When repainting your interior, did you know that choosing the right paint sheen is just as, if not even more important than picking the right color? This is because the right sheen will affect the durability and overall finished result. Paint sheen is basically the glossiness of the paint finish and that affects how well the paint will wear over time for different surfaces.
There are typically 5 different types of sheens – flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss. Different paint companies may refer to them in slightly different terms but these are the most common finishes.
If you’re wondering what the difference is, here’s a color chart that should help you visually see the difference between the various paint sheens.
As you can see, as you scroll down through the chart, the paint gets glossier and more reflective.
Let’s discuss each one…
Flat – just as the name implies, this is a flat or matte finish. There is very little to no glossiness to it. It doesn’t reflect light which is why it is the preferred finish for ceilings. Very modern homes love a flat finish combined with a smooth wall. It gives it a very clean look. Unfortunately, this is not very practical for most households. Flat finishes are very unforgiving so should really be reserved for very low traffic areas (i.e. ceilings). I liken it to a chalkboard. If you rub against it with furniture or anything really, it leaves a mark and the only way to really fix it is to paint over it. Likewise, if you spill or splash anything on it, it’ll leave a “stain” or impression and again, the only way to fix it is to paint over it. Keep in mind also that touch up paint is not always sufficient with flat paint. Depending on how long the wall has been painted, you will likely see where the touch ups are. In that case, repainting the entire wall of the affected area is advisable.
Eggshell – this is the most popular finish for walls and the one I use for all of my project’s main living spaces and bedrooms. Eggshell or low sheen as it is sometimes referred to, is much more forgiving than flat in that it doesn’t mark as easily and if you do mark it, it can be wiped off easily without damage. This is the best finish for living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, hallways and bedrooms. I even use this in powder rooms since there is very low moisture in powder rooms. There’s no need to step up the luster if it’s not needed.
Satin – this is the finish I favor for kitchens and bathrooms. Most paint stores and paint professionals will tell you to use semi-gloss, but I beg to differ. That’s a very old fashioned practice. I prefer and recommend using satin because it’s less shiny (less glossy than a semi-gloss). Semi-gloss in a kitchen and bath tends to make it look very industrial, like a hospital since that’s the finish hospitals use throughout their interiors. Satin is a step down but still has the glossiness necessary to make it very durable for high moisture spaces where it would need to be cleaned more often (although let’s be honest, how many people really clean their walls?). It is easy to wipe down, if needed. I recommend this for both the walls and the ceiling in kitchens and bathrooms and even in laundry rooms since those tend to be high moisture spaces. I’ve seen mold and mildew build-up where there wasn’t enough ventilation in laundry rooms.
Semi-Gloss – just to reiterate my earlier point, this finish SHOULD NOT be used in your kitchens and bathrooms unless you really want a super shiny finish. I generally use semi-gloss for all the wood finishes, i.e. doors, cabinets trim such as door and window casing, crown molding and baseboards. Semi-gloss trim works very well paired with lower sheen walls whether its flat, eggshell or satin because it provides a contrast between the different elements and offers visual dimension. Especially if you choose to go with the same color for everything – walls and trim. I wouldn’t advise you do that, but I know sometimes rental units are done this way to save money although it really doesn’t since there’s no additional cost to tint the paint a color. Labor difference should be nominal and I highly discourage against having a painter just spray everything the same. The minor savings, if any, is not worth lackluster result.
Gloss – this can and is also used for wood work – doors, cabinets, all trim including window and door casing, crown molding and baseboard. It’s a little shinier than semi-gloss and provides an even greater contrast. This could look very nice, especially if you’re using dark colors like a navy or black. That high contrast is very sophisticated. I would even say a gloss or high gloss as its often referred is a nice finish for stair banisters and spindles whether it’s a wood finish or metal. If you are repainting kitchen or bath cabinets and you expect to need to scrub them down regularly, a high gloss finish will make that cleaning task much easier.
I hope you found this helpful in helping you choose the right finish for the various spaces in your home. To make it easy, here’s a quick reference chart I created for you. Feel free to PIN IT to your pinterest board and share it with someone who will benefit from this.
Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts. Happy Painting!