Choosing a Paint Finish: What You Need to Know

Interior Painting Services
January 10, 2023
By Fresh Coat


At first brush, paint finishes may seem like a minor consideration when selecting the paint for your next project, but they play a major role in getting the desired result. All colors are not created equally. When selecting paint, color is not the only option you need to consider, a lot of things contribute to the look, feel texture, and durability of the paint. The gloss and sheen finish is what gives surfaces their distinct aesthetic appeal. 

The basic rule of thumb when choosing a paint finish is the higher the sheen, the higher the shine. The higher the shine, the more durable it will be. Flat paint has no shine while high-gloss is all shine. Semi-gloss or satin finishes highlight the architecture in the room, bringing the most beautiful features to light.

The different paint finish options available from Sherwin-Williams include flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, and high gloss. These different types of sheens offer varying levels of reflectivity that can impact the overall look of your paint. 

Paint finishes

Paint Finish Definitions

  • Flat category (flat, matte): Paint surface that creates no to very low reflectance when dry.
  • Satin category (low gloss, low sheen, high sheen, eg-shell, low luster, velvet): Paint surface that creates a low to medium reflectance when dry.
  • Semi-gloss category (semi-gloss, pearl, medium luster): Paint surface that creates a medium to low-high reflectance when dry.
  • Gloss category (gloss, high gloss): Paint surface that creates a high reflectance when dry.


The Difference Between Gloss and Sheen Paint Finishes

Gloss and sheen are very different. Gloss is shiny and crisp whereas sheen looks softer and has more depth. In a technical sense, gloss and sheen are two aspects of the same thing: the amount of light reflected off of a painted surface regardless of the color. 

A glossy surface is going to reflect a lot of light whereas a sheen of matte or low-gloss finishes will not reflect as much light or in the same way. In many ways, gloss and sheen can be just as important as the color itself when designing a space and should not be overlooked. Depending on the overall effect you want to create it's important to consider the lighting and overall space When selecting all aspects of your paint. 

Choosing your sheen it's not as simple as it looks, its dependent upon the look you want to achieve as well as the amount of durability you desire in your paint. Of course, this varies from room to room depending upon the amount of traffic each area sees regularly. To figure out which sheen would be best suited for each room of your home take a look at what each paint finish offers to find out which one would be best for your next paint project.

Glossy Paint Finishes

Glossy finishes naturally draw our attention and can also help brighten up dark spaces. In most lighting conditions, a combination of semi-gloss and lighter-colored paint is an optimal wall-covering method to brighten a room. This is also the same reason you may want to avoid a higher gloss sheen with darker colors, the excessive glare from artificial lighting can overpower the space. 

High Gloss Paint Finishes

The easiest and most durable of all the paint sheens is high gloss. High gloss is a great choice for high-traffic areas that sticky fingers touch such as cabinets, trim, and doors. So where is high gloss a bad choice? High gloss shows every bump and imperfection and because of that, it may be too much shine for some interior walls. 

Semi-Gloss Paint Finishes

A semi-gloss finish is ideal for areas that get cleaned regularly. This includes all high-traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, closets, trim, and utility rooms. You are looking for a more durable finish with not as much shine as high gloss,  this may be the right choice for you.

The semi-gloss finish is as you may have guessed more glossy than a flat or an eggshell finish and this is typically used when you need greater durability than a flat or eggshell finish can offer. 

Flat Paint Finishes

Flat finishes can be a valuable design tool when used correctly. Flat paints are non-reflective and they often conceal surface blemishes better than paints with more sheen. Flat paint has a non-reflective appearance that helps hide surface blemishes, making the walls look smooth. This type of finish usually cleans easily with a damp sponge and is perfect for bedrooms, dining rooms, living rooms, and ceilings.

Flat paint is often referred to as a matte finish. it reflects little to no light and it's generally considered to be one of the least durable finish options that are available. Although advances in his durability are being made a flat finish is the best option to achieve the truest color without any objections due to light reflection. 

Eggshell Paint Finishes

An eggshell finish is one of the most common options for interior wall paint because it has a slightly more reflective level than a flat finish, so the color remains more true. The addition of some gloss offers more durability than a flat paint and while the gloss will be noticeable it's also not overwhelming making it a popular choice among many homeowners. 

Interior Paint finishes

What Sheen is Best for Interior Walls?

Flat, eggshell, and satin paints are the recommended choice for interior walls. The best finish for your paint project will depend on a lot of factors such as light reflectivity preference and the level of durability you want. You'll also need to consider the levels of natural light and the traffic to the room to determine which finish will be best for you. 

Garage Painting and Staining

What Sheen is Best for Exterior Walls?

An eggshell finish is one of the most common finishes on an exterior for a home because the higher the sheen the easier it'll be to clean. Most often homeowners want to avoid a shiny home exterior and air on the side of appearance over the ease of maintenance when it comes to their exterior paint job. Using a higher gloss finish outdoors will protect the finish well but the amount of light reflectivity could be overwhelming during the daylight hours.

You have a vision and it has many colors. With our experience, you can trust that we’ll make that vision perfect. Selecting the right color is more than holding a swatch against the wall. 

We will be glad to help you plan, chooses colors and finishes, and get you the transformation you want for your interior without having to become a complete painting expert yourself. Contact us today for more information.