Sheen

How-to-Guide: Paint Finishes and Sheens

You’ve probably heard all the buzzwords regarding paint sheens: eggshell, flat/matte, satin, and gloss, but what do they actually mean? Major paint brands often use different terms to describe the finishes, making matters even more confusing. But don’t fret! We’re here to break it down for you. Whether choosing between semi-gloss vs high gloss, eggshell vs matte, or velvet vs satin, the right choice for your project depends on the type of surface, desired durability, and design aesthetic.

Eggshell (Eg-shel, Low-Gloss, Low Sheen, Velvet)

Easily the most commonly-used and understood sheen level for professional painters and do-it-yourselfers, this versatile paint finish can be found on most interior walls. It has a slight sheen without appearing too glossy, making it simple to clean and to touch-up.  

Satin

Eggshell’s exterior sibling, satin has a slight sheen without appearing too glossy.  It is best used, and often found, on homes built after 1979. A satin sheen is durable enough to be used on the exterior body and trim of the home, and can also be used on interior walls in high traffic areas where an easy-clean is a must.

Semi-Gloss (Pearl, Medium Luster)

Semi-gloss is incredibly durable, and is best used for interior trim, interior windows, and exterior front doors. Semi-gloss is easy to clean, and is stain resistant, however it is difficult to touch up and can highlight imperfections on a wall. This means semi-gloss is not ideal for larger surfaces such as interior walls, exterior body or exterior trim.

High Gloss (Gloss)

This is the toughest and most durable of the sheen options. High gloss is best used for doors and for cabinets due to its durability, ability to be cleaned, and highly reflective nature. It can also be used on trim, but high gloss tends to reveal surface imperfections, making it an unwise choice for larger-scale areas.  

Flat (Matte)

A flat sheen is a beautiful, modern choice for interior wall painting, and a great option for ceilings and low traffic areas. It is also the best choice on siding for homes built before 1978 (lead homes) due to its breathability. This finish is non-reflective and hides wall imperfections well. It is important to note, however, that it is difficult to clean, so it is not recommended in homes with young children.

Now that you understand the various sheen options and their best uses, you can focus on the most difficult and fun decision: which color to paint! For advice on choosing the right color, see our blog/article/etc. As always, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.


Have a paint or color question you would like answered? Please send your question to info@itechpainters.com and we will do our best to answer it in an upcoming blog post.

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