Choosing the right sheen for your painting project

How do I know what sheen to select for my project?

When planning for a painting project there are many details to consider. What areas will be painted, what colors to use, brand of paint, primers, etc. One small often overlooked detail is paint sheen or finish. There are far less options when it comes to sheen compared to colors available. Choosing the right sheen for your project can make a world of difference. In this article we will discuss the different sheens and what surfaces we recommend they are used on, as well as looking briefly at stain finishes.

Understanding Sheen Terms

Paints come in several different sheens, aka finishes, or gloss levels. The gloss level of a paint determines how light reflective or shiny the dried paint surface will be. For example, high-gloss paints will be very shiny and reflective of any light sources, even if the paint color is dark. Low-sheen paints will have almost no shine and reflect little light, even on a light paint color. Low-sheen paints are often referred to as “matte” paints.

paint sheen types

Tips to Choose Your Paint Sheen

Since CertaPro Painters of WNY has been painting in our community for over 15 years. We are sharing that experience and are happy to recommend the correct sheen options for your projects surface. When picking your paint sheen, we recommend that you consider a few things. Consider the light sources in the room you are painting, consider the use of the room, and consider the appearance that you desire.

  • Room utility- a high-gloss paint in your kitchen, bathroom, or kid’s room makes cleaning surfaces in these rooms easier.
  • Durability- Higher gloss paints are also more resistant to damage and mold buildup that can be created in moist environments. Be sure any bathroom or kitchen space is well ventilated if you are considering low-gloss paints.
  • Lighting- Higher-gloss paint finishes can help brighten dark spaces. While low luster sheens in a well lite room will help eliminate glare.

Flat/Matteinterior painting

Flat paints, also known as matte paints, are a great design tool when used correctly. Since they are non-reflective, all light sources that hit this paint sheen will diffuse. This creates an even, soft-looking surface. They conceal surface blemishes better than other sheen options since it deflects your attention away. Flat finishes are ideal for ceilings, low-traffic areas and surfaces you want to downplay inside. For exterior projects, flat paint will also avert your eye from imperfections and textures from precious coatings. Making it our recommendation to be used on the body/siding of older Buffalo homes especially with cedar siding. Unlike paints with a higher gloss level, flat paints have a porous texture, which can trap dirt. They unfortunately do not hold up us well to washing or scrubbing.

Luckily, Sherwin-Williams Duration Home®., which is available in a matte as well as other finishes, is formulated with patented technology that forms a smooth continuous paint film. This means it provides superior resistance to staining, burnishing, and water-streaking or -spotting, and ultimately provides superior washability compared with competitive offerings.



Satin/Low Lustre/Eggshell

These sheens have a slightly higher gloss level than flat/matte sheens. Satin, low lustre, and eggshell finishes can vary by brand and even between products offered by the same paint manufacturer. Here at CertaPro Painters of WNY we primarily use satin to achieve a low-sheen (slightly shiny) look. This is because of the high-quality paints that we use form Sherwin-Williams, satin is the sheen that is predominantly offered. These sheens offer a smooth finish and subtle shine, because of this shine imperfections and texture in the wall can be more easily seen compared to a flat finish. However, these sheens are more washable than flat paints, may be more resistant to staining and hold up better in moderately trafficked rooms.

Satin is also an ideal choice for rooms that are exposed to moisture like kitchens and especially bathrooms. When painting outside satin and low lustre sheens work well on siding that is new or in good condition. Most commonly we work with satin finishes to paint trim on a home. Window frames, gutters, and facia are beautifully accented when used along with flat paint on your home’s siding.


Semi-Gloss/Gloss and High-Glosspainted cabinets

Semi-gloss, gloss and high-gloss sheens are the highest light reflecting sheens in that order. Typically for residential projects semi-gloss is the preferred gloss. Gloss and high-gloss finishes are more commonly used in commercial settings like on metal hand railings outside of an office building. When using higher gloss finishes especially inside you can run the risk of creating an undesirable glare. Gloss finishes require skillful application since they will show far more texture and imperfections on a surface. Glossier sheens are more washable, resisting dirt and cleaning up much more easily. Making a semi-gloss finish perfect for baseboard trim and doors frames that are touched and scuffed often.

Using semi-gloss paints on all the trim in a room and a flat or stain sheen on the walls and ceilings adds contrast and depth to a room. Kitchen cabinets and build-in shelving also look beautifully accented in a semi-gloss finish because its polished look draws the eye. A semi-gloss sheen may be the perfect choice on exterior accents like shutters and doors where added shine is a benefit.




What about Stain?

painted door

Just as with paint stains have different finishes to consider. Solid, semi-transparent, transparent, or clear. Choosing which to use can be determined by the woods condition and the look you are trying to achieve. A clear or transparent finish will allow the natural beauty of the wood to show through as much as possible while offering protection to the wood. This is great for new decks and fences or wooden trim inside the home that you want to showcase. Semi-Transparent would be your choice if you want to add some subtle color or darkness while still allowing the wood grain to come through. Solid stains are the opaquest and will add color while hiding the wood grain, but not the woods texture. Solid stain offers the most in terms of masking imperfections like ageing and uneven wear, and like paint, can be tinted virtually any color.

Still not sure or have questions about which sheen to use on your project? That’s okay! CertaPro Painters of WNY has been painting and staining our WNY community for 15 years. We know what to recommend to protect your home from long cold winters and what will make your neighbors envious. Request your free painting or staining estimate from CertaPro Painters of WNY and our experienced estimators will customize the best options for your project.