A paint’s finish, or “sheen” refers to the surface texture the paint creates as well how much light bounces off of the painted surface — both of which can affect the way the eye perceives color.
So, in addition to paint color, the finish, as well as the surface, needs to be considered before painting. Some finishes work better than others on certain surfaces in specific colors and in particular light. Check out our recommended finish charts to help you choose which finish is right for the job.
Here is an overview of each type of finish and where each works the best.
Flat: Provides a smooth, uniform look — an ideal choice for the more formal rooms in your house, such as living rooms and dining rooms. Flat or “matte” finishes get their name from the lack of reflection from the painted surface. This is one of the benefits of a matte finish, because it helps hide surface imperfections, such as dents, nail holes, or patches. It is also a good choice for ceiling painting. Flat finishes often require fewer coats than semi-gloss and gloss paints and also are easier to touch up because there is less contrast between the touch-up paint and the rest of the painted surface.
Eggshell: When in doubt, an Eggshell finish is always a safe bet. It has a soft, washable look that works well in living rooms, family rooms and hallways. It gets its name from its distinctive effect that gives a painted surface the texture of an eggshell when viewed at an angle in the light. Eggshell finishes are low-gloss, but more reflective than flat sheens. Eggshell also is more easily cleaned than a flat finish and is more durable.
Satin: Satin finish paints are probably the most commonly used finish, on both interior and exterior surfaces. As with eggshell, this finish is good for high-traffic areas like kids’ rooms, hallways and family rooms. Satin finishes resist mildew effectively and are easier to clean than flat or eggshell finishes, and can be wiped down or scrubbed lightly. On exterior surfaces, satins are ideal for painting siding that is in good to excellent condition. Outside surfaces painted with satin paint also shed water effectively and don’t fade quickly from the sun. They are also a good choice for painting trim and shutters.
Semi-gloss This finish is more reflective than satin, but is not as shiny as gloss. Semi-gloss and gloss finishes both provide walls with a shiny appearance and brighten a room’s appearance. Off-whites and pale shades of lighter colors are punched up and made brighter by the glossy effect created with these finishes. They are ideal for use in areas with high humidity such as bathrooms and kitchens, particularly semi-gloss, because of its high moisture resistance. They are also the easiest to clean (with light scrubbing or wiping), compared to other finishes.The downside to a gloss finish is that it shows almost every imperfection on a wall or ceiling.
Gloss: This finish has the highest level of reflection. Perfect for use on doors, cabinets, molding and trim that is washed often. Outside, gloss is good for door jambs, window casings and shutters. Semi-gloss and gloss sheens often require more coats than less glossy paint finishes and they often require more preparation, such as sanding.