How to Pick the Right Paint Finish


When an architect chooses the paint finish for an object, they make sure their choice enhances the look of the painted surface. Paint finish, or sheen, determines how much light will reflect off a surface. It may result in high gloss or no gloss at all.

A general rule of thumb regarding choosing paint finishes says: the higher the shine, the more durable the finish will be. However, many modern paint finishes offer high durability even with minimal shine.

Bright designed living room with firework
Used with permission of Lisa Furey Interiors

There are flat and high-gloss finishes, and there are many variations in between. Matte, eggshell, pearl, satin, and semi-gloss each have a decorative and practical property.

In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of paint finishes and how to choose the right one for your specific surface.

Flat Paint

A finish that doesn’t reflect light is called flat paint. It has no sheen at all. The lack of shine and reflection allows a more considerable amount of paint finish to cover the surface. It’s far more forgiving of flaws and it creates a uniform surface that makes an ideal hide for various imperfections.

Since it can hide flaws, it is ideal for ceilings and areas with meager traffic. It’s best to avoid flat paint for high-traffic areas. They usually require attention and get stained frequently. It’s much harder to remove a stain from a flat paint finish than from one that has more sheen in it.

Constant rubbing of a flat paint finish often results in burnishing.

Ceilings with a popcorn finish are ideal for this type, and so are rental walls that need refreshment.

Bedroom with painted walls, bed, armchair and a painting
Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

Matte Paint

Almost as shine-free as flat paint, a matte finish provides a remarkable depth of color and an excellent hide for flaws but with more durability. Unlike flat paint, the matte paint finish can withstand frequent rubbing even when you use it in high-traffic areas like living rooms or children’s rooms.

A matte finish often looks luxurious in many spaces like dining rooms, family rooms, or bedrooms. Some matte finishes are designed to withstand moisture which makes them suitable for bathrooms and similar humidity-exposed environments.

Eggshell Paint

The eggshell finish is trendy among professional painters, but many people also choose it for DIY projects. It provides a nearly shine-free finish that offers far more remarkable durability than flat or matte paint. Although it’s a low-sheen finish, it’s suited for most areas of any home since it’s easy to clean and maintain.

It reflects light more than the flat or matte paint, and it makes colors pop beautifully with its minimal shine.

Designed part of the bathroom with a sink and a mirror
Used with permission of Lisa Furey Interiors

Pearl Paint

The pearl finish is both easy to maintain and beautiful. It’s ideal for walls in a busy environment and lends an incredible dimension to trim. Some paints have pearl finishes that are perfect for almost any area, offering mild resistance even for high humidity areas.

Keep in mind that the pearl paint finish may require professional application as it is highly susceptible to showing surface flaws.

Satin Paint

Often confused with the eggshell finish, satin paint features more shine and better resistance. Its higher gloss properties provide durability than all previously mentioned sheens, including the eggshell.

Satin is perfect for spaces that need definition. It’s a great way to highlight windows, doors, shutters, and trim. It looks particularly luxurious on front doors that have architectural details. A satin finish gives a rich, extravagant look that reflects luxury and elegance.

Semi-Gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paint offers a luxurious look that goes perfectly with the architectural details in your house. It will help you give dimension to windows, trim, millwork, and doors. It provides a glossy, furniture-like finish, and its smooth surface makes it perfect for kitchen cabinets.

Semi-gloss paint is far more resistant than any low-sheen finish, offering far more durability and easy maintenance.

Part of the bright designed living room  with chair, table and pillows in the basket below the table, and a mirror on the wall above the table with flowers and books
Used with permission of Lisa Furey Interiors

High Gloss Paint

The high gloss paint finish is at the very top of the sheen list. It’s a highly durable mirror-like finish that provides a remarkable, elegant shine. It’s stain-resistant, effortless to maintain, and adds a beautiful look to various details in any home.

People use high-gloss paint on trim, doors, and even in hectic kitchens. Many architects and interior designers love experimenting with high gloss in various areas, sometimes unexpected ones. They will put it on ceilings or on a central wall to add dimension and extravagance to the interior.

However, keep in mind that it’s best to leave the painting with a high gloss finish to a professional. It takes precise application, a steady hand, and rich prior experience to look perfect. Since the high shine accentuates flaws and blemishes, make sure to avoid applying it on surfaces that aren’t perfectly smooth.

If you aren’t sure what paint finish would work best for a particular area, ask a professional for advice. Even if you plan on doing everything by yourself, it’s still best to talk to someone who has done it many times before and learn a trick or two. Thanks to for consulting on this post.


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