Choosing A Paint Sheen For Your Project

Published on November 24, 2020

It would not be an overstatement to say that paint has evolved from something of furnishing to a mainstream form of art. Now, there are, literally, so many colors and shades that you should consult a professional before choosing a color for your house. The development in paint has also changed the way how medium, or a layer on which the paint is applied, should be prepped before painting.

If you are planning on revamping your property with a new paint job, there are so many things that you need to keep in mind. You should have a clear picture of how the end result is going to be.

You have probably gone through color schemes, how both artificial and natural lights will affect the colors you have put on your walls, and how to make all the colors into one whole with a steady and uniform flow. Really, there are a lot of things to consider if you want to make a decision like a professional.

If you are one of those people who have gone through all of these unseeming but important things, you may be missing one of the other significant aspects of a paint job.

A finish, or more precisely, a sheen!

A finish or a sheen is the end result of the paint job and in the index of the surface texture after the paint is applied, or how much light does the surface bounce off of its surface.

Keep on reading this article and you will have practical insights about how you can make calculated decisions that will enhance your living experience by nailing your new paint job.

Why Does It Matter

Again, the paint sheen is the feel of the texture of the wall after a coat of fine paint has been applied to it. It also equates to how much light gets reflected off of this surface because this will decide what shade of color it will give. It is a big factor that you should keep in mind because this changes the perception of color.

Related: Unique And Funny Gifts For People Who Wants To Learn More About Paint Sheen

In a practical sense, you see a room and you know it is blue, sky blue precisely. But then you see it on a cloudy day with practically no sun at all and it looks like a shade of green to you.

This happens and it is natural. But you need to calibrate your choice of sheen and paint to get the best result.

There are three things that actually come into play when you are planning on applying a new paint coat to a surface:

• Paint Color

• Paint Finish

• Receiving Surface

Of course, personal preference is one of the most influential factors that decide how these three will be carried out. Also, you calculate how much wear and tear the room will experience. The bottom line is this: You will come to know that many surfaces are better to perform under certain circumstances when compared to others.

Types Of Sheens Or Paint Finishes

For those who are new to this, it could be confusing. It is because, for the uninitiated, there are only two surfaces – smooth and rough.

But when you ask a professional, you will come to know that there are several finishes that can be done to the surface before applying the paint. It is as important as choosing the paint color and type because it will be as influential to the end result as the other two things.

In essence, there are many surface finishes types, but we have categorized many to help you understand each one a little better. This way, you will not be overwhelmed by the number of different finishes and surfaces.

Here is the list with a little introduction, but we will explore them in detail in the below lines:

• Flat – this is one of the most common types of surfaces that painters and clients agree on. It looks precise and strong with no gimmicks at all and it offers a smooth look and a cover for surface bumps and imperfections. This is ideal for living rooms, home offices, dining rooms, and dens.

• Gloss – this has the highest sheen percentage when combined with all the other painting elements. It is eye-catching, loud and, contrary to a flat surface, least suitable for rooms. It is perfect for furnishings and other articles that are in the room like doors, cabinets, and trim areas that are usually washed and cleaned often.

• Eggshell – this surface has a smooth, easy-to-wash sheen that could be a great fit in the areas where a “flat” was the champion. Still, it does not take weather conditions and other natural factors well, so you should think twice before applying this surface to the outdoors.

• Satin – this sheen has a pseudo-glossy finish to it. It is bliss to wash and clean without worrying about the paint flaking off. Now, you can use this wherever you want because of its intermediary character, but it goes great in areas that experience a lot of traffic or that needs to be loud and catchy. It includes hallways, playrooms, kids’ bedrooms, and so on.

• Semi-Gloss – as the name suggests, this comes between a full-fledged gloss and satin. This gives a mellow and light feel that it can look to someone as too safe and melancholy. In reality, it is great for kitchens, bathrooms, windows, or a trim.

Now is the time to go through these sheens or surface finishes one by one. By the end, you will have a winner for your project.


Off the bat we will give you an overview of what the flat finish is:

• The least reflective available in the market

• Ends with a soft velvety texture

• Perfect to hide imperfections in the walls and ceilings

• Contributed greatly to the depth of color

• Considered to be the ultimate sheen for walls

• Does not take cleaning easily

Since the name implies, the flat comes from the character of not reflecting light from the painted surface. It absorbs the light almost completely and that can be seen through its appreciation of the intensity of light.

It is also termed as matte finish and for some people, this is a deal-breaker. There are many benefits of having a matte or flat finish on a surface. It is great at concealing nail holes, dents, patches, and other surface imperfections that you can expect from a newly constructed structure. This is also a great fit for the ceiling to give more depth to the color on it.

It could be a more affordable option when it is compared to gloss and semi-gloss paints. Of course, they could be costly than this one already, but it also saves more in the amount that you need to apply to a surface. You can have more color in fewer coats. Matte finish surfaces are also easy to maintain and touch up when necessary. The best part is that there is usually no difference between a patched up and the original area.

As far as the perfect locality goes for this sheen type, areas with the least traffic are ideal. This counts formal dining rooms and master bedrooms. This suits best their interior application. For the exterior, they are a perfect match for aged vinyl and aluminum siding.

There are some cautionary things that you should know about the matte or flat finish:

• They are not suitable for washing and scraping could take the paint off the surface.

• Due to a stylish rough texture, they absorb more dirt and debris, contrary to a reflective finish. This could mar the surface because it shows over time.

• They questionable durability which means you could have to apply it again after a short period of time.

• As discussed earlier, flat sheens are not suitable for rooms with excessive traffic such as kitchens, bathrooms, kids’ rooms because of the high levels of humidity and chances of direct water contact.

This should give you the true colors of the sheen or surface finish to get the desired effect on your wall.


Eggshell and satin finishes sit somewhere in between matte and glossy finishes. This makes them have both good and bad characteristics of those aforementioned finishes.

The name “eggshell” comes from the fact that it gives the texture and effect from a certain angle that looks and feels from that of an eggshell. The best thing about the eggshell, other than its unique look and feel, is its durability. It is also more easily washable than the flat or matte finish surfaces which is a great plus. Due to its intermediary character, you can apply this surface to virtually anywhere. This is because it comes to your choice, apart from the fact that how long it is going to last.

The best location to apply this type of finish is general-purpose rooms such as living rooms, family rooms, and hallways. You can go to exterior surfaces with this finish but keep in mind that they are not good at tolerating harsh conditions like direct sunlight, wind, etc.


Now for the satin, it is considered to be one of the most widely-used paint surface finishes, both for interior and exterior surfaces. There are times when eggshell and satin could become confusing for you. The reason is the interchangeable use of these two terms. But there is a difference between these two similar feeling sheens.

Satin is glossier when compared against eggshell. This is a perfect example of something that looks glossy at times and looks matte at other times based on color quality and exposure.

Contrary to eggshell, this sheen is more upbeat and seems ideal for high-traffic areas like kids’ rooms, hallways, and other family rooms.

They are durable just like an eggshell and takes the harsh weather conditions more effectively than a flat or matte finish. As for cleaning, they trump both the eggshell and matte surfaces because of a smooth and clean texture. It is also particularly easy to wash or clean a satin surface. A mild water spray and gentle wiping can do the trick most of the time!

Owing to its strength against harsh climatic factors, it is really suitable for exterior walls and fixtures. It is a champ to paint a siding that has not degraded much with time. It has a slippery surface which means it can shed off the water much better than matte and eggshell finish. So, there is less probability of water damage by applying this surface before painting. Apparently, it can also withstand direct sunlight and does not fade away too easily!

Even, you can adorn your trim and shutters with this color for great skin on the surface.

Gloss & Semi-Gloss

If you need to amp up a room’s appearance and brighten its overall look, gloss and semi-gloss finishes will get you the best results. The best part about this surface character is that it takes pale and other lighter colors and amp them up a notch. This makes them appear brighter and glossier than they actually are.

They are supposed to take humidity and other issues like traffic really well. This makes them ideal for bathrooms, kitchens. Even between these two, semi-gloss is the clear winner when it comes to durability, especially anti-moisture properties.

If you are a clean freak, glossy and semi-gloss sheen could be a perfect match for you. They look shiny and glittery in light and cleaning them is a real bliss, because it takes light scrubbing and wiping and they are good to go. They are also very durable and shed off dirt and water like a slippery pitcher.

There is a wide range when it comes to color. The glossy surface sets the tone of the shade, no matter which color you choose and apply on a surface. This is a selling point for some and others just can’t stand, you need to be careful while getting very attached to this format without due research!

The main downside to this finish is what could be its upside from another perspective. Because of its character to pronounce and amplify everything on the surface, it is not suitable for surfaces that have kinks and imperfections. So, with the walls and ceilings that are just constructed and can have imperfections like nail holes, bumps, etc., you need to steer clear from these options. Again, they are a great fit for places that need to be frequently cleaned.

Gloss finishes are perfect to use on trim, molding, and a variety of woodwork like cabinets, doors, etc. On the exterior, it is suitable for door jambs, window casings, shutters, etc.

Semi-gloss is, once again, a clear winner when compared against the glossy surface. The reason is that it can be used for walls in high-traffic areas as well as a great choice for the surfaces that take glossy well.

Pro Tip: Note that semi-gloss and gloss finished often need more coats of paint as compared to that of matte and satin or eggshell sheens. This means they could require more preparation and groundwork before applying the paint, like sanding.

The Importance Of Priming

Priming the surface is a significant step to have the best paint finish or sheen. This will help you in getting the look and feel of the surface you want by evening out the kinks and make the surface look as if it is one whole.

Priming is just not related to the aesthetics of a wall. It also adds to its durability and strength. As you can imagine, an added layer is as much good as to give you the best look for a long time. This way, priming is directly proportional to the long-life of your wall.

Priming is one of the foundational works before painting a surface. So, it does not matter if you are working on an interior or exterior surface, priming will take you a long way into brilliance and excellence. It ensures the following things to strengthen the sheen you need to work on by:

• Giving an ideal and even texture to the surface. It can be coarse but not too sore. This helps the paint stick to the surface without any bumps or discrepancies.

• Sealing up porous surfaces. It helps a lot in concealing the colors of previous paint jobs.

• Preventing stains on the surface thus making it easy to keep clean and maintain.

• Helping in removing kinks in the wall and then hide the patched-up areas. This is a real plus!

Primers act differently when they are in different environments. For instance, you will notice that:

• On the exterior surfaces where more protection and shed off a character is needed; a primer protects and enhances the sheen by minimizing cracks in paints. It also inhibits mildew growth that could eat the paint and seriously hampers its functional life. This makes primers a must-have for exterior paint jobs.

• On the interior side, primers help in sealing off walls, meaning successfully filling the pores without much hassle. This way, they act as sealers like plaster of Paris but in a much minimal capacity. They enhance adhesion between sheens and the paints so you will not have to spend money on patching up flaked off paint after every couple of months. It also smooths the wrinkles of the sheen that you need to put the paint on with uniform and even texture.

The Brass Tacks Of Sheen Preparation

When it comes to the preparation of sheens and paint surfaces, even manufacturers of materials play a significant role. Of course, you will find some common characteristics between the same products from two or more different companies, and this is the area where you can play.

With the growth curve of durability with each new layer of paint color, you can get creative and come up with your own finish ideas. This means you do not have to follow exactly how things are written and said to be followed.

In the use of paint finish, there is record experimentation among the clients. This results in creating depth and real impact and texture within a color scheme to enhance the punch and intensity of the paint. Not to mention the added strength and durability lent by the new technology.

There are many combinations that you can try on your projects. Some suggestions are as follows:

• This could be one of the most daring moves, but there is not more satisfying touch than this one. All you need to do is paint a stripe of full gloss on a matte wall. The trick is to have the same color on both sheens. This will give you a contrasting textured look which will show you how just changing the surface texture and sheen can yield the result differently.

• Another could be segregating the walls based on the sheen and not certain areas based on color, as discussed in the previous point. You paint an accent wall with a glittery glossy finish and the other walls go matte with the same color. This could be a great way to set the atmosphere of your home in comfort and style. A matte wall will give out serene and calm vibes. On the other side, you have an exciting glossy finish with energy and stimulation.

Of course, these are some of the infinite ways to use one or many of the sheens, isolation, combination, or in contrast.


For some, a paint job is something that just stays on the surface but in reality, it is much deeper than it seems. Maybe not as essential as brick and mortar, paint is still significant and helps you make a house you can call home. For a new paint project, whether it is for a whole house or just a room, a total revamp, or just a touch-up, you need to study and experiment with different materials and looks before setting your heart on one. Remember you can always consult professionals but it will always be your decision. Now, you are armed with the knowledge to make the perfect decision to enhance the look and feel of your house.

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