Choosing Paint Sheen

Paint colors on paint lids

Paint sheen refers to how glossy, or not, a painted surface will be once the paint is fully dry. And choosing sheens depends as much on the function of your space as your personal style or preference.

Here’s a quick review of sheens to help you make the right choices for your home.

Flat finish has the lowest possible to no sheen at all. Flat paint reflects very little light which makes it a forgiving choice for surface imperfections like inconsistent wall texture and undulating ceilings. Touching up with flat paint is virtually impossible to see. It’s great for rooms where there’s no moisture, and areas that are touched up regularly.

Matte has a very slight sheen, creating a smooth rich look that’s more wipe-able than flat paint. The sheen is mostly only noticeable from an angle, but touch ups can also be more noticeable than flat paint. Use matte paint in lower traffic rooms like living rooms, master bedrooms, and powder rooms where a designer look is desired.

Low-Sheen, the work horse of finishes, is somewhat more durable, washable, and dirt resistant than flat, but still creates a smooth look due to its low reflectivity. It’s great for exterior surfaces where flat is commonly used, and for interior walls like bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms where moisture may be present, but ventilation is good.

Egg-Shell and Satin sheens hold up to moisture and frequent cleaning making them good choices for bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and exterior trim. They offer protection without too much gloss, which also makes them desirable for a low contrast look between trim details and walls.

Semi-Gloss, Gloss, High Gloss finishes are highly reflective giving them excellent durability, clean-ability, and dramatic shine. Excellent for high traffic architectural details like doors, trim, railings, and cabinets, these glosses also add impact with bold front door colors and high contrasting detail next to flat and matte walls.