A common question we receive during our in-home estimates is, “what paint sheen should I choose?” There are some guidelines that we will discuss, however, it comes down to a matter of preference in the end. Since interior sheen selection is a bit more complex, we will focus on it for this article. We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the most common sheens which will hopefully help you decide which sheen is right for your project.
There are 5 common sheens although each paint brand has their own name for them which does complicate things a bit. To further complicate matters, sheens of the same name can vary from company to company. In general the sheens of the same name should be close and you probably will not be able to tell the difference once the paint is on the wall, however, we recommend doing a test sample of the paint you are thinking about using to ensure you get a sheen that you are happy with.
5 Common Sheens:
Flat/Matte/Velvet – Flat paint has very little to no sheen and, as such, tends not to stand out. If you have a wall the is particularly beat up or has a heavy texture that you don’t like, flat paint may be a good option for you. One disadvantage of flat paint is that it lacks the protection that the gloss brings to some of the more shiny paints have. Flat paint will wear faster with excessive use and does not stand up to repeated cleaning or constant contact with water. Flat paint is ideal for areas that do not see any moisture or wear and tear such as living rooms, formal dining rooms and ceilings. Flat paint may also be used to downplay Since gloss reflects on surfaces that have imperfections or a texture that you do not like.
Eggshell/Eg-Shel – Eggshell has a slight sheen, like the shell of an egg, and is a good choice for a variety of areas. The small amount of sheen allows for easier cleaning and moisture resistance as well as minor abuse without bringing too much attention to the area. We typically recommend eggshell finish for all walls with the only exception being bathrooms that see excessive moisture or kids rooms which see above-average abuse.
Satin/Low-Gloss/Low-Lustre – Satin finish has noticeably more sheen to it than eggshell but isn’t as aggressive as a semi-gloss. Satin is a good finish for areas that see excessive moisture or abuse but don’t want to highlight. We recommend this sheen for bathrooms, kitchens without back splashes, and any areas kids may be likely to draw on the walls. The disadvantages of a satin sheen are that it will accentuate any texture or damage on the underlying surface and touch ups will be obvious as the sheen will have a different look on additional coats. Satin walls will also minimize the “pop” of the trim due to the lack of contrast in sheen. Trim is typically semi-gloss, which we will discuss in the next section, so by painting the walls a similar sheen to the trim, there will have to be a significant color difference to allow for the trim to stand out.
Semi-Gloss – Semigloss is the highest sheen level we recommend for most surfaces. The gloss level in semi-gloss is more than enough to protect from any abuse and is very easy to clean. We typically use semi-gloss paints on baseboards, doors, windows, furniture and sometimes on walls in bathrooms or kitchens because these areas see the most wear and tear. Semi-gloss paints will make any imperfections, texture and brush or roller marks stand out, however, it also provides a nice contrast to walls and ceilings which have less sheen allowing for them to “pop”. Semi-gloss tends to make textured surfaces look plastic-like which is why we recommend using semi-gloss only on smooth trim surfaces.
Gloss/High-Gloss/Hi-Gloss – High gloss finishes have the highest amount of sheen and are known to look “wet” or plastic. They are typically limited to very smooth surfaces which you would like to stand out and/or be protected from excess abuse. Front doors, cabinets and furniture are sometimes painted high gloss for this reason. In recent years trends have moved away from high gloss sheens due to their over-the-top shininess. The application of high gloss paint is very important because every imperfection or brush mark will show. Spraying is the best way to get a smooth finish for gloss paint.
Note: Sheen will affect the look of the color you choose so be sure to do a test patch of the color and sheen you are thinking about using prior to purchasing the paint for the whole project.
We hope this guide helps in choosing the right paint for each area of your home. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.