You finally picked the perfect shade of paint for your latest project. But the decision-making isn't quite over. Now you need to decide which finish to choose. Each paint finish looks different even if you get them in the exact same hue because of the difference in the amount of sheen. Think of sheen as how shiny the finish looks. You can choose anything from flat paint with no shine to high-gloss paint with lots of shine.
Flat or Matte Finish
Flat paint offers a matte look with a non-reflective surface that has no shine to it. The lack of shine helps flat paint hide all those little imperfections that show up on walls over time. Flat paint tends to cover textured walls better than glossier paints. Because it has more pigment in it, flat paint offers better coverage overall, so you don't need to use as many coats to get a good finish. If you need to touch up a spot later, you're more likely to get good results with the new paint blending in well with the older paint.
One drawback to consider is the durability and cleaning capability. Flat paint doesn't tend to hold up as well as higher sheen paints. And it can be tough to clean if you get splatters or stains on your walls. The porous nature of flat paint can cause dirt and other particles to become stuck in the finish. Because of these qualities, it's better in lower-traffic rooms. Flat paint isn't ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, kids' rooms and other busy areas, but it can work in formal spaces or rooms you don't use as much, such as a formal dining room or sitting room. It's also commonly used on ceilings.
Think of flat paint with just a bit of luster. That's what you get when you choose an eggshell finish. It's still very low shine compared to other finishes and is often described as having a soft or velvety look. Eggshell paint is also good at covering wall blemishes, and it's easier to clean than flat paint. It's not quite as durable as finishes with more sheen, though.
Next up is satin paint. It's the middle-of-the-road finish with a good amount of luster without being overly glossy. Some compare it to a velvety or pearl-like finish. It's a good compromise finish that's versatile enough for moderate- or high-traffic areas. Satin-finish paint can handle some moisture, so it may work in a bathroom or kitchen. It's one of the most popular options because of its versatility. Satin paint can take some light scrubbing if you need to clean the walls.
One potential drawback is the visibility of flaws in your application method. If you don't take your time and apply the paint carefully, it may show brush stroke or roller marks, and it's not as easy to touch up down the road if you need to fix a spot. The patched area may stand out against the older paint.
Semi-gloss offers a good amount of shine and light reflection so it tends to have a brightening effect on your room. That light-reflecting quality also makes blemishes more noticeable, which can make the finished paint job seem less polished. Because it's a very durable finish, it works well on trim that might get kicked or banged a lot as well as walls in moist areas or places where you're likely to get splatters on the paint. That makes the bathroom and kitchen ideal candidates for a semi-gloss finish.
Paint with a high-gloss finish has the greatest amount of shine because it reflects a lot of light. High-gloss paint is similar to the shine of an appliance finish. It's also described as having a glass-like look. It's known for its durability and ability to resist staining. Plus, high-gloss paint is easy to clean.
The main drawback of a high-gloss paint is the attention it puts on any blemishes on your walls. Any little imperfection tends to stand out more if you choose a glossy paint. High-gloss paint is usually reserved for trim, but you can use it on walls if you want extra shine.
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.