What is the difference between special paints and specialized paints?

Definitions of the notions „special” and „specialized”

First of all, we should begin this study with definitions of words in quiestion and their semantic recognition. What does the Polish Dictionary by PWN (Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe – Polish Scientific Publishers) tell us? Here are the definitions:


1. «referring to one chosen object, issue, or a person»;

2. «unique, exceptional»

Specialized as in reference to a specialist (experienced person, expert)


1. «a person who possesses a thorough knowledge of a certain field»;

Casual language and specialist casual language vs. definitions

We use the phrase „specialized paints and inks” in casual language in reference to paints and inks for specialist solutions, requiring expert knowledge and professionalism. We do not deal with such paints even when we already had something to do with average paints in a certain field and we have a certain degree of experience working with them. In order to work with those paints or inks, we need an expert – a specialist. Specialist paints are then products for specific (e.g. difficult, unusual, unpredictable in their behaviour over time) surfaces, having unconventional resistances (e.g. to scratches, to enviromental factors, to aging), rarely seen applications (e.g. for floors, roofs, for coating swimming pools), fulfilling extraordinary functions, apart from their visual side (e.g. anti-corrosion, sealing, anti-slippery), where, finally, a specialist knowledge on how to use them requires to be applied.

We use a phrase „special paints” in casual language rather in accordance to the second dictionary definition (unique, exceptional). Their specialty regards rather their unusual appearance (e.g. expressiveness of pearlescent or fluorescent paints, or exclusivity of gold and silver inks), interactivity or interactive nature (e.g. thermochromic, photochromic, scented paints), special effects that they cause (e.g. paints glowing under UV or IR, or when connected to electricity), special purpose (e.g. securing against forgery, lottery function, or a conductive one), activation of various senses other than eyesight (scented paints, structured Braille paints or „soft touch” ones; paints which conduct electricity in sonic games), or their special mass-targeted, although unusual application (e.g. varnishes for carbonless or thermal papers). Special paints are then paints which are characterisde by a certain unusualness, extraordinariness, or uniqueness, usually with a certain value added effect.

Specialized paints for specialists, special paint – not always

The main difference between special vs. specialized paints is the fact that the second type requires an expert knowledge of a professional, whereas it is not always the case with the first type. Special paints are applied just the same as any other “ordinary” paints. While the application of specialized paints, e.g. for coating swimming pools or roofs, requires special preparation and knowledge on how to match tools and paints to a specific application, the majority of special paints are applied exactly the same as other, „ordinary” paints in a given category or technology and even someone who had not beed trained in regard to special paints can deal with them. For example, a water-based thermochromic wood paint is applied just the same as the usual water-based wood paints, solvent-based invisible fluo for metal is applied the same as other solvent-based paints for metal, fluorescent UV printing inks afre applied the same as other printing inks, oil-based phosphorescent wall paints are applied the same as other oil-based wall paints. Of course, these examples are a simplified comparison; special paints often require advanced knowledge on their behaviour, but this type of knowledge is rather related to chemistry or physics, not specifically painting or printing.

Special paints and inks are in general based on special pigments

Special paints and inks, with a certain dose of simplification, can be called a carriers of special pigments. Their unique properties usually come down to the properties of a special pigments. The entire rest of such paint or ink is just a medium needed only to put it to a specific substrate. Specialized paints, however, are not based just on special pigments, but rather a choice of all the components for a certain specialist application, e.g. anti-corrosion paints for metal, concrete paints with an exceptional coating hardness or multi-season external paints. If we realise that the uniqueness of special paints does rely on their exceptional pigment and a very typical binder, it will be easier to understand that they do not require a specialist approach, but rather an understanding of physico-chemical aspects of their effects.

Semantic approach

At the end of this article, let us come back to the semantic approach. We can use the words: special paints for specialized applications (in the meaning of: special paints (with a special effect) used for applications used by professionals) or specialized paints for special applications and it is not a pleonasm (when one part of an expression includes content which also appears in the other part). If the words „special” and „specialized” could be used interchangeably and if their meanings were the same, then, from the semantic point of view, it would not be possible to use them next to one another or together.