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How to Choose the Right Paint Sheen For Your Room

You’ve been wanting to tackle that painting project in the kitchen or the bedroom for months now and you’ve finally found the right color for your room. So what sheen should you go with for the kitchen? The bedroom? Does it even matter? Yes, the sheen of the paint can […]

You’ve been wanting to tackle that painting project in the kitchen or the bedroom for months now and you’ve finally found the right color for your room. So what sheen should you go with for the kitchen? The bedroom? Does it even matter?

Yes, the sheen of the paint can make a huge difference in your room or project! So here’s a quick guide to picking the right paint sheen for your next painting project.

Paints are available in a number of different sheens. Before you select the sheen that you will use for your room, it’s important to understand the qualities that each one has to offer.

Paints without a shine or sheen are referred to as flat or matte finishes. They diffuse the light reflecting off the paint– that is, the light bounces off the paint in many different directions, with little or no shine. A semi-gloss or glossy sheen reflects light more directly, much as a mirror reflects light, which will create a slight shine off the surface.

Nearly every sheen can be used in any room of the house, but some are better suited for high-traffic areas than others. If the sheen you want falls somewhere in-between two styles, you can always mix them together to find a finish that falls somewhere in the middle.

No- and Low-Gloss Sheens (Flat, Matte and Eggshell)

Flat, or matte finish is frequently used in new construction and on ceilings because it hides flaws extremely well. Because it doesn’t reflect light directly, imperfections in walls and ceilings are much less noticeable. Flat finishes are ideal for use on new drywall that has an imperfect taping job or where porous joint compound has been applied.

Eggshell, or low-luster, finishes are so named because the slight sheen they provide is similar in appearance to the surface of an egg. This slight sheen creates a soft, velvety finish. Satin sheens provide a slightly more reflective surface and are excellent at resisting mildew, dirt and stains, making them better suited to more frequently used rooms. They can withstand cleaning and light scrubbing better than flat or eggshell finishes.

  • Flat/matte paint provides a smooth, elegant finish
  • Flat sheens tend to absorb dirt and may be somewhat difficult to clean
  • Keep extra paint on hand to touch up nicks and scratches in flat sheens
  • Eggshell finishes are easier to wash than flat finishes and resist stains and scuffs
  • Eggshell and satin finishes offer more depth and warmth
  • Satin finishes can withstand moisture, making them ideal for kitchens and bathrooms

Semi-gloss and Glossy Sheens

Unlike lower-gloss sheens, semi-gloss and glossy sheens create a bright, shiny look. They are both durable and aesthetically pleasing. Glossy sheens do, however, show nearly every imperfection in a wall or ceiling’s surface, meaning it’s best to use them on walls with unmarred surfaces.

Semi-gloss finishes offer high resistance to moisture, though they may suffer a little from sticking. High-gloss sheens are brilliant, reflective finishes that are ideal for highlighting trim, railings, shutters and molding. Glossier finishes may be used on ceilings, but be sure the ceiling has no imperfections prior to applying.

  • Sheens with higher glosses brighten rooms
  • Semi-gloss and glossy sheens can be scrubbed and are easy to clean
  • Both sheens require more prep work and sanding to ensure smooth application
  • Semi-gloss sheens may be used in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Glossy sheens provide a look similar to plastic or enamel

Here is a simple chart highlighting the differences between the sheens, and identifying the areas where they can be used.

Sheen Things to Consider Suggested Rooms
Flat/Matte Provides a smooth, subtle finish
Camouflages imperfections
Ideal for low-traffic areas
Diffuses light
Holds dirt and is more difficult to clean
Rubbing with cleanser may burnish the finish
Living room
Dining room
Family room
Eggshell/Low-Lustre Offers an elegant low-sheen finish
Best for low-traffic areas
Smooth surface
More washable than flat sheens
Living room
Dining room
Family room
Satin Can be wiped clean
Provides an elegant finish
Ideal for more active rooms
Extremely versatile
May be used indoors or outdoors
Family room
Laundry room
Guest bathroom
Dining room
Children’s bedroom
Semi-Gloss Can be scrubbed clean with ease
Smooth sheen reflects light directly to create shine
Ideal for high-traffic areas
Easy to wash
May be used indoors or outdoors
Gloss Can be scrubbed clean with ease
Offers a smooth, high-shine finish
Ideal for surfaces that require frequent washing
Visit our online Paint Department for everything you’ll need for your next painting project.

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