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Choosing The Right Paint Finish

This guide looks at different types of paint finish, including flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. A successful home painting project depends on choosing the right sheen for a room so that your kitchen, hallway, bathroom, or bedroom looks great for years to come.

Whether you’re dreaming of glossy white cabinets in your kitchen or an azure blue accent wall in your bedroom, painting is an easy way to achieve a new look. No matter what color you select, make sure you've got the right type of paint finish for your space.

If you’re considering putting your home painting project into the hands of a professional, check out our cost guide or get up to four free quotes from a contractor in your area.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself instead? Before you head to the store to pick your paint, read on and learn the difference between flat and satin paint or a semi-gloss and eggshell paint finish.

Why Is Paint Finish Important?

Paint finish refers to how glossy the paint appears. The main types of paint finishes are, from the least to the most amount of shine:

  • Flat
  • Matte
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-gloss
  • High-gloss

Simply put, the more light the paint reflects, the more gloss or sheen it has. Higher sheen paints are more durable. While you might pick a matte paint for a rarely used guest bedroom, you need a different paint finish such as a satin or gloss for a high-traffic, busy area like a kitchen.

Choosing Between Paint Finishes

Let’s take a look at the characteristics of each type of paint finish and the situation they work best in.

What's A Flat Paint Finish?

Flat paint doesn't have any sheen. It's much more difficult to clean than glossier paints and shows wear and tear easily.

This type of paint is usually cost-effective because of its high concentration of pigment. It provides good coverage, applies evenly, and is simple to touch up.

Try using flat paint in a guest or adult bedroom or as a ceiling paint finish.

What Is Matte Paint?

A matte paint has low sheen and delivers a smooth, subtle look similar to a flat paint. It's a little more durable.

Matte paint is well suited to walls with blemishes and can help cover up some of the imperfections.

Try using matte paint in a bedroom, dining room, or other low-traffic areas.

What Is Eggshell Paint?

Eggshell is a popular choice for interior spaces because it reflects some light and creates a soft glow. It’s also stain-resistant and difficult to scuff.

This type of paint does show flaws, so it’s important to take time to prepare a wall and smooth out rough patches before starting to paint.

Try an eggshell finish in hallways, living rooms, family rooms, and bedrooms.

What Is Satin Paint?

Satin paint has a medium gloss and a rich luster, but it's more difficult to apply than a flat paint and does show flaws. Because it cleans well, it's a good choice for busy areas or walls that might experience nicks and scrapes.

Try a satin paint finish in rooms where there are messes and splatters, such as kitchens, dining areas, entryways, bathrooms, playrooms, and children's bedrooms. A satin sheen also looks attractive on trim, shutters, and doors.

What Is Semi-Gloss Paint?

A semi-gloss finish gives a surface a beautiful shine and can brighten a room. This tough, durable paint finish is also resistant to moisture.

Try a semi-gloss paint in bathrooms, kitchens, and children's rooms if you like the shine. It's also ideal for doors, kitchen cabinets, crown moulding, and exterior trim and siding.

What Is High-Gloss Paint?

A high-gloss paint reflects light and delivers an elegant shine. Because of its glossiness, it's often used to highlight architectural detailing, shutters, and trim.

High-gloss paint is tough, resistant to stains, and easy to clean. It requires several coats and can be difficult to apply, so you might consider hiring a contractor to deliver a flawless application.

Best Painting Finish For Bathrooms

All those hot showers can wear on your bathroom walls. Areas prone to humidity and moisture, such as bathrooms, kitchens, attics, and basements, benefit from mildew-resistant paint. It contains antimicrobial ingredients to deter mold growth.

A mold-resistant bathroom paint finish is available in matte, eggshell, and satin sheens to suit your preference.

Specialty Paint Finishes

But wait, you're saying. Maybe you want to really make a bold impact in a room. For something other than the classic paint finishes, you need to explore some of the fabulous specialty paints manufacturers are creating to add a unique feel to your home.

Textured Finishes For Walls

Whether you like the look of suede, marble, denim, or sandstone, you can find a paint finish that simulates the feel of a natural material or fabric. For a little more glam, check out your local paint store for shimmery metallic, crackle medium, and pearlescent finishes.

Chalky Paint Finish For Furniture

If you aren't ready to tackle an entire room, you can still make an impact by perking up tired-looking furniture with a quick coat of paint. Look for a chalky paint finish to give a distressed, vintage look to a chair or table. It applies easily to wood, metal, and laminate for an antique feel.

Basic Rules of Paint Finishes

Before you choose paint, consider how much wear and tear you expect in the room and how glossy you'd like the paint to appear.

Remember the basic rules of paint finishes:

  • Flat and matte paint hides imperfections because they have less sheen and don't reflect light. They're best suited for low-traffic rooms.
  • Eggshell and satin finishes are popular choices for higher-traffic areas.
  • Glossier paints are the most durable but highlight flaws because they're so reflective.

Once you’ve picked the right finish and color, the fun part begins and you can start transforming your room and creating a look you love.

Article Topics

  • Painting

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