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Choose the Right Paint Sheens for Your Home

Whether you’re preparing your home for the market or just looking to refresh a tired space, your choice of interior paint is important, and it involves a few different considerations. You’ll want to select the right color, of course, but you should also consider how it interacts with the furniture and flooring colors and the amount of natural and artificial light a room gets. Picking a paint that’s too shiny can reflect too much light, and one that’s too flat may appear dull.

A paint’s sheen, or finish, affects how the color appears, depending on whether it absorbs or reflects light. In addition, for paint to hold up well over time, it has to be durable enough for the surface and the situation.

There’s a basic rule of thumb to follow when choosing paint sheens: The higher the sheen, the higher the shine, and the higher the shine, the more durable the paint will be.

Flat paint has no shine; high-gloss is all shine. In between are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each with its own practical and decorative job.

The paint industry has strict standards for determining sheen, involving the ratio of resins to pigment and how much light reflects off the surface from varying angles.

The most common paint sheens, from shiniest to dullest, are gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, flat enamel, and flat.


High-gloss paints have an almost reflective quality, as their shiny finish mimics the look of enamel or plastic. Although not widely used in home interiors, the finish is becoming more popular for a dramatic look on cabinets, trim, and furniture, especially in formal and contemporary settings. This finish will magnify surface imperfections, so careful preparation is essential before painting with high-gloss paints.

Try gloss paint on a small piece of accent furniture first. If you like it, remember to use it in moderation. It makes an impact because it stands out. If everything in your home were shiny and glossy, the look would be overpowering.

Note that glossy paint will show every flaw or imperfection that you are painting over. The light will reflect off of and exaggerate it.Preparing everything as smooth and clean as possible before painting is the key.. If you’re still concerned about showing flaws, it would be best to go with a lower sheen.


Semi-gloss paint is often used on doors, trims, and cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms. It is easily cleaned and has a nice, subtle shine without being too glitzy. However, you must ensure walls are smooth prior to painting, as poorly prepared surfaces can be noticeable when highlighted by a semi-gloss paint.

Like gloss, semi-gloss requires attention to detail before painting. Flaws and imperfections will show through, especially when the light reflects off them, so it’s important to ensure your surface is as smooth as possible before painting.


Satin finish paint has a smooth, velvety look with a bit more gloss than eggshell. It is often used for windows, doors, trims, or ceilings but can also be used as wall paint. This is particularly suitable for kids' rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas that get a lot of traffic. Paint with a satin finish is formulated for cleaning and light scrubbing.

The finish of satin paint is smooth and has just the perfect touch of luster. It is the most popular sheen because it is so versatile all around.

Since it has only a touch of sheen, it can also be carried onto ceilings when needed. This makes it a convenient choice, especially in spaces where you’ll be using the same color on the walls and ceiling.


Eggshell is a finish between satin and matte; it has a flat sheen and a very subtle luster. To be precise, it resembles an eggshell, hence the name. This finish will bestow you with the wall color you exactly wanted. It does not give any shine or gloom to the paint color. If you plan on getting a mural on one of your walls, eggshell sheen is the best choice to do the trick. Eggshell sheen works best for the mural as it can be cleaned and can safely accept layers of paint on top of it. If your walls have bumps or imperfections, a coat of eggshell can disguise them more precisely than satin or high-gloss finishes. It is best to keep eggshell sheen away from damaged walls.

Flat Enamel

This is a no-luster paint sheen. It is completely flat, with no shine at all. It hides flaws well, so it’s great on textured or damaged walls.

Because it has a thin film over its surface for added durability, it doesn’t have the chalky feeling of plain, flat paint. It can also be cleaned more easily, so it can be used on walls in low-traffic areas, such as guest bedrooms and powder bathrooms. It’s also a great choice for creating a rustic look on walls and furniture.


Whether called flat or simply "wall paint," this paint finish has a completely matte surface with no shine. The surface can have a slightly chalky feel to it. This finish is usually used on interior walls and ceilings. It's perfect if you need to camouflage small wall bumps, cracks, or other imperfections that might be highlighted with a shinier finish. While some flat paints are now advertised as washable, it's often more effective to do touch-ups on scratches or marks by covering them with more paint. So be sure to keep some on hand after you've finished painting.

If your paint color is dark and rich, but you want to avoid a super shiny effect, step down at least one level on the sheen scale. That’s because the darker and richer the paint color is, the more colorant it has, which boosts sheen. It’s the same if you’re painting a large, sunwashed, or imperfect wall. The higher the sheen, the more defects will show.

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