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Different Types of Paint Sheens

Last Updated on December 10, 2020

What Are the Different Types of Paint Sheens?

Choosing which paint sheen you want to go with is going to be the difference between washable and non-washable as well as $17 and $27 per gallon for the contractor grade paint you’ll need to buy. So let’s go through the differences real quick to see what you feel may be the right paint for you.

Flat Paint

Flat paint is going to be the cheapest of all your paints, but as we know…cheep is not always better. Flat paint has absolutely no shine at all. You can use flat paints in areas that you will never need to wash such as a ceiling, or a storage room that will never be seen.

Any time that you even touch the surface area that is painted in flat, you have made a mark that will be there from now on. Just the oils from your hands will make a mark and you will need to touch it up all of the time or live with it. They have to build the home with the least amount of cost, and with flat paint they can just prime the surface and then put one coat of finish on the top rather that the primer coat that I would use and then the two coats of eggshell or satin finish that I recommend.

Eggshell Paint

Some will tell you that you cannot wash eggshell surfaced paint but for the most part, it is a washable paint. There are cheaper quality paints that you cannot wash in an eggshell finish such as Valspar because Valspar is poor quality paint. If you want to have a professional result then you need to go to professionals such as Sherwin Williams or C&S paint. They are the specialists, so if they are not carrying certain paints then there may be a reason.

Eggshell paint obtained its name by the look and feel of the finish. The finish looks like the sheen you would see if you looked at the shell of an egg. In addition, the feel of the egg on the surface is similar to that on the finish of the wall. Henceforth…eggshell paint.

Satin Paint

Satin paint has all the benefits of eggshell. Satin paint will wash better than the eggshell paint, but satin does not hold up to any vigorous scrubbing. Satin paints do not show brush marks like the glossier style so touch up is easier in the center of a wall. I personally recommend that you use a small roller and feather out the edges when touching up a surface that has been previously rolled, and a brush where it has been brushed. This should be done no matter what sheen of paint you choose.

Low Luster

Low luster is right in the middle of an eggshell and a satin finished paint. You are going to have a shine to the surface but not quite, as much as the satin finish. It is also a washable finish and in my business, it is not really use all that much. I can tell you that the best time to go to a low luster is going to be when you have a lot of dark pigment in the paint that will naturally break down the shine of the eggshell when applied but at the same time; it will not create such a high shine as the satin. It will often look as if it is an eggshell finish in this case so you do not lose that effect on the walls. Again, that is in the case of high quantities of color pigment such as a darker brown.

Semi Gloss Paint

Semi gloss paint is generally reserved for trim, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchen where you may prefer to have an extremely washable surface. I personally don’t like to put it on walls anywhere else because it will show all of the walls imperfections. We live in an area where the quality of the build is so bad that there will be plenty of imperfections on the wall even if it has never been touch by anyone but the builders.

Gloss finish

Gloss finish is mostly reserved for things like cabinets, possibly metal doors, but to have a gloss finish on more than my truck to me is just too much of a shine. But to each their own.

When to Use Each Finish?

  • Matte or flat paint does not reflect light, so it has no shine. This makes it a good option for walls that have cracks or imperfections. Matte finish is also good for ceiling work, as it will cover uneven brush strokes or imperfections and leave a smooth, perfect appearance.
  • Matte paint is the least durable finish, and will wipe away if washed down to remove fingerprints, dirt or scuffs.
  • Matte paint is a good choice for ceilings, or rooms that are used infrequently. Avoid it in any room that has high traffic, or is exposed to moisture, such as the kitchen, bathrooms or children’s bedrooms.
  • Eggshell has a very slight sheen, similar to its namesake. It works well on walls with slight imperfections or cracks. While it will hold up to cleaning better than matte paint, it is not durable enough for use in the kitchen or bathrooms.
  • Use eggshell in rooms that don’t have a lot of activity, and where you prefer less shine. Eggshell is a good choice for a formal dining room or sitting room.
  • Satin is the most popular paint finish. It has a rich, smooth look with a slight shine. Satin holds up to cleaning and light scrubbing, making it a good choice for any area of the house, including kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Baseboards, window trim, doors and crown molding are all good areas for a satin finish. An eggshell wall with satin trim in the same color looks sophisticated and is easy to clean.
  • Semi-gloss paint has a definite shine, and is not used as often as satin or eggshell as wall paint. Surface imperfections and cracks will be magnified by the gloss, so preparation work must be carefully done before using a semi-gloss paint.
  • Semi-gloss holds up well to cleaning and scrubbing, so it is sometimes used on kitchen and bathroom walls. It is also a good choice for a young child’s bedroom or playroom. It is an excellent and popular choice for trim, doors, cabinets, moldings and furniture.
  • High-gloss paint is the most durable finish, and obviously the shiniest. High-gloss is commonly used for painting doors, trim, moldings and baseboards. Kitchen cabinets painted in a high-gloss will take on a sophisticated, contemporary look.
  • High-gloss can handle scrubbing, making it easy to remove dirt, food splatters and scuffs or marks.

Specialty paints

There are numerous specialty paint finishes available, including paint that turns your wall into a chalkboard, magnetic paint, and textures such as sand, suede, and denim.

Specialty paints are great for achieving a specific designer look, or for usefulness in the case of chalkboard or magnetic paint. But these finishes are not all easy to paint over, and you may tire of the textured finish.

  • Chalkboard paint goes on just like regular wall paint, but dries to a smooth finish that can be written on with chalk, then wiped clean with a damp cloth.
  • Once available only in black, you can now find chalkboard paint in a wide range of colors. Once dry, it must be primed by covering the entire surface with chalk, then wiping it away.
  • You can turn an entire wall into a chalkboard, or just paint a smaller area and surround it with a thin wooden trim for a fun look in a child’s room, home office or family room.
  • Magnetic paint is a gray primer that is then covered with any color paint you would like. It works best with several coats, and will hold lightweight magnets.
  • Paint a wall or smaller area in your home office, kitchen or service porch, and there is no more need for bulletin boards with tacks. Use magnetic paint in the playroom to create an entire wall for your kids to create magnetic art, practice spelling with magnetic letters or display a collection of magnets from places they have visited.
  • Metallic paint is applied as an overcoat over regular paint. It can be used for faux effects, a dramatic look on trim or cabinets or an eye-catching focal point wall.
  • Metallic paint comes in a wide range of colors, as well as gold, silver, bronze or copper.
  • Textured paint not only gives a variety of effects to your room and creates depth and interest to the walls, it also is a good way to cover up minor wall imperfection and cracks.

There are paints with a finished look like sand, suede or velvet, river rock or a thick, stucco-like appearance. Depending on the manufacturer and the texture, you can buy paint already containing the granules that will produce the texture, or you can add the texture to regular paint. For a finish like stucco, special combs or tools are required.

Textured paints can be difficult to remove or paint over if you tire of the look, so be certain it is a style you can live with for a long time before going with a specialty finish.

Now that you are knowledgeable about what different paint finishes can and can’t do, you are prepared to make the best choice possible for your interior home painting project.

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