When referring to paints, the term "pearl finish" is also referred to as "satin finish." It can take several days of drying for a pearl paint finish to reach its final color and sheen.
The word "pearl" refers to the sheen of the paint, not its color. Sheen is the degree of light reflectivity associated with a painted or varnished surface.
Degree of Sheen
The degree of a paint's sheen is due to the amount of crystalline silica suspended in the paint. A higher gloss sheen has virtually no silica, while a matte sheen has significant amounts. A pearl sheen has a moderate amount of silica.
In comparison to other finishes, pearl paint finishes are in the middle of the sheen spectrum. Generally, high gloss finishes have the highest sheen, followed by semi-gloss, pearl, eggshell and matte finishes.
A pearl sheen has a smooth, almost iridescent quality. Because of its smoother, less porous surface, it's easier to clean.
Because of their easy-to-clean quality, pearl pain finishes are often used in kitchens and bathrooms. They are also commonly used for trim details, such as doors, window frames, base moldings and crown moldings.