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From Start to Finish: Selecting the Right Paint Sheen

When selecting the paints for your home renovation, choosing the color is only the first part of the decision. You’ll also need to select the correct finish so that your walls have the appearance that you want within your home. Finishes range from no sheen (a flat or matte finish) to a high-gloss finish. To help you best select the correct finish for your paint, you should get familiar with what each sheen looks like and their practicality in so you’ll never have a sheen or a glare coming off the walls. Flat paint is easy to touch up, so if you ever need a quick fix, applying a thin layer over scuffed areas will do the trick. Also, it’s an extremely durable paint with a smooth, extremely even finish.

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Flat Paint


The Cons: Flat paint is a little tougher to clean than other finishes like eggshell or semi-gloss. While other finishes can be easily wiped down with a wet cloth, flat may require some more scrubbing.

Best For: High-traffic areas like hallways and living rooms, where there is lots of movement and potential to scuff walls. Great in rooms where there already are some imperfections, bumps, and cracks on walls. Also perfect on ceilings where you don’t want any glare.

Eggshell Finish

Your first step up from a flat finish, Eggshell offers a slight sheen on your walls. It is sometimes selected over a flat finish because its little bit of luster allows for a somewhat more decorative feel.

The Pros: This is much more washable than a flat finish, and you are more easily able to wipe it down with a wet cloth or sponge.

The Cons: It is very hard to touch up. Because it has the slight sheen to it, it’s almost impossible to only add a new layer in small areas without it being visible. Usually a “touch-up” of eggshell means re-doing a full wall.

Best For: Walls in any room where you want a little more sheen. Avoid in areas where you may run into lots of furniture movement/scuffing.

Satin Finish


A step up in shine from eggshell but not yet semi-gloss, Satin has a bit more of a sheen to it, yet will not be as overwhelming as some glossier finishes.

The Pros: Much more durable and scrub-able than flat and eggshell finishes, Satin is very easy to clean. It also lends a bit more elegance to a paint job.

The Cons: Like eggshell, this finish is tough to touch up.

Best For: Walls in rooms that you’d like to add a fancier finish, like a dining room, or areas where you may need to do more cleaning of your walls, like the backsplash area in a kitchen or your bathroom walls. Also can be used on doors and other trim to add a slight shine.


With quite a bit of shine, semi-gloss paint is bright and reflective. While it is not too glitzy, it should be used in moderation within your home to prevent it from being too overwhelming.

The Pros: Semi-gloss paint is extremely moisture, dirt, and grease-resistant. It is by far the easiest finish to clean that we’ve encountered so far. Its durability and resistance to outside forces makes it an obvious choice for certain areas.

The Cons: If areas are poorly prepared or have any nicks and bumps, these imperfections will be visible through a semi-gloss paint, so more prep work is required. Also, some may say it is a bit too shiny to have in a home setting, where people often opt for a warmer, cozier feel. And like eggshell and satin, you’ll have a tough time touching it up.

Best For: Doors & trim, as well as kitchen and bathroom walls and ceilings. It’s great in these rooms because you’ll be able to clean the walls easily, and they will resist any moisture or spills.



Gives a lacquer effect to where it is applied, almost a reflective quality.

The Pros: This dramatic effect can make furniture, doors, cabinets, and trim look shiny and modern. High-gloss or “glossy” paints are very easy to wipe down and clean, just like semi-gloss.

The Cons: Believe us when we say–every imperfection beneath will show. Be sure to do all proper prep work to avoid that showing through. Also, touching-up is almost impossible with high-gloss paint.

Best For: Cabinets, furniture, doors, and other wood within a home. Also can have a sleek effect on exposed brick or floors.

This article was written by Kristen Chuber. For more information on home painting ideas and décor and to get a free estimate on a paint job, visit www.paintzen.com.

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