Guide to Paint Finishes (So You Won’t Waste Your Money)
Choosing the wrong type of paint finish could mean a do-over that costs twice as much.
There’s a basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheens: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine — and the higher the shine, the more durable it will be. Here’s how to choose the right paint sheen for your painting job.
High Gloss - The most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens, high-gloss paint is hard, ultra-shiny, and light-reflecting. Think appliance-paint tough.
High gloss is a good choice for area that sticky fingers touch — cabinets, trim, and doors. High-gloss, however, is too much shine for interior walls. And like a Spandex dress, high gloss shows every bump and roll, so don’t skimp on prep work. Practical
application: kitchens, door, and window trim. Durability: very high.
Semi-Gloss - Good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge walls. Also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse. Practical application: kitchens,
bathrooms, trim, chair rails. Durability: high
Satin - Has a yummy luster that, despite the name, is often described as velvety. It’s easy to clean, making it excellent for high-traffic areas. Its biggest flaw
is it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. Touch-ups later can be tricky. Practical application: family rooms, foyers, hallways, kids’ bedrooms. Durability: high.
Eggshell - Between satin and flat on the sheen (and durability) scale is eggshell, so named because it’s essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little luster,
like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs. Practical application: dining rooms, living rooms. Durability: medium
Flat or Matte - A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat/matte soaks up, rather than reflects, light. It has the most pigment and will provide the most
coverage, which translates to time and money savings. However, it’s tough to clean without taking paint off with the grime. Practical application: adults’ bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids. Durability: medium-low
Tips For Choosing the Right Sheen - If your paint color is dark and rich but you don’t want a super shiny effect, step down at least one level on the sheen
scale. That’s because the darker and richer the paint color is, the more colorant it has, which boosts sheen. Ditto if you’re painting a large, sun-washed, or imperfect wall. The higher the sheen, the more defects will show. Adding sheen also
adds to the cost, usually an extra dollar or two per gallon as you step up on the sheen scale.