Ultimate Paint Sheen Guide: Choosing the Perfect Finish

Welcome to our comprehensive paint sheen guide, designed to help you make informed decisions when selecting the perfect paint finish for your residential or commercial painting project. Paint sheens play a significant role in both the appearance and durability of your painted surfaces, so it’s crucial to understand their characteristics and ideal applications.


In this guide, we’ll investigate different paint finishes – from matte paints that offer a muted appearance while concealing blemishes to high-gloss coatings that deliver exceptional shine and resilience. We’ll also explore eggshell, satin finish, and semi-gloss paints as versatile options for different areas of your home or office space.


Moreover, we’ll discuss factors influencing paint sheen selection, such as room function, lighting, and surface conditions. By the end of this article on our ultimate paint sheen guide, you’ll have all the knowledge necessary to confidently choose the right finish for any painting project you undertake.

Table of Contents:

Understanding Paint Sheen

Paint sheen refers to glossiness or shine on a painted surface. It affects how light reflects off the paint and its durability and appearance. Different paint sheens range from flat (least shiny) to high-gloss (most shiny), with various options in between.

Choosing the Right Paint Sheen

Selecting the appropriate paint sheen is crucial for achieving your desired look and ensuring that your paint project lasts as long as possible. The right sheen can enhance color vibrancy, hide imperfections, protect against wear and tear, and even affect how easy it is to clean painted surfaces.

  • Durability: Higher-sheen paints are generally more durable than their lower-sheen counterparts. They better resist scuffs, stains, and moisture damage, making them ideal for high-traffic areas or rooms prone to humidity, like kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Hiding Imperfections: Lower-sheen paints such as matte or eggshell finishes do an excellent job concealing surface flaws because they don’t reflect much light. This quality makes them perfect choices when painting older walls with uneven textures or patched areas.
  • Cleaning Ease: Paints with higher gloss levels are typically easier to clean since dirt and grime have a harder time adhering to their smooth surfaces than those with less shine.
  • Visual Appeal: The sheen of paint can impact a room’s overall appearance and ambience. For instance, high-gloss finishes create a bold, dramatic look, while matte or flat paints provide an understated elegance.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint Sheen

To choose the right paint sheen level, consider several factors, such as your project’s purpose, location, surface condition, and personal preferences. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

  • Purpose: Think about how you want the painted area to function. Do you need it to be easy to clean? Should it withstand moisture or heavy wear? Higher-sheen options like semi-gloss or satin may be more suitable for these purposes.
  • Location: Consider where you’re painting within your home or commercial space. High-traffic areas benefit from higher-sheen paints for their durability and ease of cleaning; however, lower-sheen options work well in less frequented spaces like bedrooms or formal living rooms.
  • Surface Condition: Examine the surfaces you plan to paint closely for imperfections like cracks, bumps, or uneven textures. Lower-sheen finishes hide these flaws better than glossy ones, which might emphasize them instead.
  • Aesthetic Preferences: Your personal taste is essential when selecting paint colors and finishes. Some prefer bolder looks with shiny surfaces, while others opt for subtler appearances using low-lustre coatings.


No single paint sheen will work for everyone. Use this ultimate guide to paint sheen levels to help you decide on your next painting project. Happy painting.

Key Takeaway: 

This guide explains the different types of paint sheens, ranging from flat to high-gloss, and how they affect durability, appearance, and ease of cleaning. Choosing the right sheen depends on location, surface condition, purpose, and personal preferences. Higher-sheen paints are more durable but may emphasize imperfections, while lower-sheen options hide flaws better but may not be as easy to clean.

Flat/Matte Paints

Flat or matte paints, which absorb light rather than reflect it, are ideal for creating a smooth finish that hides surface imperfections. They’re often used on larger surfaces like walls and ceilings where a smooth finish is desired without drawing attention to flaws. This section discusses the pros and cons of using flat/matte paints and the ideal applications for these finishes.

Pros and Cons of Using Flat/Matte Paints

  • Pros:
    • Hides surface imperfections: Flat/matte paint is perfect for covering up minor blemishes, dents, or uneven textures on your walls.
    • Easier touch-ups: Touch-ups with flat/matte paint tend to blend in more seamlessly than glossier options.
    • Aesthetically pleasing: This type of paint provides a sophisticated look that works well in traditional and modern settings.
  • Cons:
    • Poor durability: Flat/matte paints are generally less durable than higher-sheen options, making them more susceptible to scuffs, stains, and wear over time.
    • Difficult to clean: Flat/matte paints can be challenging to clean without causing damage or leaving visible marks due to their porous nature. This makes them less suitable for high-traffic areas or spaces prone to dirt and grime.

Ideal Applications for Flat/Matte Finishes

When considering the use of flat/matte paint finishes in your painting project, it’s essential to consider both the aesthetic goals and practical needs of each space. Here are some ideal applications for these types of finishes:

  1. Ceilings: A flat finish is an excellent choice for ceilings due to its ability to hide flaws while providing a uniform appearance.
  2. Living rooms & bedrooms: Consider using a matte finish on walls for spaces with a calm atmosphere and minimal distractions from wall imperfections. It provides an elegant backdrop that complements various design styles without overpowering other elements in the room.
  3. Low-traffic areas: Flat/matte paints work well in spaces that don’t see a lot of foot traffic or activity, such as formal dining rooms, guest bedrooms, and home offices. These finishes provide an upscale look without frequent cleaning or maintenance.


Flat/matte paint finishes offer numerous benefits when used appropriately in your painting project. By understanding their strengths and limitations, you can make informed decisions about where to apply these coatings for optimal results.

Key Takeaway: 

Flat or matte paints are great for hiding surface imperfections and providing a sophisticated look, but they have poor durability and can be difficult to clean. They work well in low-traffic areas like formal dining rooms, guest bedrooms, and home offices where frequent cleaning is unnecessary. When using flat/matte paint finishes, it’s important to consider both the aesthetic goals and practical needs of each space.

Eggshell Paints: The Perfect Balance

Eggshell paints offer a subtle, low-sheen finish between flat/matte and satin. They’re like the Goldilocks of paints – not too shiny or dull, but just right. For living rooms, bedrooms, and hallways, eggshell paints provide some washability while maintaining an understated appearance.

Characteristics of Eggshell Paints

  • Durable: Eggshell paints are tougher than flat or matte options but less than satin or semi-gloss varieties. They can withstand light cleaning without losing their sheen or color quality.
  • Lustrous: Eggshell finishes have a low level of shine that is slightly more reflective than matte surfaces but not as glossy as satin ones. This makes them ideal for creating a sophisticated yet cozy atmosphere in your space.
  • Concealing: While not as effective at hiding surface flaws as flat/matte paints, eggshells still do a decent job camouflaging minor imperfections on walls and ceilings due to their ability to diffuse light reflections.
  • Versatile: The balanced properties of eggshell paint make it suitable for various applications throughout your home or commercial space. It works well on both interior walls and trims with proper preparation techniques.

When to Choose Eggshell Over Other Finishes

Selecting the right paint sheen is crucial in achieving your painting project’s desired look and functionality. Here are some scenarios where you might consider choosing an eggshell finish over others:

  1. Subtle Elegance: Eggshell is an excellent choice if you’re aiming for a refined and elegant look without the high shine of satin or semi-gloss finishes. It adds enough lustre to make your walls appear polished but not overly glossy.
  2. Moderate Traffic Areas: For rooms that experience moderate foot traffic, like living rooms, dining areas, bedrooms, and hallways, eggshell paint provides sufficient durability while maintaining a sophisticated appearance. However, eggshell paint may not be the best choice for rooms that experience higher levels of moisture or frequent use, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
  3. Balancing Imperfections: Consider using an eggshell finish when painting surfaces with minor flaws that you’d like to downplay but still want some sheen on your walls or ceilings (unlike flat/matte paints). Its light-reflecting properties can help minimize imperfections without drawing too much attention to them.


Remember, proper surface preparation and application techniques are crucial in achieving professional-looking results regardless of which paint sheen you choose. For more information on selecting the perfect finish for your project, check out New Age Painting & Coatings’ Paint Sheen Guide.

Key Takeaway: 

Eggshell paints offer a balanced finish between flat/matte and satin finishes, providing some washability while maintaining an understated appearance. They are durable, lustrous, concealing, and versatile, making them suitable for various applications throughout your home or commercial space. Eggshell is an excellent choice when aiming for a refined look without high shine or moderate traffic areas with minor flaws to downplay but still want some sheen on walls/ceilings.

Satin Finish Paints

Satin finish paints to give your walls a subtle shine and added durability compared to flat or matte finishes. Satin finish paints are ideal for frequent-use areas like kitchens, bathrooms and playrooms. In this section, we’ll explore the benefits of using satin finish paints and share tips for applying them like a pro.

Benefits of Satin Finish Paints

  • Durable: Satin finishes are more resistant to wear and tear than flat or eggshell finishes, making them ideal for busy areas.
  • Easy to Clean: The slight glossiness of satin finish paints makes them easier to clean than flat finishes. You can wipe away dirt and grime without damaging the paint surface.
  • Mildew Resistant: Satin finishes offer better moisture resistance than flat or eggshell paints, making them suitable for damp spaces like bathrooms and laundry rooms.
  • Aesthetically Pleasing: Satin finish paints add depth and richness to your walls while maintaining an understated elegance that’s not too flashy.

Tips for Applying Satin Finish Paints

  1. Invest in Quality Tools: Use high-quality brushes and rollers to achieve a smooth finish with minimal brush strokes. This will ensure that your paint goes on evenly and looks its best. (source)
  2. Prepare the Surface: Satin finish paints can highlight imperfections, so preparing your walls before painting is crucial. Fill any holes or cracks, sand down rough spots, and clean away dust or debris for a smooth surface ready for paint application.
  3. Use Primer: Applying primer before painting helps create an even base for your satin finish paint to adhere to while improving coverage and durability. Choose a primer specifically designed for use with satin finishes for optimal results. (source)
  4. Maintain Consistent Application Techniques: When applying satin finish paints, maintain consistent brush strokes or roller patterns throughout the project. This will help prevent streaks or uneven sheen levels in the finished product.
  5. Tackle One Wall at a Time: To avoid lap marks, work on one wall at a time from top to bottom rather than moving around the room sporadically. This methodical approach will give you better-looking results overall.


By following these tips, you’ll be able to achieve professional-quality results with satin finish paints. Remember to invest in quality tools, prepare your surfaces properly, use primer, maintain consistent application techniques, and tackle one wall at a time. With these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to creating beautiful spaces with satin finish paints.

Key Takeaway: 

Satin finish paints are perfect for high-traffic areas due to their durability, easy-to-clean surface, and moisture resistance. To achieve a professional-looking result when using satin finish paint, invest in quality tools, prepare the surface properly by filling holes or cracks and cleaning away dust or debris, use a primer before painting and maintain consistent application techniques while tackling one wall at a time.

Semi-Gloss Paints: Shine On

Semi-gloss paints deliver more shine than satin but less than high-gloss varieties. Their enhanced moisture resistance makes them perfect for damp spaces like bathrooms and kitchens. Plus, they’re durable enough for trim work and doors. Here’s how to get a pro finish with semi-gloss paint.

Advantages of Semi-Gloss Paints

  • Durability: Semi-gloss paint can handle wear and tear better than flat/matte or eggshell finishes, making it ideal for high-traffic areas.
  • Mold & Mildew Resistance: Semi-gloss paints are resistant to mold and mildew, making them perfect for humid spaces like bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Ease of Cleaning: Semi-gloss paint’s smooth surface makes it easy to wipe away dirt and grime, making it great for busy households.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Semi-gloss paint adds depth and dimension to your space while highlighting architectural details like crown molding or wainscoting.

How To Get A Pro Finish With Semi-Gloss Paint

Follow these tips to ensure a professional-looking finish:

  1. Surface Preparation: Clean the surface thoroughly and repair any cracks or holes before painting.
  2. Priming: Apply a high-quality primer designed for use with semi-gloss paints.
  3. Paint Application: Use a high-quality synthetic brush or roller for smooth surfaces. Apply thin coats of paint rather than one thick layer.
  4. Drying Time & Sanding Between Coats: Allow each coat to dry completely before applying additional layers. Lightly sand between coats using fine-grit sandpaper to remove imperfections.


These techniques will produce an attractive, durable finish that adds style and functionality to your space. Whether painting a bathroom or kitchen or adding flair to your trim work and doors, semi-gloss paint is an excellent choice for achieving the perfect balance between aesthetics and practicality.

High-Gloss Paints

High-gloss paints provide the most reflective sheen, creating an eye-catching appearance and highlighting architectural details or accents. However, their high level of shine can emphasize surface imperfections. These finishes best suit surfaces like cabinets, furniture, or smaller accent areas.

Pros and Cons of High-Gloss Paint Finishes

The primary advantage of using high-gloss paint is its stunning visual impact. The highly reflective finish creates a luxurious look that draws attention to specific features within a space. Furthermore, this type of paint offers superior resilience to humidity and abrasion, making it an ideal choice for rooms with higher moisture levels.

  • Pros:
    • Durable and resistant to wear
    • It makes a bold statement with its shiny finish
    • Ideal for highlighting architectural details or accents
    • Easier to clean compared to lower-sheen options
  • Cons:
    • It is not recommended for large walls or areas where flaws are present

Tips for Applying High-Gloss Coatings Effectively

Achieving a professional-looking finish with high-gloss paint requires careful preparation and technique. Here are some helpful tips to enhance your results:

  • Properly prepare the surface by filling small surface imperfections and sanding thoroughly to ensure a smooth surface.
  • Use a high-quality primer that is specifically designed for use with high-gloss paint.
  • Apply the paint in thin, even coats to avoid drips and bubbles.
  • Employ a good-quality brush or roller for an even outcome.
  • Avoid painting in high humidity or extreme temperatures, as this can affect the drying time and finish.

FAQs in Relation to Paint Sheen Guide

What Paint Sheen is Recommended?

The recommended paint sheen depends on the surface and desired appearance, with eggshell or satin finishes being popular choices for walls due to their durability and subtle shine, while semi-gloss works well for trim, doors, and cabinets, and high-gloss paints suit accents or furniture pieces.

What Paint Finish Does Joanna Gaines Use?

Joanna Gaines often uses matte or flat finishes for walls in her designs to create a soft look that hides imperfections, while for cabinetry and trim work, she prefers semi-gloss paints as they provide a more durable finish with some shine. [source]

What Are the 5 Paint Sheens?

  • Flat/Matte
  • Eggshell
  • Satin
  • Semi-Gloss
  • High-Gloss

Does the Sheen of Paint Affect the Color?

Yes, the sheen of paint can affect its perceived color, with higher gloss levels reflecting more light, which may cause colors to appear brighter or darker depending on lighting conditions, while lower-sheen paints absorb light resulting in truer color representation regardless of lighting.


Paint Sheen Guide


Choosing the right paint sheen is crucial for a pro-looking finish – consider lighting, traffic, and surface imperfections.


Flat/matte finishes hide imperfections, while high-gloss coatings are durable and easy to clean – each has pros and cons.


Understand the characteristics of each finish and their ideal applications to make an informed decision for your specific needs.

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