The Guide to Paint Finishes

Choosing your color for a paint project can seem like it’s the most important decision. The sheen will have just as much impact on the look of your finished project as the color. The finish can change the look of a color, give you a more cleanable surface or hide imperfections. Now you see the choice is important, here is the guide to paint finishes.

Matte paint

Matte – or flat – finishes are the most common for walls. It has very little or no shine, giving the room a nice ambiance without bouncing light around the room. Because of this, it is good at hiding chips or dings in the wall. By not accentuating them with reflections, they go virtually invisible. At the same time, because there is little luster in this finish, it can be very difficult to keep clean or wipe up messes.

matte paint

Matte-enamel paint

Matte enamel is a more recent addition to paint shelf offerings. As the name implies, matte offers a low shine option for the walls. The enamel portion of it means the manufacturers have adjusted the formula slightly to create a film on the outer surface as it dries. Sometimes brands will label this product as washable matte. This gives the paint an easier clean up when messes happen. Because it’s more easily cleaned without destroying the finish, this is a perfect option for rooms you don’t want shine in, but are high traffic.

Eggshell paint

Eggshell is the first step in a shine on the walls. The sheen is named for its similarity to the look of an eggshell. It’s a good finish for busy rooms with families bustling about. It has a good finish for cleaning without a high gloss shine. While this paint seems like the perfect solution, it can break down and show cracks over time. Patches will need to be nearly invisible before you put the paint on. Also, brush strokes in this finish can sometimes be seen.

eggshell paint

Satin paint

Satin paint is a bit shinier than eggshell, but offers great durability. Many homeowners choose this finish because of the warm, smooth feel it gives off after. It’s great for areas that get a lot of touch traffic like doors and windows, plus its useful in high traffic rooms like hallways, bathrooms and kitchens. This finish is very durable with good resistance to chipping and peeling. It will however show brush strokes once it’s dried. Because of this, touch up painting is very difficult and sometimes impossible.

satin paint

Semi-gloss paint

Semi-gloss paint offers the same durability as satin finishes but allows more light to reflect off of it. This can make shades you choose appear darker in this finish. It’s a great option for rooms that are frequently home to messes, or crayon wielding toddlers. The shine can make this a good option for places you want to emphasize as well. Think things like banisters, fireplaces or kitchen cabinets.

Gloss paint

Gloss paint, also referred to as high-gloss, is the shiniest and most reflective finish available. It’s a great option to put on trim or furniture that sees a lot of touching or bumps. Don’t be afraid to use it on walls too. Interior rooms can benefit from the ability to lighten up a room with little outside light. It can create a glamorous feel in a boudoir or closet.

high gloss paint