Semi-Gloss vs. Eggshell for Kitchens

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Selecting the ideal kitchen wall paint isn't just about color; the sheen or level of glossiness matters, too.
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Selecting the ideal kitchen wall paint isn't just about color; the sheen or level of glossiness matters, too. A paint that's too shiny may be an eyesore, as it reflects loads of light and shows off every single imperfection and deviation on the painted surface. On the other hand, paint that's flat or matte could be damaged simply by washing it, which means the paint won't last as long. Semi-gloss and eggshell paints have qualities that make them ideal for different areas of the kitchen.

Paint Sheen Specifics

Each level of paint sheen has its own pros and cons. The least shiny paint, called flat or matte, hides flaws quite well, so it's great for a wall that might not be perfectly smooth. The downside: it isn't washable, so it's best for spaces that won't be touched often, such as a ceiling, the inside of a closet or in a bedroom belonging to an adult.

According to Shoreline Painting & Drywall, Inc., the more glossy the paint, the more durable and reflective it is. Eggshell paint is slightly more reflective and durable than flat paint. It also hides flaws yet offers up to 25 percent more glossiness compared to flat paint. Satin paint, also called low sheen, is shinier still, at up to 35 percent more glossy than flat.

Semi-gloss can be up to 75 percent shinier than flat paint and exponentially more durable and washable. High-gloss paint is even more durable than semi-gloss, yet it can be so shiny it shows every imperfection on the painted surface. High gloss is best used for door trim in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and children's bedrooms.

Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets withstand more abuse than most painted surfaces around the house, as they're subjected to grease splatters, dirty hands and steam from boiling pots of water or soup. Paint kitchen cabinets with a semi-gloss or high-gloss paint for the most durability, keeping in mind that they'll also shine quite a bit. Both of these shiny paints can be washed or scrubbed when necessary.

Painting the Walls and Ceiling

Kitchen walls also require a durable, washable paint. Unless you want a shiny, glossy finish on the walls, opt for either eggshell or satin paint. Use eggshell paint in the kitchen for walls farthest away from the stove. Eggshell is durable and washable without showing many imperfections. In fact, the sheen level is much like that of an actual eggshell. Satin paint is also a nice option, especially for walls nearest the stove and food preparation areas. It's slightly more shiny than eggshell and quite durable.

The best paint for kitchen walls and ceilings, if you wanted to select only one sheen level for all the paint, is eggshell, with satin coming in second. Satin, while a little more durable than eggshell, shows more flaws on the painted wall or ceiling. Since many ceilings aren't perfectly smooth, any paint that's a bit shiny will emphasize dips, bumps and problems more than paints that don't reflect as much light.

Semi-Gloss and Eggshell for Kitchens

If using only semi-gloss and eggshell paints in the kitchen, use the semi-gloss for the areas that get dirtiest, such as window and door trim and cabinet drawers. Use eggshell paint for the walls.


Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.

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