Last Updated: September 28, 2020
When you’re picking out paint for your next home improvement project, you’ll need to consider more than your choice of color. Don’t gloss over the importance and impact of choosing the right paint finish. From a high gloss to a matte finish and everything in between, you may not be sure how much shine you want or how much sheen you need. In this article, we’ve detailed the five different types of paint finishes in order from high to low sheen. We’ve also given our recommendations of where and in which rooms it’s best to use each kind.
Paint finishes come in distinct levels of sheen. Before we discuss each type, it’s helpful to keep in mind a few generalizations. First, the higher the shine, the easier they are to clean and the more durability you’ll get in return. Of course, high sheen reflects more light, which brings us to the next point: Higher sheen paint finishes show more imperfections, while low sheen absorbs light and can hide damage. Finally, if you plan to purchase a darker or richer paint, be aware that it inherently has more sheen. In this case, going down a shine level make sense.
On the sheen spectrum, high gloss has the most reflective qualities. This glass-like finish is the most durable and the easiest to clean. Use high gloss on surfaces that tend to get messy. Its qualities of a hard finish and extra shine are ideal for cabinets, trim, doors, moldings, and kitchen décor. Also, high gloss works great on the exterior of your home, like shutters and window casings.
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The shiny, sleekness of a semi-gloss finish works best in rooms with moisture and high humidity, such as bathrooms. Also, its high-level sheen makes for no-hassle cleaning. Choose semi-gloss finish for your kitchen and in high-traffic areas of your home. Semi-gloss is the perfect selection for trim and chair rails, which need to endure considerable wear and tear.
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The most common type of finish, satin has an eye-appealing, pearl-like soft luster. With enough sheen to make cleaning a simple chore, satin finish works well in high-traffic areas of your home, such as hallways and foyers. Additionally, you’ll want to buy paint with a satin finish for the walls in your children’s bedrooms, family room, home office, kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.
Satin finish also resists mildew and fading. Not only is it a solid choice for your interior, it works for exterior trim, shutters, and siding.
You’ll need to take care when applying paint with a satin finish, however. It will show any hastily applied roller and brush strokes. It’s also difficult to properly touch up.
A popular choice, eggshell finish has an attractive, low-sheen quality that resembles, like its name suggests, the outside of a chicken’s egg. While the low shine covers imperfections well, eggshell finish is still rather washable and resistant to stains. We recommend an eggshell finish on living room and dining room walls.
The finish with the least level of sheen, flat/matte finish has no sheen and no shine. Its ability to absorb light rather than reflect it makes it ideal for hiding imperfections, damage, nail holes, and patchwork. Flat/matte finish paint tends to have the most pigment and provides the most coverage. It requires fewer coats to apply and is easy to touch up. However, cleaning poses a problem. You may unintentionally wipe off paint as you work to remove a stain.
Choose a flat or matte finish if your next painting project includes an adult bedroom, a seldom-used interior room, or new drywall.
Choosing a paint finish shouldn’t be difficult. When in a doubt, it’s best to go with the pleasing final look of an eggshell or satin finish. Also, remember to consider the room you intend to paint and the type of use it receives on a daily basis. Kitchens, bathrooms, highly used fixtures, and often-traveled areas of your home require a finish with a higher sheen for easier clean-up and better resistance to moisture or mildew. If you have a room in which the walls have damage, you’ll want a low-sheen finish to help camouflage the imperfections.
We hope that after reading about the benefits and best uses for each type of finish, you’re now able to determine which finish to select the next time you buy paint. With the right finish, your painting project will yield the results you need and the appearance you want.
Featured Image Credit: Pikrepo
David Janus is the founder and CEO of Paint Sprayer Magazine. He has over two decades of experience in the spray paint industry and still enjoys writing about new products and technologies.
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