Choosing paint colors is hard enough, but these days consumers have to decide among dozens of paint brands, plus different quality levels within those brands. And then there’s price. Will paying $100 a gallon get you a better paint than if you pay $30 a gallon? It’s almost as maddening as choosing between Paper White and Whisper White. The nonprofit magazine Consumer Reports tests paints, grading them on the traits consumers say are most important. Exterior paint is judged on its appearance after tests that simulate multiple years. Interior paint is evaluated for factors including its ability to withstand scrubbing, resist mildew, and cover old colors in a single coat. In the most recent rounds of testing, a remarkable four out of the top five interior and exterior paints were hardware-store brands. So right away we know you don’t have to buy a premium brand to get great paint. Still, the cheapest paints, costing $17 to $27 a gallon, didn’t make it into the top five. “Generally, spending more money does not always equate to a better paint,” said Rico De Paz, paint-testing program leader at Consumer Reports. “But it’s probably a good idea to stay away from the most inexpensive brands at most retailers without checking our ratings first.” Here are Consumer Reports’ top five interior paints out of 21 tested. (Prices were obtained online and may vary slightly. Sherwin-Williams bought Valspar in June, so names and formulas may change.) 1. Behr Marquee ($39 a gallon at Home Depot) 2. Behr Premium Plus Enamel ($27 a gallon at Home Depot) 3. Valspar Reserve ($44 a gallon at Lowe’s) 4. Behr Premium Plus Ultra ($30-$37 a gallon at Home Depot) 5. Benjamin Moore Aura ($70 a gallon at independent dealers) Here are the top five exterior paints of 23 tested. 1. Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior ($38 a gallon at Home Depot) 2. Clark + Kensington Exterior ($37 a gallon at Ace Hardware stores) 3. Sherwin-Williams Emerald Exterior ($80-$84 a gallon at Sherwin-Williams stores) 4. Behr Premium Plus Exterior ($30 a gallon at Home Depot) 5. Valspar Duramax Exterior ($40 a gallon at Lowe’s) To choose among the top-rated paints, you could go for the lowest price. After all,