so disappointed. the trim chips easily and the wall scuffs and will not clean off. In the past we used Behr and will never use Sherwin Williams again.

  • JC Wren Reply

    Sure wish I’d caught this review before buying a gallon of Emerald. I stumbled across it looking for ‘drying time’ as part of the search. This stuff was definitely not cheap.

    Finished painting a wall a couple hours ago, and noticed it looks splotchy, even with two coats on. Hoping that’s due to incomplete drying, and not something I’ve done (or not done).

  • Bruddah Mike Reply

    It should be pointed out that when comparing sheens, Behr is shinier than it should be, and S.W. tends to be less shiny than it should be. Compare the two and there is a really big difference.

  • Chris Reply

    Brian, I mistakenly painted my basement ceiling with an SW Duration satin finish, which is too shiny and showing the imperfections. I want to paint over it with SW matte finish and was wondering if you think I need to scuff sand the ceiling before applying the matte over it. Its a large area and would be a big job to do. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Brian Havanas Reply

      Chris, Duration matte has a fair amount of sheen. I am not sure you will notice much difference between the two sheens. Sanding the ceiling with a pole sander would not take much time. I would sand if there is noticeable debris on the surface. If the imperfections are low spots, sanding is not likely going to help.

  • Breanne Reply


    So have you ever tested behr marquee and what kind of quality can be expected for painting a vinyl exterior?

    • Brian Havanas Reply

      Breanne, I have not tested Marquee exterior or heard anything good from people I trust in my circles (who used Marquee) outside. The product failed to spark my interest so I never bothered.

  • tcmault Reply

    I’m looking to repaint every wall, ceiling, Trim, and Doors with one color. Just the purest of white in matte. Of course the house is already painted in every color other than white.

    Would money better spent going with Behr Ultra Prem?

  • Stefano Reply

    Very good info here. Haven’t used a lot of the Emerald, it’s nice to get the whole story.

  • Eric Reply

    Great review Brian How do you feel about using Emerald on Walls vs BM Aura?

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