You have been looking for that perfect wall color for your bedroom for months now. Stressing and reading everything you can find out about paint selection, including online and reading numerous color blogs. You have flipped through twelve back issues of House Beautiful and spent countless hours of watching HGTV day and night! Finally- after what feels like a lifetime, you have found THE perfect color.
With your perfect color sample in hand, you march confidently up to the paint counter with a smile and say, “Two gallons of Bird’s Egg # 2051-60, please”! The clerk answers, “ Yes, I would be happy to help you with that. What finish would you like that in?” After staring at him in a daze for a minute, you ask, “What? What do you mean, finish??”
Well, I hope this post will help you understand the difference between paint gloss/sheen levels and where to use them. Sheen — or gloss — is a measure of paint’s shininess. Typically, low-sheen paints hide imperfections better, while high-sheen paints are more durable.
Types of Sheen
Flat, also called matte, paints diffuse light, so they tend to conceal surface imperfections better than paints with higher gloss levels. As a result they are a good choice for use on textured walls and ceilings. Colors appear less intense in a flat finish than they do in a glossier finish. Also, flat paints are a good choice for ceilings, because of their low reflectivity.
Flat finishes are less stain-resistant than glossy finishes so keep in mind that stains can be difficult to remove from flat finishes. Unlike paints with higher sheen, their non-reflective surfaces have a porous texture, which can trap dirt and make cleaning difficult. So, it’s wise to use flat paints only in areas that do not tend to get soiled. Flat/Matte Paint is best for ceilings, textured walls, imperfect walls. They are also harder to clean.
Eggshell is a washable, durable paint with a subtle sheen that helps hide surface imperfections. It’s best for low to moderate traffic areas. Paints in this category impart greater warmth and depth to surfaces than flat paints. They also resist stains better than flat paints, although not as well as semigloss and high-gloss finishes. Eggshell is the finish to ask for in most cases for your room’s walls such as bedroom, living, dining room, kitchen and bathroom, where you are painting a flat, undamaged wall. It has a slight sheen, but not too shiny and an eggshell finish can be wiped clean easily.
Now, what I think confuses people the most, are the finishes that fall between eggshell and semigloss. These finishes might be called, satin, pearl and low lustre for example. They resist stains better than flat paints but not as well as semi-gloss and gloss paints. These paints are good choices for areas where some sheen is desired and good cleaning properties are necessary such as stairways, utility rooms and kid’s rooms. But I have found these finishes are not always available in all paint types. So I suggest sticking with an eggshell finish for most all wall surfaces and not confuse yourself with these other finishes. Once you paint and learn the differences of the finishes, then you will feel more comfortable experimenting with these other sheens.
Semi-Gloss has outstanding durability, stain resistance, scrubbability and shine. It’s recommended for high traffic areas. Semigloss paints have a slightly glossy appearance and are less reflective than gloss paints. They offer good stain resistance, are easy to clean, and may be a good choice if you have young children. Semi-gloss is suggested for your interior trim, windows, doors and kitchen cabinets because these are touched often and are easy to wipe off. I also like semi-gloss on trim also because the shininess is accentuated and the architural elements stand out more. For instance, in the photo below, I would paint the walls in eggshell and the archway and window trim in a semi-gloss finish to highlight.
Gloss paint, also called high-gloss has maximum durability, stain resistance, scrubbability and shine. It’s recommended for high traffic areas such as trim and cabinets, and areas that need maximum moisture resistance. They produce the toughest, most durable, and most stain-resistant finishes. They are easier to clean than less reflective or low-luster paints. So, they are ideal for areas exposed to heavy traffic or use, especially those prone to fingerprints or grime. But, because of their highly selective appearance, however, gloss paints tend to highlight surface imperfections. As a result, if your walls or woodwork are marred or irregular, you might want to select paint with a lower sheen level. I myself do not use high gloss paint often. I have only suggested once, when a client’s wall were eggshell white. I wanted to really make the windows and trim stand out for interest, so I used high gloss. I lately have also seen some designers using high gloss on walls. But it is a very time consuming project where your walls have to be in perfect shape to be seen in such a shiny sheen. Left best for the professionals such as Todd Klein as in the photo below. I do not suggest painting a high gloss finish in most instances in your home.
Share on Facebook