Put the finishing statement on your paint color of choice by selecting a sheen that enhances the look of the surface. Sheen, or paint finish, is a measure of how much light reflects off a painted surface, resulting in gloss—or a lack thereof. Consider some of the common sheen uses listed below, or break from tradition and get creative with sheen.
Sheen and Gloss 101
Sheens and glosses range on a scale from no shine to high shine. Different levels of sheen can affect how colors appear and add dimension to rooms. While there are many different types of sheen, you are most likely to see these seven key interior paint finishes during your painting journey:
- High Gloss
Flat paint is a term for a finish that does not reflect light, resulting in no sheen at all. This lack of reflection allows more paint pigment to come through, is more forgiving of flaws and allows for excellent hide, creating a uniform surface. With its ability to mask imperfections, it offers a flawless finish and is an ideal choice for ceilings and very low-traffic areas.
Use caution when considering flat paint in high-traffic areas that require frequent attention. Stains are harder to remove from low-sheen paint, and constant rubbing or cleaning can result in burnishing.
Matte finish is nearly as shine-free as flat, again providing excellent hide and depth of color, with slightly more durability. Matte finish paint also withstands frequent washing, even when applied in busier areas like hallways and family rooms.
A matte look lends a luxurious touch to many interior spaces, including bedrooms and dining rooms.
Eggshell finish, perennially popular with professional and DIY painters alike, has a low-sheen reminiscent of flat or matte, but it is infinitely more durable than its namesake.
Widely available in a variety of interior paints, eggshell provides an easy-to-clean, nearly shine-free finish, suited for most areas of a home, including family rooms and hallways. While it reflects more light than flat or matte finishes, its soft glow casts colors beautifully.
A pearl finish is a medium gloss that maintains high durability. Both beautiful and easy to clean, a pearl finish lends dimension to trim while being optimal for walls in high-traffic areas. Pearl has a finish that can be used everywhere from wainscoting to doors, and offers mildew resistance for high-humidity areas.
When choosing this finish, make sure you follow manufacturer’s application tips and paint carefully, as paint with a pearl sheen is more susceptible to showing lap marks and other painting flaws.
Often confused with other finishes, the difference between eggshell and satin paint is that satin delivers a higher gloss, while offering better stain resistance and durability than lower sheens, including eggshell.
Satin paint is ideal for areas that crave definition. Use its distinctive lustre to highlight windows, shutters, trim and even interior doors. For front doors, where architectural details like beveling and paneling are customary, consider Satin to achieve a rich, lustrous look that evokes a look of elegance and luxury.
Also in this category is soft gloss paint, which, while not an exact match for satin paint, offers a similar higher-gloss, better-durability finish.
The luminous look of a semi-gloss paint is perfectly suited to highlight the architectural details of your home and create dimension on millwork, trim, and doors. Available in most interior paints, it cures to a smooth, furniture-like finish, and its glossy look makes it one of the best paint finishes for kitchen cabinets.
High Gloss Paint
Offering a mirror-like finish, high gloss sits on top of the sheen chart. This finish is extremely durable and offers elegant shine. It is easy to clean, stain-resistant and will add a stunning look to doors, trim, and even a high-traffic kitchen.
Many interior designers (and adventurous homeowners) like to experiment with high gloss paint in unexpected areas, such as the ceiling or an accent wall. Keep in mind, however, that high gloss paints require careful application and preparation best left to a professional painter. If you’re committed to a DIY-approach, practice your technique and prime any surfaces to ensure they are even and clean prior to paint application. Since a gloss finish reflects light and can accentuate blemishes, avoid using it on areas that are not completely smooth.