Matte? Satin? Eggshell? Semi-gloss? High gloss? What’s the difference? And which is best for your project?
There’s one thing you need to know about paint to understand what these terms mean: All paint finishes are classified by their sheen.
In the most simple terms, sheen simply means is how shiny your paint is. Flat, on one end of the sheen spectrum, has no glossiness at all. High gloss paint, on the other hand, is as shiny as paint gets. But the sheen of your paint has bigger implications than just how glossy your walls are!
So why does sheen matter?
Sheen has a big impact on how durable your paint is. The higher the sheen, the more durable the paint: the easier it is to clean, and the longer it will hold up to daily wear.
But just because higher levels of sheen can help paint stick around longer doesn’t mean that high-gloss paint is best for every project.
Each level of sheen has a perfect time and place.
Here’s a handy breakdown of the best use of each type of paint:
High-gloss paint finish
High-gloss paint is the most resistant to wear. They’re great for use in areas that get a lot of hands-on wear: think cabinets, doors, or trims. But high-gloss paint reveals any bumps or abnormalities underneath and needs to be applied on a very smooth surface, which often requires extra preparation for a good result. Additionally, the shininess of high-gloss paint can be overwhelming in an entire room!
Semi-gloss paint finish
Semi gloss is used most often on trims and cabinets because people prefer the look of semi gloss. High gloss will have a wet, lacquered look which is much less widely accepted. Semi gloss is rarely used on walls themselves; it’s so glossy it may have the look of your grandma’s enameled kitchen walls! It will also highlight the heck out of imperfections!
Eggshell paint finish
An eggshell finish has less of a luster than semi- and high-gloss paints but a touch more gloss than matte options. An eggshell finish covers wall imperfections more fully than higher-sheen paints and is a good choice for many lower-traffic rooms throughout the house, like dining rooms, home offices, or spare rooms.
Matte paint finish
Matte paint is a great choice throughout the home to achieve wipe-ability as well as provide a pleasing aesthetic. Oftentimes, matte paint is a popular upgrade in new construction homes where flat paint is often standard; when customers are making product selections for their new home, opting for a matte finish gives greater durability and a more sumptuous finish.
Flat paint finish
Flat paint is used almost exclusively in the local spec home market for its ease of touch-ups. In a new construction, where lots of professionals will be coming and going, and possibly bumping into walls, flat paint is a straightforward choice because small sections can be repainted very easily, with no need to repaint the entire area. Because there’s no sheen, there’s no chance of a flat paint looking unevenly glossy.