It used to be flat, eggshell, or semi-gloss.  Now there are low-lusters, satins, glosses, high glosses, mattes, and the list goes on and on.  Manufactures have extended the list of sheen options as a way to stand out from the competition but more importantly, to offer consumers an array of options when choosing a finish for their painting projects.  With so many options out there, how do you choose the right one?

What is sheen?

When referring to sheen, we are talking about the amount of gloss or shine in the paint. 

What is the difference?

As a general rule of thumb, you can use the chart below as a reference for paint sheens.  As you go up the list, the amount of sheen goes up as well.  The benefit of a low sheen paint is the ability to hide imperfections.  Since they have a low amount of sheen they will reflect less light and your eye will not be drawn to imperfections. The higher sheen finishes will show more imperfections but offer the added benefit of more protection and the ability to wash off smudges. 

  • FLAT

Paint sheen

What are you painting?

In my experience, most residential customers will choose a flat finish for ceilings, an eggshell/satin finish for walls and a semi-gloss finish for trim.  However, every room is unique and it is important to inspect your walls before making any decisions.  If you have an older home that has taken a lot of wear and tear over the years or has waves in the drywall/plaster from the house settling you may want to consider a flat or matte finish for the walls.  It is also important to consider the amount of abuse the walls will take.  If you have kids or pets in the house, it may be worth sacrificing the look of the walls for the added protection that you get with a higher sheen.

Bathrooms and Kitchens are Unique

I always suggest using an eggshell/satin finish on the ceilings in bathrooms due to the amount of moisture created during showers.  Over time, if there is poor ventilation, you can start to see mold develop due to the moisture penetrating the ceiling and saturating the drywall.  In smaller kitchens, it is also important to consider an eggshell/satin finish for the ceiling because over time the smoke from cooking can cause the ceiling to turn yellow.

Everyone is unique and just because people gravitate towards a certain finish does not mean you should.  I have had customers paint their ceilings glossy and their trim flat because that is what they are drawn to.   Picking colors is difficult enough so determine your goals first and choosing your sheen will be a cinch.