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Paint Sheens Explained

In addition to selecting a color for paint, you must select a sheen. The sheen refers to the "shine" quality of the paint or the gloss level. While choosing a sheen is partly a matter of personal taste, there are some practical matters to consider.

Different sheens are appropriate for different areas of your home. They are also a factor for problem areas. We'll explain that below where we describe the different sheens and their applications.

Flat - has no shine to it at all. Flat paint has a chalky appearance. It is commonly used on ceilings and walls. Its advantage is that it helps to hide the appearance of flaws in surfaces such as drywall tape lines, dips and bulges. Ceilings are a large, highly visible expanse where flaws are easily noticed. Flat paint is not very washable, it tends to trap dirt. However, in low traffic areas, like ceilings, that isn't a problem. Scrubbing flat paint tends to cause a slight sheen to develop, making it stand out from the surrounding area. However, flat paint is the easiest to touch-up because there is no sheen to highlight the new paint.

Eggshell - is one step up from flat paint and is the most popular selection for wall paint. It gets its name from its similar sheen to an eggshell. It is very slightly shiny, but still fairly flat in its appearance. It is more washable than flat, and good choice for family rooms and hallways.

Satin - has a very soft shine to it. The sheen can be seen but it does not reflect glaring light. It is scrubable and an excellent choice for any room, kid's rooms and exterior walls.

Semi-Gloss - this sheen has a visible shine. This is a very durable finish that is easy to clean. It is ideal for high traffic areas, doors and trim. The durability of the sheen also make it a good choice for moist areas like kitchens, baths and laundry rooms. As opposed to flat paint, this sheen highlights flaws. For exterior use, it is the most common choice for painting trim, doors and shutters.

Gloss - is the shiniest finish giving off a "wet" appearance. It is extremely durable and easy to clean. It does highlight flaws. It is most commonly used for interior trim and cabinets.

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