A few months ago I decided to try out a new paint, Benjamin Moore's Advance. For a while now I have been using General Finishes paints and topcoats, but since I began spraying furniture with an HVLP spray gun at the beginning of 2015 it's proven to be incredibly hard to achieve an even finish when spraying on a topcoat. The conclusion I have come to is the air that comes out of the gun causes the topcoat that was just sprayed on in the previous stroke to immediately start drying. Pretty much there wouldn't be enough of a "wet edge" for the topcoat to run together into a smooth, even finish which results in streaks on the long surfaces (like the tops and some sides of pieces). I've tried spraying thicker and thinner coats of the topcoat to try and combat this problem, but I have not found anything that works to prevent it from happening. In the end I would smooth out the finish with steel wool and then apply the last coat of poly/topcoat with a high quality paint brush or foam brush. *As a side note, this problem is more prominent when using high sheens like gloss or satin topcoats.*
Here's my opinion on this paint, the good things about it, and the things I don't care for. I will say, there's no perfect paint out there. Different paints do different things and act differently. It all depends on the look you are going for and what you need the paint to do for you (like be durable on high traffic surfaces, or just cover an old finish).
I want to start off with talking a bit about price. I find this paint to be similarly priced to other paints that I use (like General Finishes). BM Advance Waterborne Alkyd Paint will run you about $25 a quart plus tax and $50 a gallon plus tax. Obviously a gallon is more cost effective and it makes sense for me to buy common colors that I will use often (like white) in larger quantities. For colors that I'm trying for the first time or ones that are brighter and not used as often, I just purchase a quart.
Dry and Re-coat Time
One thing to note about this paint is the dry time and re-coat time. It's long, and people freak out about it. If you need a project done fast this may not be the paint to use on that project. The paint takes approximately 4 to 6 hours to dry and 16 hours before re-coating. Temperature and humidity can play a role in those times and can increase the dry and re-coat times. To be safe I wait at least 24 hours between coats and sometimes even wait 2-3 days if I can. I also use my dish heater (you won't want to use a heater that blows air as this will cause any debris in the air to end up in your painted finish) and turn it on about 10 minutes after I finish spraying. My spray booth holds the heat well and I will move it about every 30 minutes or so to another area in the spray booth. Just be sure not to turn the temperature too high and do not put it too close to the piece.
The great thing about the extended open time for Advance is it means that paint has a longer period of time to level which results in a finish with fewer brush, roller or spray marks. The negative to an extended dry time is more time for dust, fuzz and other debris to land in the finish. A clean space that will not be disturbed for a few hours is ideal. For me a fully controlled environment for spraying is not possible, but I do my best to keep my spray booth vacuumed, I lay down a wet or damp drop cloth to catch some of the overspray and other particles in the air, and once I finish spraying I leave the booth with as little disturbance to the plastic sheeting and try not enter again until the paint is dry.
Drips and Runs
Another thing I've struggled with is applying the paint a little too thick on pieces with detail and molding, and then having it drip. This is partly due to the longer dry time, but also my fault for going over an area too many times. Now that it has happened (and I've never had a drip when spraying any paint before using Advance) I changed how I painted doors and drawers with molding. Just be aware if you paint a piece with insets and molding, they can be tricky. If you get a drip with this paint you have to let the area cure for a few days (it needs to be dry and not tacky) and then use a high grit sandpaper (400 or higher) and lightly sand the area to smooth it out. Once you have done that go over it with 000 synthetic steel wool.
Sanding Between Coats
You must dull the surface between coats. I've been painting with the high gloss finish, and it's glossy. If you do not dull the surface by using a high grit sandpaper or synthetic steel wool between coats you will not get good adhesion and the paint can repel the next layer that is applied. Even when working with other paints it is a good idea to smooth out the finish between coats to ensure a durable and smooth final finish. I don't normally do this between every coat with other paints, but it is necessary with Advance.
One thing I've loved is that Advance comes in multiple sheens/finishes. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post I have only used the high gloss finish so far, but the paint is also available in satin and semi-gloss. For a non-oil-based paint the high gloss Advance has a really nice shine. When I spray it on it gets pretty glossy... and I don't have to use an oil-based product which would mean terrible clean up and lots of fumes. It's a great alternative to an oil-based product. Even though this paint acts like an oil-based paint, it is low VOC (no strong chemical smells) and it cleans up with soap and water. Score!
One drawback to this paint being a waterborne alkyd is the cure time. The can reads 60 days for the most durable, fully cured finish. That's a long time! I don't know anyone who wants to do a project, like paint a piece of furniture, and then have to wait 2 months for it to cure and regularly using it. While it may take 30 -60 days for the paint to fully cure I have let a piece sit for 2 weeks before putting everything back together and staging (staging = wear around here). I've moved books around on it, set glass vases on the paint, heavy metal lamps, picture frames and other items without any marks, scratches or indentations. I even left items on overnight for 24-36 hours and still had no problems with only 2 weeks of curing. That's still a while to wait, but like I said before, this paint isn't for every project. I also assume (and have had people confirm, like my friends from the CEH) that a lower sheen like satin will cure faster. Semi-gloss and high gloss are more likely to stay tacky longer until they fully cure.
In full disclosure I want to say that I have yet to paint a piece and use it for an extended period of time, so I cannot speak to the long term durability of this paint. I do plan to paint a piece to use and test out and will do an update in a few months on how the finish has held up and if any dents, scratches or anything else occurs.
If you have more questions about this paint leave a comment or shoot me an email: theweathereddoor[at]gmail.com. Have you tried BM Advance yet? I think we'd all love to hear your tips and experiences with this paint.
Stick around for a new piece coming soon! It's another piece painted in high gloss Advance... and I'll warn you now, it's a pretty bold color :)