Paint sheen Guide – the best paint finishes for each room in your home
So you’re ready to paint your home and you’re considering which is the best paint finish to use in each room.
There are so many different terms out there including flat, matte, satin, and eggshell. But what are the differences between them and which is the right one to use? And is there a difference between which is best to use depending on the room that’s being painted?
Those are great questions, and that’s exactly what this article sets out to clarify. When it comes to deciding which interior paint finish to use in your home, you’ll find your answers here!
Sheen, Shine, Gloss, and Finish – Don’t They All Mean The Same Thing?
Depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer to this question. Each term is used to answer the same basic question: how much light reflects off the paint’s surface?
Most paint manufacturers use the terms “sheen” and “gloss” as a measure of how much light reflects off a paint’s surface depending on the angle the surface is viewed, creating its shine or luster. But since most people commonly use the term “finish” when describing the shine of paint, we will use that term mostly throughout this article.
Selecting Interior Paint Finishes
There is no standard for the terms used to describe a paint’s finish from paint manufacturer to paint manufacturer.
An eggshell paint finish from Sherwin-Williams might look similar to an eggshell paint finish from Benjamin Moore, but if you were to compare them together, you will see a slight difference. Also, not all paint manufacturers use all of the same terms to describe the finish of their paint products.
From manufacturer to manufacturer, you might see some strange terms used to describe the level of a paint’s finish such as “Velvet”, or “Pearl”, or “Luster”. But throughout each paint manufacturer, we do see some common terms used to describe a similar shine from each finish of their products.
From the least shine to the most shine, these terms are
Flat ➛ Matte ➛ Eggshell ➛ Satin ➛ Semi-Gloss ➛ Gloss ➛ High-Gloss
Less Shine ➛ More Shine
Typically the flatter the finish, the less shiny it is, and the glossier the finish the more shiny it is.
Flatter finishes tend to diffuse light better than glossier finishes, making minor surface imperfections less noticeable, and are also softer to the eye.
Glossier finishes tend to sharply reflect light, which makes minor surface imperfections more noticeable, but are great for surfaces that might require more frequent cleaning because they have a slicker surface.
Not to mention, glossier finishes stand out more and are especially useful to highlight certain features of your home, such as trim, doors, and other woodwork.
Which Paint Finish Works Best?
There is no right or wrong answer to which paint finish should be used in any particular room you plan on painting. When it comes down to it, the right finish to use really depends on your preference, but there are certain finishes that tend to work better than others depending on their appearance and durability.
We’ve spent some time researching reviews and professional opinions about which paint finishes work best room-by-room, and the results are in!
Here are the best paint finishes to use in your home by room for lasting performance and aesthetics:
The Best Paint Finish for Kitchens – Semi-Gloss
For most homes, family activity revolves around the kitchen. And for a place where you have the highest amount of grease, smoke, steam, and spills, you need a paint that can hold up extremely well to frequent washing.
That’s why the semi-gloss paint finish is the best choice for painting kitchens.
It’s a very durable finish that repels moisture, stains, and mold, and can withstand frequent washing with common household cleaners without loosing its luster.
The Best Paint Finish for Bathrooms – Satin
Bathrooms tend to get some of the most traffic of any other room in a house – everyone eventually has to use it.
The satin paint finish is a great choice for bathrooms because it holds up very well to a lot of touching and cleans easily too.
Also, because of all the moisture produced by steam from running the shower or bath, the satin paint finish is the best overall choice when painting bathrooms because it repels moisture and mildew as well.
The Best Paint Finish for Living Rooms – Eggshell
When it comes to painting living rooms, entryways, and hallways, the best paint finish for interior walls in in these high-traffic areas is the eggshell paint finish.
Similar to the matte paint finish, eggshell also diffuses light very well with just a slight bit more sheen.
But since living rooms tend to get a bit more traffic than bedrooms, the eggshell paint finish is a great choice because it holds up a lot better in higher-traffic areas where you expect walls to be touched more often.
The Best Paint Finish for Bedrooms – Matte
Because of its softer appearance and ability to hold up well to a light amount of traffic, the matte paint finish works best for bedrooms.
It resists dirt and cleans well for a low-gloss finish. And since the matte finish absorbs and diffuses light, it creates a very comfortable appearance and soft glow when reflecting light.
The Best Paint Finish for Ceilings – Flat
When it comes choosing a paint for ceilings, most people aren’t too concerned with them needing to hold up frequent touching or cleaning. Why would they?
What’s most important when painting a ceiling is using a finish that helps to soften the light that’s reflecting off of it. Any other paint finish tends to sharply reflect light at least to some degree, creating a brighter appearance. This is why the flat paint finish is the best choice when painting your ceiling.
The only exception to this is when painting ceilings in bathrooms or kitchens. When it comes to those rooms, you need a finish that holds up well to moisture and condensation. In those cases, either satin or semi-gloss paint finishes work very well.
Comparing Different Paint Finishes
When it comes to selecting the best paint finishes for your home, it really comes down the look and utility that you’re looking for in your finish. Although the previous list of best finishes is put together by polling popular opinion from homeowners and contractors, it doesn’t mean that those opinions are what’s best for you and your home.
Which paint finish will work best for each room of your home? The following list will help you weigh the pros and cons of each so that making that decision will be a little bit easier.
Flat Paint Finish
A flat paint finish diffuses most of the light that hits it, creating a very soft appearance. It’s a very common finish to use on most walls, and is especially used on ceilings.
Most flat paints tend to attract dirt and can be harder to clean than glossy paints, making them less suitable to high-traffic areas that will be touched often. Although, there are some newer premium paints available in a flat finish that help to repel dirt and also clean very well.
Matte Paint Finish
A matte paint finish is similar to a flat finish, but it has a slight amount of sheen. This alone makes it a little more durable than a flat finish, making it more suitable for rooms where you want to have a softer appearance, and also a bit easier to keep clean.
Matte paint finishes work well in adult bedrooms, studies, and any other interior wall that won’t be touched too often.
Eggshell Paint Finish
An eggshell paint finish has a soft, velvety appearance that has a small amount of luster, kind of like the shell of an egg.
It is still fairly low-sheen, so it does help to reduce the appearance of surface imperfections and is easy on the eye, but it is also easier to clean, repels dirt, and resists scuffs better than matte and flat finishes.
An eggshell paint finish is best used in rooms where you want to maintain a softer appearance, but tend to have a higher amount of traffic than bedrooms, such as living rooms and dining rooms.
Satin Paint Finish
A satin paint finish has a slightly reflective surface and resists mildew, dirt, and stains very well.
It is fairly durable, holding up well to moisture and a lot of touching and scuffing.
Because of it’s high-durability, it is a great choice when painting high-traffic areas like kitchens, bathrooms, entryways, hallways, and kids’ bedrooms.
Yet, since it is slightly reflective, it is less desirable for common living spaces such as bedrooms, living rooms, and dens.
Semi-Gloss Paint Finish
The semi-gloss paint finish has a shiny luster, unlike satin which appears slightly dull-rubbed.
Although there are shinier finishes than semi-gloss, it sharply reflects light and appears considerably brighter than the previously mentioned finishes.
It has a harder and more durable surface than a satin finish, and is a great choice for surfaces that require frequent cleaning, or for features in your home that you want to stand out.
This finish is typically not used for ceilings except for in bathrooms and kitchens where water condensation is expected because it resists moisture extremely well.
Gloss Paint Finish
The gloss paint finish has a brilliant, reflective appearance and isn’t typically used on walls.
Because of its high durability and reflective appearance, it is most often used only on woodwork such as trim, cabinets, and furniture.
It has the same basic performance features as the semi-gloss finish. So if you need a highly durable finish with a brilliant luster, you have it with the gloss paint finish.
High-Gloss Paint Finish
This is the most durable and brilliant of all paint finishes. It has every feature of the gloss finish, except that it’s just a bit more durable and has a bit more luster.
The greatest benefit of gloss and high-gloss paint finishes are their depth of color.
The higher the sheen, the more vivid and rich the colors appear. This makes high-gloss finishes a great choice for deep dramatic colors such as reds, forest greens, and navy blues.
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