Choosing the right finish for your painting project can be an overwhelming, but extremely important and beneficial part of the process – if you do it right. Adding sheen can also increase the cost of your painting materials, usually an extra dollar or two per gallon as you go up on the sheen scale, so you need to be careful. Because navigating through this decision can be daunting, you should start with first understanding the basics below.
The most durable and easiest to clean of all sheens, high gloss paint is hard, shiny, and reflects light nicely. It’s a good choice for areas that get a lot of traffic and touching–like cabinets and doors, but too shiny in general for interior walls as it shows every flaw, so don’t take any shortcuts with prep work.
This durable finish is good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains occur. It’s also great when applied to trim work that takes a lot of abuse. Semi-gloss is best used in kitchens, bathrooms, on trim and on chair rails.
This finish has a warm luster often described as “velvety”. Satin finish’s high durability makes it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas like family rooms, foyers, hallways and kids’ bedrooms as it’s easy to clean, and resists mildew, dirt and stains. Careful painting is required because this finish can show flaws in roller and brush strokes; touch-ups can be difficult.
Eggshell sits between satin and flat when it comes to durability and sheen. It’s a flat finish similar to that of a chicken’s egg. With its medium durability, eggshell is a good choice for places like dining and living rooms, closets and skylights – places that don’t see a lot of scuffs and bumps.
At the other end of the spectrum is flat, or matte, a finish that absorbs light and helps hide imperfections. It has the most pigment and provides the most coverage, so in the end you can save time and money. However, matte is not as durable as other finishes, and is difficult to clean without taking paint off along with the dirt. This paint works well in high-traffic areas and on ceilings where there may be irregularities. The best places for use are in adult bedrooms and other rooms that won’t get a lot of wear and tear from kids.
Note: All flat paints are not created equal. For example, the kind made specifically for ceilings is designed to roll on with minimal spatter and resist yellowing over time. Make sure you ask your local paint supplier when choosing a paint finish or brand for different applications.