Get Your Sheen On: Picking the Right Paint Sheen for Your Interior Project

Ah paint colors…. too many to fathom, and a shade to delight anyone, even the pickiest person.

You feel like you have finally waded through all those tiny swatches, selected the perfect color for your space, then the nice person behind the paint desk asks you what level of sheen you want. This might seem like an easy enough question, being that paint only comes in 4 or 5 different paint sheens, and most people, default to the typical answer of


Seems like a good middle of the road easy answer, and often times it does work for a many surfaces, but let’s take a second to talk about what the pro’s and con’s are to the other sheens you have to select from.



The first sheen has a matte finish and is known as “flat,” which has a chalky finish that absorbs light and reduces the appearance of surface imperfections. Flat paint is ideal for areas where irregularities and marks tend to be or areas you want to downplay. This is by far the easiest paint to touch up. If you have marks or stains that won’t wash off, a quick swipe of a paint brush and a little fresh paint have it looking good as new again! Flat is great for: ceilings, high traffic areas, and walls with imperfections in them. Older homes where the wall have a significant amount of imperfections, this can be a great option for most of the rooms!



With a bit more luster than flat paint, eggshell paint offers far better scrubability and stain resistance than flat paint finishes. Large spaces such as living rooms and bedrooms are great places for eggshel finish paint to give a softer sheen than flat paint.  Eggshell is great for: living rooms, master bedrooms, dining rooms, art nooks, focal walls and any where else you’d like a soft luster finish.



Semigloss paints reflect light for a clean, glossy appearance most evident in rooms with a strong light source. Wet areas such as kitchens and bathrooms are well suited for semi-gloss paint, because it resists mildew very well. It is also easy to wipe down to keep wall clean.  Semi-gloss is great for: kitchens, bathrooms, doors, trim, laundry rooms and areas that will be frequently cleaned. Even great for a non-tiled backspash.



Satin paints are similar to eggshell and semigloss except for their warm, pearl-like finish. They work great in areas that require cleaning and light scrubbing or are higher traffic areas and can be more suited for spaces than eggshell finish. Give it a try! Satin is great for: hallways, laundry rooms, entry ways,  art nooks, kids rooms, woodwork, and areas that need to withstand some wear and tear and cleaning.

High Gloss


One benefit that high-sheen colors possess over flat sheens is how vibrant your wall color will be. Gloss paint works well for darker colors because it gives them a deep saturated appearance and luster. Just remember, gloss paint will highlight imperfections and is very hard to touch up. If you use it on a wall, and need to do a spot touch up,  you are better off re-painting the entire wall to give a smooth “non-patched” look. Small touch ups are really visable.  It’s durability and wipeability are the best of all the sheens though.  Gloss paint can also offer a 3D feel with used in combination with another sheen of paint. Consider creating contrast with a striped wall by using an eggshell or satin sheen and high gloss together.   Gloss is great for: woodwork, cabinets, doors, trim and other smooth surfaces with minimal imperfections.

Parting Thoughts

If you want to make your small space feel bigger, glossier, such as semi-gloss or high-gloss finishes will help reflect light and give the appearance of a larger area. Bedrooms, living rooms and other “non-wet” areas will look great with the soft luster of a satin or eggshell finish.

Also, if you need an in-between sheen, ask your paint store to mix two sheens together to create a custom look for your paint. So paint away people!

So what about you all? What successes have you had with paint finishes in the home? Any non-conventional uses that worked really well? Any nightmarish bad finish decisions that you had to redo (I’ve painted trim in flat paint and realized quickly that it was a terrible idea)?


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