This blog was updated February 12, 2021.
When painting, many homeowners get excited about the thousands of color options available. But, the sheen you choose can be just as important as the color. What sheen options are available? Why does sheen matter? What is the best paint finish for kitchen, bathroom, or living space?
Painting your home should be fun and exciting, so don’t stress. Select a color you love and follow these top tips on how to choose a paint sheen for every room.
Paint Sheen Types
Paint sheens are differentiated by how shiny or glossy they are. Here are the five most common sheens you’ll encounter.
High-gloss is the shiniest option when it comes to paint sheens. It is often used to highlight architectural features like wainscoting, details on a banister or railing, or even exterior features like columns.
High-gloss sheens are also very durable and easy to clean. However, they aren’t very forgiving. In addition to highlighting the beautiful details of your home, they will also amplify any imperfections in your surface or in your paint job. This means they’ll look best with the help of a professional painter who pays lots of attention to detail.
Semi-gloss paints create a bright finish that is shiny, but not quite as shiny as high-gloss paints. This sheen is most commonly used in rooms with moisture and humidity, like bathrooms and kitchens. Like high-gloss sheens, semi-gloss sheens hold up to life’s messes and are easy to clean.
Semi-gloss paint is also the go-to choice for baseboards, trim, casing, and any other finishing touches around floorboards, doors, and windows. Many semi-gloss paints also have dirt and scuff-resistant qualities making them a great choice for these areas. They also create a nice visual contrast between the trim and the wall.
Satin and eggshell sheens are far less shiny than gloss finishes, but still have a tiny bit of shine to them. They are the most popular choice for wall paint in homes because they are durable but also don’t show as many imperfections in the wall as gloss sheens do. Satin and eggshell sheens are ideal for bedrooms, living areas, hallways, dining rooms, and even vinyl siding.
While most companies use satin and eggshell interchangeably, there are a few companies that still differentiate between the two. This can make learning how to choose a paint sheen even trickier. If you’re given the choice between satin and eggshell, satin is typically slightly shinier while eggshell is slightly more matte.
Flat and matte paints have no shine at all. While they are the most forgiving to imperfections in the surface, they are also the most difficult to clean. For this reason, they are the standard finish for ceilings and low-traffic spaces, like a guest bedroom or formal living or sitting room.
Flat and matte sheens offer a unique look, and are sometimes recommended to get the most impact out of a deep, saturated wall color. They are also used to create chalkboard wall surfaces that can be written on.
What is the Best Paint Sheen Type?
Our top tip on how to choose a paint sheen is to think about the function and style of the room. There is no one perfect paint sheen – but luckily we have five to choose from! Here are our picks for the best paint sheen type for every room.
For kitchens, we recommend semi-gloss or satin paints. Satin is a great choice as long as you have a backsplash surrounding surfaces that may be splattered by water or grease. If you don’t have a backsplash in these areas, we recommend a semi-gloss for better durability and easier cleaning.
Much like with kitchens, bathrooms are best suited to a semi-gloss or satin paint. Half baths produce far less moisture and are more suited to a satin finish. Satin paint can also be used in a full bath, but the paint job may not last as long. Semi-gloss finishes will be easier to wipe down (especially if you don’t have tile around your sink basins) and will last longer overall.
For bedrooms, the best sheen depends on the occupant. For a nursery or child’s bedroom, semi-gloss or satin sheen paint will make cleaning far easier and extend the life of your paint. When it comes to how to choose a paint sheen for a master or guest bedroom, the choice is yours! Most people opt for satin/eggshell, but don’t be afraid to go flat for a dark wall color.
Much like with bedrooms, the activity in the room will decide the best sheen. For a formal living room, the choice is yours from semi-gloss all the way down to flat. For a frequently used family room or playroom with kids in the house, semi-gloss or satin is your best bet.