I find myself making quite extensive use of fillers during the course of my DIY activities. There are a huge number available and they come in a variety of formats:
Powder - which you mix yourself
Paste - which comes ready mixed in a tub
Tube - you just squeeze out what you want
Aerosol - aim and fire!
They each have their merits and I have used them all.
Powder is undoubtedly the most economic to use, but it is a bit of a faff and unless you take particular care with your mixing, you can end up with the wrong consistency or leftover powder which has not been properly mixed in. It's also a bit messy.
Paste - there is no doubt that this is very convenient, but it can also dry out if you aren't very careful. It's best to buy only what you need for the task in hand. It can be a false economy to buy the biggest tub which appears to offer the best value only to find it has dried up the next time you go to use it. Always remember to cover the ready-made product within the tub before you put the lid securely back on the tub.
Tube - this can be very handy in that you don't get the drying out problem and the product comes out in a convenient ready-mixed gap sized flow so that it can be applied direct to the area requiring filling and then smoothed in with a wet finger.
Foam - these are not suitable for most filling jobs but are especially useful to allow you to access large inaccessible gaps. Much loved by cowboy builders, they are often used to botch jobs because they are so quick and easy. That is not to say they don't have their place and I have used them myself with some success in some masonry applications.
There's room for all these fillers in your armoury. If I had to choose which one format to go for, it would be the tube based ones I would use most often - primarily due to the lack of waste.
I have recently moved away from the powder type fillers that require adding water to the ready mixed varieties. I wish I had started to use these before. To be honest although they are a bit more expensive the ease of use and results really do show through. When using a powder filler not only do you need to use water but also a suitable container (all very messy). Also once mixed you have a very limited timescale before the filler starts to set and becomes unusable. For normal day to day decorating you will find holes and cracks that all need filling but only require a small amount of filler each. If you use a powder filler you might need to make some up three or four times and also end up wasting some. The pre mixed is so much better for not only is it already in its own container, it is also a product that does not go off straight away, the mix is an equal consistency and as long as you do not leave the lid off, you will find that you can happily go round filling cracks and holes until the pot is empty. Although the pre mixed is more expensive I have found it works out cheaper in the long run. No waste with pre mixed. No using containers. No fiddly mixing and ending up with it too thick, thin or lumpy. When filling holes it is worth leaving the filler slightly proud of the surrounding area, this enables you to smooth it back to achieve a really good finish. Recently I have been trying other ways of getting the surface level once the filler has dried. I used a Stanley paint scraper (a plastic handled thingie with a Stanley knife blade attached sideways on) and found it was great at bringing small filled areas level, and once painted it left no sign of any hole ever being there. The only other thing worth remembering is when you have finished using the filler make sure any remaining filler is covered with the polythene film that is inside the tub, this helps to stop it from drying out before yo
u need it for the next decorating job.
If your ceiling needs papering and you have no-one to help you, buy Anaglypta that does not require matching and cut it into roughly equal, manageable size squares. Paste to ceiling, creating a tiled effect, and then paint over for a marvelous finish. If you need to fill dark wood and only have white woodfiller, simply add cocoa or coffee powder to it to get just the colour you require. For a great shine on wooden furniture, spray your furniture polish on as usual but leave it to dry before rubbing it off.