Flat or matte sheens get their name from the lack of reflection from the painted surface. Flat finishes absorb more light and so reflect it less. This lack of reflection is one of the benefits of a matte finish. The flat sheen is good at hiding surface imperfections, such as dents, nail holes, patches and other surface flaws in new construction. It is also a good choice for ceiling painting. Flat finishes often require fewer coats than semi-gloss and gloss paints. They are also easier to touch up; there is less contrast between the touch-up paint and the rest of the painted surface. On interior walls, flat finishes are ideal for low-traffic areas such as formal dining rooms and master bedrooms. For exterior applications, they are good for painting older vinyl and aluminum siding.
Flat finishes are not very washable. They often absorb more dirt than other finishes and so dirt and scuffs begin to show more over time. They are also not as durable. Flat sheens are not good choices for bathrooms or kitchens, because of the high levels of humidity and direct water contact in these rooms.