Choosing a paint color can be difficult with the thousands of options on the market today. The sense of relief after making this decision is short lived once you learn that there is a second step; paint sheen. What is a paint sheen? Which sheen should go where? What about cleaning? Here are a few quick tips you should refer to when answering your dozen of questions.

First, ask yourself – where is this paint going? Secondly – what type of activity happens in this space? 

High-Gloss Sheens are very shiny surface finishes which should be used, according to Sherwin Williams, “to help architectural features (interior or exterior) pop”.  For example, the wainscoting in your study, the ornate banister that accompanies your staircase, or even the columns that provide the front porch of your home’s character. High gloss sheens are the most durable to maintain but are the least forgiving. Ensure that the surface you are painting is nice and smooth, otherwise this sheen will emphasize any imperfections.

Semi-Gloss Sheens are also a shiny surface finish but not quite as shiny as the high-gloss. They should be used in spaces that contain a lot of moisture. Most commonly this sheen is seen in bathrooms and kitchens because of the steam produced in these spaces. Semi-gloss, like high-gloss sheens, are very easy to clean and hold up to life’s messes. Professionals typically suggest to paint baseboard, trim, casing and any additional moulding in a semi-gloss sheen for two reasons. One is that semi-gloss creates a nice contrast against a satin or flat wall color. Secondly, moulding is very frequently touched, bumped, and rubbed, leaving behind dirt that can easily be cleaned off.

Satin Sheens are a minor shine surface finish. This is the most popular sheen selection. It holds up to most of life’s everyday activities and does not show too many imperfections on your home’s surfaces. Satin sheens are great for bedrooms, living areas, dining rooms and even your vinyl siding. Depending on the paint brand you choose, “satin” and “eggshell” sheen can be an interchangeable term. If a paint line has a satin and eggshell finish, eggshell will be a little less reflective and a little more difficult to clean. Today you will notice a lot of paint companies have eliminated the eggshell finish.

Flat/Matte Sheens are a no shine surface finish. This is the most forgiving to surface imperfections but the most difficult to clean. Flat sheens are most commonly used on ceilings and low-traffic spaces. Professionals also suggest using matte sheens for rich, saturated colors. Did you know DIYers often times use black matte paint for chalkboards?

Next time you are picking out a paint color, take deep breath. You got this! Just ask yourself those two simple questions and the process will become much less daunting.