Guide to paint finishes

(so you won’t waste your money)

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.

Flat paint has no shine; high-gloss is all shine. In between are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each with its own practical and decorative job to do. 

Here’s how to choose the right paint sheen for your painting job.

A WRONG CHOICE COULD MEAN A DO-OVER. 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. The darker and richer the paint color, the more colorant it has, which boosts sheen. 
Best paint for your home

For the kitchen, choose a durable, easy to clean paint.

Nothing beats high gloss, or semi-gloss finish.

For the family room, choose something which can be easily cleaned, and can stand up to high traffic.

Experts recommend a satin finish.

For the dining room, you need clean, smooth-looking walls for a low-traffic area.

Why not try an eggshell finish.

For the bedroom, you will need a high-pigment wall coverage (money saving) for a low-traffic area.

A flat, or matte finish could be just what the doctor ordered.

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.

High gloss is practical for kitchens, door, and window trim. It has a very high durablity factor.


Good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge walls. Also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse.

Semi-gloss is practucal for kitchens, bathrooms, trim, chair rails. High durability factor as well.

TIPS FOR THE RIGHT SHEEN. If you’re painting a large, sun-washed, or imperfect wall. The higher the sheen, the more defects will show.

Has an attractive  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. 

Satin is practical for family rooms, foyers, hallways, kids’ bedrooms. Highly durable.


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.

Eggshell is practical for dining rooms and living rooms. Medium durability.

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.

Flat or matte’s practical application is in adults’ bedrooms and other interior rooms that wont be roughed up by kids. Medium to low durabllity.

Topics: Guide to paint finishes , paint

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