Paint Sheens Revisited

by J on May 10, 2010

Thinking of starting a painting project at your house? It can be a bit mind boggling navigating through all the paint choices that are on the market. Before contacting your Maryland painters, you must determine what sheen of paint to use —and that choice often confuses homeowners. Do you just go by personal preference, or are there some guidelines to help you pick out the right sheen? Let’s take a look at the various sheens to help you better understand where to use them in your house.

  • Flat finish (matte finish)
  • Eggshell finish (low luster)
  • Satin finish (pearl finish)
  • Semi-gloss finish
  • High-gloss finish


A flat finish is just what it sounds like. It is the dullest finish of all the paint choices, and does not reflect light. Because of this, flat paint is ideal for ceilings. It is also useful for walls that contain many imperfections. Flat paint, however, has a porous texture, so it tends to collect dirt, which is not easily cleaned from its surface. Use flat paint in low traffic areas and definitely not in children’s rooms.

An eggshell finish has the smooth look of flat paint, but it has the added protective benefit of a bit of sheen, which makes it more resistant to stains than flat paint. Surfaces painted with an eggshell finish can also be wiped off, although not as easily as the higher-gloss paints can.

Next on the list is satin finish. This finish has a sheen which is more glossy than eggshell, but flatter than semi-gloss. It makes a great paint choice for kids’ rooms, because you can easily wipe off the fingerprints, smudges and dirt that come part and parcel with kids. You can also use satin finish for trim, moldings and doors because it gives a nice decorative effect to them.

Semi-gloss paints have a mildly glossy appearance and are often the paint of choice for kitchens and bathrooms where you need sanitary, easily cleanable surfaces. Rooms that are prone to moisture and mildew should be painted with a semi-gloss finish; you may also want to check at your local painting store for a mildewcide additive. You can mix this right in with your can of paint, which increases the mildew-resistant properties of the paint. Besides kitchens and bathrooms, you can use semi-gloss for trims, moldings and doors, and you may want to consider it for your kid’s rooms too.

High-gloss finish paints are rarely used for interior painting purposes. Rather, these paints are most often used for crafts, outdoor uses or in the automotive industry. These dry to a very shiny finish, making them impractical for indoor use.

One point to keep in mind is that each paint manufacturer has its own guidelines for how much sheen goes into each paint finish. So if you buy a satin finish from one manufacturer, it will look different than the satin finish of its competitor’s line of paints. Your best bet is to stick to the same brand if you are worried about subtle differences.

If you’re still confused, consult with a local painting contractor for help in picking out and applying the best paint choice for your home improvement project.

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